Saturday, December 20, 2008

On grieving and gratitude

It's hard to give voice to the thoughts. I want to write and say to everyone, "It's all perfect now. Once you get your baby, everything goes back to normal and all of the dead baby things just vanish, they slip away into the air carried by the cries of a new life." But that is just not the truth. Not even close.

In the moment of Cason's birth, it is true that I saw for the first time the permanence of Caleb's death. Maybe the more accurate thing to say is that I felt it. I let myself feel it. I had to stop holding onto the wishing this had never happened feelings and I had to embrace the reality of my life. I have a child who died. And now I have a child who lives. I have both. I have to live with both. Forever.

I want to tell you that having Cason has taken the sting, or more aptly the full body blow, of losing Caleb away. But it doesn't. Not even a little. I think I thought it would. I wonder if we all think that.

I was wrong. Having Cason didn't even quiet the noise, the running dead baby soundtrack in my head. It's all still there.

Maybe I thought or even believed that having another baby would somehow replace Caleb or fill the void left by him. I didn't think I thought that. I really didn't. I know I wrote during my pregnancy that I didn't want anyone to ever think that Cason would replace Caleb or that I would somehow be healed if I got the live baby. But I wonder if the biggest fool in all of it was me. I think somewhere deep down inside I thought, or maybe hoped, that that is exactly what would happen.
It didn't.

Which isn't to imply or even hint at the idea that having Cason is or was in any way diminished by having lost Caleb. Exactly the opposite is true. Having Cason is by far the best thing that has ever happened to our family, to me, since, well, ever. Do I love him more than my other two living children? No. But my love for him is colored with different emotions. My heart is in an entirely different condition than it was when they were born. Obviously, right? I am not the same anymore. One of my friends once said to me, "No two children are ever raised by the same parents." I always loved that idea because it does truly capture the uniqueness of every child's experience in a family. And never has it felt more true to me than it does now. For Cason is surely not going to be raised by the same people who raised his older brother and sister. We have nurtured two children and have survived the loss of a third. We have a humility and awareness of life and death that we did not know before. We have lived the very best and worst moments as parents. We are most assuredly not the same two people we were a decade and then some ago when we ventured into this thing called parenthood. Even if we wanted to we could not be the people we were before he was born.

And Cason, his very existence is illuminated by his lost brothers life. Can I tell you how many times my husband has called Cason, Caleb? No, I stopped counting a while ago.

And for me, every time I hold him, especially in the quiet late night hours when he and I are alone, him snuggled warmly against my chest, his body curved into an impossible "S" shaped bundle, as I imagine he must have been when he dwelled within me, I stroke his back, my hand now able to reach his skin and not be shielded from him by my belly, I implore him never to leave me. My love for him is so fierce it is almost frightening. The lingering fear of a dead baby mom always hovering around me, reminding me that nothing is certain, that anything can be taken away at any moment. (I sometimes try to shake the fear away with images of me doing an impersonation of Shirley McClain in Terms of Endearment. Early in the movie when she doesn't hear her baby daughter moving in the crib, she tells her husband that the baby must be dead so she climbs into the crib and shakes the baby enough to get her to cry at which point she says "there that's better" and leaves the crying baby and goes back to her own room to sleep. I don't shake Cason but I have been known to move him around a bit, to make sure he is still breathing, often waking him in the process.) I want not a second to pass without him feeling me loving him. I wonder does he know, can he ever know, how much he was wanted, needed in our lives. Will he ever be able to understand just what his life has meant to all of us. Will he feel burdened by his lost brothers legacy or grateful for it? I can't answer that question myself, I have no idea how I will raise a child to.

