Her words were kind. Well-meaning. She chirped good intentions like a cheerful bird in springtime.
“I hope things go back to normal.”
“I hope you find your old self again.”
From an aerial view, things look promising, like a construction zone. Reorganize, rebuild, recover. There are a million things to do and an endless amount of diapers to change. Instead of sad songs, there are lullabies. There is laughter. Empty days of melancholy are now busy days of work and progress. There is always laundry. Dishes. And more diapers.
There is a smile from a little boy that is like gentle sunshine through clouds, making the flowers grow amongst these ruins.
But there is still darkness. A dread exists in the quiet of night. I chase away fear on a daily basis. I scold it like a naughty pet. Don’t think about that. That’s bad. Then I tell myself: Things are okay. They are good.
Like the nurse at the hospital who kindly reminded me that I was in the “healthy” wing, not the NICU. We were there because I had a full-term baby, and he was fine. Still, she put a butterfly on the outside of our door, as a reminder to other nurses that we “lost” a baby.
Things are hardly normal around here.
I used to be sick when people asked if this was our first baby. “No,” I would say as my throat threatened to close, “we lost our first baby.” But I am sick of that word. Lost. As if he suddenly slipped away without our knowledge. “Losing a baby” could mean a miscarriage or a stillbirth, both excruciatingly painful realities for a mother. But Wesley died in my arms. So instead I make myself say the word died. “Our first baby died.” The truth stings as it liberates me from ambiguity.
This truth makes me cherish every moment as much as every moment serves as a reminder of what we lost. Every milestone is one Wesley did not reach. Every hug, every cuddle, every coo. I work to suppress the past and focus on the now. Focus on the boy who is living, and remember the boy who lived. It’s a balancing act. One boy should not have to live in the shadow of the other, and neither should he live under the constant unwholesome fear of his mother.
Being a mother is hard. Being a mother with a child who passed away is even harder. Daily I am struggling to figure out who I am. “I’m just making this up as I go along” is my official motto. All I know is I want to be a kind, nurturing, patient mother with the ability to inspire confidence in my child. This is a constant work in progress. This is a construction zone. Reorganize, rebuild, recover.
In the last few years, I have been a wide array of different people. There are several different versions of myself in between the “old self” and the one that is presently occupying my body. I haven’t been my “old self” in years. In fact, I don’t really like that version of myself at all. Yes, she had good intentions. She was well-meaning. But she was also judgmental, ignorant, and naïve. While I hate the reason for the state of these ruins, qualities like genuine compassion and empathy that were borne from the ashes are priceless.
In the constant hustle and bustle that is happening here, I try to find a quiet moment when I can look back and see how far I have come. Sometimes I am so deep in the rebuilding of myself and my life that I forget where I am in this journey. In the past, the only way to do this was to climb a tree and see my progress from a distance. Now I feel like I can fly. I’m still a wounded bird, but at least I can soar to greater heights that would be unable to scale otherwise. And I can see the mountains and rivers I’ve crossed stretch out before me to the horizon. It amazes me that I’m still alive.
Things will never be “normal,” and I’m not interested in rebuilding with my “old self” in mind. The person I want to be is far better than that, wounds and all.