My mom is here for a few days, which means I get lots of sleep and don't have to do a thing around the house. She took Bennett after his 11:00 feeding when he wouldn't go back to sleep right away. He started to stir at 1:45 so I got up to feed him, but he has decided to sleep a bit longer. So, why not cuddle and blog on the couch until he fully wakes up?
When we were in the hospital Charlotte came up constantly. Every shift change, every NICU nurse, every neonatologist wanted to know, or asked what happened, and sometimes I threw the dead baby card down simply because I wanted a nurse to be nicer to me, to understand why we were in a hospital an hour from where we live. I said over and over, his sister died, we're here because his sister died, his sister's cause of death is unknown, she lived less than two hours, we're being overly cautious because his sister died ... and it was wearing. His birth involved her death in a way I wasn't prepared for.
We had to have parenting classes before we could leave the NICU. We watched these super cheesy videos about baby care, SIDS and CPR. After the CPR video our favorite nurse came in and went through the steps with us on a dummy baby. Part way through she stopped and said, "I know you saw some of this with Charlotte. I know this is hard, I just want you to know I am thinking of her." Then I cried because I had been thinking of her, fingers clenched, just trying to get through so we could check the classes off our to do list.
One afternoon we went down to the cafeteria for lunch. We had been eating lunch just outside the NICU ward because it meant we were closer to Bennett, but J convinced me to sit downstairs, look out the large picture windows, see the world. As I hunched over my food, so tired I could barely keep my eyes open, I noticed a leaf spiraling to the ground. I stared at it in disbelief, amazed that the seasons were changing, that summer was turning to fall while I hovered over my baby and begged him to eat. I've never been so aware of time moving forward, of life going on, of the world continuing even though I felt at rest, suspended, waiting for something intangible to change so we could go home.
And now that we are home, another seasonal shift has occurred. For so long it was the season of grief, of missing Charlotte, of remembering her fiercely. Then it was the season of balance, of trying to learn how to love two babies, to hope for Bennett and mourn for Charlotte in one breath left me feeling as if I was constantly drowning. With Bennett's birth the season switched again, to one of joy, hope, amazement and thankfulness. Except, honestly, the change didn't happen at birth. I expected it to, I wanted an incredible birthing experience, but in this instance the amazing came after birth, after hospital discharge, after nights of sobbing in the NICU.
I thought I would be a mess when we brought Bennett home, but instead I am happy, calm, full of love and hope for this little life sleeping next to me. I believe the Lord filled my heart with peace so I could enjoy every moment with him. I put him down to sleep without worrying about his breathing, I don't stand over his crib, I don't place my hand on his chest. I believe he's ours to keep. For some reason I'll never know Charlotte wasn't ours to keep, but the season of missing her so acutely I can't breathe has passed into a season of gentleness where I can appreciate everything her short life gave me. My heart aches for her, but I can look to my right and see her spirit shining from her brother's eyes. I didn't know a heart could seize and fill with joy at the exact same moment, but when I see her in him somehow it does.
Okay, I have to share it, it's just too fabulous not to. If you would rather not see it stop reading now: