‘Twas the Night Before

Tonight J and I put Grace to bed together, taking turns with reading books and singing songs and playing the nightly light game– where one of us turns off the light as a sign it’s time for bed, and she turns it back on, and we turn it back off…  We both feel guilty that by the time Grace wakes up tomorrow we will already be on our way to the hospital, guilty about not being there to put her to bed tomorrow night, and about the fact that by the time she sees us next, there will be another baby lying in my arms.  We are excited, we can’t wait, yet we recognize that this is the end of the world as Grace knows it.  Seeing her so cute and cuddly, happily moving from one lap to the other, absolutely basking in all this singular attention– well, I can’t help but feel like a traitor.

There are things I will forget about tomorrow, in that moment when I am finally holding my baby boy.  I’ll forget about how uncomfortable I’ve been for the past four weeks with his head so low in my pelvis I was sure it was going to pop out at any time.  I’ll forget about how it feels to have a little hand repeatedly try to punch it’s way through my cervix.  I’ll probably forget about how he continued to put me through this, week after week, rather than ripping open that water sack and forcing me to the hospital early like a good little boy.  I’ll even forget about how itchy I feel in this very moment, effectively scrubbed down by my hospital-issued disinfectant, unable to lotion myself up post shower even though it’s freaking winter out there and my dry skin feels like prickly fire all over, something no amount of scratching can fix.  I won’t forget about the months of uncomfortably sleepless nights, but at least by finally having a purpose for being awake, I’ll be able to move on.  All that I will forget about tomorrow, skin on skin with my little man, hubby by my side.  But Grace’s little face tonight, leaning into me for a kiss, waving her hand at J and saying, Dada, bye!, I won’t be able to forget.  In such a touching and profound family moment, she will be missed.

I don’t think I’ve put enough thought into how it will feel to be insanely in love with two kids instead of just one. I know it will happen, I know it just does.  But I’m so protective of Grace and her feelings, and this baby, until I can actually hold him in the flesh, is still so abstract, that I haven’t quite wrapped my mind around it.

Despite that, I know that tomorrow is the day I’ll start telling her she’s a big girl and not a baby, even though by all intensive purposes, at 17 months, she actually is still a baby.  Tomorrow is the day where I stop being able to carry her on command.  Tomorrow is the day where I’ll start asking her to play on her own for a while until I finish feeding the baby or changing his diaper.  Tomorrow is the day where the short-term and immediate needs of a newborn will supersede some of Grace’s needs, and I will somehow have to reconcile the fact that it is I, Grace’s mom, that is doing the displacing.  Tomorrow is the first day in a long line of foot-stomping It’s not fair‘s.

Tomorrow I throw another ball in the air, try my best to juggle, and not let anyone fall.  Oy…

One of my favourite stories about my brother-in-law, my sister’s husband, involves his transition from having one kid to two.  He was so in love with this first born, his son, that he couldn’t imagine loving another child in the same way.  He often would say that he was happy their second was to be a girl, imagining that a daughter for my sister meant he could have his son all to himself.  And then my niece arrived.  And she was a daddy’s girl from the second she was born.

Even though I had no first hand knowledge of this, I was amongst those that warned him that it would happen, that he would love his daughter as much as his son, that what was difficult to imagine possible would really just be.  I find I need to remind myself of that now, as a way to assuage my feelings of guilt.  There will not be any less love in my life, but instead a whole lot more.

I kept wondering about the timing, but I believe this week, in particular, is the best one for being offered this gift.  Following the loss in our family, following the tragedy that was Sandy Hook Elementary, — heck, we’re even a few days away from the end of the world, if you believe the Mayans– more children, more family, more love, sorry, I know this is total cheese, but, it’s really the best gift of any and all.

Someone might need to remind me of this in a few days, though, when I’m entirely sleep-deprived and Grace is in meltdown mode, angrily trying to tear the baby from my arms and yelling MINE, MINE!  Just saying.

-mtg

Originally published December 2012

To Grampy, With Love

A parent should never outlive their child.  Truth as there is behind this one simple statement, it does not make it any easier when a child loses a parent.  It may hurt a little less for my mom to lose my grandmother, now in her 90s, than it would for me to lose my 50-something mom; and that in turn might hurt less in the grand scheme of life than for Grace to lose me right now, but there is hurt nonetheless.  But what about grandchildren, how do we measure their hurt?

I grew up knowing one set of grandparents.  On my dad’s side my nonna had already died, and my nonno lived in Italy, and died when I was only 5 besides.  But on my mom’s side, I knew and know my grandparents very well.  I spent entire summers with them, scouring fields for wild mushrooms with my nonno and learning to knit and watching The Price is Right with my nonna.  I knew their home as well as I knew my own; where the best hiding places were and where the goodies were stashed.  My life is so full from memories of cereal with sugar in my milk for breakfast, biscotti e latte before bed, homemade pasta eaten together from one communal wooden platter (the best thing you could ever eat in all your life), my nonna’s old wringer washing machine, eating cucumbers right from the vines of their backyard garden (by this I mean that their backyard, all of it, was a garden), lemon water in the fridge and the feel of my nonno’s favourite vinyl armchair.  My nonno, the man who always pinched my nose and called me Cippolletta (Little Onion), died when I was 18, and for me it was a very sad day.

Quite honestly, when J and I were first asking ourselves that question, Are we ready for kids?, one of the main driving forces behind our decision to go for it was knowing that our kids would have four amazing grandparents, and wanting our kids to grow up knowing, and influenced by, their grandparents.  It was with a sad heart when, having made that decision and being in the process of trying, we discovered that my father-in-law had cancer.  He beat cancer the first time around, got to meet his granddaughter, and although Grace is too young, provided us, her parents, with fond memories of the two of them.  Every moment that Grace spent with her grampy was an important one for us, because we knew that cancer would one day be back.

Unfortunately it returned way too soon, just before Grace’s first birthday, and with way too much finality.  We managed two trips “down home” as a family since then.and during that time no matter how ill he felt, or how frustrated, or how emotional, he always had a smile for his “little girl.”  I thought of that this morning, the morning after his final breaths, as Grace was making bubble sounds by twiddling her lower lip.  He taught her that, and it’s still her favourite trick.

I remember when J first passed on the news to his dad that we were expecting Grace.  He responded by saying that children, having them and raising them, are the reason for life.  As I sit here, with a new life inside of me, expecting him to make his debut at any time now, those thoughts take on a deeper meaning.  I am sad for the memories that will never be formed.  Sad that Grace and her brother will not know and learn from such a role model, yet happy that Grace, at least, knew who he was for however short a time.  J is a bit more concrete than I on these matters, but for me, I can’t help but feel that grandfather and grandson are somewhere out there in the yonder world, together in spirit, the old passing on the torch to the new, and that on some level they know each other already.

-mtg

Originally published December 12, 2012
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