Every day since Finn died has been an attempt to press on and move forward with my life, throwing my plans out the window and rewriting my story, my “new normal”. I literally had a huge pregnant belly one day and came home the next day without a baby to be greeted by boxes of delivered diapers on my front porch. Reality seems like a dream. I feel like I got off of a plane at the wrong destination, jet-lagged, and I’m wandering around trying to figure out where I am and how to get back to where I was going. The world around me continues and time keeps ticking forward. And as it does, I wander through this strange alternate reality ever aware of those “should-have-been’s”.
Today after work I picked up Jaxton from daycare and he asked to go to a particular park. After we had been there for while, we saw a couple walking down the street, pushing their double stroller. Their little girl rode in one side, and a carrier carseat was attached to the other side. I could tell the mother had recently had her baby by her postpartum belly. They stopped at the park to let their daughter play. Jaxton, being the girl crazy social butterfly he is, decided that he needed to play where she did.
I ended up talking to the mom a little bit as our kids were swinging. I started to get this feeling I get often now, like I’m an imposter, pretending to be a mommy who hasn’t carried a baby in a few years instead of a postpartum mommy. What is hardest for me is when people don’t know what happened. I’m still trying to figure out how to answer the question “How many children do you have?” in a way that doesn’t bother my conscience. I feel like I either have to pretend my second son didn’t exist, or tell them what happened and bring up the incredible awkwardness of sympathy, the ultimate killer of small talk that is death. The mother eventually asked how old Jaxton was, so I followed suit by asking how old her children were. Their oldest girl was almost 2 and their baby girl was born January 30…six days after Finn.
What I was really struck by was not so much the presence of her baby. I don’t live on an island; I’m used to being around babies without having my own baby, as that has been my reality for a couple of years now. What really hit home for me was the fact that their baby’s age meant that they were experiencing the reality that I should be experiencing right now.
I should be on maternity leave, not going to the park after work. I should be pushing Jaxton and his baby brother Finn in our double stroller, but it sits in the corner of the garage, collecting dust. Finn should be napping in the warm sunshine and the fresh spring air while his brother plays. But the sun never kissed his face and air never filled his lungs. I should have been talking to another mother about adjusting to life with two children and our two month olds. Instead, I explained that my baby was born still and silent just a few days before hers came into the world with a cry. That’s not how I said it exactly, but that is the stark reality of the situation.
Every single day is a mixture of gratitude for the baby I was given for such a short time, joy that he is surrounded by the beauty of heaven, sadness that he is gone, confusion about how to navigate life with this new perspective, and frustration that expanding our family can’t just work out easily. Frustration that the should-have-been’s are now the never-will-be’s. What was so close to becoming my reality is now only a figment of my imagination.
I don’t write this for sympathy, but rather as a reference for my current state of mind and a description of my new “alternate” reality. It is the real answer to “How are you feeling?” I’ve tried to live my life out in the open as much as possible since Finn died, even though the reality is that it would be easier to deal by hiding. The deepest wounds don’t bleed. Continuing to do life in the midst of grief hasn’t been simple in the slightest, but it is what Finn would have wanted and what Jaxton needs from me now. I’m continuing to be a mother to my son here on earth while learning to be a mother to my son in heaven. It is my purpose and my healing every morning as I move one day closer to him…and to Him.