The little one is fast asleep, the house is quiet, I'm on my own tonight, and I'm left to think about the day. A good one, parenting-wise. A happy one. Lots of smiles. Baby giggles. I'm sitting here a very happy lady.
We tackled bedtime tonight, just the two of us. And I cherish that quiet bedtime feeding. The way he stares up at me, with those glossy, sleepy eyes... He's so delirious with tiredness that he stops drinking to smile with his whole face. A tear slides down my cheek. I wonder if I'll ever stop crying every time I feel this content.
Two nights ago I missed this moment. Monday nights are me-nights. I attend a yoga class and leave bedtime for the boys. I know it's good for me. I need it actually. Crave it by the time Monday rolls around. But I miss this moment. That sleepy baby moment when the world actually seems to stop moving. When I get in the car to pull out of the driveway, I have to convince myself to do it. Every single week. There's a pause before I put the key in the ignition when I think, "Maybe tonight, I'll stay. Maybe tonight he needs me more than I need this hour away." But I always go. I know it's important to go.
But it's never easy. Even on the days when we've been grinding it out at home. Bad naps. Bad feedings. Grumpy baby. The nights I seem to throw Brayden into his dad's arms when he walks in the door. Even those days when I should want to run for an hour of quiet... Even then it's hard.
Weeks ago we were in the thick of sleep training. As Brayden fussed and cried upstairs. I, too, let a few silent tears slide down my cheeks. And then I'd go to him. What was the point in being apart? So I could get a few more hours sleep at night?
And now, now that he is sleeping so soundly, I watch him in the monitor and smile. And sometimes I miss him! I'm ridiculous, I know. But I miss him all the same.
When we get an invitation to go out, or start to make a plan for some visit or trip, the first thing that always pops in my head is how will Brayden fit into this? Can he come too?
When I have an errand to run or an appointment to attend, I always plan on him tagging along. I want him there. I love to push him around in his stroller and watch him watch the world. The fact of the matter is, I'd rather deal with a crying fit in the grocery store than rush in and out alone so I can get back to him.
Despite not wanting to be apart from him, I am sometimes. There are always appointments he can't attend. Evenings out that his dad and I need to spend alone. And we both do just fine without the other present. But I miss him fiercely. Even if it's just an hour or two.
I'm not sure if you'd call that separation anxiety. I'm never overly stressed out about being away. But in the back of my mind is this simple fact:
You never know how much time you're going to get with someone. You think you have a lifetime together, and before you know it, you're giving a nurse permission to take your baby away. This is the scene that plays out in my mind too often lately. That moment of real separation. That moment the baby who one went with me everywhere was suddenly gone. And now a lifetime separates us.
As long as I have Brayden here, I want to experience everything we can together. The incredible moments and the mundane. Because I know, too truly, how painful separation can be. So, if something comes up -- a trip to the grocery store or a trip across the country -- and I can have him with me, that's where he'll be. Right where he belongs.
I haven't been 100% honest about everything that's gone on with me emotionally since Brayden was born. I write sporadically about what's been going on in life. And I write little notes to Ryan still around his milestone days. But real, hard, honesty hasn't been on display much here. Not like it used to be. And honestly, it's because it's hard to talk about.
Today is a day designed to promote open dialogue surrounding mental health. A day to say it's okay to talk about these things. And what's more, that you're not alone. I share what I share today so I can stop feeling alone in the feelings. But also to share with other mamas so they know they're not alone.
Caring for a new baby is hard. And I did not do so well with it in the first 2 months. I know I mentioned in passing here a few times that I was struggling "a bit." Or I'd chat with a few select friends and mention that it was hard or I was having "a bit of a hard time sometimes." But I always used language that probably underplayed my real genuine struggles.
Because how do you admit that you're not 100% happy and joyful when you've been given the gift you hoped and prayed for more than anything?
