At 23 months old, the experts say that a child should be able to name pictures in a book, use three to four word sentences, get dressed alone, interact socially, and figure out age appropriate puzzles. This is what the experts tell me, but my child can't do any of these things.
She can't show off the new words she has learned, or ask "why". She can't copy the behaviors of others, or interact with her friends. Though I wish with all my heart that she could, my child can't do any of these things, and I have to face the facts - that even as these many months without her tick by, and even as her 2nd birthday looms just around the corner, Peyton is no closer to making any of these milestones than she was the day she died, and wish for her as I might, she never will be.
At 8 weeks pregnant, the experts say that my twins are developing eyelids. Their ears, upper lips, and the tips of their noses are forming. By this week, my twins' hearts have each split into four distinct chambers, and beat at more than twice the resting heart rate of their parents. These babies are sprouting webbed fingers and toes. They are making milestones just as they should be, and doing all that is expected of them, and I have to face the facts - that even though we have only known parenting to involve panic and pain, that does not define what will be with these babies.
Even though I am scared out of my mind. Even though I have been living in this universe of loss for two years and know first hand that nothing in life is a guarantee, that does not erase the possibility that these twins CAN be born healthy.
I am facing the facts - my past does not define their future.
Every day I find myself struggling for balance as I straddle these two worlds.
I am a grieving mother. I am an expectant mother.
I am paralyzed by fear. I am encouraged by hope.
I carry the heavy weight of loss. I gladly carry the weight of my twins.
I wish I could have more grace in this. I don't know if it is my own weaknesses, or the situation, but I find pregnancy after losing Peyton to cancer, something that no doctor has ever been able to give us any reasons for how or why this happened to our baby, to be like walking through a dark tunnel filled with broken glass, and praying with every step not to be hurt again. We live in a world where we are told that EVERYTHING can cause cancer, and the weight that comes with being vigilant about avoiding, well, everything, is exhausting.
There are days when my fears push me to the edge, and I wonder how I am going to get through this pregnancy with my sanity in-tact, and then I remember another fact that I have come to face - that though Peyton is not here with me, though she is not walking down the stairs on her own, or banging on pots in the kitchen, she is always with me watching over her parents and her little siblings, and I find peace in that.
I find peace in knowing that when my worrying makes me stumble, she is there, whispering words of encouragement in the wind. Whether it be a butterfly at the perfect moment, chancing upon her name in a book, or just "feeling" her around me, she is always at my side.
I miss the physical connection that I had with her. I miss hugging her, holding her, and stroking her hair, but not once since she left this world, have I felt absent of her spirit, and for that I am so very grateful.
On the days when I question myself the most, I think of Peyton.
I think of all that she faced and the strength that she exhibited in her tiny little self right to the very end, and I feel inspired to pull myself up by the bootstraps and face the facts - that while there are no guarantees in this life, and while the risk of enduring more pain and heartache is ever present - even the possibility that these twins can come into this world healthy makes fighting on through the fear necessary.