When we took down Thomas' nursery, we carefully packed away all of his things in big plastic tubs which have been sitting in the basement ever since, carefully stored on a large shelving unit at the bottom of the stairs.
Sometimes, in my haste to get out into the garden or grab a can of tomatoes off the pantry rack nearby, I'll fly by the shelves filled with his things without giving them a thought or glance. Other times I'll find myself standing in front of the collection of clothes and nursery items lovingly chosen for our little boy so long ago, running my fingers along the containers. Or just simply staring, arms dangling useless at my sides.
After two and a half years it somehow feels normal to have an assortment of brand new baby things for a child who never came home to use them. Not necessarily easy, but normal. And having them all tucked away in their own little spot in the basement meant they were safe. They couldn't be harmed, nor could them harm me. It was an excellent arrangement.
Over the years we've donated a few things here and there - things that I knew I wouldn't use for another baby and didn't feel sentimentally attached to - but probably 85% of Thomas' things are still down in the basement.
Waiting for a baby that never came home. And for more babies that may never come at all.
It's probably a self defense mechanism - or me finally facing what is rapidly becoming a likely conclusion to this four-year saga - but after I lost the twins I found myself thinking more and more about the possibility of the days of baby making being behind me. Not because I want it to be that way, but because it probably is.
No decisions have been made and no medical opinions are leading us in this direction. It just somehow feels like it's over in a way I can't exactly describe, but know I've never before felt.
It was those feelings that somehow made it possible for me to venture down into the basement, retrieve two tubs of the sweetest little baby clothes I've ever seen, and go through them to find a few outfits for a friend who just had a baby boy of her own. After two losses, she understands what it's like for dreams to turn into nightmares.
Those tubs have been sealed tight for two and a half years. And I've been dreading the moment when, for whatever reason, I had to open them up and come face to face with tangible evidence of Thomas' loss. Dozens of outfits, sleepers, receiving blankets, hats, booties, burp pads, towels and washcloths don't lie. A baby was supposed to live here. All those unused items - most still with tags on - tell the grim tale in a shockingly real way.
And so even though I desperately wanted to share some of Thomas' things with my friend and her son, I was terrified of what I had to do to achieve that end.
But the thing is, I survived. I more than survived.
I lugged two massive tubs upstairs one sunny afternoon last week, cracked the lids and found peace. I looked at all the sweet little fuzzy sleepers, the knitted blankies my Mom made, the t-shirt and sweater my sister brought back from Ireland - and by some miracle I found a measure of peace.
I felt sorrow too. There's no way to go through you dead child's things without feeling sorrow. But it was the peace that surprised me. Seeing his little clothes and remembering the shopping trips and showers that brought them to me was a joy. It's like the memory of 9 months of excitement have been trapped in those tubs all this time, just waiting for me to open them up and set them free.
What was also surprising was how easy it was for me to separate Thomas from a pile of unused baby clothes. They were his, but they're not him. Keeping them entombed in the basement won't bring him back.
The things he wore - the things that actually touched his tiny body - I will always keep. They're tucked away in his drawer upstairs. And the blankies from his Grandma will always have a home here, as will a few selected items that hold too much sentimental value for me to part with. But I can see now that if there's never going to be a baby in this house - if that's what the future does in fact hold - I can part with the rest of Thomas' things.
I hold him in my heart. That's where the most important part of him lives. It always did, I just didn't fully realize it until last week - until another little boy came into the world and helped me heal.