The complicated mixture of joy and sadness that comes with a new baby after loss.
We welcomed our daughter Lyra Joy in February. She weighed 4 pounds 10 ounces…2 ounces smaller than her big brother Luke. She was not quite as long as he was. Lyra was also early; almost the exact same amount of early as well (born around ~34 weeks). This time, we were in the hospital with early labor signs and did not get released, due to our history. She is alive and here with us because of what we experienced with Luke, when we were sent home from the hospital and expected to see things through to term. That, of course, didn’t happen. Luke was stillborn 2 days later, at 34 weeks and 2 days.
I could likely write an essay about the complications simply around the circumstances of Lyra’s and Luke’s births. Not to mention the terrifying pregnancy journey with Lyra. Maybe a future post I will hearken back to the two most important days of my life, days when it seemed a portal opened up in front of me and I stepped through into a completely new world. Irrevocably changed to the very core, no going back to how things were or who I was before.
But this post is more about these first few months watching Lyra live and grow and breathe and learn. How amazing and wondrous this time has been. How my heart has grown and blossoms every time she smiles at me. How her coos bring me more happiness than I ever thought possible. How her little baby laughs are bright musical notes on my soul.
And of how many tears I’ve shed while facing the stark reality of all we missed out on, and will continue missing out on, forever, when Luke’s life was tragically cut short before he even had a chance to begin. Every smile and laugh of Lyra’s is tinged with pangs of bittersweet sorrow. Not in the moment, not always anyway. I do get to enjoy her and love her so much most of the time. Truly just basking in our daughter’s beautiful presence. What an amazing little girl!
But there are many quiet moments of reflection throughout the days and long nights, times when I allow myself to feel everything wholeheartedly. And those moments are complex and, often, tearful. Especially as I give Lyra her bottle in a chair bought for Luke, next to a crib I put together for Luke, in a room I painstakingly prepped and painted for Luke, surrounded by toys and other accessories purchased for Luke. Reminders are everywhere…though I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is not something I’d want to forget; and it is of course impossible to forget anyway. And I’m happy Lyra gets to use these items – her brother would want her to, I think.
In the infant loss community, a baby born after losing a child is called a rainbow baby. Some people get the wrong idea on what this means, I think. Just as a rainbow cannot wash away the storm that preceded it, a rainbow baby does not somehow make everything better or eradicate the previous loss. How could it? And what a burden for the poor child to be expected to do such an impossible task so soon after entering the world! Lyra is a joy unto herself – but she cannot take away the pain of losing her big brother.
Nor would I want her to. Luke’s death and the sadness in the wake of the irrevocable fact will always be there, even if there are times the sadness may wax and wane. It is an indelible part of the fabric of our family’s existence now. We will teach Lyra about Luke as she grows older – we want her to know and love her brother. That will be complex as well. There are books out there to help with this sort of thing, but will be an interesting journey for our family. It is one reason I intend to always be so open about Luke – his memory is worth keeping alive. Memory is sometimes all we have.
Kelly and I struggle with the fact that people see our family of three only, thinking Lyra is our firstborn. And also that some people may think now that she is here, we are all better and happy. And, of course, we ARE happy. But her existence doesn’t take away the pain or the loss that is there and always will be there. There’s a strange duality with everything now, where I cannot ever be truly content. And I want people to see my invisible boy, which is why I shall never hide him away or miss a chance to talk about him – regardless if it makes anyone feel uncomfortable. Their discomfort is nothing in the face of our everyday reality anyway.
I am so grateful and happy that Lyra is here. My heart is full for her and the joy she brings us. And, at the very same time, my heart aches for my lost son, Luke. I miss him so and wish he was here with us. I want him to look after his little sister and watch her grow up. I want him to teach her things and protect her, like big brothers do for their sisters. I will try to take solace knowing he is watching over us, as our guardian angel. I’m not always the most religious of people, but I have to look to that for comfort. What else is there to do?
Writing this was hard. I’m not sure if it made a lot of sense…my mind tends to wander more often now, as I go down avenues of thought with destinations unknown, on a journey that can be filled with sunlight and laughter in one moment and then with darkness and tears in the very next one. Life seemed to be so simple, once upon a time.
All I know is that I love my daughter, and my son. And I always will.