We baked cupcakes here last night. It was Monkey's half birthday, and I promised her last year, after spontaneously doing one for JD, that we would start doing half birthdays as a matter of policy. Of course, we then equally spontaneously skipped mine, but who's counting. It was a lovely affair, the half-birthday, and it made my daughter happy way out of proportion to the effort required. But I am not so much talking about her half-birthday as the fact that it was sandwiched, not unexpectedly, between two other days.
The day before yesterday was our youngest son's due date, according to me (based on the blood test for ovulation) and the early ultrasound dating. Today is eighteen months since A's due date, and his younger brother's due date by LMP. All of this feels thoroughly surreal. How did we even get here? How is it that I now worry about reflux as opposed to, you know, whether he is still alive inside of me?
He just passed his due date(s), and yet he has been out in the world for almost four weeks. Eventful, strange almost four weeks. Time when I have thought and felt a whole lot, but written only a little. With a notable exception of that one night thirteen days ago, the night before the circumcision.
As a Jewish rite, circumcision, the bris, is kind of a mixed bag. The guest of honor is not usually thrilled with his designated role, though sweet wine they get after tends to help. The food is usually good, and the words, typically, heartfelt. Ah, the words. There are the required parts, but not many. The rest is free form. You don't even need a rabbi to be present, though we did. Our rabbi was supposed to be there for A's bris. Instead, she was there for his funeral. Now she was going to officiate at his little brother's bris. Is your head spinning yet?
I will spare you the play by play of how we thought we would stay up an hour or two to finish the bris program and ended up with JD getting a grand total of an hour of sleep. I will just say that the part I want to share here took me half the night to write and then a whole lot to read outloud.
And so now I bring it here, the one thing I had to but struggled to write. Forged over the many months before and during our younger son's gestation, and written, finally, on the day he was about to go through a milestone we first imagined for his brother.
L is a wonderful new person all his own. And yet, because of when he came to us, his story is inextricably connected to that of his brother A. We do not believe in a God who would use children as reward or punishment, a lesson, or a test. For us there is no rhyme or reason to why children die, no higher purpose. For us the only part that is imbued with meaning is what we choose to do with our broken hearts, how we choose to live after, what we choose to articulate and remember.
In the past nineteen months we learned that grief is the price we pay for love, love’s mirror image. We learned that for us it is not a one-time fee—we will always love and miss our son and Monkey's and L's brother A.G. We learned, too, that grief brings with it fear, for the knowledge of how much there is to lose is both fresh and visceral.
And yet we learned that not taking a chance would be worse. For ourselves and for Monkey, we learned that we were willing to risk our hearts again, in hopes of one day having them expand along with our family. This is the day we couldn’t even imagine only a few short weeks ago. We lived day to day, hour to hour. Today, the enormity of how lucky we got this time and of how far we have come is before us, and we are grateful, as we are grateful to all of you for sharing the day and its meaning with us.
Untimely death is always a tragedy. Yet parents of dead babies have a special loss uniquely ours. We grieve our children. But we also grieve how little we got to know about our children. We know that A had long fingers, but we do not know whether he would’ve used them to play piano, basketball, or neither. We don’t know what color his eyes would’ve been, or what his favorite kasha would have turned out to be. Tiny things that are the stuff of family stories and big things that define one’s character and life paths—we know none of these about our middle son, and we grieve that too.
We know a lot about our daughter, and are looking forward to learning more every day. And we are starting to learn things about our younger son. He loved his first bath. He likes to suck on his hands, and not so much on a pacifier. He is not big on patience, at least for now, but he relaxes and quiets with his mother’s voice and touch.
L is L, his own person. He will not replace his brother, nor should he be expected to. He is not a cosmic payback for the loss of his brother, nor is it possible to make up for that. He is just a boy who makes us feel incredibly lucky to be his parents. We are grateful to all of you for your love and support, and for being here today, and as we are looking forward to continuing to get to know L, we hope and trust that you will regard and treat him as we do—as a unique individual.