Monday, July 26, 2010

Longing

We spent the weekend at the Bele Chere festival in Asheville with good friends from law school. The weather was incredibly hot, so enjoying ourselves outside was not all that easy, but we saw a few good bands, ate a lot of good food, and saw some other parts of Asheville that were air-conditioned. And it was great to be with our friends, Angie and Chad, who we don’t see nearly often enough, and who, among our many friends, are uniquely equipped to make us laugh. A lot. And we did laugh. A lot. Which was good.

For some reason, though (and I don’t know how I continue to fail to anticipate these things—probably because I have still just not accepted that this is our new reality), I just didn’t realize how many children would be at Bele Chere. The last time I went to Bele Chere was in 1992, and the time I spent there was mostly at night, after dark, and I don’t really remember much at all except there being a lot of drunk people and loud music. Why would anyone bring their kids to such a thing? But in fact, the festival is huge, including lots of music all day, arts and crafts of all kinds, an entire children’s program at one building, face painting, mimes, dancers, carnival food, a splash park at a fountain downtown. . . In other words, who wouldn’t bring their kids there?

And bring them they did. In droves. There were kids everywhere. In their parents’ arms. In strollers. In carriers. In backpacks. In wagons. Walking. They. Were. Everywhere.

When we got there Friday afternoon, we headed down to a particular stage to see Angie’s friend’s band play. As we walked, I actually said out loud, “I can’t believe I didn’t think about how many kids would be here.” We got to the stage and of course, right in front of us, was a chubby little boy, just about Hudson’s age, red-faced and sweaty (it was in the high nineties and there was no shade anywhere), bopping around with his mom to the music. She had him up on her shoulders and was swaying and bouncing; he was clapping his hands and grinning. I purposely tried to position myself (and the enormous brimmed hat I bought) so that I couldn’t see him. It didn’t really work, and I kept sneaking glances. It was hard not to look, even though it hurt every time.

The next day, we tooled around Asheville and did not head downtown until after 5, because it was so hot. When we finally did go downtown, we went to a bar almost immediately to cool off. For the first time, I thought maybe it would be nice to have a drink, catch a little buzz, and maybe try to lose myself in it for just a little while. Until very recently, I have had absolutely no desire to be in any kind of altered state whatsoever, partly because of my fear that while the buzz itself might be fun, coming out of it might be not very much fun at all. I was right. I had a very strong vodka tonic at the bar, and then we went to another bar where I had a few more lighter drinks. We went outside and listened to a bluegrass band for a while and then headed down to the fountain/splashpark in front of Asheville’s town hall and court house. I was pretty buzzed by this time so I didn’t think in advance about whether this was a good idea. We sat down on the steps across from the fountain and watched all the kids running around as the spouts of water started and stopped, catching them by surprise every time. We sat there for a long while, and in the heat, the effects of the alcohol began to wear off, but I still felt like I was in a fog. You know how when you are watching a movie and some kid is about to get snatched from an amusement park or something, and everything goes into slow-motion, and the picture looks a little blurry, and you can hear kids shrieking in the background, and you’re just waiting for something to happen? That is exactly how this felt. I was watching these two kids, a shirtless little blond girl between three and four, and her little brother, who was probably two and still in diapers, climb up a set of three stairs, come and stand on top of a stubby column, and then reach their arms out to their dad, who grabbed them and swung them up high and then back down to the ground. Over and over again. Climb, reach out, fly with Daddy. Hudson loves to climb stairs. Hudson and her little brother. Aren’t they beautiful? They have so much fun together and they love their daddy so much. No, wait… Hudson isn’t here. And I don’t know who those kids are. By the time we left, I felt like I’d been hit in the face with a brick—stunned and aching, but forced to keep moving.

The worst, though, didn’t even happen at Bele Chere. Yesterday, as we were driving back home from Asheville, we stopped at a gas station/convenience store to go to the bathroom. I headed through the store behind a mom and her daughter. The mom was probably a little younger than me, wearing a navy blue shirt dress and a baseball cap. The little girl was about three and was wearing a pink cotton t-shirt dress with puffed sleeves and a smocked front. The little girl kept trying to walk where the mom couldn’t hold her hand and the mom kept trying to corral her a little bit closer. We all crowded into the bathroom where there was a short line for the stalls. As we waited, the mom picked the little girl up, swung her on to her hip, and gave her a kiss. I immediately felt hot tears spring to my eyes and I had to look down so no one would see and then had to close my eyes and take a deep breath to keep from bursting into a sob.

