For those that are not deep in the world of baby loss, they refer to the baby you have after you lose your child. I understand why people use it, I understand why people like it and I understand what it means. To many, it represents the rainbow after the storm, a touch of brightness after so much darkness. Which, I do think in some ways a child born after a tremendous loss is, but in so many ways, at least in my mind, they are such separate events. And it could be different for me because in many ways we had a "rainbow" next to us all along through our journey.
There are parts of this pregnancy that I knew would be hard. If I was asked before how many children I had more often than I preferred, compound that exponentially. Or the question to Kaitlyn when she is with me "Are you excited to be a big sister?" when she and I both already know that she is. Not to mention what a great big sister she was and is and would have been. And I know that sentence makes absolutely no sense, how can one both be something and would have been something? Sometimes watching her with kids in Matthew's age range can be so hard because I can see how loving and how gentle she is and feel how much she was robbed of. I know she would have been great to him and both of their lives would have been enriched by the experience of growing up together. And she was a great big sister, she shared absolutely everything with Matthew, she doted on him, loved on him and if she could have she would have stayed by his side 24 hours a day. Looking back, I wish I would have let her. She never once showed a jealous bone in her body. She continues to be a great big sister, she talks about him all the time and is so protective of him and his memory. She helps tremendously with the March for Babies to help other babies from dying and she takes personal pride and responsibility in helping with the balloon release for his birthday. Over a month after his third birthday and 5 months after the March and she is still talking so proudly and so excitedly about who was there and how much they love her brother to be there and in return how much she loves them for loving him. And for those that weren't yet alive when he was born, she loves to talk about him to them and show pictures. With those same events, she holds sadness for those that were local and didn't go and takes it as a personal attack on her brother and a sign that they just don't care and you can see in her eyes and her face how much that hurts her. It's also hard knowing that Matthew gets to be a big brother, but he isn't here to enjoy it. No one gets to ask him how he feels about a baby sister and being outnumbered, or if he's ready to share his baby toys. And this common myth that some seem (not many) to think that now everything is going to be hunky dory is so incredibly frustrating, as though life is going on and we can just get over our loss. In reality, some days it still feels like it was yesterday while others it feels like a million years ago and both ways hurt. And there are times still when this wave of grief just hits you like a sac of potatoes and you have to stop to catch your breath. And that doesn't make it wrong, it is never wrong to miss and mourn your child, the baby that you grew inside of you or the little man that you felt kick inside of your wife's stomach while you made dreams for the future. It is not something that you get over.
Last night we got home from Dusty's softball game (where he won and played awesome!) and got home around 10:03. I guess it isn't fair to say around when I know it down to the minute, but, I digress. Dusty had DVRd the Giants game and I had been keeping track of the score privately because, unlike him, I don't actually need to watch the game, mlb.com for my mobile phone does a great job of giving me the details, and I had went to bed to watch the Top Chef Finale. About 20 minutes later, he text me (yes, we are that couple that has no problem texting from other rooms in the house) to tell me that Aubrey Huff's son was born. My first thought was "poor kid, dad is a great player and he's born in the middle of September!" and then I looked at the date on my phone to see what Jagger Duff's birthday would be. September 15.
3 years ago on September 15 we had found our routine. I was just about completely healed from both the cesarean and 10 weeks of complete bed rest. Dusty was still off work and every morning had time with Matthew while I got Kaitlyn ready for school and then took her to pre-school. Then, I had 3 hours with him, nursing, cuddling, resting, relaxing and just hanging out at home. He would stay with daddy while I went to pick her up and then we would all get to cuddle, relax and read stories. We had beaten the odds. We had proved the doctors wrong, he was born alive, he lived, he breathed, he cried, boy did he cry. And he grew, he found his hands, started getting stronger with his neck and was on the cusp of smiling. We took so many pictures. We had no idea that we only had one more month with him. We had no idea just how precious those moments would be or how limited they were.
They say time heals all. And I really don't believe that. I believe that it takes time to find relief, it takes time to figure out your new normal, it takes time for the constant excruciating, stabbing pain to become more of a dull constant throbbing pain. But, the pain is always there. It's always lurking and sometimes it's hard to control it.
Right now we are excitedly planning for Samantha's arrival, we have this bright spot that we are truly looking forward to. But, that sadness is always there. And there are new heartaches that come with it. Never again will we have a picture of our family whole. Our picture with Matthew at the pumpkin patch was our family unfinished and the pictures we have taken with Samantha will be incomplete. We will always be one person short. While Kaitlyn is excitedly wearing her scrubs awaiting Samantha's entry into the world, Matthew should be standing next to her in a matching pair. We should be debating if Matthew and Kaitlyn should share a room or if Matthew and Samantha should share a room and which preschool Matthew would be going to this year. And what do you do with that information? What do you do with the what if's and if onlys?
We're one month out from Matthew's angel day. Three years ago today I never thought we would be where we are now. Never. And now that we are approaching 3 years from when we were separated from our miracle, and approaching 9 1/2 weeks before meeting our new miracle, remembering him and having him remembered hold such a deeper meaning. He is always our son, the baby that made Kaitlyn a big sister, the one that proved miracles can and do happen, the one that showed that life is full of surprises (both good and bad), the one that showed that no matter how right you do everything, how much you love someone and how hard you fight for them, you can still be forced to say good-bye, the one that is now our middle child instead of our baby and the little boy who is painfully missed each and every day.