July 9, 2011


It was July 2010 and the line on the pee stick was faint. I hardly even believed K when she showed me, my eyes squinting and focusing, trying to find the line that meant we were having a second child. But there it was, all fuzzy and gray as I held the stick in front of the window.

We embraced near the toilet and exchanged a few excited words. We imagined the little pin point embryo taking shape inside her, the cells multiplying to form the tissue and organs that would become our second little tike.

All it took was that line. We were in. The colossal ball of anticipation began rolling down a mountain that was forty weeks tall. We walked out of the bathroom with eyebrows raised and a  lightness to our steps. I could feel my heart expanding, making room for another child to fall madly in love with. We were going to be a family of four. Stella was going to be a big sister. April 2011 couldn’t come soon enough.

And then we thought and talked about that little person every single day. We followed it’s progress week by week, looking at pictures of how big it was, reading about what new development was happening inside K’s growing belly. We guessed the sex, our guts always playing games with our minds. It’s a boy. I think it’s another girl. No, it’s gonna be a boy. Back and forth we went on it’s gender, just because it’s so damn fun to think about.

We sat in front of a screen at twenty weeks and saw it for the first time. It swooshed and turned and flipped while our doctor probed and pushed until coming to the conclusion that we both guessed at different times along the way. Our little baby was a girl. A girl. We held hands and smiled to one another as our doctor continued to look things over. Stella was going to be a big sister. The colossal ball of anticipation became even larger, if it’s possible, as it rolled past twenty weeks, halfway down the mountain.

The naming of this SHE immediately followed our appointment and the conversation went on for months. We started in on the car ride home. Do you still like Margot? I asked Kari. I think so, she said. I think so.

Prepping Stella for this new sibling was an easy task. Before K’s belly was even noticeable, Stella was already elated. When we told her she was having a sister, just like mommy and daddy had, she grew even more excited. And when K’s belly began protruding farther and farther out, Stella talked about it every day. Momma’s belly have baby, she would say. She would usually follow this up with a joke that was funny even after the 100th time. I HAVE BABY TOO, she would yell as she pulled up her shirt. DADDY HAVE BABY TOO! Her older sister responsibilities began when we told her the baby’s name. Margot? she asked. Margot! she yelled. Almost every day she would gently rub and kiss K's belly and talk to her little sister. Her engagement with the whole process was something we talked about every day because it seemed so astonishing.  

As it is for most, pregnancy is not easy with K, as I wrote about in some detail at thirty-two weeks: Her ribs hurt this time around. They feel as if they have been kicked, on repeat, for several months straight. The only nice part about aching ribs is that it steers the pain away from her back, which has methodically worsened with each new pound that adds itself to her chest, legs and belly. When she's not shifting uncomfortably in bed due to muscle soreness and joint pain, she is getting up, on average, six times to pee at night. She is inevitably tired for most of the day, as universal a sensation as there is for a woman with child. Her emotions swell and contract on a weekly basis, depending on the hormonal shifts that tinker and toy with her mood and eating habits and outlook on life, as if she needed something else to push her over the edge. There is also energy inefficient Stella to contend with this time, the little tike that can go from sunrise to sunset without taking a breather, blowing energy on running and talking and getting dirty and always asking us for "two more minutes" to play before nap or bedtime. And all of this while miraculously carrying a little fetus that is developing on auto-pilot just below the surface, whom she shares nutrients and oxygen with through a small, life allowing cord, a feat so primal and beautiful it's hard to even conceive.

And there was everything else. Getting our closet ready for her arrival. Ordering those tiny little diapers and bringing back out the baby clothes and planning for the arrival of our families. We spent more time with Stella as our family of three would soon be no longer. We ate out more, took longer walks, wrestled and loved and cherished as deeply as we could. It’s the end of an era, we kept saying to one another.

We knew what the final push in labor and delivery would mean. The single greatest moment of my life had been seeing Stella’s body emerge from K. The rush of love in that moment practically barreled me over. The pure joy, the sheer ecstasy of that first moment is almost too profound and mysterious for words. As the great ball of anticipation charged past thirty-six weeks, this moment was all we could think about. What will she look like? What will labor be like? Will she be big and long like Stella? Will she have lots of hair? It simply goes without saying. We couldn’t wait to meet her. We couldn’t wait to introduce her to Stella. We couldn’t wait to introduce her to our family and our friends. We couldn’t wait to introduce to her arranged best friend Lyla, who was due to make her own entrance just a few weeks before Margot. We couldn’t wait to dump the copious amounts of love on her that we had been storing up since first seeing the fuzzy line.

By the time the ball of anticipation plowed through thirty-seven weeks, it was all there was. It felt as though we had been holding our breath for her arrival for so long that we couldn’t wait to exhale again as we held our little girl. When people asked if Stella was my only one, I would tell them she wouldn’t be my only one for long. Our baby is coming, our baby is coming. I wanted to shout it out Paul Revere style everywhere I went.

And then, right at the very very very end, just as the anticipation was nearing climax and after all of the deep longing and build up and growing love and physical hardship and everything else that went into those nine and a half months, Margot died.


