Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Very Different Birthday

Today, our oldest daughter turns 3. There will be no party. No blowing out the candles. No gifts for her to open. We’ve been through this day before, so you’d think we’d know what to expect. But this year is different.

This year, we have her baby sister in our arms. There is no doubt that she has brought joy and light to our lives that we desperately needed.  You couldn’t find a child that is more wanted than Ellie – we certainly had to work hard and take unexpected paths to get her here. And we love her more than words can say.

But (you knew there would be a but), her arrival has raised some very complicated emotions. Ones that I’ve been struggling with since she arrived. And Vivienne’s birthday emphasizes them much more strongly.

I recognize that most of the people around us want us to be “fixed” and fully expect that having Ellie means that we are completely healed from Vivienne. After all, one child easily replaces another, right? When you have a living child, then have another, you don’t stop loving and parenting your oldest, and it’s the same even when the oldest isn’t here. I still grieve Vivienne even as I celebrate Ellie.

Every activity we do with Ellie brings me happiness. But with every activity, there is an undercurrent of sadness. When we took our first walk, gave the first bath, saw the first smile, did the first midnight feeding, our first thoughts are about how happy we are that she is here to do these things with. And our second thoughts are how sad we are that we never got to do any of these with Vivienne. It’s always there – the sadness behind the smile. And it will be there for every first and many seconds, thirds, fourths. . .

And this all leads to one big realization that I had after Ellie was born. If Vivienne had lived, she wouldn’t be here. I have 2 children, but there is no path I could have taken in this life to have them both with me. If Vivienne had lived, there would be no Ellie. And because Ellie lives, there is no Vivienne. I was given no choice for which child I would get to keep, which I suppose is a good thing. I love them both too much to choose which one to raise. But it breaks my heart to think that my life path has that fork in the road. My life took the road to Ellie, and Vivienne is on a different path. It’s a very complicated thought process to work through for a Mom. I don’t think I’ll ever reconcile this thought – I can only hope that one day, I’ll just accept it.

I was also so busy leading up to Vivienne’s birthday (a one month old requires a lot of time) that I didn’t give her the time that she deserves. I know all too well about this Mommy guilt, but you don’t know guilt until you feel like you’re choosing one of your children over the other.

Typically, the week build up to Vivienne’s birthday is an emotional time for me. This year, I didn’t feel it. Last night, I had the first inklings of “OK, here we are. Another birthday without her.” I was just sitting and watching TV and felt an emptiness. It’s a feeling I’m familiar with, and there is both a comfort and unease in it. And the tears finally showed up this morning as I fed Ellie her morning bottle. As I talked to her, I told her that today was her big sister’s birthday. And I just started to cry and couldn’t stop. Maybe I’d been holding in the tears and didn’t know it.

And so here we are again. Gifts for a 3 year old that go to charity instead of our daughter. Singing “Happy birthday” through tears and wondering who should blow out the candles. Wondering who she would be at 3 years old and what she would be like. But this year, we add Ellie to our traditions – telling her all about her big sister and guardian angel. And thinking about a life with a 3 year old and 1month old that can never be.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Thank You

Over the past 2 and ½ years since we lost Vivienne, I’ve made many friends and found many resources in the loss community. On my Facebook newsfeed, there are posts from friends and pictures of everyone’s children, with articles and commentary about infertility and infant loss interspersed throughout. It makes for an interesting daily read on the world.

Lately, I feel like I’ve been encountering a lot of stories about people being told that their grief is wrong, unhealthy, or even worse, a sign of mental illness. Every time I see one of these stories, I feel a sense of shock. How could anyone look at a grieving parent, at any point over their lifetime, and tell them that they shouldn’t remember their child? I can’t imagine anyone ever saying that.

And then I realize, the reason I can’t imagine it is that no one has ever said this to me. Having heard so many friends talk about it and after reading so many articles, I spent a while waiting for someone to tell me it was time to move on. But, no one ever did. Even after pouring out the most vulnerable and sensitive parts of my soul in this blog, I still never heard the words “you have to let go and move on.” Not once.

Generally speaking, the responses I have received to this blog have been positive. People tell me how it helps them feel understood (even on topics other than losing a child) and how they appreciate me writing so they can understand what we’re going through. There is a large contingent who have never said anything to me about it, and that’s OK. Maybe they are the ones who think it’s time for me to “get over it” and “move on” but at least they have the courtesy not to actually say that directly to me.

So, I guess what I’m actually trying to do here is to say thank you. Thank you for reading, for trying to understand, and for your positive and supportive comments. I feel lucky to be surrounded by people who don’t question how I travel the road I was forced onto. You probably think it’s nothing, but I have many friends who would disagree.

I don’t know where our journey will take us. I don’t know if I’ll keep writing in this blog or not. It’s not that this part of my life is over – remembering and grieving for my daughter is something I’ll do for the rest of my life. But it felt like a thank you needed to be said to those of you who have read and provided comments and notes of love and support over the past few years. Who knows where we go from here, but I do know that no matter what, we have a crew of wonderful people supporting us and rooting for us. And you’ll never know how much we appreciate that.