Friday, January 23, 2009

My dear friend is expecting a baby.
A new baby, a fresh breath of life. A soft bundle of warmth, wrapped in blankets. A small, wet mouth, the milkiest sweet breath. A tiny, beating heart. There isn't anything more precious.
But this isn't the ordinary baby you might think he is (we'll call him "he" for the sake of argument here). Oh, no.
This baby comes after a long, long wait. He has three big sisters, two of them are asleep right now in their beds dreaming and one of them is coaching him right now, holding his hand in the place where the souls wait to come down, waiting for his moment. Sophie died two years ago, and after two more miscarriages, this baby's birth finally approaches. She will help him down.
Without doubt, his mother worries. She worries about her baby, about his health and safety, and she worries about herself. How will it feel to hold this baby, to have this baby? This baby that never would have existed, had Sophie lived? His mother harbours all of those feelings we all have, of aching love, of confused guilt, of wonder and concern and disbelief. She cannot imagine what it would be like to hold a baby who lives, who innocently peers up into her eyes with his dark blue, unfocused gaze. Her life has come so far and rounded so many corners since she was last there.
She is still grieving, hard and fast, the family that she lost. The dream that became perfection in the moment it slipped from her grasp; her three girls under four years, three blond little cherubs seated in a row on a front step, their fingernails caked with dirt from the garden, their white wisps flying around their big blue eyes as their mom or dad snapped a photo. She mourns that child, that baby sister, that little one who would not even be so much littler than her sisters by now. She cannot imagine what it will be like to hold someone new.
But all of us who have given birth know this, we know it well. Any of us who have given birth twice know that feeling of holding our huge, swollen middles and wondering if it could possibly be feasible to love this new child as we love our first. We worry about whether it could happen, the thought that the new baby might be slightly less loved than the one who came before.
But the moment that birth cry splits the air, and his cry will split the air, my dear friend, the fear disappates, it dissolves like smoke on a windy summer afternoon, and in its place comes that same love we wondered if we could find, and it comes in hard and fast and sure. (You know this, it has happened to you before.)
But the part my dear friend does not know yet, but some of you do, is this indescribable feeling of giving birth to a child that was never supposed to exist, a child that, given a better outcome for his sister, never would have been born. This child is not a replacement, he is a miracle. He is hard to comprehend, this perfect, beloved human being that, because of his sister, exists. Without his sister, he would not be. So you cannot have one without the other. This takes the moment of birth to an entirely new level. He does not replace, he accompanies. This brings us closer, somehow, to the one we have lost.
I can remember this feeling so intensely, what it was like to hold Liam when he was new and to see his innocence and feel so amazed that he was here, he was here, this child who never could have been made if his sister had lived. I still think this, watching his little body stretch and grow into what is now a boy's body, you are unbelievable, my little son, I can't believe you are here. I cannot believe that led to this. That such sadness gave way to such light. This emergence into joy from a place of darkness is what I think gives this type of birth its own unique quality. The unexpectedness of everything: of the life, of the cry, of the love and instant reorganization of the mind, it takes us over.
Good luck, my friend.


Gal aka SuperMommy said...

This is gorgeous, Carol. You are so right. Your description of birthing another child after you have lost a child gives me the most beautiful dreams, the greatest hope.

Anonymous said...

While I don't feel like this can really compare to Baby Loss mom's, because I didn't get to meet and hold my baby....
I had a miscarriage May 10th of 2007, and that next month June 5th I missed my due period.
That whole pregnancy I thought over and over again about what you had written just now. If that baby had survived and stayed with me, I wouldn't have the little Willem I have now. And I'm so thankful he's here, but always wonder what that little one would have been like.
Would he be the little fighter I have now? The one who could fall down and get back up like nothing happened at all? Who chases around his big brother and acts so much older than he is?
Or would he be sweet and silent, careful in action and thought like the elder brother...
I do wonder.
I wonder.

Hope's Mama said...

Oh Carol I hope I get this soon. I am aching for this feeling.

Aimee said...

Carol, I've said it before but I'll just keep saying it. You are the most incredible person in the world and your writing speaks to me in a way I can't describe. Finding you after Sophie died is the best thing that could have happened to me and my family. Thank you for this post.
I'll let you know how absolutely right you are in a few weeks. Thank you.

Dalene said...

Yes, I have trouble wrapping my head around this paradox. Thanks for writing about it.