There are many ways the experience of losing Maya has impacted my parenting of Oliver in a positive way. I am more appreciative of the time I have with him. I believe my experience with Maya has made me more calm, patient, and level-headed if you can believe that. Losing Maya has almost had the opposite effect than what you would expect. Throughout my pregnancy, I was sure I would be an over-bearing, nervous, anxious mother – afraid of germs and always fearing the worst. And though I still have my moments of irrational fears and playing out worst-case-scenarios in my head… I don’t think they are any greater in number than a mother who hasn’t lost a child.
So far, the decisions we’ve made in regards to Oliver and the transitions we’ve gone through have come very naturally. We’ve moved forward when it felt right. For example, Oliver loved being swaddled from day 1 and seemed to sleep best when he was swaddled. Then, it seemed like he didn’t like it anymore. We tried to go without the swaddle and it didn’t work – he didn’t sleep well. Then, he started breaking out of the swaddle so we tried again and it worked and he has slept successfully without the swaddle for over a month now. Of course with this and many other decisions/transitions, I do my research and talk to other parents. In the end however, it happened when the timing felt right.
There was one transition that was not coming naturally and I was really struggling with… moving Oliver out of our bedroom. I started to feel like the timing was right for a number of reasons. I talked to other moms who reported that their child slept better when in his/her own room. We experienced nights where Oliver woke up because of our movement or the dog’s nails on the hardwood floor. In addition, it is only a matter of time before he will outgrow his little crib and I wanted to move him into his nursery in the little crib before transitioning him into his big crib. And yet, as much as the logical side of my brain knew it was time and knew it was probably best for all of us, the emotional side of my brain couldn’t bring myself to do it. To top off the dilemma… I couldn’t figure out why it was so difficult for me. I thought it was my resistance to him growing and getting older. I do feel sad that he is not a brand new baby anymore, but I’m so excited for what’s to come.
One day, as I continued to perseverate on the issue, I had an epiphany. I went into my bedroom and looked at his little crib and I thought, “I don’t want to not see it there”. I thought about why it was that I had this thought about the crib and not about Oliver. I finally figured it out! … A week before Maya was born and died, we set up the little crib in our bedroom. For a week, I pictured her in that crib. I pictured getting up in the middle of the night, tiptoeing around our room, and watching her sleep. After she died, Hackie came home while I was still in the hospital and gathered all of the baby stuff. It all got put into the nursery and the door was shut. When I came home, there was no crib. In those early days and weeks, seeing that blank wall was so painful. No crib, no baby, and a shattered future.
My subconscious fear that had finally come to the surface was that moving the crib out and seeing that blank wall would bring back those memories and those feelings of absolute devastation. I processed this with Hackie, with my mom, and with some good friends. I thought about it for several days and then I accepted that at no point was this going to be an easy transition. Saturday morning, I made the decision that I was ready. I moved the little crib into the nursery early in the day and hours before Oliver’s bedtime so I could get used to seeing the blank wall long before going to bed. Oliver did just fine. I was OK too. Oliver has now spent 5 nights sleeping in his own room and everyone is sleeping better. I knew that would be the case.
They say there are 5 stages of grief… which I have discussed many times is not linear and never-ending. So to say there is a “final” stage is bogus. For the purposes of this paragraph, however, I’ll buy in… The “final” stage of grief is acceptance. I hated that because I always felt like acceptance meant being OK with something and I will never be OK with the fact that Maya died. Then I read a different definition of acceptance, which was simply accepting and acknowledging your truth. I read it as basically being the opposite of denial. I have come to that place. Maya died. My first baby didn’t come home with us. I am a bereaved mother. This is my truth. Though I am over the moon filled with joy that Oliver is here and healthy and perfect and that I get to spend a nice long maternity leave and summer with him, my truth is still there. Sometimes, the fact that my first baby died and didn’t make it home is going to have a profound impact on my parenting and on Oliver. Moving the crib was the first time I really felt it.
I know there will be much more that happens that brings me back to my darkest days. Realizing that and accepting that as my truth is how I will make it through. Once I realized why it was going to be so hard to move the little crib, I was able to make the transition. I’d like to think that Maya has made me a better Mommy to Oliver. I already know she has made me a better and more insightful person.