We thought we had it all planned out. Jobs. Marriage. House. Kids.
And if you looked at our family now, you'd think everything went according to plan. Looking at our family now, you'll see two doting parents totally enamored by a beautiful blond-haired, blue-eyed little boy.
What you won't see is the heartbreak those two parents went through on their journey to bringing a baby home.
"Is he your first?" is a question we're asked often, so often in fact that we've developed a scripted response. "He's our first baby at home." Like our family photo, the answer doesn't give the full picture.
Is he your first pregnancy? No.
We were married in 2009. We had jobs and a house but wanted to be settled before starting our family. After two years of marriage, we got our first positive pregnancy test. By the time we had our heads wrapped around the idea that we were going to be parents, the ultrasound showed us the bad news: no heart beat. I had miscarried at nine weeks.
The staff at Edward Hospital was so wonderful and understanding, and a SHARE nurse even called and followed up with us the following week. We didn't think we needed the SHARE program then. We took solace in each other and continued to try to grow our family.
Is he your first born? No.
Eight months after the miscarriage, we finally got the positive result we'd been waiting for again.
This time we waited anxiously through the first trimester before excitedly sharing our news with our families. Our excitement -- and my baby bump -- grew week by week.
"We're halfway there!" I remember thinking as we hit Week 20. Two days later my water broke, and our hopes of bringing a baby home were crushed.
The following morning we delivered our firstborn, Andrew. Andrew never took a breath in this world, but he still took our breath away. He had 10 perfect little fingers and 10 perfect little toes. He even had a dimple on his chin just like his daddy.
This time, the SHARE program was a safe space to connect with other families who understood the new normal after the death of a baby.
While most of our friends and family members were compassionate and understanding, SHARE introduced us to those who understood because they were on the same journey. There, we connected with other grieving parents who were feeling the same sadness, anger, bitterness, disappointment and heartbreak we were.
A few short months after Andrew died, we were astonished to find out we were expecting again. The surprise of the pregnancy helped offset the intense terror that clouded over most of the pregnancy. Thankfully, there was Sharing HOPE, a division of SHARE that focuses on Having Optimistic Pregnancy Expectations, which was a crucial source of comfort to me through the third pregnancy.
No longer could we think that we were "safe" after making it through the first trimester. Doctors appointments stopped being the monthly checkups where we eagerly awaited hearing the heartbeat; this time, we juggled multiple doctors and specialists along with every test, procedure and medicine that might help prevent preterm labor.
Most women would be jealous of the number of ultrasounds we had in our third pregnancy, but even sonograms were just a brief respite from the worry.
Instead of the glow and excitement that many women have during pregnancy, I was wrought with anxiety that our hopes would once again be dashed and filled with guilt to be excited for a new baby so soon after losing our son.
Sharing HOPE connected me with other parents who were expecting again after losing a child, who did not criticize me for my cautious outlook on this pregnancy. It helped me balance my grief with hope for a healthy baby. And this spring, our hopes materialized with the safe arrival of our son Owen -- our first baby to come home.
For us, Naperville's A Walk to Remember is a chance to honor those children who don't appear in our family photographs, and our opportunity to ensure this resource is present, active and available to those whose family pictures do not show their whole story.