It would be hard to sum up the past month. The flood of emotions, the sleepless nights, the frequent cries for food – there is so much to take in. It is hard to believe I’ve had Alexander with me now for one whole month. September has come and gone, the leaves are changing colors, the air is cooler. Alexander is growing – this morning I put on a 0-3 onesie and it didn’t overwhelm him. His newborn jammies are getting snug. Like most parents probably wonder, where is the time going?!
I wish I could tell you I had profound thoughts about being the parent of a rainbow baby. I have nothing profound, but here are a few of my experiences.
The first night in the hospital, as Hubby and I settled down to try to sleep for a couple of hours, I kept wondering how the nurses would know if Alexander needed help. He had no wires, no monitors, no IVs or beeping machines. What if he stopped breathing, what if he choked or his heart stopped? It was such a strange feeling that the nurses were there to care mostly for me, not for my baby. Sure, they checked his vitals and such, but really – he was my responsibility. So very different from before.
Both my parents and Hubby’s mom have been to visit Alexander. That first moment when I saw my dad holding my son I could have wept with joy. Last fall, when my grandmother died, I sat silently at her visitation watching my dad proudly show off my nephew to his friends. Words cannot describe the pain I felt at his joy, wishing it was William who could have brought that much joy instead of the great pain of his loss. While I’m troubled that those were my feelings, there is no way to unfeel them, and I’ve tried to feel joy for my dad’s sake. Now, with Alexander here, I can’t wait to give my dad every opportunity to show him off. Every time my dad asks to hold Alexander, I willingly surrender him because the deep pride I feel at being able to share him with my family is something that I can’t really express. There is little in this world compared to observing a grandparent’s joy in his or her grandchild.
One night I was walking the halls to get a cup of tea (my incentive for painfully moving about) when a new mom and her hubby arrived in the room across the hall with a little one. I couldn’t help but notice the toddler, maybe two and a half, proudly sporting her “Big Sister” t-shirt. As she walked down the hall hand in hand with her scrub-garbed daddy, I shuffled quickly back to my room to have a good cry. The overwhelming feeling that there should have been a big brother present for Alexander’s birth caught up with me in one quick moment – painful and raw. As much sorrow as I felt for myself over the loss of William, I felt an even deeper sorrow over Alexander’s loss at never knowing his big brother.
I’ve had moments of frustration with Alexander – as I’m sure all moms have. I’ll share some details about our struggles later, but suffice it to say, at 4 in the morning when he just won’t cooperate, I’ve found myself counting to ten, trying to keep my cool, trying to not angrily pass him off to daddy so I don’t have to “deal” with him. When I finally settle down, the tears come. The atrocious mommy guilt at being angry with an infant who has no control over his actions, coupled with even deeper mommy guilt at being angry with a child when I should just be grateful he is healthy and well and happy – well, that’s a lot of mommy guilt. If I think about it too much, it’s suffocating. But it’s also a good lesson in dealing with anger toward my son. Life is too precious to let little things anger us. Life is too short to spend it being angry over things that really don’t matter. It’s also too short to spend feeling guilty. So I look at frustrating situations with maturing eyes, eyes that see beyond a battle of wills, uncooperative squirms or a fussy 2 am. Eyes that see only an infant needing his momma and not knowing how else to say it but to fuss and squirm and turn bright red and flail about. I wouldn’t trade those moments for a full night’s sleep in a million years.
Last week the city showed up with all their fancy trucks and machines to pave our street. As I sat staring out my picture window, snuggling my newborn, I was overcome with this feeling of someone missing. Where was my two-year-old who should be eyes-glued-to-the-window, waking the baby with his cries of excitement over all the cool trucks? The impression of a giant, toddler-shaped hole filled my heart. That great sadness I felt for Alexander who will never know or learn from his big brother left me weepy and tired.
One night, as I held my son skin to skin on my chest, I had the most powerful flashback I’ve had in months. I used to hold William like that, cuddled up under blankets, his little hand across my chest. At first, the sensation brought tears, but then they brought joy. To bask in the memories of my first child, while fully experiencing new memories with my second is a priceless gift.
So, like a rainbow pregnancy, rainbow parenting has already proved like regular parenting, on emotional steroids. I’m sure as my hormones settle down and as I start eventually getting a few more consecutive hours of sleep, the emotions will settle and be less consuming. Our family will always be one shy, but Alexander’s addition to our little group has brought healing that I couldn’t have imagined.