We moved. Ten or so days ago we moved down the block and around the corner from our little house, but I’m still trying to unpack. We hadn’t planned on moving this year, but we suddenly needed more space. Unpacking with an infant is not the easiest process, who knew?
In September, my father-in-law was diagnosed with stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer. The news rumbled through the family. This was the same disease that took my husband’s mother (non-smoker) just 5 years prior. My father-in-law is an Iowa farmer, born and raise and tilling the land on a farm that has been in the family for nearly a century. But we are not in Iowa and neither is my husband’s sister and family. So together we all looked at the best options and decided that he would come live with us and have treatment at the University of Kansas.
The plan works on many levels. KU has a great program, the treatment center is only 10 minutes from us, J doesn’t have to be in a house alone (and I can make sure he eats), and most importantly he and Lochlan are getting some special grandson/grandfather bonding in. They have a special way of making each other smile and I like to think it’s part of the healing plan.
Shortly before he was diagnosed, J had picked up a puppy to keep him company. It became quickly apparent that keeping a pup was not going to be easy so he gifted it to Lochlan. Yes, I feel like I’m going crazy with a 7-month-old puppy and a 6-month-old baby, but they ADORE each other. And most of the time our old boxer really digs the pup. Probably because he lost his life companion last December and as annoying as the bouncing puppy is, the company is comforting.
And the thing about an extra adult, a young dog, and a baby is that they need room to spread out, toss toys around, and get comfortable. It became quickly apparent that our little 1600 square foot home was not going to cut it for long. So, we found a beautiful house.
When I told my father about the new house, he was super excited for us, but he immediately told me that it would feel bittersweet and that’s okay. He said your first home will always hold a special place and you will miss it from time to time; just like he misses “the little blue house.” And he’s right, leaving the house felt sad. We teared up when we got the over asking price offer from the first person who saw the house. We sighed heavy when all our stuff was boxed up and we started patching holes where our pictures had hung. My eyes welled again when I erased our name off the chalkboard painted door in the garage.
We lived a lot of life in that house. We became a true family in that house – we got engaged, married, and pregnant all while living in that house. We brought our son home to that house. When we lost the twins, I sat at the picture window and imagined them in the yard. The yard we put a new fence on shortly after we became pregnant with them. We put in that picture window and spent hours sitting at our fireplace or kitchen table looking out it. We loved that house. And it’s just a structure, we carry our home with us as a family, but it started there.
This new house has a great layout, beautiful windows to stare out of, and two fireplaces to lounge around. We will grow into it, our son will know this as his home, and eventually all of our things will find their place. But the sentimentalist in me had to write a goodbye letter and a blessing to the new owner.
The new owner is a 25-year-old that just returned from living overseas. He grew up in the area and his parents are notable in the Kansas City community. He may find the letter sappy. Dan informed me most 25-year-old guys would shrug it off, but he also said that were he to get one now he’d know it was important. And I told him, as much as the letter is for the young guy, it’s for us too. When we went to drop it off, my typically pulled together husband also got a little emotional leaving the house. Because it was a good little house. Because he put a lot of sweat and dollars into the house. Because we truly lived in that house - ups and downs and lots of life.
So, I’ll share my sappy letter as a tribute to a house well-loved and to put the blessing into the universe for the new owner and for our new house also.
Welcome to your new home! We hope that you love this little house as much as we did. But even more than a house we hope you find it to be a home, a beginning, and a place where life’s big moments happen for you. These walls held some of the most pivotal years of our lives, some of our biggest ups and a couple of our biggest downs.
Off to unpack and make more memories and build a home in this new house. I’m hoping to write more in the new year, but if you haven’t had a chance to yet, you can check out my latest blogs over at Kansas City Mom’s Blog. The once a month deadline helps me keep posting!
People who parent after loss are heroes. Some already had children that they continue to care for and others go onto have children after their loss. Either way, I look at the bravery it takes to put one foot in front of the other, to love with your whole heart even when it is broken, and to be completely vulnerable again.
Children make us vulnerable in ways I couldn’t understand before going through the process of pregnancy … and loss … and pregnancy again. They stretch our human capacity for love to its limits, showing you what it truly means to love someone so much more than yourself. Someone who is their own person and will (hopefully) go on to live their own lives full of adventure and people. Or, as is my case and many others in the perinatal loss community, someone who wholly and completely steals your heart but whose life is out of your hands.
The utter vulnerability of it all can be terrifying. And yet, this is the human experience. Love and community and heartache and repair and repeat, repeat, repeat. Any loss mother I have talked to has told me the same thing, “I would do it again just to be able to love him/her.” I think that speaks to the power of the love over the loss' crippling pain.
Tomorrow I will be 25 weeks along with our son. He’s been kicking more noticeably lately. Swishing around alive, completely alive. We’ve had two growth scans so far to check on his progress and he remains on the big side (97th percentile!), which is a blessing in case he comes early. Each day that passes at this point adds an additional 3% survival rate. I celebrate him daily. I take moments throughout the day to really focus intention on my gratitude and joy about his life.
And now, as we pass more milestones of survival chances, the idea that I will get to parent him, actually parent him, becomes more and more a possible reality.
It’s this reality that has me looking around at all those parenting after loss. At the way they handle the biggest job in the world even when they’ve already lived the biggest fear in the job.
I was speaking with a mother who very recently lost her son midtrimester about how she was coming a long in these first months. Everything is jumbled and messy for her – when to take time to grieve, how to take care of her other daughters, how to move forward or not move forward. The familiarity of her grief is potent to me. But she also said that when her daughter is scared, she reminds her that her brother can help her be brave because she gets to do all the things he didn’t do. He will be there for them. He has not disappeared. He will be a reminder of grace and strength and bravery. Her ability to seamlessly blend this into conversation with her girls impresses me beyond end.
Another dear friend of mine lost a son midtrimester a year before our loss. She now has a second young son. Every time I see him he fills the room with joy. He is immeasurably joyous and adored. He shows the face of a child that comfortably knows his parents love him. And yet, my friend still yearns for her first son. She still wonders daily what it would be like to have them both. Each time she puts an outfit that she had purchased for him on her living son she tells him it is a hand me down from his brother. I love this. I know that one day she will run out of hand me downs, but the conversation will have been started. In a small way, the boys will be allowed to be siblings regardless of the distance between them.
I find these simple acts heroic. In the face of the greatest grief, with courage and humility and love, they continue forward. And not by replacing or forgetting or denying but by integrating and allowing space for their children and still feeling both sides of joy and pain.
I'm still thinking of ways to tell our son about his brother and sister. I’m still working through how to describe his mom’s ability to be completely in love with him and completely yearning for them. I am still trying to come to terms with the fact that he will not live as the youngest of three but an only child or the oldest (possibly). I’m still picking up the broken pieces of my heart so they don’t fall into his lap.
I can’t wait to meet him. Part of me believes that when I do, I’ll know better how to be the parent he needs. When I see his face, I’ll know how to do these things too. Because I will be their mother and his, and he will need different things from me. And I’ll use every bit of me to be the best for the three of them.
This is not the story I imagined for us. But this is our story.
Hi, I'm Tiffany. I believe in the power of stories to connect us to each other. I write about life after loss and all the love, longing, and learning that comes from it. Grief is big, love is bigger. My newest stories are about motherhood (after both infertility and loss). In my experience, love doesn't get bigger than motherhood.
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