You never truly get a chance to walk the same path twice in life. Yes, we have lost two children, both boys, both carried to full term, both diagnosed with Potter's Syndrome bilateral renal agenesis at 19-20 weeks in utero, both born alive, both died within three hours. Between those lost little boys are three very alive little girls. Little girls who have been told, since birth, about their big brother Wyatt. Girls who visit his grave throughout the year and recognize the cemetery where he is buried from the interstate. Girls who are excited for his birthday each year because it means they get to bake, decorate and eat cupcakes at his grave and then release balloons to heaven. Girls who, a little over two weeks ago, said hello and goodbye on the same day to their newest baby brother Eli. Those girls are where our path has diverged. They were not there, not even contemplated as we walked down Wyatt's path. And so we began another path with Eli, a familiar path but not the same. There are five of us walking this path, not two.
My husband and I have dealt with this loss, this grief before. Our children have not. The oldest and youngest have taken it all in stride. My two year old sees me crying and merely asks, "Are you crying again?" or "Are you sad about baby Eli?" I'm not sure the six year old even notices it. She's all business, planning for me to have twins next and for one to be a boy to replace Eli. That stings. Many times I've had to explain how no baby could replace Eli and how she did not replace Wyatt, each one is so special and loved. It's our five year old that tugs at my heartstrings. The one that couldn't have held Eli enough, the one whose hands are in so many of our pictures of Eli, stroking his little face and body. The one who took the most pictures of him the day he was born. The one who sat with me at the funeral home and cried over her baby brother. The one who stayed behind at the gravesite holding my hand and sobbing along with me while my husband and other daughters tromped back to the car. The one who snuggled in bed with my husband and I while I cried one night and told me that when I cry she feels like crying too. The one who has asked me over and over why we can't unbury baby Eli and bring him home. If only it were so simple.
Since November I've hurt for my girls, anticipating how the grief, how they would handle Eli's birth and death. How they would carry their brothers' memories. I've read literature on children and grief but nothing can prepare you for a child looking you straight in the eyes and asking why you can't just unbury her brother and bring him home. Nothing can prepare you for how to answer your children when they ask if we will bring "the next baby" home or whether they will have another brother. Just as I did after Wyatt, I find myself putting all my eggs into one basket and this time I only have one basket left. This time it's not just for me to heal or to find good and beauty in the world again. This time it's about putting beauty back into my children's world. It's not about filling my arms because my arms are full. I've been very blessed to have held five newborns that I can call mine in my arms and to have held two to the end of their lives. This time my arms don't ache, just my heart and it doesn't just ache for me.