After losing Ryan and then bringing Brayden safely home, I just could not admit that my days were anything less than a blessing. How could I when I knew so many other mamas who'd give anything for the chance I had been given? How could I when I knew the "true despair" in losing a baby?
But in truth, I just simply didn't feel the pure happiness I expected I'd feel once I had Brayden in my arms. I felt lonely with this feeling. A feeling that felt impossible at the time to share.
But the truth is: I should have shared it then. Perhaps I'd have felt less lonely. Maybe I'd have been able to manage more confidently in those earlier days of my motherhood. Instead of feeling such a strong emotional struggle every single day in addition to the regular struggle of parenting a newborn.
I didn't share it then. But I'm sharing it now. Because I think loss mamas especially feel this need to keep quiet about those struggles. We don't want to come across as ungrateful. We don't want to upset other friends struggling to bring home a baby. We don't want our living babies, who we wished so hard for, to ever feel like they brought us anything but joy and peace.
But those unsettled feelings -- the feelings of struggle and confusion, a bit like you're drowning in this new life you've taken on -- are felt by so many mamas. And as with most things, the burden is easiest carried when carried together.
So today, I'll share that although I've come a long way from those earlier days, it's still not all a piece of cake. I definitely have a handle on things more now. And I cut myself more slack now than I ever did. But I still have tough days. And I've had to work to accept that I'm not going to enjoy every single little moment. And that's hard to admit -- because I want to. And I expected to. But life is about managing expectations.
Lately my biggest struggle comes in the late hours. Brayden has recently started sleeping through the night (*touch wood*). But I still tend to wake up to check on him from time to time. And in those late night hours my mind wanders to Ryan. How could it not when the house is quiet and I find myself with nothing but time? I lay in bed and wish so hard that I had more time with him. I try hard to recall the moments we did have, but I'm finding more and more as time passes my memories are becoming blurred. I wish I could go back and hold him a little longer. I wish I had more pictures to help unblur my memories. Every day I get new memories and new moments with Brayden. And I feel so much more sadness than maybe I ever had that I don't get those memories with Ryan. Lately I've felt especially sad and beat up about losing him despite the year or so it's taken me to feel some peace again.
It's hard to feel so sad again after feeling so peaceful for so long.
A real shock to my system.
The truth is, lately the tears come more freely than they have in some time. It's like now that Brayden and I are settling into life together, I'm slammed by Ryan's overwhelming absence. I've spent so long being only able to focus on Brayden that now that there's room in my brain again, my first born is poking around for some attention. Attention I'm too willing to give him. But it's grief. So it's hard.
And that's the honest truth about how I'm feeling. About how it's been to become a mother again after the death of my baby.
It's hard. But I know I'm not alone.
I sit here making silly puns for something that doesn't seem so silly to me.
As a loss parent, parenting a living child for the first time after the loss, it's hard/impossible(?) to know which feelings are normal for a parent and which come from my experience with loss.
After a few weeks of very challenging feedings with Brayden, the doctor has agreed that Brayden is suffering from symptoms of reflux. We've had to make a whole bunch of little changes, and along with those changes I've decided to stop pumping breastmilk for him.
For weeks I've worried that there's something in my milk that's not agreeing with him, but I struggle to commit to changing my diet. The idea of that makes me stressed. Of documenting every little thing I eat. I barely have time to prepare food let alone dissect every meal. But at the same time, the idea of my milk hurting him makes me stressed. Seems like a no win. So I thought, he's doing fine on the formula, maybe it's for the best if I unplug the pump. No more breastmilk for Brayden.
Well. This decision has sent me on a tailspin and I think I've traced it back to that moment, over a year ago, when after Ryan had died, my sister tapped me on the shoulder to discreetly let me know I was leaking. It's a moment so burned into my memory I could tell you what shirt I was wearing that day. I can't begin to explain the horror I felt in that moment, realizing that I had no baby to care for, but my body thought I did. Shouldn't it have gotten the message? No. Instead, I had to spend a few days in the great discomfort of engorged breasts and all of the emotional baggage that went with them.
