My second son was born on the same floor of the same hospital where my mom died. She passed just shy of two months after I delivered him. I’m not one for believing in coincidences, but the reality of it was mind boggling. Walking in and out of the hospital doors following my own discharge, began to be an out-of-body experience. I was no longer going to the labor and delivery ward, but rather to the regular rooms, where sickness abounded. There weren’t as many smiling faces, no nurses in cutesy scrubs. Surprisingly, there was joy in the midst of the confusion. But with every visit, the projected outcome appeared to worsen. My postpartum brain and body appeared to take everything in stride. In fact, having recently had a baby may have made the loss more easier to bear.
One way that having a baby helped, was that I appeared to be more maternal in nature towards family. Y’all, i was able to hold it together pretty well during the MOST difficult time of my life. And i wasn’t trying to “be hard” or mask my feelings for the sake of pride. What i didn’t want is for my mom to worry any more about me than she already was. Every single time that I visited, she’d say, “Your eyes are red!” It was as if she ached at the thought of me crying about her illness. I always reminded her, “Mom, I’m not sleeping. I have two babies at home.” That would take the focus off of the grief…for a little while. While awaiting news, I tried to be the hopeful realist for my dad and brother. My dad was so hopeful about getting her to rehab, a thought that the medical staff threw out there at one point. Rightfully so, he believed that things could work out. I gently reminded him, as heartbreaking as it was, that we may need to think about both sides of the spectrum. Please don’t hate me for that. I think its a defense mechanism that I have had for a long time: Hope for the best, and plan for the worst. And, when dad and I had to plan mom’s funeral arrangements, dad would often wonder how I could be so calm and collected. I honestly believe that, with strength from God, I maintained composure due to being a mom/caretaker. At this point, my dad and brother needed words of encouragement, laughter, fond memories, and food. Thankfully, I could help make that happen.
Having recently had a baby provided joy in the midst of the storm and a refuge from bad news. A new baby brings excitement. Yes, there’s also sleeplessness, but they’re so stinking cute that you forgive them for that. LOL This was still true for my family. My baby lifted spirits, along with his big brother. He was a good refuge from a place of fear. I slept with him on my chest during those first few months, often crying in the middle of the night. His small frame would snuggle close to my chest, and remind me that everything was okay.
The greatest thing about being a new mom for the second time around, was the ability to be on maternity leave during this trying time. I was able to be by mom’s side, as much as I could. I honestly don’t think i would have handled everything as well as i did if i were working. I would’ve been a HOT MESS. The added stress of clocking in and out while my mom lay in her hospital bed would’ve done a number on me. It was bad enough that i couldn’t be with her 24/7 like my dad and brother. They were the image of love and dedication, often taking shifts. I had to manage taking care of my boys and keeping a newborn out of a hospital (yuck). But having the freedom to come and go, while still earning something (Thank you short term disability and sick leave…get you some benefits.) brought peace of mind. It also allowed me time to find a new daycare provider, as my mom graciously watched my oldest until I had the baby. What a blessing.
I would’ve thought that having had a baby during this time would make me more emotional, and possibly send me into postpartum depression. Thankfully, the love of God, family, and friends, helped SO much. I saw just how much love could do. People fed us when we didn’t realize we were hungry, prayed for us and with us, held us, sang with us when the words wouldn’t come out, and more. And my baby boy helped remind us that, despite trials and tribulations, God is still good.
Have you ever experienced a great loss during what is supposed to be one of the happiest times of your life? How did you cope?