Ben put Whit to bed around 8:00 pm tonight as always. I took a shower then laid in bed, enjoying the quiet and feeling exhausted from a long day. Ben was downstairs studying. Laying in bed was hard, because there always seems to be something more valuable for me to do with my time. I made over 30 items that were ordered from my store currently sitting in a pile on the floor- I should print out packing slips and prepare them for mailing. The missionaries and possibly a friend are coming to dinner tomorrow- I should pre-make brownies or clean the house. Ben wants me to take a professional picture of him before church since he'll be wearing a suit- I need to research the best lighting techniques for a head shot.
But, for some reason, I had an overwhelming urge to re-read my blog posts and journal entries about Eleanor. I chose to do that.
So this is a post about raising a beautiful, healthy child who makes me incredibly happy with the memory of our first child looming in my heart. It's a post I've been wanting to write for a while.
I wrote in one of my posts post-Eleanor, pre-Whit that I wanted a baby and didn't think it was fair to have to experience two pregnancies and deliveries for just one baby. Well, I loved my second pregnancy (even my second delivery), and now I do have the baby I'd wanted. But don't think that he replaces her in any way. I don't. She doesn't. Ben and I decided to move on as much as possible. Not to dwell on the past, but to enjoy our family now and look forward to a reunion in the future. We chose not to ever look at the pictures taken of El when she was delivered or from her funeral, and not to celebrate her birthday anymore (though of course we will talk about her and explain her to Whit when he is older.) But I want to take just one opportunity to set the record straight on how I feel and how this is impacting our lives. I don't want anyone to think I have pushed Eleanor aside.
On one hand, carrying a baby to term and raising him makes a pregnancy ending at 26 weeks seem so trivial. The logical side of me understands that 26 weeks is just a small portion of what it takes to get and raise a child! So, to all those who thought I was making too big a deal of things when we lost Eleanor, I sort of understand why you may have thought that. On the other hand, I know what it feels like to carry, love, and have hopes for a child who never came home with you. The emotional side of me is still heartbroken over what we went through. So try to imagine this quasi-realism I'm living in: missing and remembering one child I love but barely know and experienced so much with, while raising a child who feels like the other half of my soul. It's confusing!
My friend Jessica (whom I've mentioned before) delivered her fourth stillborn child this summer. She called a few weeks later asking what it was like to have experienced a stillbirth and a live birth. She wanted to know if I loved my children differently.
I told her (and cried) that Eleanor feels like my guardian angel. Someone I could talk to for hours and ask for help. Someone I'm excited to do girlfriend things with- talk about books, get manicures, giggle. She is someone who knows me, someone I can trust who will always be there for me when I need it, and will wait patiently when I don't. But Whit is part of me. Part me. He is the other half of my soul- someone I know better than myself whom I would give my life for. Someone who makes my heart hurt when he cries. I've never felt more connected to a person in my life.
In short, Eleanor takes care of me and I take care of Whit. Eleanor seems like my future best friend, Whit is just a helpless baby who looks at me like I'm his entire world.
The first week I could go to church after Eleanor was born our Relief Society lesson was on the spirit world. a new member of our ward (and currently a great friend of mine) told a story about a family from her old ward whose 8-month-old had choked on a Lego and died. I actually thought, I know how that mother feels. But at least she knew her baby. My pain is worse, I could never even hold Eleanor. Well, in retrospect, YEAH, RIGHT! What was I thinking? After Eleanor was born death became so real to me. I was terrified of losing Ben, or of him losing me. We would constantly talk about "What if" scenarios to make sure we would each be as prepared as possible. Now, no surprise, I'm trying not to let myself become convinced that I'll loose Whit too early. I can truly say I appreciate every moment with him- like I'm trying to soak in as much as possible "Just in case." Every thing I do is with his well-being and happiness in mind. I live for him! And if he died now I don't know how I would survive. Losing a child you already know and love, one you have held and rocked and nourished and sung to, would be a living hell. I suffered when I lost Eleanor, but not as badly as it would hurt to lose Whit. Not by a long shot.
And yes, I do feel guilty for saying that. But it's true.
It would be impossible not to love them differently, but I still love and think about Eleanor quite often. Having Whit hasn't really softened that blow much. He has made me so happy, but he doesn't take the pain away from my completely separate experience with her. In fact, when Whit and I pillow talk I can't tell him he's my favorite baby ever. I say he's my favorite baby boy. I've tried- the words just can't come out. When I do I try telling myself to be realistic and grow up, but my body won't let me. It feels like a betrayal to Eleanor, and I am physically incapable of doing that. I sang "You are my sunshine" to him for a while, but felt guilty every time. He will never be "my only sunshine." Ben eventually put my thoughts to words, and I haven't been able to choke those words out ever since. The melody is so familiar that it tries to come out, so I have to make up new lyrics after "You are my..." comes out of my lips.
So why the sudden rush to remember the past tonight? To re-read my words and see the pictures and delve into the emotions that have been hidden for so long?
It took five past blog posts to realize it: Today is the anniversary of Eleanor's due date.
But I'm not sad anymore.
In fact, a good friend is due with a baby girl (their first) in February and I'm planning her baby shower and giving her parenting advice. And I'm happy to do it!
Do you ever think "I just want the Second Coming to be here already!"? I do. That was my first thought when it was announced that the missionary age was being lowered, every natural disaster, and community crisis. To be honest, I think go on, world- get worse. BRING. IT. ON. Because that means the second coming is getting closer, and I am OH SO EXCITED for my family to be reunited! (I feel like a complete nut sometimes, but Jessica completely agreed with me on that!) I can't wait to teach Whit about Eleanor, and to eventually watch them interact with each other.
So, in closing, what it comes down to is that raising Whit makes me love Eleanor even more and anticipate our reunion with so much joy. If I love him so much, I'll be twice as complete when we are all together again!
Wow, so much to look forward to! I feel so, so lucky!
For now, this is how I imagine my children: