I have two daughters. One of them, Elliana Grace, is a busy, chatty toddler whose antics have made up more than half the contents of this blog since she was born some 19 months ago. The other, Avaleen Hope, was supposed to be born this week, but we lost her in late May, at around 14.5 weeks gestation.
Though most of the writing I've been doing these past six months has been about the baby I will never hold, I haven't been ready to introduce you to her until now. I've needed time to grieve alone, with my husband, and with family and close friends. I've needed time to pray and cry and ask for God to heal me. I'm still doing all of these things, still think about Avaleen multiple times every day, still miss her fiercely, but I think I'm ready to share the story of her life and death with a broader audience.
It feels a bit crazy even to me. I've always thought that if I had a miscarriage, I'd want it to be a private thing. That's part of why I didn't announce my first pregnancy on Facebook until almost 20 weeks, part of why I hadn't announced the second to the world even though I was in my second trimester, a few weeks past the point where the pregnancy was supposed to be safe.
But now that I have had a miscarriage, I see it differently. To me, Avaleen is not just a setback in our pursuit of growing our family. She is my daughter. She lived. She grew. I heard her heart beat. And she changed me, by living and by dying. Even though I never got to hold her or kiss her forehead, I am different because of her.
So if I want to write honestly, to tell the story of my life and of the God who carries me through it, I feel I must tell Avaleen's story. I cannot ignore it or pretend it didn't happen because, quite simply, it did. And I believe with every fiber of my being that her life, short and quiet as it was, matters.
To be honest, I am a bit terrified. I hesitate to write so publicly about pain that is still so very present in my heart. I am not sure how readers will react, how their reactions will make me feel. I know too that by introducing you to Avaleen, my public identity will shift. I will no longer be simply a wife, mother, writer, teacher; I am also identifying myself as a grieving mother, a woman who's miscarried. Unlike the previous titles, these aren't labels I ever would have chosen. Part of me rebels against being associated with them or defined by them, would rather be linked to happier terms.
But the truth is, I have two daughters. I hear one of them breathing softly over the baby monitor while I write. I feel the absence of the other in my flat stomach, my empty arms, in the fact that I am able to travel for Thanksgiving this week.
I wish this post was Avaleen's birth announcement, that I was telling you how much she weighed, how her delivery went. Instead, I simply want to tell you that she lived.