I knew that learning how to mother Hudson and Jackson at the same time would be hard. I anticipated that it would be difficult to try to live in the moment with my living child while I simultaneously continue to grieve and mourn and remember my child who died. But I didn’t know how difficult it would be.
I look at my writing here for the past few days and I see myself doing exactly what I have been doing in the many months leading up to Jackson’s birth—clinging to the grief, pushing the grief buttons over and over, picking the scabs until they bleed again. I do this because I am still having such a hard time learning how to sit back and just let my joy over Jackson and my grief over Hudson coexist. The joy and the grief are living and breathing inside me simultaneously, regardless of any effort I make. It’s just my attitude toward this change of circumstances that I am struggling with. I am so very desperate not to let Hudson be replaced or forgotten (even though I know she could never be) that I am having a hard time just letting Jackson take his place in our family and our lives. Each time he does something that reminds me of her, I make a point to say so. I find myself struggling so much at times with this newborn period, remembering so fondly how nice it was to have a toddler on a routine, a toddler who went to bed at 7PM and slept until 7AM and laughed at my jokes and hugged my neck and could entertain herself and did not need constant attention. I look at him and so often see her—I often screw up and refer to him as “her” because for so long, it was just her.
My friend Sara gave me some good advice in her comment on the blog the other day (and Sara, I’m sorry I haven’t had a chance to email you and thank you for this)—she said that she is learning to make the grief wait, to let her living children have their own moments and try not to let those moments be about her grief over her precious son who died before they were born. I have taken this to heart. It will be a long time before I’m any good at it, but I am working on it. I wrote the other day that Hudson’s place is her place and hers alone, but the same is true for my sweet little boy. His place is his, too. It’s not his fault that he was born into a family that has suffered such a devastating loss and I owe it to him to somehow make his life even better because of it.
So I’m trying harder now to let myself enjoy this time with him. You would certainly think this is a lesson I have already learned the hard way. But this is so very different than taking my life and the goodness in it for granted. This is about missing all the goodness that should be. And this is where my sweet little girl comes in—this is where she becomes an angel for all of us, despite my ambivalence about the existence of such things as angels. Because the gift she gave me, the gift she gave her little brother and our entire family, is the lesson that no matter how hard things are, no matter how dark they seem, no matter how much we want things to be different no matter how different things should be, we have to cherish what is.
From my perch in my glider, where I nurse Jackson most frequently, I can look to my left and see one of my favorite pictures of Hudson, this one of her from our last trip to the Arboretum.
My dad said it’s one of his favorites because he feels like she is looking at him and just saying, “I know, Poppy, but it’s going to be OK.” I couldn’t agree more. Her wise eyes are such a focal point. So these days when I’m sitting here with my son in my arms, and I look over his head and see his sister’s picture, when my eyes meet hers and I inevitably start to cry, I look down and kiss Jackson on the top of his sweet head, tears and all. I remind myself that this is his time and my job is to just be in it with him. I remind myself that it’s OK to be happy and sad at the same time, that it’s OK to marvel at my living child while still missing my dead child. I hug him a little tighter and remind myself how lucky I still am in spite of it all. That is his sister’s gift to him. And to me. And I am so grateful.