Parenting After Loss: The 1st Year

Over a year has already passed since we brought Chet home from the hospital. I still look at him in disbelief. I am in awe he is here! He keeps getting cuter and cuter, and I just can’t believe my eyes when I see him. 

One year is a big milestone for a lot of reasons. For loss parents, we are hyper aware that one year marks the end of the possibility of infant death. What a relief! According to the CDC, in the US more than 1 in every 200 people die in their first year of life (not including miscarriage or stillbirth). After having experienced baby loss, those odds seem monstrous. The chances of death greatly decrease for children over 1 year. Our boy is strong and healthy, and I’m so grateful! I wish I could say I have no lingering fears, but that’s not reality. COVID daily reminds us of our human fragility. Anything could happen, but that is also what helps us embrace every moment. 

We do embrace every moment and rarely, if ever, take a minute for granted. Time seems to be racing by, so I try to slow it down by rocking him for one more minute, putting my phone down (when I’m not taking thousands of pictures and videos), and having nightly family dance parties to the song Un Poco Loco from the movie Coco. We have a lot of fun together. My heart stings a tiny bit every dance party. Ginny’s not here. 

As more and more of Chet’s adorable personality comes out, I enjoy imagining the two of them playing together. Chet is so smart and interested in everything. He has a longer attention span than I thought possible for a baby. He spends time trying to figure out how things work and is very determined. But he is also very goofy. He never gets tired of laughing at our funny faces or sounds, and he loves making us laugh. He growls, roughhouses, makes loud noises, and throws things – all things I’m not used to, having been raised with two sisters. He LOVES music. It’s a privilege to learn these details about my son. I got a sense of who Ginny is, but I do mourn not knowing the details. I do know she is playful and goofy and fun. So I know she and Chet would have a blast together. 

Each milestone that Chet hits makes me so grateful to experience this. I’m proud of how far we’ve come, all we’ve been through, and who we are as a family. I’m hopeful for all that’s to come, here on Earth and in heaven. And my heart breaks…

My heart breaks in all the normal ways a mama’s heart breaks as her baby grows up. Recently Chet stopped breastfeeding. One day he just lost all interest in nursing. It was around when I was planning on weaning anyway, so it was actually great timing. Even so, I was on the verge of tears for three straight days afterwards. I know it was hormones, but it was also just realizing that Chet is not a baby anymore. He is growing up and that chapter of our relationship is closed. That time was so so precious. I will be forever grateful, honored, and proud to have been able to nurse him for so long. And for some reason, it made me miss Ginny. I felt like it triggered another wave of grief. Why would Chet’s weaning make me grieve Ginny? I asked a friend. She said that anything that marks the passage of time is hard. I think she’s right. Our family is moving forward, and Ginny is still missing. I think it’s also because now I’m taking the time to think back on this past year – all those sweet moments, cute smiles, precious snuggles – all the babyhood. Now I know what we are missing. Well I know the first year of what we are missing. And my heart breaks. 

Now we’ve started the second year. We are going to keep embracing every moment, making each other laugh, and remembering big sister. I’m excited to learn what else we’re missing!