Fighting the fear of forgetting.

I told Brian recently that I felt like I was starting to leave Aria behind. Despite his accurate rebuttal that I could never, and would never move on from her, I can’t help but feel the mama guilt from time to time.

I hate that sometimes I’ll get so caught up in life that I realize I haven’t cried in weeks. It makes me feel like I’m forgetting, because crying feels like grieving, and grieving feels like remembering.

I used to say I couldn’t wait to get to the part where things wouldn’t hurt so bad, and now that I’m here, I regret wishing for this because it makes me feel like I’m neglecting Aria’s memory.

I’m not “over it” or “moving on” but the waves of grief come fewer and farther between these days. It’s extremely bittersweet for me.

Now that we’re investing so much of our energy into preparing for IVF, and potentially bringing home another baby, I’m so concerned that we are leaving Aria in the dust. All I want to do is scoop my sweet firstborn into my arms and hold her tight. Instead, I hold her legacy in my heart and keep pressing forward. I know it’s what she wants me to do. At least, that’s what I’m really hoping.

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Grief Glitches

I’ve noticed over the last two years that grief has molded and changed me in so many ways. It took over a year for me to see for most of them, and I’m sure I still don’t realize all of them. Grief causes you respond so differently to things you normally wouldn’t get upset about, or even things you ordinarily would have been happy about.

There’s the obvious ones for us loss parents, like eye rolling and getting upset over yet another pregnancy announcement. Then the less obvious, like slamming a door in your husband’s face because he didn’t buy the right brand of almond milk.

But we both know it’s not about the almond milk. It’s not even really about the pregnancy announcement is it?

It’s a grief glitch. Instead of responding rationally, grief steps in and says things like, “Look at her so glowing and pregnant and happy. Aren’t you just so sad and mad that you don’t have that?” Or even, “Doesn’t your husband not buying the right thing remind you of that other time that things didn’t go right? You know, when you planned to bring your baby home from the hospital, and then didn’t.”

Now if you’re anything like me, you probably think these things, and a million other worse thoughts, then end up feeling like the absolute worst person in the entire world. The guilt of a grieving parent is completely unparalleled.

But it’s time to talk about grace. First of all, it’s not really you who is coming up with those thoughts. It’s your grief. Right before you could open your mouth and respond in a rational way, grief jumped in front of you and said “Don’t worry, I got this!” Then did way more harm than good.

Eventually you’ll find a way back to rationale. You may even be able to pull the reins back on your grief and tell it to hang on a second, because it’s being a little overzealous about almond milk right now. Yes, it’s always going to be there in the back of your mind, but it won’t always be like this.

In the mean time, give yourself some grace. Ask yourself in those moments what you’re really upset about, then tend to that. Don’t start stoking the fire without figuring out what you’re actually burning first.

Dear Aria,

(This letter was drafted in October of 2016, but was not immediately published. I wanted to wait until we were ready to share the news we were planning to grow our family before sharing this letter. As our countdown to IVF gets closer and closer, it finally feels like the right time.)

Dear Aria,

I went to the doctor today, and for the first time since the day you were born nine months ago, I was told it was safe for me to become pregnant again. It was really overwhelming to hear that my body had finally recovered. To be honest, those were the words I really wanted to hear, but they brought so many unexpected emotions. The biggest was guilt, and an overwhelming desire to run to you and explain myself.

Sweet girl, I want you to know that no matter how many babies grow in my womb, you will always be equally loved. Your place in this family will never disappear, and you will always belong. A million babies would never be able to replace you, for you were uniquely made, and rarer than the most flawless of diamonds. Your life will always hold great value.

We aren’t choosing to have another baby to take your place. It isn’t because you aren’t enough for us. You are more than enough. But your Dad and I both share a feeling I often refer to as “empty arms syndrome.” My body grew you, my motherly instincts developed and intensified with every passing day. Your Dad put together your crib, and helped hang pictures in your nursery. We prepared for you, hoped for you, and prayed for you. We talked about all the things we wanted to do with you, our sweet firstborn baby girl. We created a lifetime of hopes and dreams. We envisioned our future as parents and all the wonderful opportunities parenthood would bring.

Then, our plans changed in ways we never imagined. When you left this world, all of our hopes and dreams remained but held so much emptiness. We wanted a baby to hold, but all we had left were memories and heartache.

We are choosing to have another baby because our hopes of parenting a child on this earth still remain. We have so much love to give, and so much energy for changing diapers, fussy temper tantrums, and late nights spent rocking a sleepy baby. We had always known you were going to be the first of several little “rosebuds”, so in some way this is still a part of the plan.

This decision is not without guilt, both for you, and for our future child. I ache because I don’t want you to have to share my love with anyone else. I don’t want you to feel left out, or like you aren’t as important to us anymore. But I think about your future sibling and I feel guilty that he or she will be born into a home that has seen so much heartache. I can’t say I’m going to be the mom who walks through pregnancy without fear. I’m already a nervous wreck. But I do know that those nerves come from a place of deep love, and an overwhelming desire to protect my child. In some ways, I think the path you have placed us on will allow us to give your siblings a love we never would have known before we had you.

As long as I live, you will live within me. This is not moving on, nor is it leaving you behind. You will always be along for the ride.

And the sweetest part of all is that deep down, I know you wouldn’t let your siblings pass through heavens gate’s on their way to us without showering them with kisses and hugs. So I want to thank you in advance for loving them first.

All my love,
Mom