There’s nothing more terrifying than handing your rainbow over to a medical team for surgery. We’re currently recovering with our youngest, Little E, who had a somewhat minor procedure last Thursday. It was an exact replica of a surgery his older brothers had before him, yet I found that I had to pull out my old armor to suit up and protect myself from the vulnerability of loving my children.
“You don’t understand, it took a long time for us to get to our family. Please take extra good care of him. Please bring him back to us.“
I used to think that when we finally were able to bring a baby home that I was going to be neurotic mess about every little thing. From monitoring each breath and move or who could touch him, to freaking out over every fall, bump or bruise. Turns out, I surprised myself. Overall in the day-to-day things, I’m pretty calm. Relaxed even. And I say this without judgement to those who are “neurotic messes.” Between everything we had gone through, plus my Type A personality, I should have been. Looking back, I’m pretty sure I was so elated to finally have a baby at home that it perhaps made me feel safe from anything bad happening. Thank you, naivety.
While the average day-to-day activities don’t get to me, random ones still do. I realize that surgery is an extreme case, but if any of my boys sleep through the night, or sleep later than usual, I often find myself in a panic wondering if they’re still breathing, or still alive. I should be celebrating a much overdue milestone, but instead I’m worrying because of our history.
A league of its own
Everywhere you look today there’s discussion of different types of parenting. From helicopter to lawnmower, and attachment to free range. Depending on what you read, or to whom you’re talking, you’re doing it right…or wrong. Probably wrong, because the judging of parenting efforts is fast becoming a sport in-and-of itself. While I don’t believe that there is one “right” style, I do know that parenting after loss is in a league of it’s own.
There is an intensity that comes along with parenting after loss. The level of gratitude we have for our children we get to parent is often to the extreme. The lack of sleep, dirty diapers and the unknown typically wash off our backs because we get to do these things. We have a great a sense of relief and pure joy that it is finally our turn. That said, living within an extreme has its challenges. It feels like an oxymoron to be able to both balance the general stressors and difficulties of parenting, with the guilt of thinking we need to be grateful every moment of every day.
Newsflash: It’s OK to be grateful AND stressed/frustrated/exhausted
As loss parents, we have a current of underlying fear running through us that something bad will happen. It’s what we know. The other shoe has dropped so many times that it isn’t a question of if, but when. Some may say you can choose to look for the positive, or for the negative. And as someone who looked for, and tightly grasped the positive throughout all of my pregnancies, I know it isn’t so black and white. We live in a new normal, where we are constantly learning how to coexist with this fear, while not letting it take the lead.
Loss parents also have an incredible strength inside us. We’ve lived the nightmare, and we’re still here. It’s the balance that is being a loss parent, and even in being pregnant after loss. Both “PALs” are defined and driven by determination, resilience and persistence. And if you can find a bit of naivety along the way, all the better.