To the outside world, we looked like just a couple of moms, taking our kids on a little adventure, passing the time with laughter smiles. Many of the exhibits were closed since it was off-season, but the playground was open and there were just enough animals in their habitats that the kids were pleased.
It was nothing and everything at the same time.
There was a time that I did not think we were going to be able to raise our children together. I worried that I would never parent a living child. I thought my arms would be empty forever.
My sister-in-law and I were pregnant for the first time at the same time. We had our baby showers within weeks of each other. We were both expecting girls. We were excited and scared and happy and so very blessed.
Her daughter arrived first. It was just a matter of weeks until it was my turn. I held her daughter on my swollen pregnant belly as she napped the sleep of a newborn. I could barely wait till it was my turn.
Twelve days later, we learned my daughter's heart had stopped beating. Just like that. One day she was kicking me so hard that it took my breath away and the next day, I noticed little movement. I felt silly calling the doctor as I was sure I was being dramatic. It turned out that my intuition was right. She died in my womb and the next day, I had to deliver her still.
That was a little over six years ago. There were so many feelings of guilt and sadness and loss and disappointment. I realized early on that my husband and I were not the only ones who lost a child. Our family lost a cousin, granddaughter, niece, and friend.
Now fast forward to two years later. My sister-in-law was pregnant again. By then, my husband and I decided to grow our family through adoption. It was surprisingly seamless for us, and the moment we held our daughter in our arms, we knew she was ours.
Now there are three girls between us. They are the best of friends. They can’t wait to play together, and no matter how much time we give them, it’s never enough.
One child will always be missing. I think of her every day, and I suspect that others do as well. But what that missing child has taught me is that you have to live each day to its fullest. Live without regrets. Live with intention.