He put the van in reverse, and I watched my little family begin to back out of the driveway. My girls waved vigorously from their car seats, giddy with joy that daddy was taking them to the carnival. I stepped out onto the porch, and motioned for my husband to stop. He rolled down the window.
“I’m coming. Just give me a minute.”
That moment, that split decision, was probably one of the best I’ve ever made. Fresh from hearing our sweet baby had died in utero, my heart was swollen and achy, much like my abdomen where our child still rests. I didn’t want to go. To face friends and community members who may not know what to say, may say something unintentionally hurtful, or worse yet, not know of our situation and ask me the dreaded question, “How’s the baby doing?” But this is our small town’s annual Fall Festival. A magical few days when our sleepy little village hums with excitement and is ripe with opportunities for children to stay up way past their bedtimes. As much as I wanted to just curl up in a ball on our couch as soon as my family left, something drove me to change my mind at the last minute.
While my family waited, I grabbed a drink from the fridge, made a quick visit to the facilities, and slipped on a belly band under my maternity shirt and over my maternity capris. I wanted to slim my tummy a bit. Being out in public with my full pregnant, yet not pregnant, figure showing just seemed too painful. I’d finally developed pride in that bump, and now it’s a sad reminder of what’s not to be.
I locked the door behind me, and slid into the passenger seat, camera around my neck, pressed up against my pounding heart. I was nervous. My husband squeezed my hand, and locked eyes with mine, and with a passionate intensity said something I’ll always remember. “You won’t regret this.”
We headed to town, and his prediction came true before we even reached our destination. My girls bounced with excitement in the backseat. “Everyone loves a festival!” My preschooler had been talking with her classmates all day about who was going and which rides they’d ride. How could I have missed this? How could I have let this moment slip away, when we were just so tragically reminded how precious each second and hour is? To skip out just seemed ungrateful. Joy is everywhere to be had. I just had to make the choice to reach out and grab it.
And grab it I did. By the fistful. Two little girls, squealing with delight. One handsome husband smiling more than I’ve seen him do in a long time. Joy. Piles upon piles of it. I selfishly indulged on the sights and sounds of my little town in celebration, all the while carrying our heartbreak in my womb. There were moments when I felt a bit irreverent, like a widow who eschews black at a funeral. How could I be out in public, smiling and laughing? How could I not just remain in bed all day, diving in headfirst to the dark sea of sadness that threatens to swallow me whole? And some may find this hard to understand. But here’s the deal. I am so desperately sad that we’ve lost this baby, because my children bring me so much joy. So how then, could I turn down the joy that’s given to me in the here and now, because I’m longing for the joy of a future that can’t be fulfilled?
My husband has never been more right in his life. I will never, ever, ever regret this.