I turned 24 on May 14th, 2014. 24 was a big year for me. I got married in August, in October I was promoted, in December we visited my husband's family in Cambodia for Christmas, and in February we found out that we were expecting.
We fell more in love with our growing babe each day. In April, at my 12 week checkup, we heard the best sound that I've ever heard to date - our baby's beating heart. It was loud and fast and really swooshy. The sound of life that I was given the privilege to carry.
Over the next few weeks we shared the exciting news with everyone, and now that we were out of the first trimester woods, we started to plan ahead. We checked out strollers and crib bedding and ordered maternity clothes since finding clothes that fit was quickly becoming a thing of the past.
Then in May, a week before my 25th birthday and a few days before Mother's Day, I sat back on the exam table where we heard our baby's heartbeat for the first time a few weeks earlier and sobbed in silence. At 17 weeks pregnant, we were told that our baby had died.
It was a heartbreak that we were unprepared for, one that I'd never wish on anyone. We were naive and innocent, never imagining that this could happen so late. The next few weeks were filled with postpartum hormonal breakdowns and a grief that we had not yet been acquainted with. I don't know for sure if you ever fully recover from losing a baby, but I do know that if it does happen, it happens very slowly.
We packed up the maternity clothes, unsubscribed from all baby related mailing lists, and tried to wade through the pain of this new reality. During that time I clung to words of encouragement, to promises and songs and verses that reminded me that I was not alone and that things wouldn't always be so painful. I began to use my burgeoning calligraphy skills to create physical reminders that we could and would get through this.
"This time I will praise the Lord."
A few months later we were given the go-ahead from the doctors and we began hoping and praying for another baby. Month after month we rode the roller coaster of "maybe" and "what if" only to be met with "not now" and "maybe next month". Then, in January, almost a year after that first positive pregnancy test, I found myself looking down at a second.
I was ecstatic. After a late loss and months of trying I feared that we would never be able to conceive again. I cried as I read the words of Leah in Genesis 22, after giving birth to Judah, "This time I will praise the Lord." I didn't know how long this baby would be with us, but I would praise the Lord for every minute with him or her.
Just two weeks later, I waited on a stretcher to undergo emergency surgery for a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. Once again, just like that, our baby was gone.
When we lost our first baby, who we later found out was a little boy, a sweet friend gave me marigold seeds. Having gone through two miscarriages herself, she learned to honor and celebrate her babies by planting their birth flowers. Marigold is the birth flower for October, the month our little boy was due. Our second little baby was due last month, in September. The birth flower for September, as you may have guessed, is aster.
The pain from losing our babies catalyzed my desire to leave my job. I needed time and space to heal in my own way. In the midst of this process, I began to create Marigold & Aster, an opportunity to heal and grow and express myself, and do something that I really love.
About two weeks after giving my notice at work, we found out that I was pregnant again. I was delighted and wholly believed that we would take this baby home. But once again, our joy was short lived as we learned that I was either miscarrying or the pregnancy was ectopic. After many trips to the ER we learned against all circumstances that our third baby was right where it should be with a beating heart. It was a miracle to have that information, and to know that our baby's heart was beating. Unfortunately, despite the good news, all signs pointed to miscarriage. A little over one week later we buried that little March baby, our sweet daffodil, next to his or her brother under my parents' magnolia tree.
"I like to think that I took the sourest lemon that life had to offer and made something resembling lemonade."
A couple on a show (that I won't name for the sake of spoiler alerts) loses a baby during birth in the first episode. The wizened old doctor comes out to break the news to the father and then commiserates with him, saying that he, too, lost his first baby during birth. He says that the main reason he became a doctor was because of that baby, and he hoped in so doing he could save other babies. He offers the new father some advice, saying "I like to think that I took the sourest lemon that life had to offer and made something resembling lemonade."
So there it is, the story behind "Marigold & Aster". This one's for my babies. And I hope that it's something like lemonade.