I don't care if it's a boy or a girl. I just want a healthy baby.
That's the right thing to say and feel, right?
I seriously struggled with the fact that Easton was to be a boy, and it has been a deep point of contention and guilt for me over the past couple of years. I was devastated. So much so that anyone who was pregnant with a girl was difficult to be around, I unfollowed anyone expecting girls on social media, and I even had a very hard time connecting with my own baby in utero because he was a he, and not a she. It's hard to write that. Especially after having our first daughter pass away in our arms just under an hour after birth. Any mother that has gone through difficultly either getting pregnant, experiencing genetic abnormalities, premature birth, or stillbirth should just be happy to have another healthy baby.
At least that's what you feel is the right thing to do.
I deeply yearned to be a mom of a daughter for as far back as I can remember. Even though I am definitely a girl's girl, and always daydreamed about taking my own daughter to ballet classes, painting our nails together, and picking out her wedding dress with her, it wasn't just all about the activities you get to do with a daughter.
There was something about having the privilege of getting to be a role model to a girl, who would grow up into a woman, and hopefully learn something from the way I lived my life, and loved her during hers. So when the news came that our second pregnancy was a baby girl, I was elated. I remember crying tears of joy in the ultrasound room. We got to have one of each. I promptly ran out and bought the first cute pair of baby shoes I saw at Target and told the world about our growing princess. Some of you may even remember when I posted them.
After we lost Aila, I found that the desire to have a daughter grew even deeper. Almost obsessive. I had already allowed my brain and heart to go there, because we had it. There was a baby girl who grew inside of me, and the natural, normal thing to happen was for her to come home with us and have a lifetime with her. When that didn't happen, it was almost impossible to reel those emotions back in and give up on those desires.
I already imagined the first ballet class, the pedicure appointments together where her little feet barely reached the stool, the adorable wardrobe, her first crush, her first heartbreak, prom, and of course planning the wedding of her dreams to the perfect man we had already started praying for her to find. Over the past few years, and especially when finding out that our third child was to be another boy, I found myself wrestling a lot between contradictory emotions. Did I only want Aila back, and future daughters wouldn't help ease the agony at all, or would having another daughter down the road, who was different and not a replacement, help to fulfill many of the promises I felt I was robbed of? I also always wondered what it would be like to see our baby girl -half me and half my husband, and if she would give us a tiny glimpse of what it would have been like to get to have Aila here with us.
Despite my deep longing for a baby girl, these confusing emotions only heightened when I found out I was pregnant again with Kezia. The fear of the the unknown emotions with having another girl was crippling. We found out early, around 12 weeks, because I couldn't handle the agony of not knowing. If we were meant to be a family of 3 boys here on earth, I wanted to prepare my heart for that early on. If it was a girl, I wanted to try to sift through my emotions long before she arrived, so I could be ready to give my heart to her and treat her as a new life, rather than try to fill the gap her sister left. Just a few days before we found out the results, I remember driving in my car and felt a peace come over me that if it was a boy, our family would be complete and I would have to just trust that God had a reason for it.
There is still a lot I'm processing, and that will have to be a longer post (or part of a book!) at a later time, once I've had more time to ruminate on it all. I knew without a doubt I would be overwhelmed with love as soon as I had Kezia in my arms, and that proved to be more than true. As we got closer and closer to her due date, I tried to prepare myself that there were just some things I wouldn't know or feel until she was here. Being a severe planner, that was difficult for me. I like to know when and how things will happen, and try to anticipate my feelings ahead of time so I can prepare my heart.
One thing that was difficult during my pregnancy that caught me off guard was the first time I went shopping for her. I avoided girl sections for over 2 years because it was too painful. Before I was pregnant with Kezia, seeing rompers and dresses that were in the sizes Aila should be wearing at that point in the year always took me by surprise, and could leave me in tears in the middle of the Target aisle. So if I was shopping for my boys, I would purposefully exit the boy section and walk around the opposite way so I didn't have to lay eyes on all of the sweet girl clothes that I should have been buying. I avoided baby showers or birthday parties where I would have to buy things for girls, or if absolutely necessary would order something online and have it shipped straight to the receiver so I didn't have to see it.
