Christmas has been different every year since you left me. Even though you are not here with me, your name is written on my heart, your short life woven into mine.

You remain unseen in our annual Christmas photo, still unknown to the world. But you were there for your first Christmas, your only Christmas, three years ago. I had seen you on that screen, your heart beating and limbs moving freely. You were known to me. You were known to your daddy. And you were known to your sister, who held up a sign announcing your presence and her big sister status to our loved ones.

I took pictures of my belly that Christmas, my belly that had grown as it held you in secret. I envisioned what the following Christmas would look like as images of what you would be doing one year later danced through my head. I saw you tearing up wrapping paper. And pulling ornaments off the tree. And staring at the dazzling lights in wonder. But those mental images never became reality. By the next Christmas you were gone, the larger world unaware that you had even existed. And many who did know, seemed to have forgotten.

But I will always remember your first Christmas. A Christmas that held so much hope. A Christmas that held you safely in my womb. A Christmas that included a picture of my growing belly with you inside, proof of your existence. A Christmas in which our family announced your little life to those close to us. A Christmas in which I felt the faintest taps from inside my womb as you moved from within.

And I will remember you every Christmas. As we hang the ornaments with your name, and the date of both your birth and death. I will remember you as we decorate the tree with your big sister while trying to keep your little brother from breaking all the ornaments. I will remember you as we take family pictures in front of our Christmas tree, seeing the two children who are here, and knowing that one is not. I will remember you as your siblings grow older, their faces different in each Christmas photo, while I have only one unchanging image of your face etched into my memory.

Christmas will forever be different without you, my baby. The lights shine bright, but there is a dullness in my heart. A dark space that will never be filled in this life on earth. The presents under the tree are piled high, but none of them are for you, and they never will be. The laughter of your siblings fills almost every space of our home, but a part remains empty as your laughter will never be heard. The excitement of the season slightly subdued knowing that our family will never be whole without you here.

And while I still picture what Christmas would be like if you were here with us, I know that you are not alone. I imagine you in heaven, happy, not having to feel pain like those of us who are earthbound. I imagine you celebrating this joyous occasion with your friends, the other gone-too-soon babies who are missed by their own families. And I imagine celebrating Christmas with you someday, when all my Christmases here on earth have run out.

Jenny Albers

Jenny Albers is a wife, mother, and writer.  She is the author of Courageously Expecting, a book that empathizes with and empowers women who are pregnant after loss. You can find Jenny on her blog, where she writes about pregnancy loss, motherhood, and faith. She never pretends to know it all, but rather seeks to encourage others with real (and not always pretty) stories of the hard, heart, and humorous parts of life. She's a work in progress, and while never all-knowing, she's (by the grace of God) always growing. When she's not typing words, she can be found wrangling a fiery little boy and nurturing a quickly growing girl. She's a tea-addicted, jewelry-loving, cat-obsessed, Jesus-following, introverted midwestern girl who is thrilled to connect with you from the other side of the screen. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.