Fast forward to now. Here I am, with milk to give a living child, and I'm choosing not to. So I can change my diet and keep pumping, all while trying to feed Brayden on an every 2 hour schedule. Or continue to eat what I'd like, dropkick the pump out of my life, and just focus on managing this reflux thing. I can tell you which one sounds easier, and which one I've chosen. I just feel like I'm letting my boy down. (Let down... another breast-feeding pun! I'm on a roll...)
But seriously. All I've wanted to do since Brayden was born was to soak him up. Enjoy him. But between all of these feeding issues it's started to feel like the opposite. So, as the title says, I think hanging up the pump really is for the best. Even though it makes me so sad. So sad to think that I would have given anything to breastfeed Ryan.
It's this weird little reminder that I've idealized him in my head. I imagined this incredible bonding over breastfeeding. A beautiful closeness like they describe in all the books. I never imagined both of us crying in the middle of the night. Pain. Stress. Worry that my milk was causing him pain.
I guess what I'm here to write about today is a justification. As if by explaining that the stress of it was getting to be too much would make me feel okay about "quitting." It doesn't. I still feel sad. But I know it's for the best. As a nurse once told me, first and foremost, a baby needs a happy mom.
Most women cheer and celebrate when they decide to give up pumping. It's such a "hassle" to be "chained to the pump." It's a reclaiming of freedom of sorts. I think eventually I'll get to that place of celebration. But for now I think I'm hanging on a bit to the guilt.
I will have to find a way to let that go.
I haven't written a single thing in a couple of weeks now. Nothing here. Nothing private. I had even been selected to submit something for an anthology of pieces about baby loss and grief, but never did "get around" to writing it.
In truth, I've been pretty overwhelmed. And though I haven't written anything, there hasn't been a day that's gone by that I haven't had SOMETHING on my mind worth writing about. But it seems that every time something comes up, I've got my hands full of my crying baby boy. Or I'm rewashing the same load of towels for the 3rd time because I never can seem to get them from the washer to the dryer. I've got a to=do list a mile long and I feel like I'm failing at mostly everything.
I have things I want to do around the house.
Things I want to do to get ready for Christmas.
Things I want to do for Brayden.
Things I want to do for Ryan.
And it seems, and probably rightfully so, that Brayden is the only one who gets my attention and focus. I'm struggling to know what he needs. How to tend to those needs when I do figure it out. And just when I think I've got him figured out, it changes. Just when I think we've settled into a routine that'll let me get to those other things on my list, I'm back to the beginning of trying to figure it all out.
We're over a month in to our time together and most days I feel no more settled in than I did the day we brought him home.
The only time I feel sure of anything are those moments when he's content. When we're cuddling on the couch. When he's got a cranky belly and the only thing that makes him calm down is being held close to me.
But the rest of the time? When he's crying. When he won't be put down. When he cries to eat and then doesn't finish the bottle. When he's making sucky faces after he's just eaten entirely too much but then won't even take his soother... I'm at a loss. And if I do get him to finally calm down, to nap a little bit, I'm too spent to do anything else. To get those towels out of the washing machine. To vacuum up the tumbleweeds of dog hair so I can maybe start putting up a few Christmas decorations. To go to the damn cemetery to visit with my other child. To get outside and finish off the winterizing of that same child's garden. Even though the snow has already come.
I don't mean to complain.
I just feel like I'm having a hard time doing right by all those things and people I want to do right by. And even when I'm only focusing on doing right by my baby -- the one who is here on earth with me -- I don't even feel like I AM doing right by him.
I've had a million other things I've wanted to write about here. But for now, for today, I think I just needed to vent. To get this all out there.
