Newborn photos of Owen at one week old. (Photographer: Ashley Mae Scott Photography.)
Part One: Shoots of Joy
When Jackson died, it felt like someone came out of nowhere and carved a deep line in the sand of our life story; everything that came before was so perfectly blissful and complete, and everything after became so dreadfully empty and fractured. A crater-sized void so intolerably gaping and impossible to fill.
Owen, ever since my heart laid eyes on you I learned that my life had actually never been complete, because we didn’t have you. Although you cannot possibly replace your brother or fill the crater-sized void he left behind, we also would never task you with that or even wish you to try. You are your very own shoot of joy in our lives, an overwhelming joy we didn’t even know we could feel so deeply. You didn’t bring us Jackson back; you brought us you. And that is an equally precious gift.
Part Two: Different and Perfect
A few weeks before Owen was born we met with our doula to discuss our birth plan. I told her “I just want it to be like last time!”. As soon as the words escaped my lips I realized that I was overly attached to things going the exact same way. Sure, it made sense because we’d had such a positive birth experience, but so many things would inevitably be different this time and out of our control: gestational age, time of day, fetal position, rate of progress, support people in attendance, effectiveness of coping strategies, need for intervention... to name a few.
In the end, our birth plan was largely the same but our birth experience was quite different. Though I was very attached to the idea of laboring from home again as long as possible, we ended up having to go to the hospital as soon as my water broke because I couldn’t immediately confirm fetal movement to my doctor over the phone. So off to the hospital we went, and I let go of my vision of laboring on my birth ball from my own living room eating string cheese and apple slices with my doula and Stella (yup! That was my favorite memory from my first labor with Jackson!) and instead made new memories of laboring in the hospital tub by the dim light of a “brother” candle votive while Bryan, my sister, and my doula took turns pouring warm water over me between contractions.
In the end, it was perfect. Not Merriam-Webster dictionary “perfect” — as some things certainly did not go according to plan: he came earlier than expected, my epidural malfunctioned, my mom wasn’t in Seattle to attend the birth — but it was a wonderful experience in its own right, even though it was different than the last time.
Minutes after after Owen was born, I looked at my doula and thanked her for supporting us through the perfect birth experience. But importantly, it wasn’t Jackson’s birth experience, it was Owen’s. Bryan and I looked at each other and we agreed that this was the beginning of things being “different but perfect.”
Now I know that I can, and will have to, let go of being attached to recreating all the same experiences and memories with Owen as we did with Jackson. Some things will be similar (and I’ll cherish those greatly), but most things will be different. And it will all be perfect.