It's my birthday. I'm 29.
It's amazing the difference a year makes.
Last year I was sad and missing Aidan and working towards a 'successful' pregnancy.
This year, while I still miss Aidan, my days are full caring for his baby sister. My year, while not totally going according to plan (HA! understatement!!), did eventually work out the way I wanted it. For that I will be eternally grateful.
Anyway, the following are some thoughts that have been rolling around in my brain for awhile.
Thought # 1:
I often wondered after Aidan died if I was correct in my assumption that life would be all around 'better' with a living baby. Obviously I wouldn't be sad if my kid wasn't dead, but I often wondered if I was 'romanticizing' being a parent. Every time I saw anything that reminded me of the parenthood I lost (strollers, baby shower invites, newborn outfits, parenting blogs etc.) it felt like a kick in the gut. Like a world I was ejected from that looked like SO much more fun than the life I was living. I was sad and angry that not only did I miss Aidan so badly, but that my life was so off track from where I wanted to be. That if only I had a baby life would be 'perfect'. Yet even though my cloud of grief I realized that the parents I knew who had young children weren't walking around on cloud nine, singing the praises of being a parent all the time. While I'm sure if asked they would all agree they loved their children and wouldn't trade them for the world, their lives were obviously not perfect. So which was it? Would a living child really make me 'happier'? Or was it all an illusion, just my sad, disappointed brain imaging a 'better' life that didn't really exist?
I feel I can now answer my own question. Yes, life really is happier...but it's true it's not perfect and I can't say I keep up the sentiment of feeling 'grateful' and 'lucky' all the time. But I'm learning to let myself just be glad for normal. Just like life was eventually 'okay' again after Aidan died because no one can stay in that initial fog of grief forever, no one can stay on cloud nine forever either. And honestly, I'm glad. It's exhausting to feel such extremes all the time. Major emotional events are going to happen in life, but generally I feel healthier and happier to just be in the middle most of the time.
I've also learned that while getting the one thing you've always wanted (a living baby) is an extremely wonderful thing, it does not fix other areas of your life. If you argue with your partner, you will still argue, and a new baby might even make that worse (although a dead one probably doesn't help matters either). A new baby while fun and exciting and beautiful, is also a lot of (often tedious) work (how many bottles did I wash today??!) It's occasionally stressful, and a big drain on resources, physically, emotionally, and financially. While a new baby brings joy and happiness into a family, it also means sacrificing other things that make you happy including sleep, a fulfilling career, hobbies, and events with family or friends. It can also be lonely hanging out all day with a new baby as they aren't known for being the best conversationalists. But while there are some draw backs, I would say I now feel more fulfilled, more centered, more at peace having a living child. And I try to remind myself, even when things are tough, how amazingly lucky I am to be able to say that.
Thought # 2
A few weeks ago, a woman I know posted on Facebook about the birth of her second child. She had not known the sex of the baby prior to delivery. Her first was a boy. Her second, a girl. People were posting congratulations and a comment was made 'now you have the million dollar family!' And my thought was "Holy shit, I had the million dollar family (one boy, one girl)...but half of mine died". (Does that mean I have the 500K family?) My mom often commented on her 'million dollar family' when my brother and I were growing up. She felt blessed to have one girl and one boy when she was told, for medical reasons, not to have any more kids. Because at that point, she was fine with no more as she had what she wanted. I had a boy, and I have a girl...but I won't ever have the satisfaction of watching my boy and girl play together or fight or lean on each other in tough times.
I e-mailed Dr. K. a few days ago and the placental pathology confirms that I had another Breus mole placenta (I could have told you that just based on the ultrasound pictures alone as Aidan and Kaia's placentas were very alike in their weirdness, so this wasn't exactly 'news'). This brings up the question of course though, why did it occur (TWICE??!!) Once was sad and unfortunate. Twice is kind of freakish. It makes me very wary of ever considering another pregnancy, because how can I be sure it won't happen for a 3rd time? It wasn't suppose to happen twice and it did. Plus, how could I place another child in jeopardy? We will be dealing with the ramifications of Kaia's confinement (literally) for the next year, and we are lucky her issues are 'fixable'. I also NEVER want to have to deal with another very early pPROM again. Ever. It was scary and terrible and soul crushing. I don't want to have to watch my husband, daughter or family have to live through it again either.
And yet...I would love another baby someday. Even more than that...I would like Kaia to have a (living) sibling. One that she can play with and tell stories to, have fun with, and confide in. While my brother and I don't spend as much time together as we used to, I do love having a sibling. I want that for Kaia. I want her to have a (living) brother or sister. One who isn't just a baby in a photo. One who doesn't sit on the shelf in the living room. Brian and I miss never getting to know Aidan...and now I miss him on Kaia's behalf too.
Thought # 3
I have been asked SO many times since Kaia was born "is this your first?" (honestly, this question gets asked more than her NAME, which I think is weird). Sometimes I tell the truth, and other times I lie. You'd have thought I would have gotten used to this in the last year having to answer the other dreaded question "Do you have any kids?", but still it's hard EVERY SINGLE TIME.
What also gets asked a lot is "how old is she?" This is another hard question for a preemie mom, because for anyone that knows anything about babies, she obviously doesn't look 3 months old. She's not even 9 lbs. She doesn't hold her head up yet. She is JUST starting to smile. Which means she's right on track...for her corrected age. Now, I don't mind telling people she was a preemie, but just like saying "oh my first child died", sometimes it feels like revealing too much to just any old Tom, Dick or Harry. So I often end up telling strangers "she's 6 weeks old" (the amount of time she's been home from the hospital). It gets confusing. It's not awkward like the number of children question, or the 'first child' question...but it's another baby question which I find myself occasionally lying about. Who knew having kids would make me such a liar?
So yeah. Kind of random I know.
That's where I am at as I enter year 29. I'm so glad I'm in a much better place than I was at 28. I hope it gives hope to those out there reading who aren't sure where they are going to be on their next birthday. Because you just never know what a difference a year can make.