Teaching Hope

I was very reluctant to tell the kids about this pregnancy, though I knew it would become an inevitable necessity. They were joyful, and have been the entire time. Every once in awhile, I will get questions like “Is the baby still healthy?” Particularly after they know that I have returned from an appointment, but their concern is fleeting. It has been hard to match their enthusiasm when I am constantly hit with fear. Usually I will answer questions quickly or divert the conversation. It has become a more frequent topic as we near the end.

Last night, both kids bombarded me with questions about the baby being born. Theo told me that he wanted to watch because he has “never seen a doctor cut a baby out of a tummy before.” I told him that it wasn’t allowed, but he could come after. He wanted to know if it would hurt, and I told him that I would be numbed, to which he made the connection to when he had a cavity filled and his mouth was numbed. I talked about the pain after the surgery and that I would need to be careful. I made them aware that we need to be careful holding babies and that they would need to ask for help. Through the rigamarole of questions, I had to approach with no hesitation: answering frankly and completely, like I believed that this was going to happen exactly as I was describing.

About a month ago, the kids watched Anne of Green Gables, the old TV movie that aired in the 1980s. Ger and I had opted to simultaneously watch our own movie, so we were not with them. I had forgotten the ending and after, Theo came up to me, teary-eyed and said “That was really sad.” It took me a minute to realize what he was referring to and then I said “Oh, because Matthew died?” He nodded. I instantly felt bad that I was not there for him in the moment when he was sad. I gave him a hug and said “Yes, it was sad, but he had a good life and people loved him.” I immediately felt a tug at my heart, remembering Theo’s tears each time he was told that our babies had died, and had an awful glimpse of needing to tell him again. His emotions are developing, and he is more aware than he was 21 months and 16 months ago. What if it happens again and he is more affected?

After the Anne of Green Gables moment, I was listening to Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly. She talks about how hope is learned. Children learn hope from their parents, and hope is a critical element in resilience and overcoming adversity. She writes:

“Powerlessness is dangerous. For most of us, the inability to effect change is a desperate feeling. We need resilience and hope and a spirit that can carry us through the doubt and fear. We need to believe that we can effect change if we want to live and love with our whole hearts.”

It was then that I decided to encourage hope for my kids. Though I have faltered back and forth myself between hope and fear, there is no reason I could not encourage them to be hopeful. I could stop shying away from their questions and pretend to be excited for the remaining months.

When Theo hugged my round shape at night, saying sweetly “I hope this baby is born!” I met him with a big smile saying “Me too!” His face was knowing, like obviously the baby will be born, but he has learned the reservation against assuming the outcome will be positive. After the Butterfly Release, he said, unprompted: “I have hope for this baby.” There the word was again: hope. And again I responded with a big smile “Me too!”

Then he said, “I hope all of the babies are playing in heaven” referring to his awareness of the other families who had lost babies. I was a bit surprised, only because we rarely talk about heaven or any type of afterlife at home. This time, rather than saying “me too” and acknowledging his hopeful thought, I said “I know they are all playing together Theo. All of the parents who lost their babies – that’s what we believe, that our babies are playing together in heaven.”