Heather Bray said...

Oh Josh, that was so powerful and beautiful and sad and my heart drums for you.

Amanda said...

I couldn't read this fast enough even though I knew the story. The last sentence felt like hitting a wall after traveling at warp speed.

Aching for you, Friend.

Kayla Rupp said...

Josh, I seldom comment but I always read. I never know what to write. Your words just leave me...speechless...every time. I wish that pain were socialized. It just isn't fair that some are scooting around with little and others are shouldering so much. I, like Mandy, ache for you.

Catherine W said...

Oh it's just so sad. All that love and anticipation from every member of your family. So excited to meet your little Margot.

As Amanda says, even though I knew how it would end, it was still hitting a brick wall, that final sentence. I'm so sorry. I wish this post had a different ending.

brianna said...

So much love for little Margot from the very beginning...I find that very beautiful.

After George died one of the hardest parts, in some ways, was realizing that even though he was gone I still had as much love for him as I would have for any living child but I just had no where to direct it all. There was no little person to coo over and fuss over, to watch grow. Instead I only had a few memories and a hope for a future that didn't happen to try and wrap up in all the love I still had. It was so very inadequate.

Over time some of that love for George has spread out to Leif and to family and to friends, and now to his little sister who we anxiously await. It has even spread to other people who I found were missing babies like me. My love for George has mixed and mingled with my love for so many other people that it has permeated throughout every part of my life. I like that. It makes me feel close to him in the only way that is really possible now.

That anticipation you wrote about, it does end abruptly and it is horrible. But the love you have for Margot, it will just continue to grow and become something more than you thought possible. It pales in comparison to holding her in your arms but it is something to hold onto anyway, and we all need something like that in our lives.

Sending love to you and Kari.

jason said...

Great post, Josh.

Hanen said...

beautiful post josh. Margot is so so loved.

And brianna - i love this idea of a great big flood of love, having to find somewhere for it to go, letting it soak into everything & everyone.

Josh Jackson said...

Thanks for the love and comments everyone.

Brianna, I really like that idea too. All this love pouring out in different ways towards different people. That is a beautiful thought and one that I hadn't really had thus far. I figured all that love was either cashed in on K and s or wasted somehow, or possibly both.

Anonymous said...

Oh, how your words bring a strange sense of comfort to me. As I sit here reading your post my husband and I just sat an hour ago staring at at a "pee stick" and squinting to see that little faint pink line. (It's too early to tell anything for sure) All the feelings you so beautifully described came rushing back for we felt this familiar elation last Septemember. That moment when your life is flipped upside down and you just want to tell everyone! We loved that little baby so much, but at 12 weeks there was no heartbeat and just like that, everything ended. We are trying again, so I long for that line...we want our world to be flipped again. We too have a little girl; she is 20 months old right now, and she will be an amazing big sister someday. I have faith and hope and it stretches out to you and your family. Thanks again for your honesty and heartfelt words.

Hope's Mama said...

Josh, your post bowled me over. I felt a lot of my own story in your words today.
An ending none of us could have predicted, not in our wildest dreams.
I'm so sorry you guys are living this shitty reality as well.
I miss Margot with you.

Brooke said...

This post resonated with me in so many ways. I remember being numb in those first hours home from the hospital and saying to my husband, "But we had so many plans for her." It just seemed impossible that all of that delicious anticipation had been so cruelly and unexpectedly ripped apart, turning in an instant from joyful certainty to hopeless grief.

I know it matters still, how much our babies were loved. And your love for Margot is so visible here.

Mary Beth said...

This is a beautiful post. You have so many plans, so many ideas of what the future will be with your growing family and then, kerblam!, life as you know it gets flipped on its head.

Sending lots of love to you and your family. Missing Margot with you.

Gwen Jackson said...

Love you Josh. We shared that anticipation with you, Kari, and Stella... in this season of grand children arriving we look so forward to meeting our new family member, studying their features and holding new life in our arms. We feel the pain of the sudden, unexpected loss of Margot. And, Dad and I so miss holding her and watching her grow.

Josh Jackson said...

Thanks for the comments and love and thoughts.

Mom - I'm so grateful for your love and tenderness. I am so fortunate to have you and dad.

Anon, Sally, Brooke, Mary Beth -

I'm thankful to share these posts with fellow babyloss parents. It feels so lonely sometimes, but knowing we are in a community of mourning is a huge relief. I thought of this post, even though it was my situation, as a tribute to all babyloss parents out there.

I think in writing this, I wanted to capture the complicated depth of why it feels so horrible to lose a child. It's hard to imagine any other death scenario in life where there is so much anticipation before a loss. Most of the time death comes during normal life, when you least expect it.

I also feel like this is why it's so tough to see babies being born after a loss. It feels impossible to not to be intensely jealous - not only of a live baby, but also of the innocence that remains intact and the ability to feel that climax of anticipation.

Anyway, love to all...


Rachel said...

Josh, thanks for visiting and commenting on my blog. This post was so well-written, I look forward to going back and reading your old posts too.

So sorry to read about your Margot.

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