I've been back in the office for a few days now. At first, it felt like a little bit of a novelty to shower in the morning, wear something other than yoga pants (although let's face it, the options are few due to two babies in eleven months), and talk to other adults. When kissing my living children goodbye in the morning, I may have shed a few tears, but I felt it was good for them to get time with their Dad or their Oma.
I couldn't help thinking about returning to the office after my last "leave." After Lydie died. I spent the eight weeks at home on a "medical leave" (I did, after all, give birth) instead of a "maternity leave," crying on my couch. I returned to work entirely too soon, in the midst of deep grief. I spent most of my days crying in my office, avoiding other people (especially the coworkers who never said a word to me about my daughter), and generally, being unable to function well, much less care about work.
So let's just say, it was easier to return after Josephine's live birth.
But it still wasn't easy.
Let me preface this by stating that I don't think I'm cut out to be a stay at home mom. I think I'm a better parent to all my children, Lydie included, as a working mom (who gratefully has the summers off).
But still, I have been dreading the start of daycare. To be fair, it's not that hard to leave Benjamin. He likes learning and structure and his friends, and he thrives in the school setting.
But Josephine's only four months old. For the past year, I have never spent more than an hour or two away from her. We sleep a foot apart. I was dreading putting her in the arms of someone I don't know and walking away from her. Dreading not being able to look at her sweet face all day long. Dreading spending the day wondering what she is doing presently.
And how could I leave her with someone else all day after losing Lydie?
When I got in the car after handing over Josephine, I told myself, "This is not life or death. This is not like losing Lydie," and then I cried.
One of my closest BLM friends, with a similar timeline of the loss of her daughter and birth of her rainbow baby, texted me a while ago and said, "I'm interested to see how you feel back at work. It's weird how well I can concentrate without crippling grief or anxiety."
And it's so true. The grief is still there, obviously, as it always will be, but it's much more manageable now. The anxiety also still exists, but it's nothing like carrying around a post-it note and marking each time Bowie Girl moved.
And it's true. I can concentrate, be productive, even banter with coworkers. I can talk to people who never acknowledged Lydie's death and birth, though I still know exactly who they are.
As I've returned to work and run into more and more coworkers, most gush something like this: "Congratulations! Welcome back! You look great!" I smile and say thank you. Maybe even respond, "Good to be back!"
But there are a few who reach me at a different level. They are the ones with tears in their eyes, who say something like, "I'm so glad that Josephine is here safely. You've been heavy on my heart" or "I just think you're so brave."
I'm so grateful for people like that. Who are willing to be vulnerable and real and don't sugar-coat.
For the last 15 months and 24 days, any time I hear about a baby being born, I think "Why not that baby? Why Lydie?"
I'm sure, if you haven't lost a baby, you think I sound horrible. Just as I'm sure, if you have lost a baby, you think the same thing. I wonder if I'll aways do this. I wonder if I'll be 60 and think, "Why not that baby? Why Lydie?"
Let me assure you, I do not want more babies to die. Since Lydie's death, I have heard about so many other babies who were born still or died shortly after birth, and it always hurts my heart.
Mostly, I just wish I never knew this pain.
The first day I worked, Ben wanted to cuddle in our bed when I got home. That was fine by me. He climbed under the covers, and pulled out Lydie's blanket, the one that is stained with her blood. I still curl up with it every single night.
"Careful with that," I told him. "That's Lydie's blanket. It held her. It's very special to Mom."
"Lydia's in here?" he asked, unfolding it.
I talked to him about the blanket, how it held Lydie's body. How she died and we miss her.
"Good thing I have a new sister now," replied Ben.
When I told my mom this story later, she laughed. That made me want to cry. It's so not funny to me. His comment cut me so deep, cracking open my broken heart.
I am so, so glad Josephine is in our lives. That she is here safely. That I have a second chance to raise a daughter.
And I miss Lydie desperately.
There's been other moments with Ben, opportunities to talk about Lydie. Like the time he hurt my heart because he said, "I no love Lydie. I love Josie."
"You love both your sisters," I told him. "It's just that Josie is here for you to play with. But you love Lydie too."
"No, I no love Lydie. I love Josie," he repeated.
I sighed and stopped arguing.
My proudest moment was when I overheard him pointing to the sky and saying to his cousin, "That sunset makes me think of Lydia."
It's hard to know how to talk to your kids about their dead sister. Especially when you leave out the heaven part because you're so unsure of your own beliefs. But in that moment, I believed we are doing something right.
I've been getting out more lately. A three-year-old's birthday party. An indoor water park. Both noisy, hot, loud, and overrun with babies and kids.
Sometimes I have to remind myself that it's only been a bit more than a year. A year ago, both these settings would have caused me total panic attacks.
That's something, right?
When we found out Lydie was a girl, my sister was one of the most ecstatic ones. (You can read a column that she wrote about it here). Our boys are best buddies, and we thought our girls would be best buddies too. Both of us thought we'd only have two kids, and if our daughters wouldn't have sisters, then sister-cousins seemed pretty awesome. My sister's daydreams included lots of matching outfits.
|the best buddies boys|
And now, she's pretty obsessed with "Josie Bowie," as she calls her.
And my sister, of course, has bought them lots of matching outfits.
|Minnie suits courtesy of Pop-Pop's recent Florida trip|
|Matching cousins. Missing the middle girl.|
Of course, I'm glad Josephine is here, that my niece has a sister-cousin to play with and cuddle and match (and one day, be Maids of Honor in each other's weddings, but that might be getting ahead of myself).
But it's also a mind fuck. Because Lydie was supposed to be that sister-cousin. And when I see the two girls in their matching swimsuits, I can't help but think about the size 18 month suit we should have also bought. I can't help but see what's missing from the picture. Who is missing.
I'm so adamant that Josephine is not a replacement for her sister. But then she literally wears her clothes ("Lydie's hand-me-downs," I call them, even though Lydia never got to wear them), has inherited her room, and matches her sister-cousin. No wonder Ben says things like "good thing I got a new sister!" and no wonder most people just gush their congratulations without a mention of the one who is missing.