I wake up on the morning of our 8th wedding anniversary to my husband Kent sitting on the bed with a medium-sized box in his hands.
“I thought we agreed we weren’t doing gifts!” I say, embarrassed that I don’t have anything for him.
“It’s for both of us”, he says. “Go ahead, open it.”
I open the folded flaps of cardboard and peer inside. I know immediately what it is, and feel the tears starting to come. I pull it out and examine its perfection. It is a 3-D printed rendering of one of the plaster molds we had taken at the hospital of our three hands entwined- mine, my husband’s, and Miles’. Memories of the evening we took the molds come rushing back. The nurses, just short hours after doctors delivered his terminal diagnosis, holding Miles’ hands and feet steady while the gooey pink substance used to make the impressions dried. My voice, shaking as I sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on repeat to keep Miles (and all of us) calm. The soft thrum of the fluorescent lights, shining down on one of the most heartbreaking, intimate moments of our little family’s life. After the molds were taken, we drove the 2 hours to bring our son home to die. There was nothing left to do except wait for the inevitable.
I look at the 3-D print more closely, examining the details of Miles’ pudgy little hands and sweet rounded fingernails. I adored holding his hands throughout his life- when he was playing, or breastfeeding, or falling asleep I would gaze at those hands and think to myself that there was nothing more perfect on the face of the earth. I look at my husband and after thanking him through tears, I manage to choke out, “How is this all we have left??” 8 years of marriage, 5 years of fertility treatments, 1 miraculous baby boy, and now just this- a small white replica of our hands, entwined together- a representation of the family we had and lost in just over a year. We are now two again.
When I was young and dating, I never fully understood what having a marriage would entail. I knew from watching some of the marriages around me that it would involve standing together through ups and downs, but I never could have imagined the depth of love and connection I could feel towards another person. Kent and I have grown together despite so many challenges. He is the only other person in this world who knows what it was like to have and lose our son, and we share the depth of this loss in ways that extend far beyond language. And so, on this anniversary of 8 years of marriage and 13 years of togetherness, I choose to celebrate. Although I wish more than anything Miles was here with us to celebrate- a physical symbol of what we have fought so hard to build- we still have so very much to honour. I have to remind myself to re-frame the statement “it’s just the two of us now”. We started out as the two of us, and when our future children grow up and move out, it will be the two of us once again. We are bound together by the life and love we have chosen to create, and this partnership- our marriage- isn’t “just” anything. It’s everything.