Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Current of Grief

I love being a momma more than I can say, and I find fulfillment in being one.  It's what I was made to do, what I've always longed for, and the culmination of my dreams and desires.  Though a driven and exemplary student from elementary school through college, my aspiration was never some achievement or occupation.  It was motherhood.  In some ways, I fit into the 1950's model of what a woman should be -- home and happy with it (though in other ways not at all since I can barely balance in heels, seem to put a run in hose within minutes of donning them, and rarely bother to blow dry my hair, much less wear it perfectly coiffed).  Many of my friends get stir crazy when they can't get out of the house for a day, but not me.  It's my favorite kind of day -- with no place we have to be and lounging at home with all my kids.  In January of this year, we had a snowstorm that left people housebound for a good 5 days.  Most of my friends were pulling their hair out on day two.  For me, those days were positively heavenly.  Within motherhood, babies are my sweet spot.  I find myself especially fulfilled when I have a baby to care for and tend to.  So these days with Caleb, Joel, and Anna should be perfection itself.

So why, I keep asking myself, have my quiet moments with Anna Pea been laced with sorrow?  Why is there an underlying sadness these days?  Why are my snuggles with my sweet baby girl tinged with grief?  In the still moments, my heart feels heavy.  Why is that?  I can't help but wonder if it has to do with Samuel.  It's been some time since I've taken time to grieve intentionally.  Bryan has been working crazy hours lately (60-70 hours a week -- and that's without including the time he spends on his seminary classes), and I'm sure that factors into how I'm feeling, but I keep thinking the root cause is Samuel.  I wonder if subconsciously I'm keenly aware that I probably wouldn't have many quiet moments with Anna if our Samuel was here.  A two year old -- much less one with severe heart defects! -- would take far more time and intentional parenting than my relatively independent 4 and 6 year olds do.  When Joel (who is 23 months younger than Caleb) was a baby, the only quiet times I had with him were the late night and middle of the night feedings.  Anna is 23 months younger than Samuel, but I get quiet times with her throughout the day as well as one morning a week with just her.  That wouldn't be true if her big brother was alive.  I would be one busy (and harried?) momma.

I also wonder if part of my heavy-heartedness is fear.  Sometimes I hug Anna close and my heart sinks when I contemplate ever losing her -- to sickness, unexpected tragedy, or maybe more likely rebellion or a broken relationship with us.  Honestly, I have been surprisingly unfearful in Anna's life.  Before Samuel I was never a worrying mom.  I didn't expect the worst; I rarely called the pediatrician; I only took the boys in to the doctor if I was absolutely sure they needed to see one.  In fact, Bryan would get frustrated with me for not taking them in and on several occasions was downright perplexed by my reluctance to elicit the help of a doctor.  Generally speaking, I think my kids are going to be ok.  I don't anticipate the worst-case scenario, and I trust that the horrible tragedies are pretty darn unlikely, so I don't worry about them.  I was a little nervous I would parent Anna differently, but I've been thankful that really haven't.  I continue to think my kids are going to be ok, and I don't need to fear.  But sometimes when I cuddle Anna, I get this sinking feeling in my soul.  What if I lose her?  What if she gets sick or grows up to resent me or becomes estranged from us?  What if.  I have to work hard to remind myself that she isn't mine.  She's God's.  And He's entrusted her to my care for a limited time.  And once more I have to pry my fingers open and relinquish my baby to God's infinitely better love and care.  I have to trust Him.

I think the other factor is the incompleteness of our family.  Regularly a stranger will remark, "you finally got your girl!" when they see me with Anna and her two biggest brothers.  Every time someone I don't know expresses joy that I have a daughter, I feel terribly sad.  A few weeks ago a woman on the beach in Kiawah saw me playing with Caleb and Joel.  She noticed I had a baby strapped to me in the baby carrier, and she said, "That better be a girl you have in there!"  It kind of broke my heart.  Of course none of these people knows about Samuel.  And of course they would never say I was unlucky to have three sons.  But I can't help but feel like they are negating the joy I felt in my third son.  Was I sad Samuel wasn't a girl?  Not for one minute.  I loved Samuel as deeply and richly as I love my first and second sons.  And would I love Anna any less or rejoice in her one iota less if she was a boy?  Of course not!  I didn't need a girl to be happy, to make me whole.  I was perfectly happy when I had three boys.  And I feel Samuel's absence keenly when a stranger assumes I was relieved my perceived third child was a girl. 

Though most of the time I am overflowing with joy and gratitude and a deep awareness of my blessings, sometimes the grief of Samuel surfaces, and I have to be diligent to allow it to come.  When I don't, I still find that grief threatens to sabotage my joy instead of allowing it to complement and enrich it instead.  For my joy is deeper and truer because I loved and lost Samuel as my faith is deeper and truer too.  Even though two years have passed since we said goodbye to our baby boy and we've since welcomed our precious Anna into our family, grief still demands our attention some times.  It needs to be acknowledged.  Heeded.  Heard.  And then I can let it settle back down to a quiet stream until the undercurrent grows once more, and I need to let it overflow its banks yet again.

1 comment:

  1. For some reason this really resonated with me tonight. Even though i have Caden with me, I feel my heart sink often thinking about losing him or Jayci (although it's more often, like you said, to rebellion etc rather than death) . . . anyways, just wanted you to know that you captured (once again) what I'm feeling in words, and that you and your family are often in my prayers.