When I got back to the office after that 10 week appointment I immediately downloaded the 10 second recording of my baby's heart beating. I probably listened to it 100 times. I could not believe how amazing it was. I emailed it to grandparents, and hoped that they, too would love listening to the sound of their unborn grandchild's heart sustaining life. Amazing.
I am so glad I made that little recording, because on July 5, 2005, my first baby's heart stopped. Brady was 3 1/2 months old. Just before I left the office that day, I had been having a conversation with a friend. She said, "don't you just love being a mom?" of course, I agreed... because I did. She said, "there's a quote I love, 'to have a child is to forever allow your heart to walk outside your body.'" As I drove to Brady's daycare to pick her up, those words were rattling around in my brain. Understanding it so deeply. Little did I know, that my heart's very own heart had stopped. I followed a squad car to the day care center. All the while praying for whomever it was that needed the protection of that police officer, and not realizing that it was me.
Later that day, after the firefighters, paramedics, nurses, and doctors had failed to get my precious Brady's heart to beat again, I held her body. Her quiet, still, body. My heart. When I left the hospital that day, I left my heart there. I walked away from that building, and left my only child behind. I left a piece of my heart with her.
The very next Valentine's Day, 2006, I came home from work with a little bag from the drug store containing a pregnancy test. I'm sure you can guess the outcome. That was the day that I learned that my Ollie was on the way. Mr. Lindstrom came home from work with a bottle of wine in hand, and I shoved a Valentines Day card into his other hand begging him to open it. He said, "I was kind of thinking we could sit down and have a glass of wine with dinner and then open cards..." Little did he know... "OPEN IT." I said. He drank the bottle of wine.
Experiencing the loss of a child sort of ruins you for the joy of pregnancy. Sort of. Learning the hard way about the fragility of life reminds you that a heart beat, and a heart stopping are only a moment apart. It takes practice to get to a place where you are not wondering if now is that moment. I did it with the help of a song. Through the entire pregnancy and beyond with Ollie (now 4 years old), this song held me together:
In 2009, just after my June birthday, Mr. Lindstrom and I went in for another ultrasound. We had not told our friends that we were expecting, and I was (foolishly) hoping I could keep it a secret until I was 20 weeks (that was the point I had been at in a pregnancy just 7 months prior when we found out that the baby girl we were carrying had a fatal chromosomal abnormality. On November 13th, 2008, Parker's heart stopped beating.) On this particular June day, I was just 8 weeks pregnant, and instead of seeing just one heart beating, as we had anticipated, there were two. TWO BEAUTIFUL HEARTS BEATING! If there is anything in the world more amazing than one heartbeat, it's two! As you can imagine, we were not able to keep it a secret for long (both as a result of a rapidly growing twin belly, and the amazingness of those two strong hearts!)
As a parent you wonder each time you welcome a baby into your life, what will loving this person look like, when I already love [fill in the blank] so much? The heart's capacity to love is amazing this way. It defies logic. It does not divide, it multiplies, and there is no end to it's ability to expand. Babies come with a promise. The promise that you will love more deeply and intensely than you ever thought you could. So, in my heart, I carry the deep, intense love I have for my 5 children, I love them equally, but differently, and I thank my heart for making it possible.
Happy Valentine's Day!