I have been trying to put some thoughts together about how I’m feeling in light of Ben’s birth regarding Julia’s death. The truth is, I haven’t had too many thoughts about anything…I seem to be on autopilot sleep-deprived mommy brain while adjusting to two children, for the second time.
It is different this time. Julia was an “easy” baby who slept a lot and was content doing almost anything; in the first week of his life, Ben cried more than Julia ever did. But my heart ached for Julia every moment of her life. The heart surgery was supposed to give her life; sustaining her life for 5 months prior to it was a monumental task. My anxiety level was so high; how could I possibly fulfill the heavy task of keeping her alive until the surgeon performed his miracle? But her story was, instead, that we were able to know her for five months before she gained true life while in the hospital under utterly competent care.
Ben is definitely not an “easy” baby, but we are still grateful. To us, he is so advanced: he cries when he needs something, or just because he wants to; his bowels work the way they are supposed to; he eats greedily; he is so very strong! It is much easier to wake multiple times per night to feed a baby when he calls to you, rather than setting an alarm to feed Julia, who thrashed and choked and simply wanted to sleep for 12 hours at night, despite it putting her health in peril.
|Nat and Ben|
Sometimes I walk Ben around the house and point out Julia’s pictures to him. I tear up, wishing he could have known his second sister. And yet, there are times when her life seems like a dream…did we really have her? Did we really experience all of the emotions and difficulties that I remember? But I always think of Ben as my third child…I have never been tempted to call him our second.
The women’s ministry pastor at our church pointed out something beautiful to me: that Ben will always have a special connection to Julia, because I carried him while grieving her. Perhaps in some way he will always have a special sensitivity to others because of the tears and emotions I had for her during his formation and development.
|Natalie and Julia|
Ben’s life does not seem like a resolution to the “problem” of our grief, as I wrote about previously, but he does seem to fill an absence that I felt in our family. When I was pregnant with him, it felt so odd to be a family of five, but to only have one child present. Now, with the clamor and mess that accompanies having two children in our home, I honestly don’t have the time or emotional space to process Julia’s absence in the way that I was able to in 2014.
|Nat and Ben|
Ido struggle with memories of her that are triggered when he has a minor health issue or difficulty with feeding properly. This has caused me to turn to the Lord in deeper ways, crying out to him for peace. I’m learning to stay in the moment and be grateful for what it is right in front of me, rather than extrapolating and worrying about what the future might hold. This has not been easy, but I do feel like it is a crucial lesson that the Lord is teaching me.
I recently came across some words that Taylor wrote to me on my birthday last year, written two months before Julia’s death, and I marvel at how true those words were:
“This is my prayer for you this year: that you hold on. That you are granted deep peace in a tumultuous time. That you are shown mercy in big ways and in little ways, and that God continues to pull back to curtains for you to see even more of his little mercies. That Natalie and Julia and I would be a blessing to you as you are a blessing to us. That the Lord would lead you to quiet waters and restore your soul. And that we would look back on this time in our lives and realize that it was a crucible that strengthened our marriage, our faith, and our love for each other.”
All of those prayers have been answered, but not in a way that I ever would have foreseen or asked for. Julia will always be an important part of our family, and I’m so grateful for the many people who have walked with us and remembered her through this time.