I want my little girl back. I want to swing her around on my shoulders and clap to music and worry about her getting too hot or getting sunburned. I want to watch her playing with her daddy in a fountain on a hot summer afternoon. I want to swoop her into my arms for a playful kiss while we wait in line for the bathroom. This longing is so deep and so powerful that it still physically hurts. These days, I check my email compulsively, waiting for messages and comments on my blog posts—I realized for the first time yesterday that some part of me does this in the frantic and insane hope that she will just materialize there before my eyes. Last night, when we came home to no power, we were sitting on the couch, and I imagined that Hudson was upstairs in her bed—I thought that maybe Ed and I could be the first humans on earth who were so distraught over the loss of our loved one that we actually got to get her back?!

This weekend did offer some comfort other than the company of our good friends, though. For the first time this weekend, I felt a longing for something else: a second baby. At the restaurant where we ate Friday night, there were two little boys sitting near us, one right next to us and one over our right shoulder. Both were probably around 6 months old. We left after we ate, but I ran back inside briefly to go to the bathroom. As I passed the table next to us, I looked down and saw the baby boy laid back in the crook of an elbow, eyes closed, sucking on a bottle in that unconscious way babies do when they are sucking in their near-sleep. I immediately thought, “I want that. Now.”

And then tears. I don’t know if they were tears of longing for a second baby or tears of guilt at the thought of longing for a baby other than my girl or tears of sorrow that I will never get to have both Hudson and a second baby. Maybe this is the same kind of longing all parents get when their toddler gets too old and too busy to really care about snuggling in to the crook of an arm for a nap or a bottle. Maybe I really was just longing for Hudson and it manifested itself into longing for an infant. Maybe I will never be able to tell the difference. I have to say that it felt good, even if for a fleeting second, to feel like it might even be possible to long for a second child. Because I have had my doubts. I miss my girl so much that sometimes it seems like I might never be able to love another child again, not the way I love her. But for that one second, when I saw that delicious little boy floating away into a milk-induced coma, for just that second at least, I knew that I could.

18 comments:

  1. Kate Ackley ZellerJuly 26, 2010 at 12:28 PM

    Mandy, I so hope you are blessed one day with Hudson’s sibling (or siblings). Your capacity to love is huge. Sending my thoughts your way always. Love, Kate

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  2. Mandy, it is wonderful to "hear" you voice your longing for Hudson's baby brother or sister here. There is honestly no more powerful example of our human capacity to love that I've experienced than the birth of my second child; inexplicably, your heart suddenly has ample room for your great love for this new child where you feared it wouldn't (because the great love for your first child takes up so much). I am hopeful for you.

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  3. Of course all things must come in due time, but I think another child is something you and Ed should do when you are ready. You two are obviously fabulous parents and can provide just the kind of life that any child would be lucky to have. Also, the loss of Hudson is two-fold: obviously there is the loss of the perfectly precious person who can never be replaced, but there is also the loss of the act of parenting, which although it probably wouldn't be exactly the same, can be.

    The fear over loving another child and the impact on both children is certainly complicated by the fact that Hudson died, but it is not unique. I am currently pregnant with my second child. I spent my whole first pregnancy counting kicks and checking babycenter to see how big he was and what was developing on a near daily basis. This time, the demands of parenting a toddler keep me distracted from my pregnancy. A whole day will pass and I will try to remember if I felt the baby kick that day. But somehow this little baby keeps growing even without my undivided attention. Last night as I was rocking my son to sleep (yes I still rock my 23.75 month old to sleep and love every second of it) I was thinking about how I want to provide this loving time to both my kids and that having two of them will certaily impact how much time I can spend with each, etc. And I started to get scared. Scared that I won't be able to love the baby the same way I love my son so completely. Scared that giving my second child all the same things I gave my first means that my first will get less and I will wake up one day and all his babyness will be gone and he will be an independent boy who does not want to sleep in his mama's arms. My point is that your fears are the same as any mother contemplating a second child, just complicated by the fact that your first is no longer with you.

