Each week the alarms sound: Monday evening at 5:43; Wednesday evening at 6:17; and Thursday morning at 9:08. Three different songs begin, and remind me to pause, breathe, and look around. Three moments in time that, no matter what else is happening, remind me how grateful I am to have three beautiful, healthy boys at home.

The Thursday alarm started this tradition when C was born. It was a then-cheesy reminder, denoting the exact time he turned another week older. While I didn’t think too much about it then, it was a joyful reminder of how far we came. So when J was born, and then Little E, I added their birth times to continue the celebrations (although I did switch Little E’s alarm to PM…I’m nostalgic, but not crazy).

The boys each have their own song, pulled from a medley that I’ve sung to each of them since birth. And when their alarm goes off, or they hear it being played on my phone, C and J get a huge smile on their faces, and shout “My Song!” I look forward to the day that Little E will do the same.

This afternoon, the alarm will sound at 2:11. Sadly, this alarm only goes off once a year, marking the time that Baby Krueger was both born and passed. Today’s alarm marks the 7th anniversary since we’ve held our daughter in our arms, and also said goodbye. The Beatles will sing, “All You Need is Love,” the same tune that also plays annually for Sarah and Benjamin, and Aaron and I will pause to remember, reflect and once again realize how far we’ve come.

The Joy and Pain of Parenting After Loss

This day, and this alarm brings great sadness of a life never lived. At the same time, sharing in this tradition is another way to keep Baby Krueger’s memory alive, and include her in our family traditions. A key component for me in moving forward (not moving on) is to never forget. While I don’t want to remember the pain and devastation of that day, those are part of the few memories I have of her. And so I hold them tightly as they are part of her story, and our story together. We don’t have much of a past, so we need to build the future. Tonight we will talk with the boys about Baby Krueger, sing Happy Birthday, and enjoy some cake. On some levels, it feels like the melding of two worlds.

Over the years, I’ve learned that parenting after loss is a lot of “yes, and.” It is possible to be grateful and heartbroken at the same time. I can enjoy moments with my boys and continue to wonder what those moments would have been like with the others. It is possible to carry on, while still holding on. Our children born after our losses are not replacements, so there’s no reason to make it an either/or scenario.

Finding the Balance

The truth is, parenting after loss, like life after loss is a series of ebbs and flows between great joy and sadness. Come to think of it, that’s life in general, isn’t it? Even after all these years, I’m still caught off guard when the blanket of sadness envelops me and takes my breath away. At the same time, I try to step back from the craziness of every day life, and really take stock in what I have, and what I’ve done to get here. So with each alarm song that plays, it is a showcase of my strength being renewed, and memories that are both restored, and created.

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