And then my thoughts are with Caleb and everything that he is missing. All of the love he never got to know, to feel, the life he never got to live. All of the things we will never know about him. Cason is an impossibly easy baby, would Caleb have been? Cason loves his baths, would Caleb have? Cason still has red hair and the beginnings of what seem to be green eyes, a true leprechaun, what color hair and eyes would Caleb have had? The list goes on and on. And it hurts me now more to think of these things than it did before. I think maybe the joy I feel experiencing these moments with Cason makes me feel as though I am somehow cheating Caleb out of something. I don't know how to parent a dead child. I don't know how to love him the right way, if there is such a thing.

It's as if the grief has started all over again. First you get to grieve the emptiness of your heart and your arms and then you get to grieve the fullness of them. I suppose it's not the fullness really, it's the awareness of the stark truth that one is always going to be missing. And while your arms and heart are filled they are never going to hold everything they should have.

My daughter seems to have grasped this reality easier than I have. She will often talk to me about the 4 children in our family, her and her 3 brothers. How if Caleb had lived she would have been a big sister to two brothers. I wonder if she will always include Caleb or if her memory of him and the loss of him will fade over time as Cason and his presence fill her daily life.

I guess I wonder that about me too.

I'll take it though. Living with this confusion is infinitely more bearable than the alternative. I know that. I am not whining. I know how lucky we are, I am. I know not everyone who gets a membership card to the db club gets a living baby afterwards. I remember the night and day I labored and delivered Caleb, two of the three nurses I had were members of this club. I asked both of them if they had a live baby after. Neither did. Hearing that from them was devastating to me. I was already trying to plan another baby and they both were crushing my hopes of the possibility. Getting here, to this place, getting my baby, I am beyond grateful. There aren't words to express the feelings or the emotions that come with the magic that is handed to you in a living, breathing baby when you have already lived through the devastation of being handed your dead baby. And when people see him, people who don't know the story, when they offer the standard congratulations or other baby type welcome words, I feel compelled to tell them everything. I want them to know this is no ordinary baby, he did not come easily, we didn't just decide to have a baby and get one. I want them to understand as much as possible that I am overwhelmed with gratitude for this little boy. I want them to see the magic in him too. But I don't think anyone can truly see it unless they have a membership card.

I see it.

There will never be a time that I look at him or think of him and don't see it. And for that I am grateful.
ETA: Blogger rotated my pic...sorry for any neck strain:)


CLC said...

He is a beautiful, beautiful baby. I am in awe of how peaceful he looks.

And your post has me in tears. It's so beautiful and, well, real. I am not even there yet, but I already think about the grief I will feel if this little one is born alive. It will be so joyful, yet I will then know exactly what I missed with Hannah. And I am afraid to say it, though I should probably admit it, but I cling to the hope that I will feel better if this one is born alive. I know that's not true from the various blogs I have read, but I just think it has got to be better than what I have now, which is nothing. I know this one isn't a replacement for Hannah, but I just want some of the joy I used to feel back and hope that this one can give me some of it back.

Amy said...

Crying here, crying so hard! I am so grateful for you! For showing me that no matter what, my heart will not forget my son. For showing me that the pain is still there. I guess, I need that reassurance sometimes.

I am so sorry for your grief being re-lived. I am so sorry that Caleb isn't here. I am however grateful too that Cason is here, that he made it and I too implor him to stay with you!

Thinking of you and wishing you only the most peaceful of holidays and much, much love.

Tash said...

"No two children are ever raised by the same parents."

Thank you for this -- this distills so much for me into one little sentence that makes a world of sense. Of course, I feel like Bella is now being raised by different parents too, but that's slightly different.

And thank you for being so honest. It helps more than you know.

Beautiful baby. Just beautiful.

Reese said...

I am so in this place right now, trying to know what to feel about this child.

I told my husband it is an impossible feat carrying a child while grieving another. I am wondering how I am going to feel when she arrives. I assume it will be as bittersweet as your sweet Cason.

I keep thinking that she would not be here if Ronan was. I keep thinking so many things.....

Hope's Mama said...

Just a stunning post. I'm obviously not there, not quite yet anyway, but thanks for shining a light up ahead on this path. Cason is so very beautiful.

