I loved this picture when it was first taken five years ago. Looking at it now, this picture reminds me of a moment in our marriage I try not to think about.
Five years ago, Joseph retired from Federal Express. After 20 years as a Fed Ex courier, he was leaving to enter the New York Court Officer Academy.
This picture was taken at his retirement party. It was a Friday afternoon. I had just gotten my hair done. I was wearing my favorite sleeveless shirt and a white skirt. I had rushed downtown after work to celebrate my husband and this new phase of our lives. I was happy and hopeful.
And while you can’t see it in this picture, I was also 16 weeks pregnant with our second child.
The day Norrin was diagnosed with autism, the doctor told us that we’d be more likely to have another child on the spectrum. And even though Joseph wanted more children, I was scared. I didn’t want another kid with autism.
After a few years, we settled into our role of autism parenting. Norrin progressed. I became less scared. And I decided it was time to try again.
I became pregnant again without much effort. The midwife at my GYN’s office joked, “We hate women like you.” The baby’s due date was January 20th – Norrin’s birthday. I just knew it was a sign, that this baby was meant to be. And I just knew I was going to have a little girl and name her Leia.
On the second day (August 4th) of Joseph’s NY Court Officer training academy, I had my monthly checkup with my Ob-Gyn. When she went to listen for the heartbeat, it couldn’t be heard. My baby had died.
As a cadet in the Academy, Joseph wasn’t allowed to carry his cell phone and I had no way of getting in contact with him. The hours, days, weeks that followed were the darkest of my life. (I told him hours later, after he came home. He couldn’t take any time off to accompany me to the hospital the following day. He couldn’t be there for me, the way he would have if he were still at Fed Ex.)
I didn’t want any reminders of the baby I had lost. I tucked my sonogram pictures into a book I knew I’d never read. I disconnected my Facebook page because I didn’t want to see any of my pregnancy pictures. I didn’t want to continue telling people of my loss.
For a long time, I couldn’t look at the pictures from Joseph’s retirement party – especially this picture of us. It was too painful.
The other day while scrolling through Facebook, I noticed my friend Ruby’s status update:
A photo holds so much including a story, an explanation, a moment, a memory. Good or bad it’s a gift to have “proof” it happened.
The moment I read it, I thought of this picture and everything it reminds me of.
Yes, this picture reminds me of loss and loneliness. But it also reminds me of hope and happiness. It reminds me that through it all, Joseph has been by side – even during the times when he physically couldn’t. It reminds me that we have worked through a trying moment in our marriage. It reminds me of how far we’ve come and how much we’ve achieved since then.
Like Ruby said, “good or bad,” a picture is a gift. As painful as the memory is, this picture is a part of our story.
Thank you Ruby for your words – I needed them.