“I took maternity photos in the dress I wore to my husband’s funeral. It wasn’t something I planned to do. I had an outfit already picked out, but when I went to get dressed, I discovered that my shirt no longer covered my growing baby bump. I found myself trying on every shirt and dress in the house. Clothes were strewn about in a panic as I rummaged through every drawer, hamper and closet two hours before I was supposed to meet up with the photographer. Then I saw it. Hanging quietly in the corner of my closet where it had remained for the last 7 and a half months: the dress I wore to Jon’s funeral.
I remember the first time I saw it. Jon and I were walking through the mall and I thought it was lovely. If I was inclined to impulse purchases, I would have bought it right then. But even after Jon said that if I liked it I should get it, my practical nature left it on the hanger. What occasion would I have to wear a dress like that?
The day I bought the dress was… I don’t even know how to describe it. I didn’t want to go anywhere, but I definitely did not want to go to the mall to shop for a black dress. One more reminder that I was now a widow. I felt like one of those poor souls in western movies that get drug behind a horse. I had to go forward no matter how much pain I was in. There was no other choice.
As I robotically followed my mother and sisters through the mall, I could see myself and Jon a few days before; like ghosts, sitting in the food court and walking by the stores. I felt like throwing up or melting into a puddle of snot, spit and tears. Instead, I put one foot in front of the other and tried to hide the fact I was trembling.
It turned out that JC Penney’s was having a dress sale. I scanned through the racks of reds and blues looking for a widow’s black dress. Then I saw the it, the same dress I had admired some weeks before. I didn’t bother looking for any others. I tried it on, and that was that.
I didn’t know I was pregnant on the day of the funeral. As I spent the last few minutes alone with Jon, weeping as I ran my fingers through his hair and kissed his forehead, I had no idea that I was carrying his son. When I saw the two pink lines on the pregnancy test a few days later, I wept just as hard.
I didn’t want to be pregnant. I was carrying enough burdens, why did I have to carry a child as well? I resented the fact I was pregnant. Resented that I couldn’t get drunk and numb the pain. Resented the fact that I now had to be a single parent of not just one, but two children.
I was overwhelmed with taking care of my daughter’s needs. How could I possibly manage the exhaustion that is caring for an infant? For a couple weeks I seriously considered adoption. I didn’t think I was strong enough to parent two children in my grief. I read up on the legality of it and even messaged an acquaintance of mine that had found her baby a loving home through adoption. But when I found out that the child Jon had given me was a son, I knew I couldn’t let him go. I would find the strength somehow, but I still hadn’t found a way to be happy about it.
I spent a couple months in denial. It was easier to not think about the baby at all. The fact that my pregnancy was virtually symptomless in the beginning (as opposed to losing 15 pounds from morning sickness with my daughter) made it that much easier to forget.
But eventually my growing abdomen became difficult to ignore and the little one inside began to demand my attention. Every kick, poke and wiggle was as if he was saying ‘I’m here!’ Slowly I began to not only accept the new addition to my life, but to appreciate, love and anticipate his arrival.
In many ways my son saved me, even before taking his first breath. If I did not have a pregnancy to stop me, I very likely would have charged down an unhealthy road. The limits I resented early on, were what kept me safe until I was able to regain my sanity. He is a gift. A small light in a dark reality.
That is why I decided to take maternity pictures in my black dress. Because life is beautiful, even in pain. In the darkest of nights, the stars shine out the brightest. The dress I wore when I thought my life had been destroyed has been redeemed. For though I did not know it at the time, I was carrying life within me, even while surrounded by death. I could have chosen to remain in despair, but I decided to choose hope. I chose life. I embraced the pain and let it go.
It’s been a little more than two years since my son was born. I named my son Nathan Luke which means ‘God has given’ ‘Light.’ And that is just what he is. It is a rare moment that my son is not laughing and smiling. He brings me so much joy. I am constantly in awe of how much he is like his father, and I thank God every single night for the precious gift He gave to me in my life’s darkest hour.
I’ve been honored to introduce him to the world, and the world I am showing him is full of light, life and happiness.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Erica Roman of Nashville, Tennessee. You can follow her grief journey on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and her website. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
Read more stories from those experiencing grief and loss:
SHARE this story on Facebook to encourage others to cherish every moment and love what matters most.