Monday, June 20, 2011

Jackson’s Time

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.


  1. Mandy, this IS hard! Those few of us--in our day--who go through this simultaneous grieving and attaching to a new child have few role models. I often wished I could have talked to my great-grandmother Jenny who buried six (yes, SIX) daughters but raised six sons. Big hugs to you.

  2. Mandy, I have read your blog for awhile now and your love of Hudson and Jackson shine through, always. And you mourn the loss of Hudson, and breath in the joy of Jackson. But you are not who you were before Hudson died. That you is gone and you are learning a new way to live, as you grieve and love. And this can make for a very confused mother, once again stepping into the unknown. Relax, if you can over this next year. Take each day and it's emotions, love them, cuddle and bless them and go on to the next emotion. Take a deep breath (and maybe a tiny bite of lemon sorbet), and go again to the next. Your balance will come back and so will your ability to mother both your children, letting them know how special they are. Love, Jill A.

  3. Kisses and tears, yes. It is so confusing to feel lucky amidst the deepest grief, and yet this is the way things are for you. Jackson will know your love through clear eyes and misty ones, and Hudson will be woven into his whole knowing of the world. You're doing it. It's hard as hell, I can only imagine, but you're doing it just right.
    Hang on.

  4. Mandy, you once wrote that this grief is a marathon, not a sprint, and in the spirit of that metaphor I want to let you know that we-- your readers-- are still here, cheering and supporting you through the very tough moments and rejoicing in the good ones. The beauty of this blog (which I wish had no need to exist) is that anytime you are gripped with the fear of Hudson's memory disappearing, you need only come here and be reminded of how many people hold her dear and will never forget. "I remind myself that it’s OK to be happy and sad at the same time"- yes, indeed whatever you are feeling at the time is the correct emotion for that moment. The fact that you worry about giving Jackson his time shows what a loving, considerate, wonderful mother you are.

    With admiration,

  5. Sending you and your family lots of love.

  6. That is such a beautiful picture of your Hudson. I think you are doing a wonderful job mothering both of your children. I know we've all said it before, but they are both clearly so lucky to have you and Ed. It is so wrong that Hudson is not here, but I am amazed at how you are able to give Jackson a wonderful life despite it all. Thinking of your family...

  7. What this picture says to me is what my friend Darryl's son, who died in '03 at the age of 36, said to him once: "You're making this too hard, Pop---I'm right here." I hear Hudson's voice, saying to you and your family---"I'm right here."

    Love and hugs to you all, and blowing kisses to Hudson...


  8. There are so many days when I say to myself "I just don't know how she does it'. And yet you 'do it' every day Mandy. And you 'do it' with grace, beauty and strength that you might not even realize.
    Love and understanding to you my friend... especially as you navigate this new life with both of your children- he who will hold your hand she she who will hold your heart.

  9. You, Ed, Hudson and Jackson have created an unimaginable network of love. Please know that it is absolutely certain that someone, somewhere is always thinking of your beautiful girl, her wonderful life with her mommy and daddy, and all the good things she brought into this world.

  10. Hang in there Mandy. You are a wonderful Mom. I know that you have a hard time parenting both of your kids right now, but you know, in the end, Jackson will just be so lucky that he has you and Ed and your boundless amount of love. It doesn't matter how overprotective you may be later in his life or how he grows up knowing your sorrow for the daughter you lost much too soon, he is going to have such a great sense of place, family, and love, because of the wonderful kind of parents that you and Ed are. Remember that a parent's unconditional love and acceptance can really profoundly affect a child's life. You give that to Jackson every day. He feels it. I don't know you personally, but with all that you have shared with the world about your life, I get an overwhelming sense that you are just one of the exceptional people in this world. You are destined to raise exceptional children. I hope that you can find even the tiniest amount of comfort in knowing that there are thousands of people all over the world (known and unknown to you) that think of you and your girl daily. We all wish it were different for you. We all appreciate what you share with us. (And I am sure a lot of us would LOVE to see more pictures of that sweet little boy!)
    Big hug!