I wrote this for Share Parents Magazine recently and am sharing it here as well.
"Is Hank your first?" My mind starts reeling. How well do I know the person asking? Will they find out about Hadley anyway? Do I feel like sharing about Hadley today? Do I say "yes" and feel guilt? Do I say no and watch people wait for my next words? Every parent who has lost a baby knows the feeling.
There is a scary R word that nips at the heals of the term Rainbow baby that I am sure every parent of loss has grappled with. It's a scary word and a tricky concept: Replace. It seems silly that this word even comes up because there is no child, ever in the history of the world, that was like the baby that was lost. There was no pregnancy like it ever before. There were no expectations like it before. Just as we walk around, different, unique, whole people, that was our Hadley too. Her own person. My grief and healing process are still irrevocably part of who I am. Not a day goes by without my thinking of my daughter Hadley and what the reality was, coupled with what could have been. However, once Hank came on the scene, my deep grief lessened, my wounds, while not gone, healed in miraculous ways. I have grappled with this. If no one can ever replace Hadley and who she was, why then, does Hank bring healing to old wounds? The answer, I believe, lies in love. It now has somewhere to go.
I could list thousands of things that my family lost when Hadley's tiny heart stopped beating: first steps, first days of school, road trips, watching our parents spoil their grand child, baby coos....I could go on and on. And yes, we will never experience those things with Hadley. And that breaks my heart. But we do get to parent Hank, and that? That fills my heart and soul with unending joy. The pain of not getting to parent Hadley, of losing the incredible spirit that she was in our world, that will always look and feel like scars on my heart. But being a mom, parenting, and experiencing those firsts with Hank, well, that feels like home. The part of me that wanted so ached to actively parent each day and pour out love for my child, that piece has finally fallen into place.
So I live, love, and savor each day with my "Rainbow" baby, holding his big sister in my heart with every late night feed, every diaper changed, tear wiped, and smile received. I am Hadley AND Hank's mom. That reality of having two babies, one on earth and one in heaven, looks nothing like I ever imagined, but it's my story and it's full of grace in its own ways. By loving him, I love her, and vice versa. Like the song says, "Somewhere over the rainbow, dreams really do come true."