I kept thinking about the morning Joel was born and my labor and delivery. I was a little horrified that at first I couldn't remember any details; all I could recall was Samuel's birth day. After probably ten minutes racking my brain for memories of May 1, 2007, I finally remembered our special day when Joel came into this world. I smiled thinking about those glorious, breathtaking, purely joyful minutes of first holding our baby after a painful and surprisingly fast labor. I smiled remembering the doctor saying, "It's a boy!" and thinking, "I knew it!" I smiled thinking about those hours after Joel was born when we just held him and stared at him and deliberated about what we should name him, when I got to nurse him and cuddle him and proudly show him off to everyone who came to visit, when I got to introduce him to his big brother for the first time and place him gently into Caleb's little arms. All those memories made me smile. But they also made my heart cry a little.
I didn't get to do any of those things with Samuel. There were no purely joyful moments after his birth. They were fear-filled and quiet and oppressive in some ways. I was so glad he was here, but I wanted to hold him. I wanted the doctors to stop working on him in the corner, and I wanted someone, anyone, to tell me, "He's ok! He's going to be great. Just wait a minute, and we'll have him in your arms." I wanted to hear him cry, and I wanted to see his face, and I desperately wanted to know if he had Down Syndrome. I wanted to stop shaking all over my body, and I wanted Samuel in my arms. They were difficult minutes followed by more difficult hours followed by horribly difficult days. Yesterday, on Joel's birthday, I kept thinking, "It's been three years since we've had a totally joyful birth day. I wonder if we'll ever have one again."
And throughout the day I missed Samuel. I wanted him to be there with us. I wanted to be passing Samuel back and forth between me and Bryan so one of us could go jump with Caleb and Joel while the other snuggled our 9 month old. I wanted Samuel on my hip while talking to our friends and in my lap while singing "Happy Birthday." It was hard to have Joel's birthday without his baby brother there. I didn't dwell on it yesterday, but during all the celebrations, Samuel's absence was very noticeable. I miss my third son. I always will.
A couple of weeks ago during our bedtime routine, I was lying on my back on Caleb's bed while Bryan read a book to the boys. Joel plopped down beside me on his tummy and propped his elbows on my stomach, resting his chin on his hands. In that moment I was overwhelmed with love for Joel. Sometimes the love I feel for one of my children comes in concentrated doses, and I feel washed in a flood of love and gratitude. As I looked at Joel's blond little head resting on me, I also felt a wave of sorrow. It was one of the moments when I knew what I was missing with Samuel. I was missing the little joys, the daily surges of love in my heart, the getting to know my child day in and day out, the simple pleasure of reading a book together, the evident love between a mother and son. In some ways having other children makes grief harder because I know what I'm missing with Samuel; I'm missing this amazing abundance of love and connection and joy in spending each day with my son. I'm missing so much.
Though yesterday had an underlying sadness to it, it was a deeply joyous day. And we're now inundated with Star Wars toys, books, coloring books, and even sheets! In fact, my aunt and uncle even gave me a Star Wars cookbook: Wookie Cookies and Other Galactic Recipes. It's hilarious, and this week we'll be dining on TIE Fighter Ties and Yoda Soda. Look out Star Wars, here we come!
And because I simply must, here are some pictures from last week's pancakes and Joel's birthday: