I don't know that it's easier or better, just different than what I expected to feel.
Having Abner in our lives is amazing and beautiful and we wouldn't change anything. Yes, I just said that - it's hard to put into words, but even if we had to endure this all over again, my husband and I both agree that this is the way it would be. That's hard for some to swallow - but the way we look at it, we won't ever get to change it so it doesn't make any sense trying to imagine a different life.
Yet I do.
There are clearly still times I wonder what life with an almost two year old little girl would be like. I wonder what she would look like, whose personality she would most take after and whether she'd be a better sleeper than her brother. In my heart I know her, I have her pictured, I have her figured out. But in my head she's still just a blur of emotions and moments.
The months, weeks and days leading up to Olive's birth and death are very, very vivid for me. I remember exact dates - my baby shower on May 31st, my husband's birthday dinner at Cafe Hollander on June 5th, our anniversary dinner at Mr. B's Steakhouse on June 18th, July 3rd - the day a dear friend gave birth to her son earlier than planned, July 4th - another friend gives birth earlier than planned, July 15th a college friend gives birth and I specifically recall them responding to my message on Facebook, "you'll be next!" - more July babies followed throughout that week as quite a few friends were due around the same time I was. July 26th - the day a friend from elementary school lost her husband, July 27th - our last prenatal class where everyone brought their babies and told their birth stories to the two of us that had yet to deliver.
This month is hard. Even with Olive's little brother here these days pass me by and I feel myself getting tense as I choke back tears.
Last year our Olive's Branches Day (coming up again on July 29th!) brought a new friend into my life. It just so happened she also had a daughter that was born that same July. She was kind enough to invite us to her birthday party and the day she invited us I happily accepted - that day I didn't feel extra sensitive, and even though watching these babies grow up has been difficult at times, it's also helped me create the version of Olive I know in my heart.
But yesterday I stood in the store, searching for a gift, when it hit me.
"I don't know what to buy her"
I have absolutely no idea what a two year old girl would enjoy. I stared blankly at the shelves, not able to figure out what on earth to buy her. To anyone else they would have just asked the parent what the child was into, or maybe they would have just guessed and hoped for the best. Ironically in June I had attended a 2 year old's birthday party, and I guessed at what to get her. But come July it's like my brain flips a switch. I was standing in the store, a mother of a child who should be the same age, and I didn't know what to do.
I will never know what to do.
I moved over to the clothes, which was a bad idea. For months after Olive died I would bypass any little girl's clothes in any store I was in. I would take the most round-about way through the store so that I would not have to look at those clothes. I still try to avoid them for the most part - but today I stood there, holding up dresses and outfits that should fit my 2 year old daughter and I lost it. I stood in the store, tears streaming down my face and prayed, "Lord God, please give me the strength to leave this store."
I put the dress back in it's place and walked away. I could not go to that birthday party. As much as I wanted to celebrate that beautiful child I knew in my heart it would be too hard. All day I felt sad. I felt a weight in my chest and a lump in my throat. And I know it will be here all month.
Instead of planning a 2nd birthday party I've been thinking about what we can do this year to spread love and joy in Olive's memory. The truth is that I may not know what to do until that day comes. People always ask if we have anything special planned, and I feel bad saying no. But honestly, it's hard to think of "special" things to do when the day holds so many mixed feelings. I know once the 29th comes we will once again be blown away at the acts of kindness, and will have no choice but to feel joy in our hearts for the way our daughter's life is celebrated around the country.
Until then I've got about 12 more days of recalling what I was doing and how I was feeling as I prepared to welcome my first child. I look at Abner and wonder if he'd be here if she were still alive. He's the age she would have been when we found out we were pregnant again. I can't help to think I'd be too busy (and tired!) to even think about another baby, and then I remember I was too busy and too tired - busy grieving and tired of having empty arms - so I stop and give thanks. Thanks to God for knowing exactly what we need when we need it. Thanks to God for these beautiful children and the overwhelming emotions that come with being their mother.