Essay: Lessons in Love
Before I had children I thought I knew love. I certainly knew what it was to love my family--my parents and my brothers and grandparents.... to love friends, and to love my husband. But loving a child is different. There is no choice in it.
I believe I would do anything for the people I care about, but I'm aware that it would be a choice. With my children there is no choice. They can have whatever of myself they need without question. That is a love I did not know before I had my first daughter, Aden.
When we decided to have a second child we managed to get pregnant on the first attempt. As we got closer to the birth of our daughter, Mona, I wondered if it was really possible to love this new baby as much as the first. My love for Aden was so all-encompassing, how could anyone compete? What would I have left to give? But my ability to love expanded easily to include Mona. That was an amazing thing to learn, that love could be so huge.
I was raised with two brothers and always pictured myself as a mother of three one day, so as Mona reached a point where she was up and around and causing trouble it seemed time to get pregnant again. Getting pregnant had been easy so we didn’t think much of it.
It never occurred to me that I would have a problem staying pregnant. When I went in for my 13 week ultrasound I was alone. My husband went with me to most of my appointments for the first baby. With the second I remember he brought Aden along so she could wave to the image of her new baby sister on the screen in the lab. But by the third there were now two small children to watch at home and there didn’t seem a pressing need to have everyone along. So I was by myself when the doctor came in looking serious and explaining that what I had thought of as a baby had stopped developing and the pregnancy was over.
I was shocked. I held myself together on the drive home. I burst into tears when I saw my husband. He held me. I wanted to shield Aden from my grief but my sweet girl has always been empathetic and kind. Even though she was only three years old she did not want to leave my side while I was sad. I had to explain to her that the baby was gone. “Gone?” she asked, trying to understand what I was saying. And I had to finally say, “The baby died.” Tears came to Aden’s eyes but she somehow staved off her own grief while I needed tending. She sat and patted my hand, and at one point ran upstairs to fetch a baby doll which she offered to me saying, “Here, Mama. This one won’t die.”
I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much as after that miscarriage. I had to decide whether or not to let things progress naturally or go to the hospital for a procedure called a D & C. It’s hard to make a decision when you don’t want either option, but eventually I realized I just needed it to be over and went to the hospital.
That same week I was performing music for a cousin’s wedding out of state. I looked through my closet in despair, realizing none of my regular clothes fit my body in its still slightly pregnant condition, but I couldn’t bring myself to wear maternity clothes. I made myself a dress that fit well enough, relying on the pretty fabric I selected to distract from the fact that I had never made a dress before and didn’t use a pattern. My daughters were flower girls for that wedding. It was both comforting and difficult to be with so much family. I played Amazing Grace on my viola in honor of my late grandfather whom we all missed and wished could be there. I spent that whole day aware that I was still bleeding away what was left of that bit of hope and love that I’d thought of as the next member of our family.
I don’t remember as much about the second miscarriage, except that it was eerily like the first. Again at the 13 week ultrasound the doctor told me the unhappy news, again I was alone, again I cried, and again I went to the hospital. It’s a blur of tears and deja vu for me. I asked Aden at one point if she thought we should try one more time and she said no, it was too sad when the babies died. My husband had doubts that trying again was a smart thing to do.
But I had to know. I had to know if there was one more person for us to love and raise as part of our home and we tried one more time. And now we have Quinn. His name means ‘fifth’ which I tell people seemed fitting because he made us a family of five. But in my heart I know part of it is that he was my fifth pregnancy. When I look at him I’m reminded how close we came to not trying again, and that as inevitable as he seems to me now, he didn't have to be.
Motherhood did not teach me one lesson about about love, but several. The same way that every child is paradoxically both universal and unique, so is the lesson each one of my children has offered me. Aden taught me what love can be. Mona taught me that love can be bigger than I ever imagined. And after two miscarriages, Quinn taught me never to take that love for granted.
Essayist Korinthia A. Klein is a violin maker and the mother of three in Milwaukee. She and her husband, a veteran, run a neighborhood violin store called Korinthian Violins in Bay View and she performs on the viola with Festival City Symphony) and on mandola with The Milwaukee Mandolin Orchestra. She blogs at Korinthia’s Quiet Corner.