Like almost any mother of a newborn, tired is an understatement. Last night was arguably the most restless since she's been born. After sleeping from about 7:30 to 11 pm, she woke up for another feeding and couldn't seem to get enough. We fed, burped, rocked, and waited and then repeated until she was satisfied and at least mostly asleep. Even after that, she flailed and kicked in her sleep, and consequently, I am bleary-eyed and sleep-starved this morning.
Even so, I can't help but spill over with thankfulness at the redemptive moments we continue to experience with her.
In Austen's birth, I had the birth experience I had hoped for but didn't get with Ewan. Austen gets to experience the dailiness of life at home that Ewan never got to experience. And perhaps most rewarding for me, I am there when she falls asleep -- unlike I was able to be with Ewan.
In my current state I cannot remember whether or not I've written about that last night of Ewan's life -- the one where we weren't there, having gone home for the first time in twelve days because he appeared to be doing so well. He was engaged and alert and though on a considerable amount of support, looking good. He was social and engaged, interacting with us at every opportunity. But at some point that night, he went to sleep and never woke up again.
My biggest regret is that we were not there. There were no human, let alone mama or papa eyes holding his gaze as he drifted off. What was the last thing he saw? Was it the warmer that loomed above him? Was it the collection of tubes and needles going into his arms and legs, dispensing medications? Was it the dialysis unit, the ECMO machine, or the tall metal tree stacked with medications being dispensed automatically at steady intervals?
Whatever the last thing Ewan saw on this earth, it wasn't me. It wasn't James. And if I'm honest, I don't think I will ever be able to let go of the simple and heartrending truth that we were not there when he left, drifting off to sleep for the last time. There is not a single recollection of Ewan's life that hurts me more than this one.
So as I'm feeding Austen these days in that last feeding of the day before she drifts off to sleep for the night, I hold her gaze until her eyes are closed. She will fight sleep, eyelids fluttering in a concerted effort to remain open, taking in the world around her for just a few minutes more. And I will wait and hold her gaze until the fluttering stops and she is asleep at last.
In these moments I celebrate the truth that the last thing she sees before she drifts off to sleep is the face of the mama who loves her without measure. My greatest desire for her (and for all the children the good Lord may grant to us) is that she would feel loved and that if, God forbid, she shouldn't wake up, that the last thing she would see on this earth is the face of someone who loves her.
I imagine I will be rubbing my eyes today, praying for the opportunity to steal a few precious moments of sleep, and that there will be many more days like this one. But I got to see her off to sleep. And so night by night, feeding by feeding, what we lost with Ewan is redeemed in loving his little sister.
God bless you, little girl, and your sweet big brother, too.