04 April 2013

Like the beginning.

Sometimes I feel like I'm back at the beginning again.

Most days, I'm indistinguishable from any first-time mom winging her way through toddlerhood. I sing "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and make my fingers and thumbs dance up before the rain comes down to wassssshhhhh the spider out. I sidestep the food storage containers she's pulled out onto the kitchen floor, and put toys and books back neatly on their shelves at day's end, knowing full well they will be spread out all over the floor in a chaotic tumble again tomorrow. I blow bubbles just to watch her face light up. I clap when she toddles twenty steps. I scrub dishes and fold laundry and wonder what I will make for dinner tonight.

It is these and a thousand other tiny instances of dailyness that keep me focused on what's right in front of me.

I keep tabs on friends who had babies right around the time I had Ewan. In Austen, I have a picture of what might have been 16 months ago, but with these friends, I am able to look and say, "So that's what a two-and-a-half year old boy is like," and imagine Ewan doing those things, too: hula-hooping, scooting trucks across the kitchen counter, making colorful works of art that I would display on the fridge.

Most of the time, the speculation into the Might-Have-Been doesn't ruin me, but sometimes it puts me back at what feels like the beginning of grief. I listened to this song last night, written by a 16-year-old who lost his best friend to a heart defect when she was just 9 years old. I was lying on the couch while the tears slid across my nose, down my cheeks, and splashed onto the cushions.

There, someone else wondered and was singing about what might have been. Someone else got sucker-punched with the knowledge of life's fragility, who knew that he'd never stop wondering. Someone else who holds an impossible ache that serves as a reminder to love deeply and well and now. Someone else who, I'm guessing, understands all too well that grief is a journey without a finish line, a hole with no bottom.

And then I was in bed, curled up around a pillow, begging God for my baby back. Hurting and aching like we put him in the ground yesterday. As long as he's gone, these moments will come. I know this, I know this. And still they surprise me when they come and suck all the air out of my lungs.

As long as he's gone, I can't stop wondering, or wanting him here.

* * * * *

And speaking of songs ...

Plumb's "I Want You Here" (from the recently released album "Need You Now") was inspired in part by our grief journey after losing Ewan, as well as the journeys of others who were forced to say goodbye to their little ones far too soon. I advise keeping a box of tissue ready.

23 January 2013

It's like this.

She is a year old now, and I can't quite believe it. It's strange since it is not as if turning one happened all of the sudden, like a rug yanked out from underneath my feet, newborn to toddler with scarcely a breath in between. One day, and then another, and then another after that, time passing in its usual way until the earth has made another full trip round the sun, the girl adding ounces and inches, little by little, along the way.


 It's inevitable with these milestones we celebrate with Austen, the wondering -- What if Ewan had been here? 

James and I were recollecting recently about a moment in time during our trip to Washington from this past September. We were attending Mass at our former parish and James took a squealing and squirmy Austen back to the family area. Other young families were in the back, but it was a little girl around 2 or 3 years old that had Austen's attention. She twirled and danced and played while my daughter watched in rapt wonder. And then she stopped, running up to her older brother, throwing her arms delightedly and without reservation around her big brother's neck.

James says he hasn't seen an expression quite like the one Austen had when she witnessed this exchange: sheer joy and unmitigated delight. She squealed with glee, pumping her arms excitedly up and down, up and down as she observed the natural affection between brother and sister.

Our hearts were pierced in a thousand different ways in that moment. After that very Mass, we would be going to the cemetery to visit Ewan. We would never witness this type of relationship between our daughter and her older brother.

So we wonder, we ask, we speculate about what it might have been like with these two at home, growing up together. And we tear up a little (sometimes a lot) as what is now bumps up uncomfortably against what might have been. It is at once painful, but also impossible to avoid. So we honor the moment. We remember him, and we remember how we have two children, our hearts aching and rejoicing and wondering how the heck it happened all at once.


