Last week was my son’s birthday. I can’t really say it went well – how can a birthday go well when the person of honor isn’t there? But it could have been worse. I cried, but I also smiled. I focused on Obie almost the whole day, but I also counted his little brother’s kicks. I started thinking about how weird it is to be having my first two children just over a year apart. Excepting multiples for a minute, usually the first child gets to be an “only” for a couple of years at least. Parents get to figure it out with just one kid before adding another one to the mix. Things are a little bit simple before they get exponentially more complicated.
That just isn’t how it’s working out for our family. Obie only gets to be an “only” for about a year. I remember feeling a little guilty about that before we got pregnant again. No matter how much I try to put off actually getting ready for this lil’ beastie, I have to do it. I have done it in some cases. On my first child’s first birthday, I had to split some attention with my second. As hard as it is to wrap my head around, it didn’t make me go to pieces. For the most part, I’ve been able to convince myself that all parents feel guilty about splitting focus between their kids. Loss parents have survivor’s guilt and other types of guilt layered on, but it’s something that happens to every family as it grows.
Lil’ beastie may seem like an “only” to the outside world. He might feel like one. He might develop the common personality traits and neuroses of one. But that doesn’t make him one. He’ll never be an “only.” He’ll never meet his big brother – and that thought makes me cry every time – but he will know about him. His parents will celebrate Obie’s Bee Day on November 24 every year, and someday, hopefully, he will participate too. The baby pictures around the house won’t ever all be of him. He’ll use many of the things we got for his brother first.
I do want to share a little bit about how Oberon’s birthday, Obie’s Bee Day, went. Last week I posted some ideas we had for the day. We did end up hiking in Uvas Canyon County Park where Oberon’s ashes are. It rained the whole time, which is awesome for California but made for a more difficult hike. I liked hearing the water, and the waterfalls were more lively because of the rain. We couldn’t hike to all the places Obie’s ashes are scattered, but it was still nice to be in that place. It was almost completely empty. I’m sure the rain had something to do with it, but it was also a weekday morning. We probably hiked a little bit longer than we should have in my condition, but I recovered pretty quickly (physically).
My husband and I also spent a few hours scrapbooking. This time was very special as we looked at and handled some of our precious pictures. We arranged them, added embellishments, and let our hands be busy. At the end of it, we had pages for our scrapbook we can look over and remember – both the taking of the pictures and the loving way we handled them while honoring Oberon’s birthday.
The decision we made to ask others to celebrate and honor Oberon with us on social media turned out to be a good one. We saw posts from people we expected, which was fantastic because we got to share in how they honored Obie. We also saw posts from people we wouldn’t expect – an Obie’s Bee spotting, a yellow accessory, a donation. Every post and message warmed our hearts. It took me many days to be able to go through and process them. It took me longer to respond to thoughtful e-mails and gifts. I can’t say enough that doing something to support a grieving family is better than doing nothing. Saying something is better than saying nothing. At least that’s been true for us.
I haven’t gotten lost reliving every day from this time last year. For that, I am thankful. There are some moments of Oberon’s life I wouldn’t be upset forgetting. I want to focus on the ones that had some happiness and much love. For that to happen, I can’t catalog the roller coaster NICU stay, the procedures, the hospice care, and everything else. I just have to think of moments holding my boy, watching my husband interact with our son, snuggling, listening to Obie noises, reading books together, introducing him to friends and family, him holding my finger, him yawning, diaper changes, baths, and wiggles. When I can focus on these happy memories – it took me a long time to be able to do that and I still have to work at it – I feel more at peace. Holding on to the bad memories and the bad parts of memories doesn’t help Obie, it doesn’t help me, and it doesn’t help lil’ beastie. Holding on to the good memories helps all of us.
Maybe it’s the mark of his birthday passing that’s made my perspective shift a little. Maybe it’s a coincidence. Maybe it was taking a full day, and in some ways a whole week, to primarily focus on my first baby boy. Maybe it was seeing other people celebrate my son’s birthday, helping reassure me that he won’t be forgotten. Whatever it is, I feel a little less guilty now. I feel a little more okay with focusing on lil’ beastie from time to time. I feel a little more optimism that I can be a good mom to both my kids. Not only my Oberon, and not only my lil’ beastie.