When I went through my first miscarriage after having my son my instinct was to get pregnant again as fast as possible. I wanted to believe that being pregnant again would erase the pain of my loss. In a way, I saw having another baby as a cure for my grief, an emotion I desperately wanted to escape.
I remember asking a friend who had lost a baby right before having her daughter if it would work. Would the pain go away when I had another baby? She told me, "Yes and no." She said that she'd never forget the pregnancy she lost, but once her baby was born she stopped thinking about her "baby in heaven" as often. She became focused on her love for her daughter and was able to stop fixating on the pain and grief of her loss.
I wouldn't end up experiencing the joy of my rainbow baby for three more years, and only after losing three more babies, including Sidney's twin. By the time I had Sidney my expectations for erasing grief were much lower. I didn't expect my baby to take away the pain I'd experienced. I knew by then that nothing really can - that the grief of losing a child (even a potential child) is something that a mother must learn to carry forever. The trick isn't to hide from it or make it go away, but to accept the pain, to tuck it away into your heart where you can reach it when you need to without getting in the way of finding love and joy in the present.
Like just about everything with motherhood, the actual experience of having a rainbow baby has been a bit different than I could have guessed. My love for this beautiful baby is a slow burn. I feel like when I had Charlie my heart exploded daily with layer after layer of intense emotion, but this time around that emotion is coming in a slow, steady stream instead. I think part of it is that I'm distracted by caring for two children at once, but another factor at work is that I'm still not fully healed from my heart being broken over and over again.
There is still a part of me that is holding back, that is afraid that I will blink my eyes and she will disappear. Part of me is still scared of how much I love her.
The thing is that hearts don't heal overnight, no matter how beautiful and perfect the balm. It's a slow process, but I can feel that the wheels are in motion. Late at night, when we are rocking together in my silent bedroom my thoughts tend to drift. I find myself realizing things and connecting dots. I am learning to forgive myself and forgive my body for the times it failed me. I'm learning to grant myself the same compassion I so easily offer other mothers who have lost their babies.
"I'm sorry this happened to you." Until now I don't think I've ever really said it to MYSELF. Last night I did, and that's when I realized that Sidney isn't healing me in the way I had dreamed she would so many years ago. She is not an emotional eraser or a tiny genie here to grant my wishes. She was not born to solve my problems.
She was born to be loved, and as with so so many things in life. Love is the answer, and I'm realizing that it's finally time for me to learn to love myself.
Like so many women, learning to love myself has been something I have struggled with for my entire life. It's not necessarily that I dislike myself or that there is anything particularly wrong with me. It's just that for some reason I don't believe that I am worthy of the same love I pile on others. But how can you forgive someone without loving them? How can you support someone or make their wellness a priority without loving them? You can't - not properly.
Now that I have a daughter I feel a huge responsibility toward her. Life in a female body is never easy, and I long to give her the tools to navigate this world with confidence, courage, and joy. I know from experience that the best way to teach your children is by example. If I want Sidney to have the tools for a happy life I must first get them for myself.
She was born to be loved, and I love her so. There's no way I'm sending her out into life unarmed.
Lucky for me, love begets love, and the more I feel for my children the easier it seems to be to extend that love to myself. I've got a long way to go before I get it right, but I have the best motivation in the world. This heart WILL be healed, and I will be the one to heal it.