During my first trip to buy a few things for Kezia, I was afraid to cross that threshold from boys to girls in the stores. I didn't feel like I was “allowed” in that section. I spent so many years feeling out of place, an imposter, if I even thought of it. So I figured when I actually had permission to do it again, it would feel off and too emotional. It has no-doubt been a time permeated with a myriad of discrepant emotions, but one thing I can thankfully say is that after that first time, the emotional rollercoasters haven't impeded my ability to shop and lavish this baby girl. It is just so hard to contain myself with all the eyelets, ruffles and bows! Especially all of the baby espadrilles, rompers, and bloomers with frills on the bum.
I purged pretty much everything we bought a few months after Aila passed in grief, but kept a few dresses and items I had been saving up. Some since before we were even married in hopes of having a girl one day. They sit in a small translucent box in the top of my closet, underneath the memory box the hospital gave us. The glimpses of the box, and the frilly items within, have been sources of both pain and hope over the past 3 years. Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment to keep it insight, but it ensured that I kept her memory close and the hope of having another daughter at the surface. I wanted to believe that God would give me the desires of my heart when the time was right, and that helped just a little bit.
A few months ago, before Kezia was born, Asher asked to see some of Aila's things after we found out we were expecting another baby girl. I wasn't sure if I would want any future daughters wearing what was meant to be hers. In fact, I didn't combine the old clothes with the new ones I bought for Kezia during my pregnancy, and didn't even bring them back down to filter through until a few weeks after she was here. I think it was partly because I had many days where I was still not convinced that she was actually going to get to come home with us, and also because the clothes felt sacred. I had an image of what Aila would be like – her looks, her personality, her style – and my imagination of what Kezia would be like was a bit different.
As we were going through the clothes that day though, Asher declared that his new sister would look cute in a few of the dresses from the box, and that Aila would be happy for her to wear them. I felt like I couldn't interfere with that hope of his, as that could be just as much part of his healing process, as mine might be to keep them to myself. So I kept an open mind about it and told him we'd decide when she got here.
While they sat separate until long after we got home, for the times when I needed to hold them and smell them and weep over my daughter who was not here, I also looked at them and started to imagine a life with the one that would be. The other day, I pulled a couple of the tops and the little blue espadrilles out and paired them with a new outfit, and it made me smile to think our little girl will get to walk in her big sister's shoes. Most of what I had saved ended up not feeling right for Kezia. Her dark hair and olive skin tone wasn't what I expected Aila to look like, so in a sense, they both seem to have their own distinct styles. I'm sure my taste in clothes has changed since over 3 years ago as well! The few things that I did keep out of the box to pass on to Kezia makes my heart excited to tell this her that she got to have some of the things her sister in Heaven left her. She wore the embroidered floral top the other day, and I got to snuggle her and feel just a tiny bit of what it may have felt like to have both of them in my arms.
While the clothes were easy – her nursery was a different story. We went back and forth about where to put her once she arrived. The boys each have their own room, and the ages that they are at (2 and 7), make it a little difficult to share. Easton “ruins” all of Asher's toys, and still occasionally wakes in the middle of the night, and Asher is not exactly the quietest boy in town, so we were hoping to wait a little longer to put them together. I know they'll love it when they're just a tiny bit older! We decided to keep her in with us for a while, and then make a new space in my closet for her. So with 1 month remaining in my pregnancy, we started a construction project! We tore out my closet and an old shower that was in it (where we found and mitigated mold, yikes!), and turned it into a peaceful safe haven for me and my girl to spend time in together. I think I put it off until the last few weeks of my pregnancy because I didn't let my heart and mind fully believe she was actually coming home. The closer we got, the more real it became, but it simultaneously brought up more fear because I couldn't imagine getting that far and having something happen again. I'll be sharing the room makeover designed by Becki Owens next week, along with a video of my journey in collaboration with the TODAY show, so stay tuned!
It's very difficult not to live in daily fear when you're no longer naive to the many pregnancy and infant complications that can happen, but as I wrote in my last TODAY piece when I was carrying my first Rainbow baby Easton, I had to make the conscious decision to have faith instead. I had to trust that Kezia would be healthy, and that we will get to watch her grow up. When I do, I allow myself to envision those ballet classes and pedicure appointments. I can see her running around in that adorable girly wardrobe, guiding her through her first crush and heartbreak, and helping her pick out the perfect wedding dress. That in itself is a huge gift and makes me hopeful for our future with her.
Thank you all for your excitement and prayers over Kezia as we went through this journey. She is one lucky girl to be so loved by so many!