I quite honestly don’t even know where to begin. Jackson has been with us for six and a half days, and I still don’t even know where to begin to try to articulate the incredible jumble of emotions my heart is trying to hold right now.
Saturday morning, I was up around 4:00 in the morning and, once again, I heard our crazy neighborhood birds chirping away as if they had no idea it was still dark. Last time I wrote about the birds, I had awoken because my very pregnant body needed to go to the bathroom and afterwards, I couldn’t turn off my brain, thinking about my sweet daughter who died and my sweet son who was yet to be born, so very puzzled as to how to keep mothering them both when I would only have one of them physically with me. I wrote about living in the world in between the very darkest hours of grief, those long ones deep in the middle of the night where the sadness weighs so heavily and keeps you from sleep, and the early morning hours where the sun is on the horizon and the sky is turning pink as a new day is born. That night, I was living in that in-between world. Like those birds, I knew that at least for now, the darkest part of the night was past and that the sun was on its way, even though I could not yet see it. I knew that at any given moment, I could still be yanked back into the dark and yet the promise of the light somehow made that possibility seem less horrible. I knew that one day soon, I would see the pink sky again.
Unlike last time, I heard the birds on this Saturday morning because I was up to feed a beautiful and hungry little boy, a tiny, impossibly soft-skinned, heavenly smelling creature, an incredible manifestation of the love my husband and I have for each other and for our firstborn child who was so cruelly taken from us a year ago. I heard the birds and I smiled, realizing, maybe for the first time, that morning has come again. The sun is peeping from its perch on the edge of the world and telling me it’s time to wake up and live again. When Jackson emerged from my body after those insane final fifteen minutes of my labor with him, when I reached down and pulled him up on to my chest, I felt it instantly. I don’t know that I realized it at the time—I was too overcome with shock and relief and disbelief that it all went so fast and that he was actually here—but in that second, I felt real joy for the very first time since Hudson died. After so many months of being a mother with no living child, of feeling so very useless with no object for all my mothering instincts and skills, after all that, the very weight of that little body on mine, that stunned little cry meant just for me as a sign that I was needed again—the feeling was absolutely exquisite. And in the many moments since then, as I have snuggled this precious little boy close, nursed him for many hours of the day, held him in my arms as he sleeps, rocked him gently to soothe his worries, and looked into his bright eyes, I have finally been able to imagine a future that seems liveable, a future where the joy will never, ever erase the pain, but will at least soften its edges and make it more bearable. Because the fact is, it already has.
And yet, even as I just wrote these words, the tears started to fall again. Because even though I know in my heart that nothing will ever separate me from Hudson, and even though I now know that my heart can hold all the love in the world for her and Jackson and any future children we have, there is also no doubt that my relationship with her has changed. It had to. Just like when she was born, much of my time is now consumed by meeting her little brother’s needs, and I don’t have the leisure of shutting the world out whenever I need to spend some special time with just Hudson, to be alone and cry with her pictures and stuffed animals and books. Of course, my relationship with her would have changed if she were still living, too—certainly I know that. But in that case, I would still get to hug her tight and laugh at her silliness and soothe her tears and teach her how to be a big sister and watch her grow up—we’d just be doing it in a new way. As it is, I still don’t think I’ve fully grasped that I will never get to do those things with her again, that while I will get to mother more children, I will never get to mother Hudson again, only her memory and spirit. Which could never be enough.
Many times during those early months when I was at home with Hudson on maternity leave, moments when I’d be so eager for her to reach a new milestone and start being more interactive, I remember reminding myself that I should cherish this time and stop looking ahead so much, because I would never get this kind of time with an infant again. The next time I had one, I’d have a toddler running around the house, too—still an amazing experience, but a very different one. As she got older, I started really looking forward to this time, knowing that it would mean getting to spend some extra time with her at home while I was on leave, knowing that she’d be able to provide some much-needed fun and comic relief (and certainly no small measure of frustration, too, I’m sure) during these early, rather isolating infant days with her younger sibling. And now here I am, two and a half years later, alone with a newborn again, and no big sister to “help” me take care of him. To an outsider, it looks as though someone just pressed a fast-forward button from December 2008 to May 2011, skipping over everything in between, as though Ed and I are taking strolls in the neighborhood with our firstborn child. And that is hard.
The realization that she is gone, that she will never be here with us, with Jackson, is still hitting me in waves. We took several photos of her with us to the hospital, and Ed carefully placed them throughout the room where I was laboring so that I could look at them when I needed or wanted to, checking each photo with me to be sure I could see it. But within a few minutes after we got there, my contractions got significantly more intense and my body and mind were consumed with the hard work of labor. And then, so very suddenly, Jackson was in my arms, and my body and mind were consumed with falling in love all over again with a tiny baby. It wasn’t until about 30 minutes after he was born, when he was contentedly nursing in my arms, that I looked up and saw, just beyond the foot of the bed, the photo of Hudson in the meadow at the Arboretum, the one where she is just barely smiling with those wise eyes, that it hit me. I remembered. And then my mind and my body were consumed with longing for my girl, full with such sorrow that she will never get to experience the love in that room with us, the love that still burns inside us for her and that now envelops her little brother, too. And I cried, all over my baby boy. A special and very different kind of baptism, I guess—another outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. Hudson sharing herself with her little brother in a way that few other big sisters could. Ed sat beside me and held my hand. Our family of four.
There have been many more sad moments since that first one. Sitting in the postpartum room with Jackson on one side, warm and alive, and Hudson’s photos on the other—photos instead of a rambunctious toddler barreling into the room to see her Mommy only to quiet down in awe and confusion when she saw the tiny creature in Mommy’s lap. Putting Jackson on the changing table for the first time, telling him how tiny he is, and then remembering that the reason he looks so tiny is because the last little person whose diaper I changed there was so much bigger. Listening to the Bob Marley Rock-a-Bye Baby CD in the car and watching it calm him just like it used to calm Hudson immediately. Looking down sometimes while nursing Jackson and doing a double-take because I could almost be looking at Hudson two and a half years ago. I know these are only a few of the many, many more sad moments to come in this lifetime without Hudson.
But here is where those early morning birds come in. Because as sad as all of those moments are, and they are terribly sad, there is joy in them, too, because Jackson is there, bringing life back into our atrophied limbs and broken hearts, melting the places inside that have been so long frozen in grief, shining light into the darkest places in which we have lived for the past year. And even though she is not here in the way I desperately long for her to be, Hudson is here, too, and will always be. Morning is here, tentatively creeping its way into our world again.
Here comes the sun. Thank you, my sweet boy, for bringing it with you.