Baby Alex died one year ago. That was the big event. The catastrophe that shook our family to the ground. We’ve spent the last year rebuilding our foundation. Some days we have made more progress than others- there were days when re-building seemed impossible. There were days when re-building seemed sensible and plausible. There are days when aftershocks took down the progress we had made. These aftershocks shook our family through the tragedy unexpectedly. We knew we would experience them, we just didn’t know what would trigger them, or how severe they would be.
As part of the rebuilding process, God planned for us to have another child. Miss Molly Elizabeth Jonas was born as planned on 5/29/2012. She was destined for our family and arrived happy, healthy and beautiful. Being pregnant with Molly added some confusion to our grieving process. Could we grieve a son we had lost while still celebrating a daughter yet to be born? As it turns out, we could. We found a way to save room for Alex in our hearts, and make room for Molly,
Watching Molly being born, holding her, nursing her was a surreal experience for the first few days. We didn’t fall head over heels in love from the very first minute. It wasn’t that crazy, overwhelming, heart-bursting love I felt with Benjamin and Alex. It was more quiet, simple. My heart was being cautious and instead of falling in love right away, it felt like Molly and I were dating. I felt a great amount of affection for her, but I needed to be brave to truly fall in love.
Every minute since then, I have grown more and more in love with her. While it took a few days to shake off the fear, I now realize that falling in love with her slowly and cautiously, eyes wide open, was the healthy thing to do. I couldn’t completely forget everything that happened with Alex. I couldn’t pretend to ignore the risks that were out there. At the same time, I couldn’t be paralyzed with fear about the unknown, denying the bundle of joy in my arms.
Miss Molly and I are deeply in love, in the same way I am with her brothers. While I’m not the same person/ mommy I was before Alex died, the love I have for my children is still unabashed and pure… not tainted by death, It’s rich and deep, maybe just given a little more modestly.
We continue to see aftershocks of Alex’s death as we raise Molly. Newborn babies sleep very still and don’t make very much noise. When I go to check on her, I wonder for a split second, whether or not she’s still breathing. Her tiny body and floppy limbs remind me of how I found Alex after a nap one year ago. Being transported back to that place feels hot and uncomfortable. Heart racing, throat dry, mind numb. Imagine going back there a hundred times each day… it’s hard.
Alex had a congenital heart defect that we didn’t know about. It caused him to stop breathing when he rolled over during a nap. Benjamin and Molly have both had heart echos and EKGs. They don’t have the same condition. While that can help allay our fears rationally, it doesn’t take away the panic that seeps in at inopportune times.
If I have Molly in the car seat and don’t hear a squeak after awhile, it will make me nervous. That panic will persist until I see her move or hear her rustle. The fear subsides, and then emerges again predictably, yet unexpectedly. We know it will come back, we just don’t know when.
There are times when I lament that parenting has been permanently changed for us. It’s not as happy and carefree as it used to be. It’s tainted by the shadow of Alex’s death and altered by the knowledge of what can happen to the children we love so very much. I’d like to think that these changes help us to appreciate the special moments of parenting even more. I guess time will tell how well we weather the aftershocks. If we rebuilt our foundation to be stronger than it used to be, or if our foundation can still crumble to the ground.
What happened to Alex was rare. In 99.99% of cases, babies thrive and go on to live happy, healthy lives. The challenge is that Alex represents 50% of our parenting experience. Benjamin was healthy, Alex was not. How can we raise Molly without fear, knowing that only half our family has survived to this point?
The answer of course is Faith. It’s not our role to know or understand the hows and whys of why God does what He does. Why we were blessed with Alex, and why he was taken so early. Why were blessed with Molly when we were… We don’t know. We can accept things without understanding them. We can live life completely without all the answers.
I snuggle Molly and Benjamin close to my heart, figuratively and literally. I celebrate the time we have together, but I don’t forget that the plans for our family are not ours to make. I enjoy the time we have today and try not to dwell on tomorrow. I try. I try.