This time will be different

“You said this time will be different!” he said indignantly.  Maybe even self-righteously.

“How?  How will having another baby this time be any different?  I just saw you at your wit’s end, yelling at the kids!   How would having another baby have made today BETTER?  We have our hands full enough as it is!”

The words stung.

But there was truth to them.  The question was legitimate.

A new baby wouldn’t have.  It wouldn’t have made. Today. Better.

I would have been more tired.  (Is that possible?)  I would have had less free hands to do more things.  And there would have been another really good reason to tell kids to bring the noise level down. “The baby is sleeping!” I would have been pleading.

So what is the difference now?  Now meaning, since Samuel died.  Does the very rational reason that we have our hands full enough as it is mean I can simply stop wanting another child?  It doesn’t seem to make much of a difference to my desire to try for another baby.  The practical limitations of having more kids did have an effect on our family feeling complete after our fourth.  So why isn’t this sense of pragmatism having a significant impact now?

Maybe I am just different.  Certainly, my expectations are different.

I know now that it was actually never possible to do this, meaning have a larger family and maintain some semblance of balance and harmony, without outside help.  And that is what we had been doing.  We had help from our parents who each took the kids once a week when I went to work, but otherwise, this ship was powered exclusively by yours truly and my husband.  When I say “outside help”, I mean someone you hire; a cleaning lady or grocery delivery, or a nanny; whatever the current situation calls for.  It means paying a guy to paint the window trim, or cut the grass on occasion.  It means finding resources which help take the pressure off, allowing you to relax a bit and actually enjoy the life you have spent so much time creating.  

We have never embraced this idea as a couple.  We actually (mostly) enjoy our DIY approach.  However, when we were expecting Samuel, our fifth child under age 8, we sponsored a nanny to come from the Philippines to help us.  This idea of a live-in nanny had never ever appealed before.  We had never been prepared to make the adjustments required to make it work.  And the truth is, I kind of felt like for us, having a nanny would be cheating.  We signed up for lots of kids after all.  Being time and energy challenged was just part of the deal. 

Oh how I think differently now!!

Once I got pregnant with Samuel, I knew that unless I suddenly became capable of bi-location, or auto-cloning, I would need another set of full-time hands around here.   Suddenly, hiring a nanny seemed not only justifiable, but necessary.  There was only so much that caffeine and extreme organization could accomplish.  I finally had admitted my limit.  

And that changed everything.

Claire’s presence in our lives was undeniably positive.  We embraced her as family, and hoped to sponsor her child to come to Canada as soon as she have us the green light.  She gave me the gift of time so that I could heal my heart.  There were challenges to our arrangement, but they seemed very manageable….. to me.  I had begun to feel balanced, and had started to make future plans for this first time since our baby died.

Last week, quite out of the blue, our nanny quit.  It shocked us and has thrown us sideways a little.  But not completely.  (Most things don’t seem to be a crisis now, unless they really are.)

This was simply a momentary set-back.  Yet once again, I found myself adjusting to change and re-assessing every facet of my life.  But this change in circumstance has not change my desire for another child, nor has it made me want to abandon my other new-found goals.  What has changed is who is going to be the person we hire to help us, not if someone is.

So how do I think this time will still be different?”

It will be different because  I will not pretend that we can easily accomplish the goal of another baby or any of our other goals for that matter, without a few critical people on the payroll.  No way.  Just because that nanny decided to jump ship, doesn’t mean that having her hadn’t been helpful.

The fact that I get that is what is different.

The answer to that other largely rhetorical question, “How would having another baby have made today better?”  is this.

A new baby wouldn’t have.  Made. Today. Better.  Having extra help would have made today better.  Baby or no baby.  And if we are blessed with one more bundle of joy, (insert hopeful prayer) without question, we will also hire another nanny.  Sure, there is risk that she too might come and go, but in the end, there is always someone else willing to fill those shoes.

