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The Me Before

I kept a baby journal through all three of my pregnancies. I often go back and re-read the pages of Ryley’s journal from his time in the NICU. I wrote next to his bedside nearly every day. But it isn’t often – almost never in fact – that I allow myself to go back to the day before *that* day, the day I started bleeding and all innocence about pregnancy was lost.

Tomorrow marks 11 years since that day. There are times I feel there is a barrier my heart has erected between my now-brain, and my brain of that day. It’s sometimes like looking through a mist at the events of that day and the days that followed. Other times, the sights, sounds, and smells come rushing back as if they’re happening all over again and I try desperately to stop them.

I don’t like to read the journal entries prior to that day. The hope, the dreams, and the innocence I read in those words is heartbreaking. I wish I could reach out to that woman and tell her to be careful, follow her instincts, listen to her heart…..that all is not well and that not all dreams come true. I want to tell her it isn’t that easy, things will not be as she planned them and that life is about to turn upside down if she doesn’t go down a different path. I can’t do any of those things. I can’t go back to being that person who wrote those words of hopes and dreams. It makes me too sad to read her words.

I should be happy, right? My son is here with me, 11 years later. He’s a brilliant, healthy fifth grader. So he has ADHD. So we still struggle with lingering asthma. So I still watch him more closely than I probably should. And so I still can tear up out of nowhere while watching him play baseball or soccer. But none of that can take away the loss of that woman, the loss of my dreams of the perfect pregnancy, delivery, and baby. How I wish to not know the things I know. I wish to not have that little catch of fear every time a friend or family member tells me she’s pregnant. I will never be that person again. I can’t.

Sometimes, I try to make light of Ryley’s early birth, saying things like, “He had so much to do in his life, he had to come three months early in order to get it all done,” or, “He knew he had to get out of the way so Grace could come.” I would give anything for him to have spent those three months inside of me. I would unsay the words “I don’t want a Christmas baby” (he was due Dec 29th). I would take the chances that Grace would come into our family a year or so later than she did if only I could still be the person who wrote all those words in Ryley’s baby journal BEFORE September 6, 2000.

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