I needed to say that sometimes, even when you're finally gifted everything you wished for and hoped for, it's not easy. And it's even harder to admit that you might not even be very good at it. The fantasy is not the reality. It is not easy to parent a baby here and a baby apart from yourself. And I think it's all made a little extra heavy with the holidays in full swing. I'm back to wanting the world to take a pause so I can catch up. I need time to stand still for a second so I can get myself back on track.
But I suppose that makes sense. Just a glimpse at my scattered brain. My divided brain. A part of it here. A part of it there.
PAL. 3 weeks ago, it meant “Pregnancy After Loss.” If you’ve read anything I’ve written in the last 10 months, you’d also know that the journey of a pregnancy after a loss is no easy road. It was laden with stress, anxiety, fear, detachment… It also had hope, love, joy… It was ride to be certain. And although pregnancy is still this beautiful thing to me – seriously, I love being pregnant – I was pretty grateful when it ended, this time, happily, with a whimpering, breathing, living baby in my arms.
I spent my PAL living day by day. We didn’t really physically do much to prepare for his trip home. We didn’t even install the car seat until hours before we were discharged from the hospital. And if we did so little to physically prepare for what might come next, I know that I, at least, did not do enough to emotionally prepare for the next step. I did little thinking about what having a baby at home might look like. What it would feel like. How it would be. Perhaps for only fleeting moments did I consider what it would be like to really parent a living child. And though I was protecting my heart in the moment, I did not do myself any favours in the lack of preparation.
You see, now, PAL has a new meaning. PAL refers to “Parenting After Loss.” And that’s a whole new journey. Though I’ve never parented without loss in my past, I can bet it’s different from what the other 75% of women who have never experienced a loss might know.
Before we were blessed with the knowledge of Brayden growing inside me, I would pray silent prayers. This was the only “talking to God” I’ve done since Ryan died. Apart from the unspoken “Thank you” I sent to Him when Brayden was placed, pink and squirming, in my arms. When Ryan died I cut off most of my ties with God for lack of understanding and lack of faith in Him. Except for the prayers begging him for a healthy, living baby. I get that that is totally selfish and not at all what real faith is – asking for things when I want them. But that’s what I did. I asked and asked. And I made promises to Him. And to Ryan. That if I could just have a baby here, I’d be the best parent. No one would ever parent like me. I’d be patient. My baby would know nothing but love. I would not take a single moment for granted. I would love the sound of his cries. I would cherish waking up in the middle of the night, because I’d have a living baby who needed me. Relied on me. If I could only have a baby, living, in my arms.
Those moments. Those prayers. That’s where my Parenting After Loss journey started off on the wrong foot.
The past 3 weeks have been what I expect the first 3 weeks to be like for all “new” parents. (Enter another problem – I hate referring to myself as a “new” parent. I’ve been a parent for a year now. I’ve actually done “the hardest thing a parent can do,” bury my child, and yet I’m still considered a “new” parent. Go figure). But these 3 weeks have been full of worry – Is he eating enough? Why am I not producing more milk? Why does he breathe like that? Is that what his bellybutton is supposed to look like? They’ve been full of love – Admiring little noises and smiles. Hours-long cuddles and snuggles. Intense eye contact during feedings. Actually tearing up just looking at him.
But I want to be really honest. Really truly honest because I don’t want other Rainbow Mamas to feel as lonely as I have felt the past couple of weeks.
Parenting After Loss is quite possibly harder than the pregnancy. Because now there’s still the worry and the fear. After all, since losing my baby during pregnancy I’ve met plenty of mamas who’ve lost their babies well after they were born. But there’s the exhaustion, too. And with that exhaustion comes the impatience that I swore to God (literally) I wouldn’t have. I’ve spent nights crying over Brayden in the rocker because he just wouldn’t latch. Afternoons begging him to just stop crying so I could put him down and eat lunch. I’ve found myself having to take a breath and count to ten so I could get my frustrations under control.
That’s not who I promised I’d be.
And that’s when the guilt set in.
