The days belonging to him

Late June in Brisbane and the days are brilliant. Chilly mornings giving way to bright sunshine skies. The air and the wind and the way the grass smells unlocking memories of him. These days when he shared the earth.

Come the 6th July the other memories will come. Unwelcome and unbidden. The moments that stole him away replayed in my mind. But for now, I am not thinking on that. I am remembering those two weeks he was here.

Recalling the smell of him and the soft peach fuzz of his hair. Memories I thought I had lost but that are carried in the air late June. I remember the cosy fog of the first few days. Sleep deprived and elated. That excited, bewildered, other-worldly place that belongs only to parents of the very newly born.

I remember proudly showing him off, so new and tiny. I remember friends holding him and drinking in his freshly bloomed loveliness. I remember fighting through a fog of sleepiness and taking him to meet his cousins one evening despite a day full of activity. Oh, I am so glad I did.

I remember feeling content and whole.

I remember gazing at him in adoration and asking my husband the most rhetorical of parental questions – isn’t he beautiful?

I remember the way he breathed a little too heavily and the midwife who worried and the doctor who did not.

I remember nursing him and thinking I’d give him the world. I remember calling him “my little love, my turtle dove”. I remember him curled up, cuddled into Ns chest, oblivious to the world as he slept. I remember singing him silly little songs and tracing his features as he slept.

Not so long ago, I was unable to recall these simple things. They would have been a dagger in my broken heart. But today, as the sun reached out and touched the grass, offering respite from the wind’s chill, the memories came flooding back. And I could accept them with open arms and be thankful for the 14 days he graced the earth.

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The burden of gratitude

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Elijah, like all babies, goes through periods of not sleeping, crying jags and general grumpiness.    On the whole, he truly is a “good” baby, but even good babies have their off days. Good  mothers have them too.

But I won’t tell you about those days. Not because I am trying to hide behind the image of a perfect baby and mother.  But because  it would seem too close to ingratitude.   When you are robbed of your child, you feel robbed of your right to complain about anything other than that loss.   How can I complain about transient things? Everything becomes insignificant in the face of such giant loss.  All other problems dwarfed.  And to complain about a child, the very thing that I lost, that would be an ingratitude too great.

Grief teaches you things.  Teaches you to to appreciate each moment.   You begin to understand the enormous privilege it is to bear and bring up a child.  You start to glimpse the compete preciousness of it all.  You meet those that are desperate to have a baby to hold in their arms, not just in their hearts.  And you realise, even though you have had the most horrible thing to occur, how truly blessed you are to have children.   You cannot help but wonder if you needed to lose in order to learn that lesson.  You hang onto appreciation as a kind of insurance.   If I am grateful for each moment, then Elijah can stay.  If I consciously appreciate every single second of him, I can protect him.  Conversely, if, for even a moment I lose sight of that, maybe he will be taken from me.  I must not complain.

After Xavier died I would see Facebook posts or hear whinges about babies that wouldn’t  sleep or were fussy.  I would wish, wish that were me.  I would wonder how people could be so blind.  I would vow never to be so unthinking.  But does the pendulum swing both ways?  Is all this thoughtful gratitude and gushing presenting an unrealistic image of life?  Am I expecting too much of myself and pressuring others?  Is it just as unthoughtful of me to be posting photos of a picture perfect, content baby all the time?

After all life does goes on and it continues to be challenging.   I wish that Xavier’s death had solved all my problems. All the problems of my friends and family.  But it didn’t.   Perhaps it offered some perspective, but it didn’t eradicate all other pain and it didn’t magically make our lives easy.

After Xavier’s death it took a little while before friends and family would once again discuss their problems with me.  I was glad when they did.  Glad that they thought my perspective would be useful.  Glad that they thought I could cope.  But I know even then they were careful not to complain, not to give any inference that they weren’t completely grateful for their blessings.

Perhaps the answer lies in living with grace, rather than finding limitless gratitude for every moment and a moratorium on complaints.  Living with the grace that I know no matter what life throws at me, I will handle it.  Living with the grace that I know I can see beauty, even in the darkness.  Living with the grace that problems still occur, to me and to others, and that listening and talking about those things doesn’t make me ungrateful.  It just makes me human.

 

The Magic of a Newborn

As my eldest son Isaac (now 4) grew from newborn to baby to toddler, I would announce each new phase as my favourite so far.  But the newborn stage holds a special place in my heart.   There is just something magical about new life in its most infant form.  This tiny little person, full of possibility, but right now totally dependant.    Baby at breast, surrounded by my family,  offers a level of contentment that cannot be easily surpassed.  Watching N hold little Elijah – both relaxing on the couch – fills me with warmth and gratitude.   The little mewls, the grip of a tiny hand around your fingertip, those bewildered first glances until they catch your eye and gaze back your reflected love.   The cuddles at all hours of the day and night.  I can’t properly describe how much I love each moment.  I felt this with Isaac, with Xavier and now with Elijah.  When Xavier died so young, I felt particularly robbed of this beautiful stage.  So I treasure every sight, every sound, every smell, every touch that Elijah offers.

A dear friend gave birth to her first – a little girl- two days before Elijah came into the world.  When we met up for the first time after our babies were born she cried with me over Xavier.  Her absolute love for her daughter giving her a glimpse into what the impossible pain of losing Xavier might have been.   Even now, with Elijah in my arms, I wonder how I survived – and continue to survive – without one of my children.   But his love remains and my heart richer for him being a part of our lives.   I am a better, more patient and more grateful parent after loss.  And the magic of a newborn has me spellbound once again.

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