After your child dies, you spend a lot of time imagining what moments with them would be like. In your imagination, every moment is magical, perfect. In your mind, you tell yourself that if that child was here, to experience that moment, you would be the perfect parent, you'd savor every minute of every day together.
And I feel insanely guilty now in a way I never did before.
The self-imposed pressure to be a perfect parent after you've lost a child is indescribable. It's also likely exacerbated by my control freak, type A, overachieving personality.
Every mistake I make as a parent now, every careless moment, every infinitesimal imperfection, I see in light of doing a disservice to the second chance I've been given in the wake of Harper's life. The second chance in my appreciation of Shea. The second chance in my rainbow baby, Soren.
I recognize their preciousness in a way that I think is really unique to a parent that has lost a child.
And yet there are times when I still feel like I fail them. When I want to take back a moment and do better. When I hear myself speaking or experiencing a half-hearted action, and I cringe.
Shea and Soren.
They are extraordinary, the best reflections of everything that is joyous in the universe. I derive an incredible amount of happiness from their smiles, their scents, their discovery of the world around them. I think the phrase "bursting with pride" was coined by a parent, because their very presence sometimes fills me to bursting.
I watch them as they lay sleeping, listening to the sounds of their breath, and I can't believe I played a part in their existence. Word are inadequate to describe my love for them.
Part of being a parent seems to be learning that the depth of that love does not always translate to everyday, minute by minute ideal behavior. And post-Harper, I'm finding that an even harder lesson to swallow.
This is my last week of maternity leave, and I find myself aching in a way I never did with Shea. With him, I worried about daycare, I fretted about his care, I mourned the milestones I missed. But I also appreciated the time away. Time amidst adults. Being good at my job. The intellectual engagement.
But Soren... Soren, I will miss. Every hour of every day.
Maybe it's because of Harper. Maybe it's because Soren is such a very good baby, a pleasure to spend time with. Easy in a way Shea never was. Is that because I'm more confident as a mother, or is it innate to his personality? I don't know. But I will miss his smiling face, our cozy naps, his sweet, milky smell. The tickly feel of his now rapidly growing baby hair.
There is also a feeling of finality.
The last baby. The last first time of everything. The last use of the newborn clothes, the last little baby fingers desperately clutching my hand as he nurses, the last sleep in the bassinet.
The overwhelming desire to just make more and more babies - because they are so very precious - clashes with the feeling that I can't even do justice to the two (or is it three, Harper bean?) that I have.
Did they do this in other eras? Beat themselves up over not being fully engaged in being the best parent every single day?
I've often wondered how mothers of other eras handled the much more pervasive death of their children. Losing one felt like an abyss had opened up at my feet - how does anyone survive more?
I've often joked that parenthood is like alcoholism: you just take it one day at a time.
I guess that's still true. All I can do to honor Harper is try to be the best I can be for Shea and Soren. To hug them a lot, cover them in kisses, listen to what they say, take them on adventures, soothe their fears, sing them songs, be silly with them, and always be ready with a story. And to try to forgive myself when those imperfections arise. To try to remember that I am human, and perhaps a pretty flawed one, at that.