Here are some things that are true:
- I was pregnant for nearly nine months with Xavier. It was a happy and uneventful pregnancy.
- I gave birth to Xavier. I birthed him and I held him and I cried as he was placed against me for the first time.
- He lived for two little weeks. He fussed and he cried and he made me laugh. He was held by a proud big brother. He met family and friends.
- I am a mother to three sons.
I felt like I had to write these things down. To make them feel concrete. Because so often, those facts seem unsubstantiated and unsubstantial. Paper thin. A mirage.
When people meet me for the first time, they presume I am a mother of two. People ask whether I will have a third child. There are only two little beds in our house. Two carseats. Two little heads that snuggle against me when I hold them. I hold two boys in my arms and three in my heart. I am a mother of three, appearing as a mother of two. And very often that appearance feels more real than the truth.
In the wake of Xavier’s death, I wanted to scream about his existence. I would tell anyone who would dare ask. He was so real to me. My life was so full of him. I felt I had to advocate doubly hard for the child no-one could see. He was the largest thing in my life for a long time and he could not be seen by anyone else. There was a large and painful hole in my life where my baby boy should have been. A gaping black hole that could swallow a person. But that hole started to close. I learned to experience him in different ways and that allowed me to miss him less. I think it was the missing that made the hole so large and angry and empty.
Sometimes it feels like my life has been cut into thirds. The girl before Xavier’s death. The girl in the wake of it. The girl who emerged from the darkest of grief. And it’s hard to grasp onto the girl before. It’s hard to think of those people as linear. They feel more like tangents.
My life now is full – it is not without pain – but for the most part I have no complaints. There are days when I miss him dreadfully – his birthday or anniversary – and there are days that I miss him for no other reason than he is gone. But I do not feel the pull of that dark hole anymore. And here I stand, a bereaved mother but no longer a heavily grieving one. A mother of three boys in a world that only sees two. And a fading memory of a tiny boy with peach fuzz hair and eyes like his great grandfather’s. His essence, who he is now, is alive and vibrant in my life but it is getting harder to recollect the tiny baby. And so it is with time. And so it is with grief.