February 15, 2016 is the day I took the test. It's the day we found out about Brayden. The day we began to hope we'd be bringing home a baby.
I didn't get to write publicly about those joyful but incredibly worrisome and grief-filled first few weeks because we didn't "go public" with our news until we hit the "safe zone" of the 12 week mark. I think we did this more to try to be normal than we did because we actually believed we were safe. We never felt safe the entire pregnancy, honestly. So it was definitely more out of "tradition" than anything.
I thought it might be good to share some of those initial feelings now, one year to the day of getting the news. One of the first things I did this morning, after enjoying my morning routine with that same little rainbow, of course, was reach for my journal from last year. I flipped to February and there it was: an entry for the 15th. It was a letter to Ryan. I won't share it all, but here is a line or two that really capture the feeling:
"I'm excited baby boy, but so nervous too. I know you'll do what you can to protect us. And I'll do what I can to keep from worrying. But I need you to know that no new baby will ever take your place. You came first -- and you always will."
That's a lot to unpack. And I think really sums up the pregnancy after loss journey. The joy. The worry. The fear. And the desperation to hold on to the baby who died despite taking such huge steps in moving forward.
My chest kind of tightened when I read those last lines.
"You came first -- and you always will."
It goes without saying that in my day to day life, Brayden obviously comes first. His needs are so great, literally no one could ever get in my way of taking care of him. But it makes me think about what if Ryan lived? What if I was mother to two living boys? How does the whole coming first thing work then? I'd assume that BOTH boys would come first. That I'd put both of their needs ahead of everything else, right? Maybe some day I'll know what it's like to tends the needs of two living children. But this morning it was a heart crushing feeling to know that Ryan really doesn't need anything from me. Everything I do for him is more to fulfill my own needs to remain connected to him.
Back then I was confused about how life with a living child and one who slipped away would look and feel, and I think in a lot of ways, I still have those confused feelings now.
I'm so grateful to have my rainbow here in my arms. Though, I still don't ever really feel "safe." That feeling of safety was torn from me 17 months ago. But on this day, one year ago, I started to feel hope again. I felt hope despite the confusion. Despite the worry. Despite the fear.
Today is the day I caught my first glimpse of the rainbow. And despite the more confusing and troubling feelings it brought, it's a day that will always be worth celebrating.
You have been on my mind a lot lately, Ryan. You've popped in to say hello in your special way quite frequently lately, and each time touches my heart now just as much as it did when we first lost you.
Recently, time has been like a rollercoaster for me. So full of highs and lows. A high point has been Tuesday morning yoga with your brother. He's getting so expressive and interested in what's going on around him. He's been so fun and chatty. It's becoming easier and easier to focus my attention solely on him during that hour class. I used to feel such sadness that I didn't get those classes with you, and last week, just as that sadness was creeping its way in, we sat down for a little circle time and sitting across from me was a little baby girl with a big, bright, butterfly on her onesie. It helped me smile and shake off the sadness. Of course you're there with us. You always are.
On Super Bowl Sunday I dressed Brayden in a football hoodie passed down first from your cousin to you. Last Super Bowl I dressed your bear in it. And so with Brayden snug in the sweater this year, it felt like you were at the party with us. A presence I really needed watching a little boy, nearly the same as you running around the party, smile on his face. Making everyone else smile with delight too. Same-age babies will always be a challenge for me. But I felt you there. And it helped. Thank you.
Recently I've had a string of tough days. Crappy sleep, combined with a baby brother who isn't being the world's most cooperative napper was starting to take its toll on me. Though I'm so grateful for the love and noise your brother brings to my life, I found myself longing for a bit of quiet. That's when I saw online that another loss mom was hosting a retreat in New York this summer. I missed out last Spring on the retreat in Winnipeg, so I was determined to make this one work... and I got in! It brings me great peace to know that even though it's in the pretty distant future, I've been given one whole weekend where I can turn off some of the noise and just be present with you. Because no matter how much joy and light and love Brayden brings me, I still need to be able to hold some space with you. On the application I was asked what the retreat means to me, and it was easily answered. The retreat would give me time to just focus on you. And that is time that I really need.
This past month has been tough, emotionally, for me. I've had low patience. I've been so quick to temper. Easily frustrated by the tiniest things. But I've recognized it. And I'm taking steps to find my calm and my peace again. I was reminded very clearly this month of the journey of grief. And the never-ending-ness of it all. I'll admit some days I breeze through and if you didn't really know me I bet it would look like I was "done" grieving. And then I'm slammed hard against the wall of grief as a harsh reminder that it doesn't work that way. So I have to do better at finding ways to grieve a little bit more often, so I'm not left dealing with such heavy loads that show up unexpectedly every once and a while.
Recently I read an article on a site called Postpartum Progress. It said:
"You make goals. You celebrate small accomplishments. You give yourself a break. You ask for help. You put yourself first. You climb up. You rebuild."
This spoke to me. It is so me. I'll probably write it out on paper and pin it up somewhere. I spend so much of my time now taking care of Brayden, I have to remember to take care of me too. And one of my favourite ways to care for me, is to find quiet time to sit peacefully with you.
Still missing you, 17 months later.