    BUT, I have no doubt about two things: (1)you will love Hudson for the rest of your life and continue to remember and honor her no matter how many children you have and (2) you will be able to love and care for your future children with the same intensity you did Hudson.

    I hope you have more children when you are ready. Hudson was such a blessing to you and you were a blessing to her. More children would just be more blessings. Plus, Hudson seems like she was a pretty kick-ass person. Creating a couple more people with her genes and parents behind them can only result in good things.

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  4. Mandy, I don't think you will never love another child like you did Hudson. However, if you decide to have another baby, you will love that baby in it's own way. That is how mothers are. Your heart opens to reveal more space, space and love you didn't even know you had. And each child is special and precious in their own way. Thinking of you, and hoping a little bit of peace finds you today.
    Shelley C.

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  5. This last comment from Shelley C. put me in mind of a book that we loved to read Abby and Nina when they were little: I Love You the Purplest. No parent ever loves two children the same way; it's different in its own deep and intense way each time. The book makes the point that this is true as between two living siblings, but I see no reason why its messages wouldn't be equally true for Hudson and a someday-sibling (or siblings).

    Sending all good thoughts your way, Mandy.

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  6. Oh Mandy, your posts are so heartbreaking. I am so sorry this happened to you. There is courage and hope in that moment when you longed for another baby. May life bring you some ease and some comfort. Hudson shines as bright as a comet, what a lovely child ! And so well-loved.

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  7. Life has handed you some really horrible things-- and also equiped you with a set of gifts that have allowed you to make good things where others would have crumbled. You are a fantastic mother, and it's so natural for you to long to share your love with another child. Of course it won't ever be the same. But it would be impossible not to overflow with love for another baby. As always, we send you good thoughts and hopes for a brighter tomorrow.

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  9. *Sorry, that first go was horrid with typos.*
    You could have triplets, and love them each a different way. No love is ever exactly the same.
    While our hearts can shatter, or feel like they are being ripped straight out of our chests, they can also grow and expand to hold many kinds of love.
    It's natural to want another baby. Heck, it's natural to want another baby even if you already have seven that have all grown past the toddler stage. For proof, my boyfriend is the youngest of thirteen.
    I know when you and Ed are ready, you're going to be great parents to any future little ones, just as with Hudson. And your love for Hudson will never be any less.

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  10. Ditto to Eric Muller. He said exactly was I was thinking, but much more eloquently.

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  11. Hey Mandy,
    I have similar fears, too. Erica laid out almost exactly what I've felt on and off throughout this whole pregnancy. You and Ed are wonderful parents - I alawys have felt the love and joy eminating from your family, and know that it will continue on. I know you have much much more to give your family and friends, however big they grow. And I hope that we continue to be lucky enough to be witnesses to it all. You guys are a part of our village.

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  12. Mandy,

    I would like to share a personal story with you...of my aunt, who lost my little cousin at the tender age of 2 a few years ago. My cousin, Mina, was born with a heart condition which required a pacemaker. She was a vibrant little girl...so much life in her. You would never know that she had a heart condition because of the level of energy this little girl had. She lit up a room, just like Hudson did. Nobody ever expected that she would leave this earth so quickly. One night she woke up in the middle of the night and wanted to get in bed with my aunt and uncle...a few hours later, she woke up. They turned the light on, and Mina said it was dark, she couldn't see anything. A few moments after that...she was gone.

    Soon after Mina passed, my aunt became pregnant. She had a mental breakdown of sorts and became convinced that Mina was back in her belly. I had talk after talk with her and told her she couldn't do this to herself or to Mina's sister...that she wasn't wrong in having another baby. She was feeling guilty that she was pregnant again and felt that she was dishonoring Mina's life somehow. As her due date approached, the feelings of guilt subsided and she became excited about Mina's little sister.

    Today, Mina has 2 siblings, a sister and brother. My aunt has made Mina a part of her siblings' lives. She takes her siblings to Mina's resting place every week and makes sure they know and understand what a wonderful big sister they had. She has a picture of Mina on their fireplace mantle and has taught Mira and Sean that Mina is watching over them and that she is their big sister.

