Brilliant sunbeams awaken my eyes. It is a beautiful May day, and I have a mission. The night before I scoured the local papers and the internet for garage sales advertising baby clothes. Coffee and cash in hand I charge (waddle) out the front door and into my petite Ford Focus. My destination is a nearby neighborhood, the one with the big houses. Usually, I see garage sale-ing as a slow and social event, but today I will go it alone. Speed is necessary for this mission. I am after baby boy clothes, an entire year’s worth if possible. With a 13-month-old bouncing baby girl at home, I doubt a baby shower is in our family’s future.

Arriving at the first house, I see what I have feared most—the enemy of my mission. Grandmothers. Holding my breath, I dive in. Big belly. Pointy elbows. Nesting instincts. I may not be a grandmother, but I am still a force to be reckoned with.

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House after house, the piles in the back seat of my Focus begin to climb. Finally, I come to the last house. Two Thanksgiving onesies await me. “Perfect,” I think. Thanksgiving will be Kuyper’s first major holiday. As I waddle to the car I dream about Thanksgiving, about snuggling my little boy.

He will be the cute boy in the cute onesie, and I cannot wait to see him.

Once home I take stock of the day’s plunder.

NB boys: sleepers, pants, shirts, socks. Check.

Three-month boys: sleepers, pants, shirts, socks. Check.

Six-month boys: sleepers, pants, shirts, socks. Check.

Nine-month boys: sleepers, pants, shirts, socks. Check.

Twelve-month boys: sleepers, pants, shirts, socks. Check.

Total cost: $65

Mission accomplished.

I wash the clothes. I put them away.

Two weeks later, I deliver Kuyper stillborn.

We have a funeral.

We place him in the ground.

I put the clothes in a plastic bin.

I store it in the basement.

Maybe it is meant for another little boy. Maybe.

I awake with a start in the stark darkness of the early morning hours. The box in the basement, which has gone largely unnoticed over the last few months seems to haunt me now. It is Thanksgiving Day. My son is in a grave instead of in his Thanksgiving onesie. After rummaging through our storage area, I return to our bedroom with the onesie in hand. I lay back down and place the onesie on my heart. Wet-faced and tired, I fall asleep, no longer haunted. I sleep peacefully as if he is safe in my arms.

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Six years pass. A newborn baby boy in our extended family is in foster care. He is about to be adopted. After all the years spent in storage, the garage sale clothes are ready to serve their purpose. I package them up and take the box to the post office. But first I hold back a onesie (a Thanksgiving onesie) that I put it in Kuyper’s memory box.

Even though I cry a little as I leave the post office, I am thankful God has allowed a part of our grief to be turned into good.

Dear mama or papa,

The first holidays after the loss of a child are hard. Hopes of the past may seem a cruel memory. Thanksgiving 2021 will be my ninth Thanksgiving as a bereaved mother. Will you believe me when I tell you it won’t always be this hard? It will be different but not like the first year or two. Would you promise me you will take care of yourself? Be kind to yourself? Cry when you need to? Say no when you need to? Visit your child’s grave or a place of memory when you need to? And always remember this pain and grief is not a sign of weakness—no matter what Aunt Karen may say? It is a sign of your love.

Originally published on NationalShare.org

Ann-Marie Ferry

Ann-Marie is a nurse based in the Midwest. She and her husband have been married for close to a decade. She has three spunky girls and one sweet little boy in heaven. After nine months of hyperemesis, hemorrhage, and pre-term labor, her first pregnancy resulted in a full-term baby girl. Kuyper, her second child, was stillborn during his second trimester in 2013. Her third pregnancy concluded six weeks early resulting in a NICU stay. Although, still complicated and high risk, she would describe her fourth and final pregnancy as a redeeming experience.