Bittersweet: Being at once bitter and sweet
especially: pleasant but including or marked by elements of suffering or regret.
Rocking your tiny, cherubic form in my arms, your eyes shut, lips curved in a serene smile, as safe as could be. Memorizing your tiny features, ruminating—she has her daddy's nose, her mommy's lips, her grandmother's blue eyes.
She looks like her brother. Near identical. Same daddy's nose, same mommy's lips....
That thread of longing twines through my mind, abrupt, strong enough to strangle the joy of loving you, my little one. For no one doted on your brother. No one told us whom he looked like, his mommy or his daddy. The thought of a boy, the one that was meant, that was once upon a time, that was now too good to be true.
Another life I should have held in my arms and cherished, watching his little breaths flutter in his perfect net of safety, just as I do with you. He should be doting on you, too, a wide-eyed two year old, curious and overjoyed to know the little person before him.
I admire the photos of you in my womb, tucking them in your memory book. We watch you sleep, my husband and I, reminiscing on the way you kicked in my stomach, shying away when your father's hand would linger on my belly.
Riyad wasn't as shy, I want to say, and sometimes I do say it—but he agrees half-heartedly, as if his memory is ash now, as if it were now written away by you, sweet one. It's true, I persist in silence, to unhearing ears, He was much more active, maybe because he was a boy, or the oldest, who knows?
The spiral is still there, a simmering quicksand just beneath the surface. If only...if only I could have known, if only I would have gone sooner—these days, it is snapped shut as quickly as it came, yet the outline still lingers, a dirty stain on something so traditionally pristine.
I decorate your nursery with the utmost care—the perfect crib, the daintiest florals. Yet a dream lingers, smoky and yearning, blooming between the flowers at my fingertips: blue walls instead of pink, sporty decals in animal shapes. Months of planning: the registry, the baby shower. The first one is so special, he deserves a big audience.
Myself, once round, blissful, and carefree: sitting in his rocking chair, stroking my belly as I felt the flutters of his tiny, precious feet.
I watch you sleep in his crib, my heart swollen with love, tainted with pain.
A boy and a girl.
It would have been perfect.
We would have all been perfect, together.
I cherish her. I revel in her first real smile, the innocent sparkle of her blue eyes. I cherish her all the more for the pain of losing her brother, the forever fractured image of our peaceful family life. A life we had strived to achieve so desperately after his death, mended save for these irreparable cracks.
Riyad's days were numbered, making Lily's all the more precious. Within the same breath, I ache for my son, yet balloon with joy for my daughter. Her life will both be a series of joyful firsts, and a wrenching reflection of stolen moments.
I will watch her crawl across the fluffy white carpet of her nursery, a carpet that had been chosen for her brother. I will hold her adoringly as she gives her first belly laugh, my own belly aching with sorrow. I will watch her take her first steps, wondering why my son's were not the first to walk throughout our home. I will revel at her first words, while wondering which ones a little boy would have first uttered—Mommy? Daddy?
I am, all at once, the happiest and saddest mother alive. Yet my daughter pulled me from the depths of grief, in which I can float above the surface, choosing to sink below its depths at my own will.
She brings the sun into my day, blooming within me a confidence I had lost, that life can be, and should be, okay.
Yet my son taught me how to love. He taught me how to lose what is most precious, and how to survive. He taught me that life is equal parts pain and pleasure, joy and suffering.
For those of you who have experienced pregnancy or parenthood after loss, how is your love for your lost baby or babies meshed with your love for the living?