That’s when I started to feel inadequate. And like I didn’t deserve this baby, this blessing. Because I wasn’t holding up my end of the bargain. I wasn’t being the Supermom I promised to be. Instead I was a mess.
I was crying for a baby who has been gone over a year.
I was feeling angry at a baby in my arms who is so completely helpless.
I was failing at this “parenting” thing.
And then I started to remember that I wasn’t great at “parenting” Ryan in the days and weeks after he was born. I was a robot. I could barely get out of bed in the morning, let alone do any of the things I do now to be an amazing mother to him. And I am. I’m pretty damn awesome at mothering my Ryan.
And so I know, that in time, I’ll be just as awesome at mothering Brayden here. It’s a different kind of parenting, but I will figure it out.
In the past 3 weeks, I’ve had many people reach out and offer me all kinds of advice on being a parent. But the best was from an old teacher’s college friend who told me that it’s okay to not enjoy every moment. Especially after what we’ve been through. That just because we lost Ryan doesn’t mean I have to love every second of this parenting adventure. It doesn’t make me a bad person, and it doesn’t make me ungrateful. Being a parent is hard work and sometimes some moments, just aren’t that enjoyable, and that’s okay. I repeat this advice to myself in the hardest moments. I remind myself that for every happy, blissful moment another mama shares online, there are just as many challenging moments that she's keeping to herself. A tearful feeding or screaming baby do not make for great social media fodder. This advice and these reminders take some pressure off myself. I spent 2 weeks under this unbearable self-inflicted pressure to be perfect, that I couldn’t even enjoy any moments, let alone some.
Now, looking at this past week, I finally spoke up to some friends, family, some other Rainbow moms, my husband… I explained the challenges I was having. And suddenly I could breathe again.
I can’t promise that I won’t be frustrated or angry or sad anymore. In fact, I’m here today to guarantee that I’m going to feel all of those things again plenty of times in the next lifetime of parenting Brayden. And to accept that as okay.
It doesn’t make me a bad mom.
It doesn’t mean I should feel guilty.
It doesn’t mean that I’m ungrateful for this blessing.
It doesn’t mean anything except that I am parent. A parent of a living child, after the death of another child.
I’m a so-called “Supermom” just by being a mom at all. Any woman who accepts the love for a child into her heart, whether that child is here on earth or existing apart from us, is a pretty spectacular woman. Because it takes courage and strength to take on that kind of intense, all-consuming love.
Parenting after loss isn’t easy, not like I thought it would be. I thought since I had been through the worst, that anything else would be a walk in the park. It’s hard. And confusing. But it’s another adventure we’ve taken on. And I’m going to figure it out. And it’s going to be okay. And I really am grateful for the opportunity to be on this challenging, complicated, confusing, wonderful journey.
October was a much-anticipated month for my family. When I found out Brayden was due to arrive in October I began to mentally prepare for how it would feel for me to potentially bring home a baby during Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. It was my second October as a loss mom, but it was my first as a loss mom with a clearer head. A loss mom who could fully participate. Who could commit her heart to projects like Capture Your Grief and the Wave of Light.
But it was a complicated month, emotionally speaking.
While I was committed to reflection and spreading awareness. I was also conflicted by wanting to be completely present with our new baby. Not wanting to miss out on moments because I was so focussed on my grief.
But I have come to realize this month, that I can be both. I can be present with Brayden here on earth, and still share my heart with Ryan who is gone. I can cherish the special moments here with Brayden, and miss these moments that we didn't get with Ryan. I can look down at this baby in my arms and memorize his lips, his nose, the way his chest rises and falls with his breath, and cry for the fact that without Ryan's photo, my memory of his few details might be fading away.
I can be both full of joy and full of grief at the same time.
