Widowhood, Remarriage and Pregnancy

I wrote this post last year, shortly after I found out I was pregnant.  Pregnancy hormones can be a doozy, but couple that with the deep and dark pain of losing your first husband and you get a woman who is a bit of a mess.  I cried the entire time I wrote this, and wasn’t sure if I would ever share it.  Baring your heart for the whole world to see is tough, but in some ways it’s also therapeutic.  At least for me it is.  I’ve never been all that great at expressing my feelings vocally, but I’ve found that I can write them out pretty easily.  Thank goodness…because if I wasn’t able to express them somehow I think I would explode.  All of that being said, here are the thoughts and feelings that this widow experienced after finding out I was expecting a child with my second husband:   

I’m pregnant with my first child, and while it’s a happy and joyous time, I do have a pang of sadness that gnaws at me relentlessly.  I love my husband with my whole heart, and I know I will love this baby in a way that I never knew was possible, but this child that I’m carrying is not the child I initially dreamed of having.  I lost that child and that dream when my first husband Dimitri was killed in Afghanistan while leading his Soldiers over 4 years ago.  Not only did I lose the love of my life, I also lost the dream and the future I had with that wonderful man.  The baby I imagined had dark hair and dark eyes, just like him, and I was so excited to one day see Dimitri become a daddy.  Every step of this journey through widowhood has been excruciating, but this pain I’m feeling right now was unexpected.  

Initially, the loss of Dimitri and thinking about the pain he went through was all I could think about.  Then I moved on to thinking about the future that was no longer there, and I mourned that as well.  In fact, I still do and I always will.  Even turning 25 a few months after he died was difficult because I knew we would never be the same age again.  I never knew if I would love again, but in time I did.  I’m so thankful that I met my husband Tom, and I’m grateful he brought joy and happiness back into my life.  He gave me a future to look forward to, and I cannot wait to go on this journey of parenthood with him.  I can’t help but feel like I’m leaving Dimitri behind on another journey though.  How will I talk about Dimitri to this child?  I loved Dimitri from age 19 until he died when we were 24.  He was a key part of my West Point experience, he taught me how to open my heart to love, and he made me a better person.  He made me “me.”  There’s no way he can just be omitted from my past and my story, but I know the baby will never understand who this man was and they won’t know why he’s so special to me.

In time I’m sure I’ll figure out how to share little bits and pieces of my past with this child of mine.  I know that they will never know Dimitri, but I pray that they have the same zest for life that Dimitri had.  

Even though Jack isn’t the child I originally imagined having, I now can’t picture my life any other way.  I love this child with every piece of me, and I pray that I’m able to teach him that even when the world knocks you down there is always hope for a happy tomorrow.  If that wasn’t the case, and if I hadn’t picked myself back up and continued living life then I never would have had this sweet baby boy who makes my life complete.  Life is messy and beautiful at the same time, and I’m thankful that God gave me the resiliency that got me through the dark valleys of grief and that he has allowed me to finally experience this wonderful gift that is motherhood.    
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Katie Vail
Katie Vail

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  1. February 3, 2016 / 12:58 pm

    Oh sweet Katie. I'm bawling my my face off and I just am in awe of your strength. I can't imagine the emotions you were going through as you grew your baby. But I know you'll find a way to have jack know Dimitri in some way and he'll be better for it.

  2. February 3, 2016 / 1:01 pm

    This is beautiful, Katie. You're one of the strongest people I know and it takes a lot to put something like this into words. Sending you and sweet Jack lots of love! xoxo

  3. February 3, 2016 / 2:09 pm

    I can only imagine all the different emotions you experience. I am so glad you wrote this exquisite post. Thinking of you!

  4. Anonymous
    February 3, 2016 / 4:27 pm

    Katie–I have admired you and your honesty for so long. I've never commented before, but felt compelled to today. I read this article a while ago and thought of you instantly even though we don't know each other. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/01/06/my-marriage-didnt-end-when-i-became-a-widow/?_r=0

    If it doesn't help you on your journey feel free to discard…but I thought her words (though her story was very different) regarding marriage vows and grief were so beautiful that you might, too.

    All the best as you navigate the many aspects of this journey!

  5. Anne Marie
    February 7, 2016 / 3:58 pm

    Katie, this is beautiful! You are an amazing, strong American that will undoubtably raise your child the same.

  6. February 8, 2016 / 2:45 am

    Thank you for being so open and sharing this, Katie. You are truly such a strong, wonderful person. As long as you carry your love for Dimitri with you, Jack will have it too, I have no doubt.

  7. Anonymous
    February 12, 2016 / 2:39 pm

    This is really beautiful, and I'm so sorry for your loss. My experience doesn't really compare, but this reminded me of some of the feelings I had with my pregnancy. After years of fertility treatments, I lost my first two pregnancies. One of the things I really struggled with during my pregnancy with my now two-year-old son was the constant reminder of when my other babies would have been born (multiple friends were due around my old due dates, so their kids are walking reminders, "oh that baby would be almost three this year," etc.) As hard as that was, and it's hard not to remember, I also know if I'd had any of those babies, I wouldn't have my son now, and he is the most amazing child. So I just try to remember as hard as those losses were, they brought me to this point, and I truly believe I have the baby I was meant to have, when I was supposed to have him.

  8. February 18, 2016 / 12:38 am

    I cried so hard when I first found your blog and read your story; it haunted me for days. I cried again reading this post. You are such an inspiration to most of us, especially when we are complaining about things that are trivial and inconsequential. Your new baby will have your love and spirit and I am sure Dimitri will be watching over the two of you. Sending hugs from a very inspired reader in the UK xx

  9. March 4, 2016 / 2:58 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this post with me. I boo-hooed while sitting in the car while reading it because it truly touched my heart. I have done many of the things that she did and I completely agree with her views on marriage vows and grief. Thank you for sharing! (Sorry it took so long to respond.)

  10. March 4, 2016 / 3:01 pm

    I can only imagine how difficult the experience of a miscarriage is. It breaks my heart to just thinking about it. While our losses are different they certainly both brought us to the babies we are blessed to be the mothers of. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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