Lately, I’ve been feeling guilty about what I refer to as “the lost years” with my daughter, the two years between my 20 week pregnancy loss and the few months after my son was born. Maybe it’s that writing about pregnancy loss, grief, and pregnancy after loss has brought up memories and led me to reflect on those years. But the truth is I have been weighed down with this guilt for three years now.
I lost my baby in January 2015, became pregnant again near the end of that year, and my son was born in July 2016.
Each of these seasons is a blur in my memory. I spent nearly a year deep in grief, and just about as long enduring a high risk pregnancy. The months after my son was born involved constant crying each day, with no way to soothe the colicky baby that God had blessed me with. The only things I really remember are crying, feeling detached and depressed, and being completely exhausted. During “the lost years” my daughter seemed to disappear into the background of my life as I struggled to get through each day.
I trudged through the days of grief barely able to care for myself, let alone a small human being. I anxiously moved through a high risk pregnancy, disconnected from life, simply hoping that my baby would live. I was more concerned with the child who hadn’t yet been born than with the child who was standing right in front of me (and believe me, I hate admitting that.) And after my son was born, I spent the first several months of his life focusing on trying to soothe him which proved to be an impossible task. Each day was marked by constant crying and my daughter seemed to remain in the background as all the attention fell to her little brother. I tended to that baby every second of every day, praying that he would stop crying. I held him and held him and held him, while again my daughter tended to herself.
So, with all that being said, I feel guilty. Really guilty. For those “lost years” in which I was so wrapped up in grief and in worrying about my subsequent pregnancy that my daughter’s needs seemed to come second. I remember spending a lot of time in bed and on the couch. Depressed after my loss and staying off my feet during a difficult pregnancy. My daughter was surely there, but memories with her are foggy.
I have been so wrapped up in the guilt that it has brought tears to my eyes. I have laid awake at night, my stomach in knots, wishing I could go back in time so I could be a better mother to my daughter. I wonder if she is scarred for life. I wonder if those years ruined her. I miss her being a toddler. I missed too much of those years, even though they took place right before my eyes. I desperately wish I could reclaim them for just a bit. But I can’t.
So, I decided to page through my photo albums from “the lost years” in the hopes of restoring my heart just a little bit. I wanted to see pictures of my little girl and I wanted to see if there were any good memories of the two of us during that time. All I could remember were tears and sadness. My short temper. My inability to function and give her the attention she deserved. Would these be the only things the photos would reflect? Are these the things my daughter would remember? A sad and anxious mom who didn’t seem to care about her?
But you know what I saw as I paged through those albums? I saw numerous pictures of a mom and daughter having fun together. There were photos of us swinging together and playing in the leaves and riding a carousel. There were photos of us lounging by the pool and having tea parties with cardboard crowns adorning our heads. There were pictures of us playing games together as I rested on the couch and pictures of Lego creations that we had made together. There were pictures from her birthday, of the special birthday cake I made, which to this day remains her favorite cake. There were pictures of her sleeping on the couch next to me and snuggled up with me in bed, her hand on my belly, waiting to feel a kick from her brother.
And I thought that maybe “the lost years” hadn’t been lost after all. These photos were evidence that I was present in her life at least some of the time and although some of the happiness on my part was probably feigned, at least I had tried. At least I had put in the effort to spend quality time with my daughter, even though I hadn’t been able to remember any of it. And although I am certain that the bad times overshadowed the good times during those years, simply seeing the proof that there had been good times helped relieve some of the guilt.
I’m not sure how those years affected my daughter’s life in the long run. Maybe she’ll remember my crying and sadness and short temper. But maybe she’ll also remember warm days spent playing together at the park, a special birthday cake made by mom, and being wrapped in my arms as she climbed into my bed each morning.
How sad that overwhelming guilt has diminished any memory of the good times spent with my daughter during those two long years. My guilt has virtually erased the mental images of all those good things that are documented in photo albums.
So, today I am thankful for these photos. A reminder that maybe I’m not as big of a failure as I think I am. I am thankful for the good times that occurred during “the lost years” despite my mind’s inability to remember them. And I am thankful that the Lord promises forgiveness, giving me freedom from the guilt that has been hovering over me.
Psalm 32:5 “I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.”