For the most part, I believe I am mothering Elijah in much the same way as I did Isaac and Xavier as babies. But there are moments. Snatches of time where everything is different. When it becomes truly apparent I am mothering a rainbow child.
Whilst pregnant, every twinge, real or imagined, sent me to the darkest of conclusions. Every time I caught his heartbeat on the monitor, or felt him kick, my breath would catch with gratitude. I get to carry this baby. I will get to hold this baby. I will get to keep this baby. How could I fathom such a blessing?
A few days after giving birth, a cocktail of postpartum hormones running through my veins, holding him tight as a newborn baby and begging him not to die. My heart aching at what was lost and the unbearable thought of further pain. Then his little fingers curled around mine, reassuring and real. He was staying. Staying.
Looking into his new but wise eyes and asking in a whisper if he met Xavier, if he knows how he is. Searching the deep blue seriousness for a flicker of recognition. Some sign of communion. He is not his brother. Yet a reflection of his brother. His brothers’ blood running through his veins.
He is softly sleeping, shallow breaths making his chest rise and fall almost indiscernible. I watch fervently, hand on his little body, willing each little breath to come. I am the guardian of his sleep. If I leave him for a little while in the hands of rest, I feel guilty and panicked. I come back to find him safe and feel like I have cheated fate. Every morning when he wakes, I am elated and overcome with gratitude. Sleep, that silent thief, has stayed faithful and not turned on us again. I am so blessed.
Sometimes I will pause before I check on him. For if he has entered a realm I cannot, I want to hover in the innocent happiness of the moment before knowledge. Then I start and I wonder if that moment would represent the chance to save him. All this inner turmoil and when I finally check on him, he is peacefully sleeping. No care in the world. He is peace, he is calm. He is balm to my wound-up heart.
Parenting after loss is a double edged sword. On one side is the almost unbearable knowledge that your child can die. On the other a level of gratitude that reaches deep into your heart. I have known the depths, so I will appreciate the heights. We have been through the thunderstorm, we have seen the rainbow and we are flying with the sun.