10 March 2012

Pockets of Grief

Austen is asleep in the baby swing right now. As I watch her rock back and forth, head lolling off to one side, it occurs to me that we've had this swing since we were pregnant with Ewan. A co-worker of mine, knowing I was pregnant, asked if I wanted any of their leftover baby things that she was seeking to get rid of. After a boy and a girl, she and her husband felt their family was complete. I happy accepted any hand-me-downs she had, and this Graco baby swing was one of many baby things I inherited from her.

I remember bringing that swing home along with a slough of other baby things: a brightly colored jungle-themed activity mat with mirrors, crinkly, crackly fabric, and balls attached that would roll and show off flashes of orange and yellow. There was a box full of rattles and cups and stacking toys. But I remember taking particular care with the swing. I removed the fabric elements and washed them. I sanitized the tray that lifts up and snaps back down. I pictured Ewan in that swing.


But he never got to use it.

When we had Austen, we knew there would be many moments like this: Austen experiencing firsts that only ever were should-have-been's or never-happened's with Ewan. Even though we knew those things would be there ahead of time, the experience of having these moments with Austen is opening up pockets of grief that have more or less been latent and sleeping since he died. We missed the first smile, the first laugh, the first bath. We never got to dress him in any of the miniature clothes I held up to the sounds of oohs and aahs and declarations of "that's so cute!" at any my baby showers.

Now that we get those moments with her, I find these pockets of sadness opening inside me -- the things that we never had with him. There are so many of them, bursting wide open one after the other because of his sister.

first bath
After her first bath

It's hard to be overly sentimental about it, to focus on the joy of the moments we share with Austen at the expense of the moments we didn't have with Ewan. It's never so clean and compartmentalized. I even find myself wondering if I can really count these things -- these normal experiences we never had with Ewan -- as a loss. After all, we never had those moments -- we merely expected and hoped for them. It is not the same thing. But it still hurts.

And so I find myself holding the tension one more time: the joy of every moment we have with our healthy, living daughter, and experiencing intimacy with those moments now that with Ewan, slipped through our fingers like water. They were never ours to hold.

Ewan's been gone for nearly a year and a half now. While it will never be the case that having Austen will take away any of the pain we experienced when we lost Ewan, there is something about having Austen here that makes it okay somehow -- that makes it okay not for what has already happened, but it makes it okay in the now. I think it's because losing Ewan isn't where the story ends -- it's still going on.

It's still going on.