I've been asked to make a promise to Ryan. So here it is:
I promise that there will always be a special place in my heart for you. A place that no one else can touch. You made me a mother. And everything that I am as a mother, everything that I believe to be true about motherhood, I learned because of you. I know that love for a child is ever-lasting. That nothing, no space, time, or circumstance, can change that love. So no matter what experiences come our way, no matter where this life takes us, I will always take a time out from my life here, to spend some time with you. You will always be an important piece of our family, my story. I will work hard to stay present, because I know you would want me to be. But know that wherever I go, I am carrying you with me, too.
So, as October comes to a close, I just want to say how grateful I am. Grateful that I could continue to share my heart. Grateful that everyone reading has been so receptive to the fact that my grief can still exist despite this incredible, beautiful thing that has happened to us this month. I'm grateful for my grief because it has given new depth to my love and joy. And I'm grateful for both of my boys. Both of the beautiful reasons I am mom.
This week I did two things. I continued what I imagine is the incredibly long process of figuring out how to tend to Brayden's needs on my own now that Rich is back to work. And I also managed to find some thinking time as I spent some time alone for the first time in a while. In the last 13 months, I've grown accustomed to "me time." Always finding an excuse at least a few times a week to spend time alone practicing self-care and reflection. So as overwhelming as the past few days have been, in a lot of ways they've also been really good for me too.
I thought I'd piece together some of my thoughts through the last few days (ahem, week) that I've missed for Capture Your Grief.
Day 21: Relationships
I've already written at length about relationships. Those that have strengthened. Those I have lost. Those I have gained. When I hear the word relationship right now, there's one that comes to mind that I feel a little worried about. And that is the one between this baby in my arms and the one in my heart. Brayden and Ryan. How will that look? Because one thing is for certain: I want them to have one some day. I'm not totally sure how it will look yet. But I've seen it be possible, and I want that for my boys.
Day 22: Pearls of Wisdom
The only piece of advice that I've taken and really ran away with has been: Do what I need to do in my own time. This whole grieving thing looks different for everyone. How I grieve my son is going to be different from how someone grieves a father, a brother, an aunt, a grandparent. And even how someone else grieves for their child. I have climbed through the darkness time and again by doing whatever I need to do to get myself there. And this bit of advice, this "pearl of wisdom," has allowed me to do that without guilt or fear of judgement. That has made all the difference.
Day 23: Sounds, Seasons, + Scents
To this day, I still think of Ryan whenever I hear the song, "Riser" by Dierks Bentley. At this point, I can't even remember why that song takes me to him, but it does. It's everything I had hoped to be able to be after losing him. Strong again. Unafraid. A protector of him and my family. I work on these things every day, and it always seems that when I need the reminder most, that song pops on the radio and gives me a boost. I will also always think of Ryan when Fall arrives. Ryan came to us at the end of summer. But I don't remember it being summer at all. Probably because when I "emerged" from the thickest fog, it was suddenly Fall. And I remember the fear of seeing the seasons change and feeling that time was moving on without me. I still love the Fall, for all the beauty it brings. But it will always remind me of Ryan. And when Fall creeps in, there will always be a little jolt to my heart that time has kept rolling on.
Day 24: Consciously Becoming
"So many of us split our lives into a timeline of before and after our children died. Who were you before your children died? Who are you now? Who are you now in this present moment? What are you feeling? Have you been irrevocably changed by the death of your children? How are you different now? Do you love anything about the new you? Do you want and old part of you back? Who are you becoming? " ... Well then. Those are some big questions. Questions I think anyone might have a hard time answering, let alone someone in my shoes. Someone who spent a year defining and defending her motherhood only to bring a baby earth-side and have to wrestle with the term "motherhood" all over again. So instead, let me say: Yes I'm a bit different since Ryan died. But I am still me. A little bit broken. A little bit stronger. I'm a walking contradiction, I guess. I am consciously trying to become better. A better mother. A better wife. A better daughter. A better friend. Just a better me. And in that way I'm the same as I've always been. Maybe a bit hard on myself, actually. So I'm also trying to take it easy on myself. 1 month, 13 months, 5 years... I'm always going to be changing and evolving and growing. And that would be true even if Ryan had stayed. Except maybe then I wouldn't be that little bit broken.
