For a little over three weeks now Heather and I have been lost in the business of having a new baby. This is a business full of great joy, and we have reveled in the happiness it has brought back into our home. Unfortunately, as opposed to most new parents, our interaction with our newborn has brought not just joy, but sadness as well.
On the morning of April 7th, 2009 I awoke as the Dad to a beautiful little girl, and as Maddie’s Dad I had a lot to do. I changed diapers, washed and folded tiny clothes, fed spoonfuls of baby food, and doled out kisses and hugs like they were going out of style. But, around sundown that day, I no longer had a reason to do any of those things. It was as if I was abruptly fired from a job that I loved.
From that day forth I changed no more diapers, left shut the drawer full of Maddie’s clothes, and hurried past the baby food aisle at the supermarket. My days went by like this…quiet and empty…and I tried as best I could to banish all thoughts of that lost job that I loved so much. Keeping those thoughts at bay grew easier when Heather became pregnant. Our days became focused on the future, and preparing for a baby allowed us to (at least to some extent) not focus on the past.
On January 22nd I was reinstated into that job I loved so much. Suddenly, I was once again changing diapers, washing and folding tiny clothes, and doling out kisses and hugs. I now wake once again with a lot to do, but I no longer can push away thoughts of the past. Taking care of a baby girl brings back too many memories. When I set Annie down on the changing table, I find myself flashing back to setting Maddie on the same table, and when I try to soothe Annie when she cries, I flashback to doing the same thing with Maddie. Wrapped up in the same moment is the joy of bonding with Annie and the horror of losing Maddie.
It is a lot to process. Just the other night I sat with Annie in the rocking chair in the baby’s room, the very one I sat with Maddie in a million times. As we rocked back and forth Annie fell asleep, and her features went still. I smiled as I held her sleeping body in my arms, then suddenly saw myself back at the hospital holding Maddie’s still body after she had been declared dead. A chill ran through me.
Annie soon woke and looked up at me. I peered down at her with tears in my eyes, and the sweet innocence of her gaze broke my heart. I wish our relationship could be full of nothing but joy, but it is much more complex than that. These last three weeks have been my happiest since Maddie passed, but, in many ways, they have also been my hardest.
No one said this would be easy, and there is no easy fix-all to living through what Heather and I have the last year. The truth is we will likely spend the rest of our lives trying to make sense of it all, and face new challenges each day. All I can do in the face of all of this is to keep loving Annie with all of my ability, and to focus on the joy of being her Dad. She deserves that. She’s a beautiful little girl after all, just like her sister.