Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Suprised by joy, gratitude... and grief

What a summer this has been. There were many days (months, years!) that I wondered if I would ever be spending my days caring for a baby - my baby. The joy and wonder and relief have been powerful. During times of intense frustration and exhaustion (common to all new parents, I know), I am sometimes overcome with a sense of gratitude. The theme of remembrance is still at the front of my mind- remembering where I have been, what I have gone through, what it has taken to bring little Ivy into the world. When I remember the years of hopelessness and pain and grief and longing, the current sleeplessness and feelings of being overwhelmed are a little more bearable. What a true gift she is - I just cannot get over the realization that she's really here, and she's healthy, and she's all mine. I am living out a dream that only existed in my mind for such a long time. And for that, I am thankful.

Alongside of this is remembrance of those around me who are hurting in this area. I have three dear friends who all have been trying to conceive for over 2 years. So many potential babies lost, every month! A professor at my old job just lost his 6 year old son to cancer after fighting for his life for 4 1/2 years. The funeral was heartbreaking and gut-wrenching. I almost had to leave, it was so painful. I just heard today about a classmate of my husband's whose baby, diagnosed with severe defects, died in the womb just a few weeks away from the due date. I also heard today about a friend of a friend, who had a miscarriage last year and is pregnant again, only to find out this baby has severe defects of the limbs (though as I understand it, thankfully this baby should live). These precious little children! It hurts so much to see them and their families suffer. My heart breaks and tears flow with each of these as I remember them and their pain, and again I am filled with a sense of deep gratitude. Why have we been blessed when others are hurting so? We have been showered with grace - and that is part of the reason we chose Grace as Ivy's middle name.

Still, despite my joy and gratitude, I did not expect to be simultaneously overwhelmed with grief. While I know from reading about others' experiences that it is not uncommon for a bereaved parent to experience renewed grief upon the birth of a subsequent child, I had hopes that I had done "such a good job" at working my way through my grief over Zach that perhaps it wouldn't still haunt me after Ivy was born.

But it does. The intense grief I often save for my counseling visits - at home I really dont have the time or energy to fully immerse myself in it. After all, I've got a beautiful baby girl to love and take care of, so the thoughts that pop up into my head are usually relegated to a sense of sadness of what should have been. After all, tomorrow, we should have been celebrating little Zach's 1st birthday (it is the anniversary of his due date). The realization of this fact is incredibly painful - the intensity of which has surprised me. Honestly, if I think about it for very long, I get a very real physical pain in my heart.

And yet, the fact remains that while I do have two children, I can never have both of them here with me. While I feel that I would do anything to get Zach back, I wouldn't give up Ivy to get him back. A mother's heart torn. (I realize no one is asking me to choose between my children - but it is a feeling I struggle with). The birth of my precious daughter has given me renewed hope, real joy, and an overwhelming sense of relief. I love her like crazy and am so happy she is here. But still, complete peace evades me, for I have two children, yet we are a family of three, not four. The word I think that best describes this situation I'm in is bittersweet.

Tomorrow Adam and I are going to the cemetery where little Zach is buried. I'd like to go remembering not only him and what would have been, but the others I've mentioned.

Dedicated to the memory of my little baby boy Zach, who would have turned one year old tomorrow.