Today (June 1), Ben is the age that Julia was when she died...2 days shy of 5 months old.
On June 2, he will have surpassed her age.
I'm not sure how to think about this.
My boy is such a sweetheart...now. But it's been a rough road. I expected, after everything we went through with Julia, an easy baby. A baby that did exactly what the books and blogs and experts said a "normal" baby would do.
He has reminded me, instead, that Julia's road, though admittedly harder than most babies', was not as far removed from "normal" as I believed it was. The one thing I wanted most with Ben was a good breastfeeding relationship, because Julia and I couldn't have that...and neither could Ben and I. I've cried and whined and felt like a terrible mother because of it. I have felt like I'm failing him when I buy hypoallergenic formula because I'm not giving him "the best" (aka breastmilk).
Due to severe silent reflux that required trials of two different medications, a dairy intolerance that took quite awhile to pin down and caused intense eczema all over his body (causing him to scratch and bleed), milk that just came too fast for him, and a mouth that just wasn't formed to breastfeed easily, breastfeeding was not for us. We went to more specialists to figure out his eating aversion than I took Julia to. I was desperate to salvage our feeding relationship...and I couldn't.
Kind of like I couldn't save Julia.
I almost had a nervous breakdown. And I don't use that term hyperbolically.
I wasn't prepared for how difficult it would be to have an infant who wasn't doing what I deemed normal: who didn't sleep, who didn't eat enough, who wasn't smiling enough. Wasn't hitting the milestones I thought he should be hitting.
In hindsight, I can see it: Ben is a normal baby whose poor belly hurt All. The. Time. and made him so miserable. Now that we've got all of the factors under control, he is delightful and such an interested, interactive little fellow (though he still doesn't like to sleep). Things aren't perfect, but I'm emerging from the hormonal haze and feel more stable, most of the time.
Since he was born, I have wondered: when Ben is 5 months old, when he exceeds Julia's age, will I worry about him as much? Will I be more confident, more peaceful? Will I know with more serenity that he will not die? That he in all likelihood does not have a feeding disorder, a developmental disorder, a neurological disorder, cancer? Because I have diagnosed him with all of those.
Now that he is just about there, I do think that maybe there is something magical about that age for us. Five months. Julia never got to be that age. It's been a long time since Natalie was a baby, and I can't always remember what "typical" babies are supposed to do.
He is laughing. Laughing! And rolling over! He is so strong. She never got to do those things. When I think of my boy, and all that we have been through together already, I feel like I know him so well. I see his personality shine through more and more each day. But Julia...we never got that with her. Her heart defect prevented us from really seeing who she was, and we were just starting to hear the beginnings of a giggle from her. I mourn that all over again...not just that we lost her, but that we never really got to know her, not like we wanted to.
I have been so caught up in all of Ben's issues over the last five months that I would tell people, and myself, that I didn't have the time to think about her, to miss her. But the truth is, instead, that through my hurting heart for Ben and my anxiety about all he was experiencing, I was grieving her in a new way. I grieved her suffering and death and my own powerlessness amidst it, and I (sometimes wrongly) put those feelings into how I felt about Ben and what he was experiencing. It didn't matter that literally everyone I spoke to told me that Ben looked wonderful and was beautifully healthy...I could only see a very sick baby, almost like I had a mild case of Munchausen Syndrome by proxy.
Julia, you affected us. You mattered. We miss you. I wish your brother could know you.