When I discovered I was pregnant with Kenley, I began writing to her in a journal. The intention was I would write to her throughout the pregnancy and then whenever I had time once she was born. I would write about all the milestones and emotions that come with being pregnant and having a new baby. When that journal was filled, I would simply get another one and continue writing to her - all throughout her childhood and her teenage years. I would give her the journals- maybe one at a time, maybe all at once - when she was old enough to appreciate them. Then, she'd be able to read all about how wanted she was. How loved she was. Even in times of frustration, her mother always loved and cared about her. I wanted to leave her this legacy - her own story told through the eyes of her mother.
Into that journal, I poured all my love for her, all my dreams for her future, all my joy for her arrival. I told her about my swollen feet and heartburn - and how I knew it would all be worth it one day. I told her about how excited I was to meet her and how beautifully her nursery was coming together. I told her about all these things with the idea that she would read my words one day.
As we all know, that will never happen. I didn't get to finish even one journal for Kenley. The one I started, a beautiful tan leather journal with sleek, blank pages edged in gold, is only filled about a quarter of the way. It stops abruptly and with great heartbreak. The rest of the journal is empty. Pages and pages of nothing - of a future that never was. That journal is tucked inside Kenley's memory box. I placed it inside there the day after her memorial and haven't taken it out since. One day, I might have the courage and strength to re-read it, but not now. It's hard to think about reading those entries - full of so much hope and innocence - knowing how it all ended.
Someone asked me recently if I will still keep a journal for my future children. Absolutely! Kenley did not get to have the life I'd planned for her, but that will not stop me from planning the lives of my other children. My future pregnancies will be full of stress and worry, that's for sure. But, I will not stop hoping and dreaming of their future simply because my first child was robbed of hers. Imagine if NASA had given up planning for the future when their first attempts at rocket launches resulted in spectacular explosions. Imagine if J.K. Rowling had stopped submitting Harry Potter when she was rejected the first of twelve times. Imagine if Albert Einstein's family had believed the doctors when they told them he was "dim and slow witted." Our world is made great by people who refused to give up on their dreams, who used their negative experiences for good instead of allowing their past to dictate the course of their lives. I will not let my past get in the way of my dreams for the future.
Kenley will always be my firstborn child. She will always have a place in my heart, and I will always, always miss her. But, what good does it do to shut myself up and keep myself from dreaming? How is stagnancy honoring her memory? It isn't. The only way to give her life purpose is to bring purpose to mine. The only way to truly honor her is to do all the things for my future children that I would have done in the first place. I will announce my pregnancy with joy and pride. I will trace my belly. I will take maternity pictures. I will get a nursery ready. I will keep a journal. Not in spite of what happened - or necessarily because of it either - but because it is what I want to do. It is what Kenley deserved and it is what my future children deserve. If my heart is broken again, then I will pick up the pieces again. But, what if it's not?
I am not going to live my life in fear. I can't control what might happen to me. I can't promise myself a quick conception, an easy pregnancy, or a healthy baby. But, I can hope. I can dream. I can plan for the future. Kenley will still be there. Forever and always, nestled inside my heart, making room for her siblings to come.
I already have what will be the first volume of their life story. Smelling of clean leather and a fresh start.