It has taken many years, but I’m comfortable in my own skin. I’m happy with how my life has unfolded: a doting husband, a loving daughter, two children watching down on me from heaven and a support system that spans the globe. But, as anyone who has lost a loved one will tell you, it only takes one second for your life to change. In that instant, a simple trigger can take you back to that moment of sadness. For me, that happened this summer. It’s something I’m not proud of, but as a mother of child loss, it’s something I can’t help. In one simple moment, grief turned me into a jealous mom.
My husband and his childhood friends planned a weekend getaway to Omaha, Nebraska. It was a chance to get several families together, watch our kids play and catch up with each other. I knew my husband was excited to see his friends and I was excited for Peyton to finally meet these families. Because of our surviving triplet’s health, her first three years were mainly spent at home – traveling would put her weak immune system at risk. This was our chance to finally introduce our miracle child to people who have been some of our biggest supporters.
As we arrived in town, we met our friends at the zoo. Four men who have known each other since childhood, married with beautiful families. Happiness filled my body as I watched all of our husbands interact with their children. But, as I looked around the group, it hit me: my husband and I were the only ones with one child. Each of our friends had at least two children. And just like that, my grief arrived, like a surprise summer storm, showering me with sadness.
It’s been three years since two of my triplets died. That’s ample amount of time to become a master at hiding my tears. As we walked around the zoo, I concentrated on my daughter Peyton. I watched her laugh at the sight of a giraffe and I smiled as she looked in awe at a giant ape in his habitat. But as the hours passed by, my grief stuck around…and so did the envy.
I watched each family in their element, feeding a toddler with one hand while holding a crying child in the other arm. These perfect, All-American families made parenting look easy; each family a well oiled machine. As I observed my husband’s best friends, the tears continued to form, luckily shielded behind my sunglasses.
The weekend went off without a hitch. The kids had a memorable trip and our families all headed home exhausted from so much laughter and reminiscing. I had a wonderful time; genuinely happy to see these childhood friends grow into loving family men. But, as we began our long drive home, I confessed to my husband.
The pool of tears forming in my eyes turned into full-blown sobs. I shared with my husband the sadness I felt as I watched his friends with their families. I cried as I told him how difficult it was witnessing the siblings interact, instant best friends 24 hours a day. It’s something my daughter may never have. Without her triplet siblings by her side, she often plays alone at home or with me and my husband.
But, as I poured my emotions out to my husband, something clicked inside of me. I realized that while I was embarrassed by jealousy, it was actually grief, not envy, that made my heart hurt. My happiness for our friends is authentic. I am truly thrilled to see our friends raising beautiful families and it’s a joy to watch our children grow up through the years.
We all face our own battles and heartaches in life; some are just more visible than others. The grief I feel over the loss of two of my triplets is something that will never go away, it merely changes over time. I wear my grief with pride; a badge a honor that shows my children did exist.
I don’t know if more children are in our future, but as I glanced back in the car at my sleeping child, happiness swept over me. While my heart may be scarred with grief, I count my blessings when I think about my family. I realize that it’s OK to see other families and wonder what could have been if all of my triplets had survived. It’s OK to feel sadness when I watch my child play by herself. It’s a normal part of a grieving parent. But, as I look at my husband and daughter, I am grateful that the grief has changed over the years. That temporary feeling always gives way to pure bliss. Our little family is perfect in our own way, a testament of strength and miracles.