It's not uncommon to share feelings of grief, sadness and even self-pity surrounding your child's diagnosis. And though I did feel some of those feelings when Cora was born, as time has gone by, the most charged emotions have surrounded how I feel about the first few months of Cora's life. There has been so much trauma for me surrounding Cora's difficult delivery, her NICU stay, the heart failure that caused so much distress and difficulty, and the dreadful, paralyzing weeks of waiting for open heart surgery. The first three months of Cora's life were so full of fear and heartache. After that intense immediate fear was behind us and the euphoria hit, it took me awhile to realize that I was still grieving. But I wasn't grieving that Cora wasn't what I wanted; I was grieving for an experience that I had wanted and didn't have. I was grieving my idea of what having a child should be; snuggles and smiles, and time spent at home. I even grieved for the standard sleepless nights and crying. Most of all, I lamented that the introduction to the person that I loved like no other was so very hard and so terrifying.
And as selfish as it sounds, I have often found myself wallowing in self-pity. When a friend or family member has welcomed a baby, instead of being able to just be happy to witness their joy, I would find myself crying in the car, and quietly confiding in my husband how very jealous I was to see everything going so well. I ached for the typical experience, for falling in love with a healthy baby without worrying for their life, for how very easy it all seemed in comparison (even when I knew well that it's never really easy).
And knowing this about me made me a little afraid for the birth of Cora's sister. I definitely feared having to go through difficult medical challenges again, but in a way, I feared even more how I would feel if our second baby did not have a medically tumultuous beginning. I worried that having Ruby might make me grieve for my experience with Cora even more. And the thought that I would actively compare the two experiences made me feel like a traitor.
But what I actually felt surprised me. Ruby was born after an intense but easy delivery, in the warm cocoon of my own home. We didn't leave the bed for about three days, and then spent the first three weeks as a family of four while Nick stayed home from work. So far Ruby has had only well child visits. There have been no big medical scares, specialists or hospital stays. The only health hiccups have been some reflux, and a short period of time where we needlessly worried about something totally typical. In fact, on Sunday Ruby was the exact age that Cora was when she had her open heart surgery. It's all been so seamless. So lovely. Hard yes, as we adjust to an increasingly independent and defiant three year old and a baby who is fussier than we've experienced and trying to juggle the two of them. But sweet and mellow, and in all reality, much much easier.
And as for how I have felt about Cora? At peace. Getting my coveted "typical newborn experience" surprisingly didn't exacerbate my trauma over Cora's beginnings. I didn't find myself comparing the two over tears and whispered confessions to Nick. I found myself comparing a little, sure: remembering how very tiny Cora was, reminiscing on her newborn sweetness, and smiling about the differences between my two girls. But it didn't make me sad. It didn't make me feel guilty. In fact, it has somehow strangely started to heal my painful memories.
These experiences have been so different. My girls are so different. But they are both mine. And I am starting to be able to appreciate just how important these experiences have been, and just how intricately woven they are into one another and into myself. Instead of re-visiting my pain I am finding myself soothed, stronger and more whole. It must have been the plan all along.
|My love: Cora, almost 12 weeks old, just before OHS.|
|My love: Ruby, almost 12 weeks old, playing with Grammie.|