Some days, one feels like she just can't win.
Try and be happy and positive and excited for renewed hope and feel the guilt of leaving the sorrow of your dead child behind.
Mute your excitement and joy and anticipation out of respect for your sweet first-born and feel guilty for robbing your second.
Have hurt feelings because it seems as if few remembered your son and his existence at Christmas and then feel guilty because you realize you didn't really do anything special for him either. What does one do for their dead child? There's guilt in not even knowing...because the answer is that one does what is best for each individual...and that differs. Not feeling a burning desire to do 'X' or 'Y' leaves one feeling guilty.
Even airing feelings opens the guilt trap...guilt about coming across as complaining. Guilt about getting upset at something someone might say with the best of intentions and yet, makes you so aggravated you stew about it for days. Guilt about even having some of the feelings you are feeling guilty about because for Pete's sake--at least you have the joy of another child to love and to raise (you pray) and you know so many people who are struggling for that same joy to enter their lives.
Guilt, guilt, guilt.
John and I have been talking a lot about where we are now and where we were a year ago. In the same breath that he notes, "We've come a long way," he also follows with, "But I wish people knew we aren't ever going to be the same and have a long way to go." I couldn't agree more. We HAVE come a long way. But in that coming along...it's easy for people to take that 'progress' as acceptance and being ready to 'close' the Matthew chapter as we open the 'Luke' chapter.
Nothing could be further from the truth. To us, our 'progress' is just a teeny, tiny leg of the loooooong road to when we all get to Heaven.
We anticipate that'll be a while.
The purpose of continuing to write on this blog after Matthew died was to continue to share my heart with a child or children who might read it. To continue our family's story. Obviously, as others read it (and Luke is more into Tumble Bumble or Who Hoots? read by Daddy!) there are days I do find myself writing for those who may read. It's those days I worry about writing something that someone is going to take the wrong way because it is inevitable that it happens.
So...knowing that...I preface the next words with the disclaimer that I do not in any way, shape or form claim that our thoughts and feelings are rational, only that they are ours. They are not directed at anyone, and trust me when I say they are laced in guilt for even thinking them, much less writing about them.
But John said Luke might want to know one day and since he NEVER voices opinions like that, I figured I would at least write our thoughts down.
I cannot explain how nice it was to have our Pensacola friends come to visit and to be able to talk about things that many sidestep because they don't want to hurt my feelings. I TOTALLY get and appreciate that people don't want to hurt my feelings, but it's nice to be asked questions about my feelings and be able to share them without worrying about being judged for them. It's so nice to be told, "I wouldn't hurt you for anything, so if I ask you anything or talk about anything that hurts you, please tell me." This allows me to share that I am comfortable talking about Matthew and what happened with him, and more, grateful for the opportunity to do so. It's nice to be asked, "Did this help you or does it not?" or "Would you prefer people to do this or for people to do that?" and to be able to answer honestly. I always make sure it is known that my feelings and thoughts are just mine...and might be very different for another person who has experienced what we have...but just being asked is so liberating.
That liberty is really such a needed balance to the guilt we sometimes feel about our reactions to very benign and kind things people say. John and I both agree that though we appreciate and understand the enthusiasm with which so many statements are spoken, they sometimes sting a little. Statements like, "Just wait...you won't have time for: (fill in the blank with appropriate leisure activity)." or "You'll see...parenthood is completely different than the books tell you," or "As a boy mom/dad, I can tell you: (again, fill in the blank with appropriate piece of boy advice)." or even (and this we feel REALLY guilty about because we KNOW people are just being nice), "So are you ready for Luke? Do you need anything for him?"
I think that one sometimes hurts us because it's as if people forget we were ready for Matthew. Technically, we've been 'ready' for Luke since Matthew died. We did not go to the hospital planning to bring Matthew home and then get ready for him. His room was done, his clothes and diapers were bought, his stocking was hung by the chimney with care. For Luke, we've changed many things, but mos have been 'inherited' from Matthew.
I know that's not what people mean, but rational or not, as I said, it sort of feels that way.
We've been waiting for our leisure activities to be dramatically reduced (or eliminated!) for years. We've been waiting to see all the antics that a little boy will bring into our home for years. Some of the things people share with us are things that we have dreamed of and planned for for years.
I know. Irrational. Regardless...on our hearts. I think at the core, it's because all of those thoughts and sentiments are ones you normally give (and I am sure I have!) to new parents--and we certainly do not feel like new parents.
Different, but not new. Our parenthood advice obviously can't with any experience base be shared to help soothe colic or suggest a better sling, but we absolutely have parenthood experience under our belts.
Parenting a baby or child who no longer lives presents an entirely different set of challenges, trust me.
And a lot of guilt.