In a high risk situation like mine, it's hard not to contemplate all of the options. And when you're a believer in a special kind of afterlife, like I am, it's easy for what seemed like a simple eternity to turn into a place full of questions—the type nobody claims to know the answers to. And the answers are suddenly the most important thing in the world.
When am I a mom? And I mean that in a literal sense: when do I have my daughter and son? It's a crucial part of my belief system that children born to my husband and I will be our children even after our deaths and into the eternities. And any child who dies young is innocent and goes to heaven. If I go there, that's where I can meet them. But what counts as born?
Am I just growing little bodies who will get spirits when they come out hearts beating? Or breathing? Or at what point do they get spirits to whom I am the earthly mother? They could come out of me alive but doomed to die at any point. Would they never have tiny spirits in those bodies? Or would they come just for those brief moments, even if they can't take a breath and won't receive medical attention? If they live only seconds?
And what if they die before they make the exit? Is that what decides if they were ever alive at all? And does it make a difference whether it happens at 20 weeks or 35? Or 12?
Or does it have more to do with what I do? Do I earn my motherhood badge? Or do I only get it if I somehow carry these babies to viability and deliver them alive? At what point do I earn the privilege of meeting them in heaven?
If I can't have children now, there will be opportunities for children in the next life, when God makes everything perfect and my body will conceive and bear children as easily as anyone else's. But it is these two whom I have loved. In all my vomiting spells and late nights up with the queasies and moments I have waited quietly for them to kick me and desperate times I have prayed for their safety, I have loved these children.
If they die before they're born, is it in the afterlife as if they never existed? Is it just the potential for souls that I have loved?
But then, what about the tiny bundles of cells that never stick, or die before they can? What happens when a new creature comes into being at the successful fertilization of an egg, but isn't even noticed before it leaves? Or the ones that do stick, but stay for only a few days before they die? So many of these go unnoticed—could they all be our children that we don't know we have? What sense does that make? And if they aren't our children when they're a hopeless bundle of cells, when do they become our children? It seems like it should be at the moment of conception (whenever you consider that to be) or at the moment baby takes a breath.
If I beg hard enough can it be sometime in between? Can heaven be neither full of children we never knew we had nor empty of those we tried so hard to deliver alive into the world? And if it can, when is that miracle moment when these bodies I carry become children I will love throughout eternity? And does it make any sense for a child to be or not be based on whether they will be mourned?
None of it makes sense to me. I trust that everything will be just and fair in heaven. And I suppose now I can know for sure that my understanding of just and fair falls as short of enough as Earth falls short of heaven. And where some women will always call their miscarried children their angels in heaven, I will walk feeling like that tiny bird in P.D. Eastman's iconic book, but asking a far stranger question: Am I your mother?