When I have children who live, I am going to get irritated with them sometimes. I am going to need a break every so often. I am going to look at them from time to time and think: What exactly did I get myself into, here?! And that's okay. I will not be perfect -- and my kids won't be perfect either.
I think that's a trap we often find ourselves in, us babyloss mamas. We think of our babies and all we can imagine at first is their cute little faces and their happy gurgles and the bonding and the breastfeeding and the milestones and the motherly pride. We think we would trade anything; that we would wear spit-up and saggy breasts with a smile, that we wouldn't mind the stretch marks or the sleepless nights or the short-term memory loss, if only our baby was here. And to an extent, that's true. I really would rather have all of those things, than the sorrow that lives now in my heart, and always will.
It's easy to dwell solely on all the lost potential for good -- all the warm fuzzy feelings, every sweet thing we're missing out on -- and thus to feel desperately, endlessly sad. But I think it's important to remember that these babies were people; tiny little people who would have grown up to be as flawed as anyone. Babies who would have pooped on your hand, and broken your sunglasses, and lost the remote. Children who would have talked back, and gotten grass stains on every pair of their jeans, and left a trail of breadcrumbs and jam from the kitchen to the living room. And we would not have hesitated to complain about it, in the comiserating way of our culture.
If they had not died, if none of our babies died, we might still be those moms; the ones we can't stand now, the ones who say the dumbest things. The ones who gripe about being pregnant, or about how tired they are from being up all night with a newborn. We wouldn't think anything of it. We would take it all in stride, not even knowing what it would sound like to someone who longed to experience what was being described. And while perhaps it might make us uncomfortable, to imagine ourselves once again so ignorant and blase, there really is nothing unforgivable in it. It may not be the best attitude, but it is not the worst either; and oh, I wish we were still those moms.
In the early days of grief, I would miss Ailis most when I saw a mother and her baby girl, smiling into eachother's faces, enjoying a moment of bliss. I did not think of Ailis when I saw a little girl having a screaming fit in the grocery store. But you know what? Ailis might have had an occassional screaming fit in a grocery store!
If Ailis had lived, she might have refused to take baths, and we might have had to fight about it every. single. time. She might have hated having bows in her hair, and pulled them out no matter how earnestly I pleaded or bribed. She might have crept out of her bed and sat at the top of the stairs to watch TV over my shoulder late at night. As a teenager -- oh goodness! She might have done any number of naughty, rebellious things as a teenager.
And Noah. If Noah had lived, I feel quite certain that his temper tantrums would have been a sight to behold. He might have stolen cookies from the cupboard after I forbid him to have any more. He might have hidden seventeen frogs in the living room in one afternoon. He might have set fire (accidentally) to the storage shed. He might have clogged the toilets all the time.
They would have been real. They would have been flawed. And I would not have loved them any less for it. I will not love my future children any less when I get irritated with them, either. I do not expect that just because I wanted it so bad for so long, I am never going to get tired or frustrated or disillusioned by motherhood. I am extending this grace to myself. I am giving myself permission (and you too, if you need it) to one day look that beloved rainbow baby straight in the eye, and to take them in, in all their wonderful, gorgeous, unique, living glory, and think:
You, my dear, are driving me absolutely crazy.
Tell me, what are some things your child might have done, had they lived, that would have made you sooo mad?