When my 20-week anatomy scan revealed I was carrying a baby boy, our whole family was excited. He was the little brother my daughter had prayed for. It was my final pregnancy, and knowing there would be no more babies, I prepared myself for the comments that were sure to come.

As predicted, they went something like this:
A boy and a girl! That’s perfect!
One of each? That’s perfect!
The best of both worlds! It’s going to be perfect!

Perfect. Perfect. Perfect.

Except it wasn’t perfect. I had lost two babies between the birth of my daughter and the birth of my son. One of them slipped through my body with barely a trace, and the other shook my entire being when I went into labor at just 20 weeks pregnant. He was born still, his tiny body going to rest in a cemetery instead of in my arms.

And the reality is that my son, the perfect addition to our family, was conceived because his older sibling died.

Upon first look, our family seems to fit perfectly into society’s mold of a typical American family. We appear to be a family of four, made up of a mother, father, son, and daughter.

But there are two babies you don’t see: one who left nothing behind and one whose footprints are displayed on the mantel.

My daughter asks about birth order and how old my “other” babies would be had they lived.

Nearly three years after the birth of my son, I continue to receive comments about how lucky I am to have a boy and a girl. That 50 percent girl and 50 percent boy make for the perfect combination of children.

But there’s nothing perfect about having babies who go unrecognized, babies who aren’t here, babies who are so easily forgotten by others.

There’s nothing perfect about trying to build a family when pregnancy loss left my heart in the rubble of an empty womb.

There’s nothing perfect about visiting one of my children at the cemetery.

The announcements of my two living children were met with excitement. Glee. But there was no announcement after my early loss, and the only announcement of my baby who was stillborn came by way of whispered phone calls and uncontrollable tears. There’s nothing perfect about that.

Yes, I have a boy and a girl, and I am lucky. And it’s true that when I look into their eyes, I see perfection. For they are gifts. Perfectly formed. Perfectly healthy. Perfectly created for our family.

But it’s not perfect.

I have two more children who live in my heart instead of in my home.

And how could it be perfect when our family isn’t really complete?

You may also like:

God Gave Me Both

Dear Rainbow Baby, You Saved Me

A Peek Behind the Picket Fence of a “Perfect Family”

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. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.