Day 25: I Am (Finish these sentences:)
I wish... I could watch my boys grow up together.
I remember... what I imagined my family would look like some day.
I can not believe... how wrong I was.
If only... I could have them both here with me, instead of only one.
I am... once again trying to figure out my "new normal."
Day 26: #WhatHealsYou
This. This is what heals me. I've been swimming in a sea of diaper changes and feedings, trying to figure out a routine. Trying to learn how to mother a baby on earth. I wouldn't trade it for anything. But then this guilt sets in. This consuming guilt that the garden in the back has yet to be tended to, yet to be prepared for winter. I haven't been the cemetery in 3 weeks. I haven't written here in a week despite an overwhelming flood of feelings and thoughts. I haven't even had the presence of mind to light Ryan's candle in the whirlwind that has been the last 2 weeks. So when one of many nap times rolled around today, and I sat down to REALLY get into this catch-up session, I found I could breathe a little lighter. I'm "healed" at least temporarily from the "mom-guilt." When I'm focused on writing, I'm focused on Ryan. Sure, I'm still tuned in to the hiccups and grunts and sighs in the bassinet next to me. But my heart is with my other son. My first born. And that brings me some peace.
Day 27: Family is Forever
I have built a family of four. (Five, including our dog, Chase!) And even though all four of us humans aren't here walking the earth, each and every one of us plays an important part. Each member is forever. And because of that, it's so important to me that they're all acknowledged. Before my parents left after Brayden was born last week, they wanted a picture with their grandkids. "All four of them," they said. My sister's two, and Brayden, and Ryan's bear. When my dad grabbed the bear to hold in the photo it took everything I had to not break down in tears. Not because I was sad. (Though, yes, I was certainly sad Ryan wasn't physically here for the photo). I wanted to cry for the joy that he was included. Then today, in the mail came a big package addressed to "Mr. Brayden Francis Russell." (Which was adorable to see, by the way). Inside, from my mom (and dad) was a Halloween package for him. There was a card, some bottles, soother clips... That kind of thing. But there was also a card addressed to Ryan. A perfect little Halloween card with a message for him. And yes, okay, I cried. And my heart sang a little too. Because I have two sons. And the acknowledgement of that will always bring me simultaneous joy and longing. It's all about the confirmation that my boy is forever part of our family.
I've missed a few Capture Your Grief days as we were having and settling in with the newest addition to our family, Ryan's baby brother, Brayden. But every single day that's passed, I have thought of this project. That's when it became really clear to me that even though Brayden is here, and seems to be here for the sole purpose of bringing me joy, Ryan will always be on my mind and in my heart. He'll always need to be thought of, and held close, and spent time with.
The nursery has been my sacred space to connect with Ryan. My place to write. To think. To just miss him,
I was very worried that would have to change once Brayden was born. I'm relieved now to say that I know that's not true. Its sacredness has simply taken on new meaning. We've only been home for a couple of days, but already the room has seen so much.
So much joy. And already a few tears.
It has undergone some physical changes. It no longer remains unchanged from day to day. It's a living space now. Messes are made. And I'm constantly popping in there to keep it clean and tidy, like it was.
The time I spend in there now is packed with such different meaning than it was before Brayden came. As I sit in the rocker and feed him, across the room is Ryan's photo, looking back at me. It's a feeling I can't quite describe. That he's literally watching over us. He's giving us his blessing. Every moment I spend in there with Brayden is yes, a reminder of what I didn't get with Ryan, but also such a gift to be given in the midst of my heartbreak.
The nursery has gotten me through some of the darkest of my days. And now, it's seeing me through some of the most joyful. Some of the most complicated and confusing. It's sacred to me because it's the one place that has seen everything, all of me and my grief, and it will continue to be somewhere I can be with both of my boys no matter what.