March 18 is our sweet baby Carter's birthday. It has been five years. I sit here far away from his home in Dallas and wonder what it would be like to have a 5 year old running around Poland with Jack and Alex. It will be hard this year being so far away from him. This is the first year we won't be able to see the beautiful roses that grow in our yard in his honor. The bright pink, giant Teacup Roses that grow in the backyard without work or worry. They are just there to brighten the day. They bloom and flourish to remind me of the beautiful things that God makes, including my sweet Carter. The yellow roses in the front yard are Carter's too. Given to us by dear friends who mourned his lose with us. They grow with vigor among the beautiful yellow flowers given to us by other caring friends who remember our lost son. All of these flowers and others share special ground. This ground was worked over and organized by our family and friends the minute the weather grew warm enough the spring he died. They came bearing seeds of every shape and size. They came with work gloves and wheelbarrows. They rode over on their bikes with their children to dig in the dirt and make something special. In one weekend, they gave us a memorial to our son. It was the best gift. Their time and attention. They didn't have to tell us how sorry they were or try to think of the right thing to say. Just being with us and helping with the project was what we needed. I'll never forget the joy of watering those new plantings. The thrill of watching flowers grow from seeds! Real plants! Plants that were hearty and strong the minute they were planted, just like our Carter.
My pregnancy with Carter was a dream. I knew precisely how long I had to wait to take the pregnancy test, but I knew it would be good. The closer the day came, I knew I'd be happily telling Michael our dream had finally come true. He didn't even know I was taking the test. I woke up to get ready for school, and my hands shook as I went into the bathroom. The positive was as clear as day. I was going to be a mom. It was only 6am, so even though it was good news, I knew better than to wake Michael with it. So, for a few hours I knew the secret, and no one else did. I got a shower and made breakfast. I didn't make lunch. A day like today called for a fast food treat! (I know, terrible food for growing babies, but one of my worst habits.)
Finally, I had to go to work, so I woke Michael and handed him a bib that said, "I love Daddy." I stood there waiting for a reaction. I'm pretty sure he was still asleep. I had to spell it out for him. We're going to be parents! He was sleepy, but happy. An email later in the day told me how thrilled he was and that he was dazed by the news. We were very happy.
I never got sick. I felt strong and alive. I loved being pregnant. I felt like I had joined a special club. A knowing smile between myself and other moms or pregnant ladies made my day. We shopped for furniture. We talked about names.
Then, my brother suddenly became very ill. I remember being at the hospital while he was in surgery and patting my pregnant belly for comfort. My dad remarked that he could tell I was awfully proud of it. It was nice having Carter with me on that day. Then, just as suddenly, my brother was gone. It was unbearable to watch my parents grieve. The one thing that helped all of us was Carter. They had a wonderful grandson to think about and plan for. It didn't make my brother less gone, but it made life easier to get through.
The week of his funeral, we got to go to the doctor for the sonogram to find out the gender of our baby. Michael and I were in the doctor's office as the screen filled with our baby. Michael held my hand. The doctor easily found what he needed to see, and said, "It's a boy!" Michael squeezed my hand, and I cried. It was so great. We picked his name on the elevator ride after. It was that easy. Carter Austin Ross. We held hands the whole time.
Michael immediately took the sonogram picture to have copies made and sent them to relatives. The grandparents bought a cake! It was a great day despite the fact that my brother's funeral was the next day. It was even the first day Michael could feel the baby move as he put his hand on my belly.
Michael and Carter got me through the funeral. Michael even read the eulogy we had written even though he hates talking in front of large groups. We really were a family. We did hard things together and made each other smile.
I never worried for one minute about Carter. It was a joyous 7 months. Even the day we found out we had lost him started out light. I was simply getting my gestational diabetes test and a routine check-up. I never imagined the day would end like it did.
I try very hard to focus on the good. Carter's life was brief but very happy. He brought joy to many people. Jack and Alex have a very special guardian angel looking over them.
But, it's hard for me not to focus on the bad. For some reason my brain gets started on a bad road, and I can't stop it. I'll remember one detail of the day we lost him, and then it tumbles on from there. I can't stop the flood. Every single moment comes back. I remember telling my parents and feeling like I had just crushed their faith. I cry for my students who had to learn far too young that babies can die. The mental picture of our friends at our house after the funeral reminds me of the dear friend who was secretly pregnant at the time but had to hold it in because of our news. I can see Michael's heartbroken face as he and I held Carter in my hospital room. And then I just cry.
I don't know what today will bring. I hope I can focus on the good because we have so much of it. I'm worried that the stress of moving will make this a hard year. We are pretty worn out, and it takes energy to be a parent who has faced lose and gone on. Even five years later.