With nothing to compare it to, I’m not sure what about my parenting is different because of our loss. I can make guesses…most of my guesses have to do with either fear or gratitude. I don’t think I would have as much of either if Ginny hadn’t died. Life’s moments are more precious when you know how fragile it all is.
It often collides into me when I’m rocking Chet to sleep. I think it’s because: 1) we are in his room that used to be Ginny’s nursery, 2) he looks so very precious sleeping in my arms, 3) I think of sleep as the most vulnerable time because of SIDS, 4) the stillness allows the blessings of the day to catch up to me. I can’t contain my gratitude for him! How did I get so lucky that he is actually here?! I want to kiss his cheek, but I don’t want to wake him. I kiss him anyway. What I wouldn’t give to kiss Ginny one more time! I can’t let the opportunity pass – I never do.
When it’s time to place him in his crib, I deliberately and symbolically place him in God’s hands. I am not the sustainer of life. I again pray Your will be done. As I lullaby, I often sing Chet a worship song called “Abba, I belong to you.” It is such a comforting song, and it is a good reminder for me. Chet does not belong to me; Chet belongs to Abba (God the daddy). I quietly step out of the room peacefully knowing that Chet is in God’s hands no matter what.
… and then I turn on the monitor. Daniel and I watch that monitor like it’s Sunday night HBO. We analyze his heart rate and oxygen levels. We listen for cries and watch for wiggles. Hounding the monitor is better than leaning over him to check his breathing a million times which would be the alternative. We follow every single safe sleep rule every single time.
That’s the dance of parenting after loss – knowing you are not in control so trustfully handing everything over to God and then anxiously pulling it back inch by inch until you think you’re in control again. Then the thoughts come in: what if I accidentally drop him? kneel on him? scratch him? What if he chokes? What if he gets COVID? What if? What if? What if? ….I deliberately and symbolically place him in God’s hands as I place him asleep in his crib… the dance continues.
It can be exhausting. Parenting in general is exhausting. But I daren’t complain. I feel so guilty if I complain about Chet ever. It is a miracle he is here with us; what right do I have to complain? I was voicing this to my lactation consultant as she was helping me with my severely damaged nipples. She said, “This is really hard. You are doing a great job. It is ok to complain about this. It is ok to cry about this.” Just as I learned that joy and grief coexist, I am learning that you can feel so grateful and at the same time acknowledge the difficulties. It isn’t taking things for granted. (By the way, my nipples healed around week 8 after Chet has his tongue tie fixed – Hallelujah!)
I do feel a bit of anger when I think about how we shouldn’t be figuring things out for the first time now. We should have already been through this before. We should have experience with the newborn stages, the sleep regressions, the diaper rashes. We should be pros at loading the car up for a drive. We should know how to adjust stroller straps. We should have known not to buy those flimsy off-brand milk storage bags. I’m frustrated I didn’t know. It’s in the everyday reminders that we are 2nd time parents with 1st time problems. These inconveniences don’t matter at all; the hard part is that we are reminded that we missed it all the first time around.
My heart wilts every time I think about her being here. I imagine bringing him home from the hospital and seeing her sweet reaction to meeting her baby brother for the first time. I imagine her making him laugh by being silly. I would need to always keep an eye out that she’s not sneaking him a gold fish or squeezing him too tight. Daniel and I would divide and conquer bedtime. We would have family hugs and family prayers. She’d show him everything. They’d be best friends. I’m sorry she’s not here.
I’m so happy she was here though. Although he hasn’t gotten to meet her yet, Chet has a sister who loves him. He will always know her as part of our family. We will celebrate her life and look forward to meeting her in heaven. We acknowledge the broken world we live in and how it is still so full of beauty and love. We never take things for granted, especially every day we have with little brother.