The day before my birthday.
My wife, Alanna, and I had been trying for a child for several fruitless years. Alanna had been feeling strange for several days and as time progressed, she was feeling worse and worse. She emerged from the bathroom – a pregnancy test clutched in her hand. “Pregnant” it read. My happiness was immediately drowned by the fear in Alanna’s face – something was very wrong.
The early morning of my birthday.
The hospital, waiting for Alanna to emerge from surgery. Our only pregnancy was ectopic. Her gurney emerged from an elevator bank, her face pale from loss of blood and slack from anesthesia. I had lost a child, and nearly my wife. The next days are a blur of antiseptic smells and medical chimes and beeps. We return home and face a world where our plans for a family seem even more challenging.
The following years are filled with IVF and the seemingly endless appointments, shots, and heartache that follows.
The phone rings – the call from the IVF clinic I’ve been awaiting and dreading. The voice on the other end – I’m a father again.
Initially fearful, I attended every appointment and watched our daughter, our Emmeline, grow bigger and stronger with each passing week. Hearing her heart, seeing her move, feeling her move. Watching Alanna’s belly ripple with Emmeline’s kicks. She was always moving and dodging and weaving. I cared for her mom – providing a never-ending stream of pregnancy craving-driven hashbrowns. We prepared for Emmeline’s arrival – covering the walls of her nursery with calming trees. We picked out the perfect glider for her – I imagined the hours I would spend rocking her in it. We gave the middle name Iris – our rainbow – a tribute to the light she brought to us and a memory of her siblings who never heard our voices or felt our touch. I could not wait to be her father. The day of her birth drew closer and she hit every milestone – the normal, boring pregnancy we so needed.
And then she was dead.
A routine 40-week appointment turned nightmare.
An empty silence where the sound of her heartbeat should be.
A stark stillness in place of her normal, playful dodging.
A tight knot in her umbilical cord.
A blur of grief. 50 hours of labor. And then she was with us. She had my hands, she had Alanna’s nose. A full head of hair. And as quickly as we met her we said goodbye. An empty car seat. An unoccupied nursery. Crushing tragedy.
Another anxious day spent waiting for a call from the clinic. The previous year had been a staccato web of sadness and hope. Emmeline deserved a sibling and so we had submerged ourselves in building our family – 4 IVF cycles in less than a year. More appointments, more shots, more trauma. And now our first transfer – another chance to grow our family. In the pit of my stomach I feared that reality was too cruel for this to work – Emmeline had taken three transfers and I was prepared for failure. But the voice on the other end had other plans. The transfer had worked. Parents again.
Aila. Aila Iris. The sister that will know Emmeline, the sister that will be surrounded by Emmeline’s memory and her family’s embrace.
Our second rainbow.
A brand new person for us to know and love and finally parent.
Photos taken by Harmony Safier Photography.
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