The day we came home from the hospital after Elliott’s birth, everything was gone. We were still a month out from his due date, so there wasn’t a lot of baby stuff accumulated yet, but we’d picked up a few items. One couple had given us a car seat. Another friend of mine from high school had mailed us a huge package of cloth diapers and covers. Rich asked a friend to get them and take them away for us. I’m still not sure where they were donated.
My maternity clothes, however, were still there, folded on the shelf.
For the past three years, they have stayed in my closet. I’ve pulled them out, intending to get rid of them a few times, but I could never quite bring myself to actually load them into my car and drop them off at a clothing donation site.
Stillbirth leaves you with so little of the child. I have about a dozen pictures of our son that I look at from time to time. I have a box of the clothes he wore for those pictures. I have a mold of his hands and feet. I have a towel that a friend had sewn for him. That’s it.
My time with Elliott when he was alive was confined to my pregnancy. And so much of that time was filled with fear and regret. A child conceived outside of marriage. The product of an affair. A late in life, “don’t you know how that happens” baby. An infant who wasn’t going to get a baby shower because of the sins of his parents.
But there were flashes of kindness. The car seat. The diapers. The towel. And the maternity clothes. Someone I knew online had seen a post I put up asking local friends where I could find cheap maternity clothes, and a few days later, a package filled with tops and shorts and dresses arrived at my door. A few days later, I wore my favorite, a black and white polka-dot dress with an orange bow to my son’s trumpet recital, grateful that I had something pretty and new.
The clothes reminded me of the passage in Luke where Jesus encouraged his followers not to worry, that they had more value than birds and grass. Those maternity clothes were the wild flowers clothing the grass. They reminded me that I was more than my wrong choices. The clothes represented forgiveness, provision, acceptance. For me, for my yet unborn son.
So held onto the clothes. For three years.
A few days ago, another plea went out on my social media feed asking if anyone had any maternity clothes they would be willing to part with. And while there was a moment of hesitation – how could I give away one of my few remaining links with my son? – it was short-lived.
We met this morning, and I hugged her as her husband loaded the box into their minivan. I cried tears of grief as I drove back home, thinking about Elliott, who would be three on Sunday, if that day had gone differently. I cried tears of longing thinking about what it was like to feel him rolling and stretching inside of me and how I don’t get to hold that squirming, writhing little boy. I cried tears of regret for the time I spent fearing my pregnancy rather than reveling in it.
I cried tears of joy because sometimes wild flowers are a black and white polka-dot maternity dress with an orange bow that remind us that we are loved.