Shannon Ryan said...

I can feel the magic of Cason! I look forward to feeling my own bit of magic in the coming year. Thank you for sharing your boys.

Michele said...

He is beautiful, just beautiful.

I think as long as you continue to include Caleb in you family, your daughter will too. My husband lost a little brother when he was a child, and he always says, when asked if he is an only child, "No, I have a younger brother." If they push, he says that Robert passed away when they were children, but he never excludes him.

The hurt never goes away. But I try not to think of our babies as missing things; I think of them as happy, in heaven, and I mourn what I am missing. But know that Caleb was so loved by you. He knows that. Don't feel like he misses that.

Have a beautiful Christmas, full of your love and memories.

Sarah said...

That caught me off guard too - how the two do - and always will - coexist in completely separate spaces. A live one and a dead one, and nothing changes, softens, diminishes, eases up.

You said it beautifully as always - I am so RIGHT THERE with you feeling the pull in both directions - joy quickly followed by sorrow followed by joy and on and on...

He's incredible - what a beautiful, wonderful boy Cason is.

c. said...

Beautiful, K. I came over here a sobbing mess after reading Janis' blog and you haven't helped to make me cry any less.

I have heard that being where you are is not easy and yet I want it so mightily. Just so very much. Because, maybe I feel as you did, that it might erase some of the hurt I feel in not having Callum in my life. And yet, I know it couldn't. Not at all.

Cason is beautiful. And since we're talking babies, does he need a picnic basket? XO.

Aunt Becky said...

Oh, my friend. What a lovely post that pays tribute to two lovely boys.

I'm thinking about you, I'm thinking about Caleb, and I'm thinking about Cason.

janis said...

Such a heartfelt, moving and beautiful post, kalakly... I am in tears. xoxo

Ashleigh said...

Thank you for this. thank you for writing the words that I can't seem to.


Sue said...

This is such a beautiful post.

Steph said...

what an incredibly thoughtful post. I read it a few times, and am sad and surprised (maybe I shouldn't be) that a new baby doesn't take it all away.. I guess I want desperately to believe it will... that come May, I will get to be normal again, and feel pure, unbridled joy, unrestrained by grief. Deep down, I know this isn't going to happen...I think I just secretly hoped it would. I'm glad I checked your blog today. Your son is absolutely gorgeous!

Julia said...

I am a week or so behind again (end of year work crunch-- grr), and just reading this now. Interestingly, if I can gather my wits and my words, I am hoping to write on a similar topic today.

I honestly don't think I expected the Cub to fix the grief, but I had been surprised by how I reacted to people reacting to him. I would get so angry... I tried to disentangled that feeling, and it was woven of complicated threads-- also something I need to write. It's not as bad anymore, but it can still come over me.

Your daughter-- what a sweety. Mine is acting much the same (one more thing to write about), and it's interesting to me how true her emotional compass is, and why so many adults can't understand what she doesn't even need an explanation for. And do I ever hear you about calling the younger one by the older one's name... Another whole post (long history in my family)...

Peace and love to you this season.

Ange said...

I love that you say so much of what I cannot. Another spectacular post... I too am a little frightened of the many emotions that a new baby will bring in regards to grieving Noah. But am still walking slowly towards the goal of a new living baby. Because despite what it will dredge up I know it will also bring so much joy and happiness to our family. I am used to complicated these days so am prepared to try this out for size too.

Tricia said...

Wonderful post and the whole reason I started blogging after...I don't know how to parent all of my children and feel like I'm sharing the love.

Lani said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lani said...

so many others have said what i would like to say. i'm only 3 1/2 months out from losing my beautiful baby silas. i keep thinking about getting pregnant asap and how that will all go down. i know it wont be an easy road.

cason is gorgeous and your writing about him is just beautiful. i will have to go back to this post when i am in that place.
thanks for sharing such raw emotion.