And now, I am happy to let them.

“So…..are you back at work?” and other comments which drive me crazy

I swore I wouldn’t publish a rant post.  Really, I did.  Yet the material is just so abundant, that I am giving in to the familiar urge to just “get it out on paper”.  I need to release it – the rant – from its confines in my brain where is only serving to pollute my usually positive and glass half full, (albeit battered at the moment) self.  Perhaps this little commentary on things one should not say, will serve to gently educate the usually well-meaning general public, friends and family about what  grieving parents often experience in the aftermath of the loss of their child.  Ok, yes,  I am totally justifying my rant post as educational.  So, as long as I might be doing a bit of public good…….here I go!!

1.  “So………..are you back at work?”

This question drives me crazy.  I have been asked this question about 8 times over the span of a few days recently, which makes me realize that I have now passed a  certain undetermined milestone in the eyes of many which leads them to believe that this question is natural and not offensive.  The trouble is, when the onslaught of this question started, I re-engaged in a long series of sleepless nights again, just considering that this is what I “should” be doing.  I love my work and am quite grateful to have a career that gives me a sense of accomplishment in addition to a decent paycheck.  But right now, I absolutely have no desire to be there.  I don’t care about work, and unequivocally do not want to be there.  I just don’t have the energy or focus or concentration.  In a word, I am not ready to go back yet.

I totally get the question though.  It is a signal that the person asking it likely does not realize the length of time a mother losing her baby may need to fully recover.  They couldn’t possibly understand the roller coaster process of grief that you are trying to allow for whilst being a parent too.  They have no idea that although from the outside, your life looks exactly like it did before your baby died, that in reality your life has changed profoundly.  In fact, YOU have changed profoundly.   And while you are busy trying to just put the pieces back together, you are also trying to redefine what those pieces even ARE.  Counsellors call this “finding your new normal”.  The less offensive question or comment regarding work could just simply be “How are you doing?  It is good that you are able to take some time off from work to heal.”

One aspect of finding your new normal is redefining your family.  One assumes that this would be easy in our case.  We planned to have four children close together.  Then we had four children close together.  Then we were done having kids.  Everyone knew it.  I unabashedly gave away clothes and baby things, happy to pass them on to those friends of mine entering this delicious but exhausting stage of life.  I was sad to be finished having babies, but knew we were ready to move forward from this time of our life.

Then we got pregnant with our little Samuel.  He took us by surprise, completely.  He was a miracle, even breaking through all contraceptive barriers and showing us that our lives weren’t really totally in our control.  From the start, he showed us how to surrender to that fact and embrace the bend in our road with gratitude.  So we did.  Joyfully.  We were delighted that a new baby would join us, but after this I felt we couldn’t continue to risk having more kids.  My body had been through so much in 8 years with 5 pregnancies and an early miscarriage as well.  I was physically exhausted.  In January, my hubby booked the procedure.  I was relieved.  After our bonus baby came, we would be DONE….again.

Then, a week before my husband was scheduled for the vasectomy, I had a really random thought.  “Maybe we shouldn’t do it.  What if something happens?” The thought hit me like it wasn’t mine…..like it just landed in my mind and kind of smacked me sideways a bit.  I was alarmed by it.  I quickly dismissed it as weird but maybe normal.  My husband, begrudgingly, had the procedure. Then my due date came and went.  My body did not seem to want to go into labour despite two cervical rimmings and as much activity as I could manage.  I felt so depleted.  I didn’t feel the way I did close to my other deliveries.  I told my husband that I was worried because it felt like the baby didn’t want to come.  Something just felt different.  Everything looked normal, nothing was clinically a red flag, but the truth is, I felt different.

Then Samuel died.  Our worlds came crashing down with his loss.  This was like the sucker punch in a boxing match of a lifetime; the KO that you don’t see coming.  This one did it.  This has been the only time in my entire life that I thought I might not make it through something.  How does anyone make it through this? Somehow though, we are making it through, bit by painful bit.  The roller coaster of redefining our family over and over was about to hit a new low.  What now?