And we hold on tight.

18 January 2013


One year ago today ...

one year ago today ...

There will be more later. At the moment, we have some celebrating to do!

03 December 2012

Babywearing Daddy

I love how he loves her.


27 November 2012

There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.

The days here begin before I'm ready to be awake. The baby is crying or cooing or giggling or kicking, her noise and her motion a clear indication that it's time to get the day started. Sometimes I will set her on the floor with a few toys while I lie in bed for just a couple more minutes and force my eyes to remain open, willing away the sleepiness that will tug at my heels for the rest of the day.

First things first: coffee for me, breakfast for the baby. Playtime on the floor, a book or two, and -- if the baby's breakfast was an immersive (read: messy!) experience -- perhaps a bath. Start some laundry. A walk to the park, some more playtime, and a nap for her. I do a workout video (two, if I'm ambitious), shower. If there's time, I clean up the breakfast dishes.

Our days have a steady and predictable rhythm, with the usual ups and downs: fussy days, giggly days, bumping-into-everything days. Stick and leaf-eating days, two-trips-to-the-park days. Sometimes the steady stream of normalcy we currently enjoy makes the reality of everything that happened just a couple of years ago seem like no more than a really bad dream I had once. 

We're in constant motion these days!

But even when it's not immediately obvious, Ewan is in everything about our normal days: he is why I begin every morning telling Austen, "Good mooooooorning, I loooooove you!" in  singsong voice. He's why I get down on the floor and play with her, and chase after her on my hands and knees. He's why I don't mind a bit of spit-up on my shirt or avocado stains on my pants. He is why her laughter is the best part of my day, and the reason why I thank God I get to be so tired all the time. He's the reason why I look at the swing and the high chair and the board books and the sippy cups and baby paraphernalia that has taken over my house completely and smile.

He's also the reason I'll pause at the end of a day and before I go to fold what's in the laundry basket, notice the lump in my throat, the tear sneaking out of the corner of my eye. I'll remember how she played with a toy that was intended for him first, how I wondered while pushing her in the swing at the park how it would be to have my two-year-old boy in tow. I will think of her pointing at his picture and how it catches me off guard sometimes. That's Ewan, I say. That's your big brother. And I wonder what it would be like, the two of them together. 

It was James' idea to have the monkey as a way of including Ewan in family photos.

I don't know that experiencing sadness to the depth that we did makes our current mostly-happy, incredibly-normal normalcy any happier, but it does offer a striking contrast, throwing into sharp relief just how beautiful it is, this life we have now. It's easy to forget sometimes, even for me, even with a not-so-distant loss that, for most people, falls into the category of "Oh my God, that's so horrible, I can't even imagine."

And so I am thankful for what I have: the messy house, the stained shirts, the piles of laundry waiting to be folded, the dining room table that is in constant need of clearing. The crawling baby I can hardly keep up with, the brown ring under the coffee mug on the kitchen counter, and the dried remnants of sweet potato on the floor. The ear-piercing squeals, the grabbing hands, the cup tossed to the floor yet again. The way she reaches for her mama, the way her face lights up and her cheeks bloom into a smile when her daddy walks into a room. The way she laughs so hard when I corner her and kiss her belly button, her back, her cheeks. The way she claps her hands. The way those little reddish-blonde curls spring out from the back of her head when her hair gets damp.

Morning snuggles with daddy

Two years ago, the story was so terribly different. Of burying my son on a rainy Saturday in October, of digging my fingernails into a rocking chair in a dark nursery, of hanging the Christmas stocking for the baby who wasn't there -- it is still very much a part of our present. It is tucked inside like a nesting doll: not noticeable from the outside, but still real and tangible and just as much a part of the right-now as the parts you can see. 

I'm thankful for all of it. Sometimes I need help to remember those things that live just below the surface, but yes, yes, yes: I am thankful for all that my hands hold, and for all they once held.