Though we were supposed to light the candle at 7 p.m., we went an hour early so the kids could be involved in the process. I spent an hour of the afternoon trying to find a small candle holder. In the end, we wrapped one of our Shabbat candlesticks in foil and placed a single candle on the counter.
"Shabbat!" my daughter exclaimed, even though it was Sunday night. "Challah! Eat challah. Light candles. Two candles. Shabbat!"
"Actually," I told her, "it's not Shabbat. We're going to light one candle. It's a different day where we remember something...different."
Thus began an APM--an awkward parenting moment. One of those conversations that you wished would go in a certain way, but you have no idea how to take it there. You wish the words would magically come into your mouth. Or that your children would just understand without speaking the difficult ideas you need to impart. The birds and the bees. Why bad things happen to good people. Death.
"Sometimes," I said, putting on my lightest voice so that I didn't do grave psychological damage to her two-year-old mind, "babies aren't born. You know how you came out of Mommy's tummy? Well, sometimes there are kids who don't come out of the tummy."
"Shabbat!" she called out again.
"And..." I said, turning towards my husband and realizing as he sat there staring at me that I was probably going to be the one doing the sex talk down the line, "we're lighting this candle for those babies. And giving them a voice. What do you think the babies would say if they were born?"
"Waaaah," my daughter informed me.
I looked at my son who nodded seriously. "Waaaah."
"Well, there are Mommies and Daddies who miss hearing their baby cry. And they wish their baby was here like you are so that their baby could cry."
"I say, 'don't cry babies!'," my daughter told me. "Don't cry Mommies. Don't cry Daddies."
"Sometimes Mommies and Daddies need to cry," my husband reminded her. "It's okay if they cry."
"Before we had you," I told them, feeling both like this moment was not going in any direction I wanted it to go AND feeling like this was exactly what needed to happen as my daughter serenaded us with Baa Baa Black Sheep apropo of nothing, "we had other babies who weren't born, so we're going to light this candle for them. And for all the other babies in this world who weren't born. So we're lighting this candle for Zoe. And for the babies who we never named but were lost in the months of November, February, and March. And for the blighted ovum who was supposed to be your triplet."
And that's when I felt my voice started to break. I'm so grateful that we have these children. And I'm grateful that they act like two-year-olds. And I'm grateful that they have each other. But how can you not miss the kids who could have been when you see what was in front of you? Our losses were so early; too early to be named. And, for me, too early to be missed. I was always focused on next, next, next and trying again and figuring out what was wrong. And I was so sad in the moment. I once threw my glasses on the floor because I was so surprised to see the blood on my panties. But after a day or two of mourning, I was thinking about what we were going to do different that cycle. And lighting that candle made me think about those babies that never happened. That never implanted or never stayed implanted or never grew.
After they were in bed, my husband and I were lying on our bed, his head on my chest. "Were you sad tonight?" I asked him.
"Yeah," he answered quietly.
I'm glad there is this day on the calendar that forces you to remember. Because sometimes, we get so goal focused that we forget the people we passed on the path. And I loved remembering them tonight--not the sad moments when everything was over, but the heart-racing excitement I felt when I thought something was finally starting.