    I share this story with you in the hopes that you find some comfort knowing that there are other mothers out there who have experienced grief like yours and have had room in their hearts to spread their love to other babies. My aunt and I talk often about Mina...it's actually eerie how much her little sister looks like her. But I know my aunt's love for Mina has never diminished or faded away because she now has 2 more babies.

    You and Ed are wonderful parents...and I hope one day when you are ready, Hudson has siblings who are blessed to call you guys Mommy and Daddy. Hudson will remain in your lives forever...and she will have a presence in her siblings lives as well.

    Sometimes I like to think that Hudson and Mina have become friends in heaven, God knows they would have been fast friends on this earth...and they are running around hand-in-hand, giggling and wreaking havoc up in the sky.

    xoxo

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  13. Shabnam, that's a really lovely story. Mandy, I hope it brings you some comfort. I know that feeling of desperately wanting someone to have emailed, commented, called--wanting someone to reach out to my in my deep grief, to keep me going to the next moment. I think of you far more often than I could write to you; please know that you and Hudson and your family are all in my heart, all the time. I am so sorry for the longing you have for your little girl.
    p

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  14. I think every Mother loves every one of her children, in a different way. I can't speak to this yet, anyway, but I can just feel it already. But I feel like I can assure you that you will love any and all future children just as much as you love Hudson, and it will be totally different as well. I know you as a Mom, Mandy, and I know you love Hudson at the tip top 100% level that a Mom can ever love a child. And that Mom-love is ingrained in you, it is in your heart. You will always give your all, I have no doubt, as you would never settle for less than tip top 100% love for any of your future children. I feel that already myself. Haven't conceived a second child, but I already know that I will love the next as much as Cecilia, which is hard to pinpoint because I love her more than anything in the world. It's just that way, because we are Moms. Don't worry about that, you've got the love gene. I am amazed at your ability to self-reflect and materialize your thoughts. I am learning so much from you. Consider teaching and writing as your fallback career? Much love.

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  15. Hi Mandy, first time I am posting on your blog.

    Members of my family lost their little baby boy Sean in 2007 when he was 6 weeks old. The family was devastated. Their pain was so tremendous, it was heart breaking. Their house seemed empty and sad and there was no talk of ever having another child again. In fact, she was convinced that another child was not an option for them.

    In December 2009, they welcomed their beautiful and healthy baby girl Jasmine. The pregnancy was a total surprise but the best thing that ever happened. I wished you could see how happiness and laughter has returned to their home.

    You, Mandy, will have a second child, I am sure of. A little sweet voice calling you Mama yet again. You have so much love and tenderness to give and I am looking forward to the day to read about it on your blog.

    Be good to yourself.

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  16. I've said it to you many times now, but I see such hope. Dum Spiro spero.

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  17. Hey Mandy,
    You don't know me - I learned about your blog from one of my best friends, Janet Wright. I want to start off by saying that I am profoundly sorry about your loss. I know that in the months since you lost Hudson many people have empathized w/ your loss and shared the stories of their tragedies all in a vain attempt to show you, over and over, that you are not alone and that you will one day, probably a long while from now, you will come to embrace (or at the the very least endure halfheartedly) your new normal. I cannot imagine what you are going through and my thoughts and prayers are w/ you guys often.

    A dear friend of mine lost her 15 month old daughter two Octobers ago. It was a horrific choking accident that left all of our worlds paralyzed. Her daughter was an identical twin, which some will argue made it "easier" - whatever that means. Anyhow, Alli wanted something good to happen out of such a terrible situation. So about six months after Maclain's death, she became pregant w/ a beautiful little boy named Sloane that came into this world just a few months ago. He's been nothing but a blessing and has eased some of the pain that seemed to be lodged in her core.

    You, Ed and Hudson have touched so many people. I look forward to the day when we can celebrate your decision to touch yet another life by way of a new baby.

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  18. I'm pregnant now and I keep wondering how I will love this new child as much as I love the one I have spent the last 16 +9 months with. I know that somehow I will - just like I know I was loved as a second child, maybe even more than my older brother.
    I know that longing too, that longing that says, "I can love! I can do that! I could hold a little baby and be the center of their world." It is part of God's plan and that longing is the best first step.

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