From the moment you see those two lines on a pregnancy test, something inside you shifts. Whether or not you have children already, you become a brand new mother. The life growing inside of you becomes a part of your soul, a part of the very fabric of your being. On a basic cellular level and a level that can’t be described appropriately by science or words, you and your baby become one. A vast space opens up in your mind and your heart, and you place your child in it before you have even met them.
As your belly swells you picture the future and how it will look with this precious new person in it. You wonder what they will look like, will they have your characteristics or your partners? You lovingly prepare for their arrival, imagining them wearing every absurdly tiny item of clothing you buy. You stand in the door of their newly finished nursery with a soft smile on your face, envisaging them peacefully asleep in their crib.
You picture the people you love and the relationship they will have with your new baby. If you already have children, you see them playing happily together, fighting, tearing up your house, and driving you crazy. You can almost feel the warm weight of them leaning their sleepy heads into you as you read them a bedtime story. Perhaps you thought your heart was already full, but somehow now that you are waiting for your baby, it is bigger than you ever imagined it could be.
For a mother who has lost her baby, at any stage, that space in her heart never closes, never disappears.
It stays there forever—empty and longing, and even though your baby has gone, you still see them everywhere.
My son Archie would be two and a half years old now. He passed away when I was 32-weeks pregnant with him and his twin sister. She is now a bright, healthy active toddler full of life and joy. And he remains by her side, seen only by me, in that perfect empty space.
I see him all the time, a boisterous red-headed little boy like his daddy, causing havoc and laughter in our lives. At Christmas, on birthdays, holidays, and down to the most simple and mundane of moments, I look at my daughter and I see the space next to her where he should be. I look over my shoulder when we’re in the car and see another car seat next to the one she is sitting in. When I watch my partner walking along holding her hand, I picture our little boy holding the other one. Every milestone she reaches, I wonder if he would be doing the same. When we are snuggling under a blanket reading a book before bed that empty space where he belongs is palpable.
As time passes, the tears become less, the earth-shattering grief becomes more bearable. It is even somewhat confusingly comforting to see him there.
But a grieving mother will never forget her child.
Sometimes the perfect empty space catches me off guard, takes my breath away. As my little girl is reaching an age when she will sit engrossed in something alone for a while, I find myself feeling a profound sadness that she doesn’t have her brother by her side. I wonder if she feels lonely, or if she feels him there too.
Occasionally that feeling of unfairness still has the capacity to reach deep and reopen that wound inside me. When you see a mother who has lost her child she may be smiling, she may be happy, she may seem whole. But there is an empty space beside her that never goes away.
That perfect empty space is sometimes devastatingly so. You see for her there’s no escaping the fact—there should be two sets of footprints in the snow.