Well, now I don’t feel DONE anymore.  I would love to have another child.  I will wait for a few more months to see if I still feel the same as time moves along and as I work through my grief.  But it is complicated now for a number of reasons.

1. My husband is happy to be finished having babies, although to his total credit, he is willing to discuss it.

2.  I am now 40.  This is not the age at which I would have thought that I would want to have another baby much less be seriously considering it.

3.  Having another baby would mean another surgery, one which costs money even here in Canada.  It is not like they tell you this when they give you the snip, but that is a whole other rant!  This leads me to the next comment that I despise with everything in me.

2.  “You know, having another baby will not bring Samuel back……”

This is likely the stupidest thing anyone could ever think would be helpful.

“Nooooooo Wayyyyyy!!!!!!?”   I want to say.  “You are KIDDING!??  Here the whole time I have just thought I could just get pregnant, and he would just jump right back in there.  I am so totally grateful that you have enlightened me to how this works.”

This is of course my internal monologue.  I respond in a kinder and much more appropriate way, but sometimes I wonder why I have spared this person the truth of knowing how this suggestion affects me and likely most other women wrestling with the same question.  Having a rainbow baby as they are called; that is a baby born after a loss, can be a very healing and hopeful experience.  The urge to create new life is quite a natural and positive one in many cases.  It is also a very personal decision, and one that no one, no matter how close they are to the grieving mother, should adjudicate at all.  Ask questions, yes.  Be there to listen, yes.  Say comment #2,  never.

So there it is, my educational rant.  Ahhhhhh.  I feel much better having written that off my chest.  I hope that this post might provide some insight into why it is my cheeks and ears sometimes flush in frustration at certain well intended and seemingly benign comments, and why at times, I seem to shift into a darker mood quite abruptly.  Perhaps I have  written the words that others in similar shoes might be experiencing too.  Regardless, I know that I feel better just getting it out there.

Thank you for listening.

Our happy circus

As I sit down to start this blog, I am interrupted 6 times before I have even completed this sentence.  No joke.  I am pretty sure any future entry will be no different for a very, very long time.  I am the mother of four awesome kids aged 8, 6, 3 and 2, and am about to give birth to our fifth bundle of joy any time now; hence the name of my blog, Five under 8.  At this point, my husband has known me longer pregnant than not, and I have more “transitional” pieces in my wardrobe than any garment I could identify with for longer than a month or two.  Admittedly, I am one of THOSE annoying women who actually enjoys being pregnant and even manages to feel beautiful through most of it, although I have finally reached the point where I can say that I am absolutely and unequivocally DONE.  I am tired of being pregnant, out of breath, and uncomfortable. I am excited to be beyond the stage of producing these little humans, and be entirely devoted to raising these little humans.

We had always planned on a largish family, and wanted them close in age.  The plan however, was for a family of between 3 and 4 children, so this little one took us all quite by surprise.  I had donated all baby clothes no less than 2 weeks after our youngest had outgrown them and had gleefully tossed the gaudy plastic exersaucer the moment she had reached the weight/ height maximum.  Upon realizing that our well laid plans to reclaim some semblance of balance and personal time had been usurped by an unexpected twist of fate, I faced a set of emotions that I had not experienced with any other pregnancy.  I was panicked, terrified, and angry that the so-called birth control we used had failed to deliver on its promise to do just that.  Thankfully, I got over that relatively quickly, and am proud and delighted to have a larger-than-most family.  Contrary to popular assumption, I don’t actually have a huge tolerance for disorganization or noise, but am learning to embrace the chaos of my happy circus.  I do fully appreciate the gift that each of our children brings to us and each other, and in an effort to remember and honour each crazy moment, I have created this blog to record and share my musings on it all.

I hope you enjoy it.

Sincerely,

Shannon