I didn't tell people about my pregnancy with Mo until I was five months along because I didn't really want to hear what people had to say.  I didn't want to hear how excited they were that we would be happy again (as if the hole left behind by Max would be filled by this new person) and I definitely didn't want to hear that Ted and I were not ready for another child.  Too many other bereaved parents had shared their experiences with me about that - the unsolicited advice about "getting over" grief before having more children.  Ted and I both knew that there would be no getting over the grief in this lifetime - the best we could hope for was that it would soften with time.

As soon as I announced my pregnancy, I got a lot of both kinds of responses but mostly, I got a lot of sincere love from friends and family who knew that our hearts were still broken and that at the same time, we were thrilled to be expecting another child.  Thank god!  Many still expressed their concern for the new child - could he/she be happy with us for parents?  What would we tell our future children about Maxie?  Generations before us didn't share as much or even went so far as to keep the child that they had lost a secret from their subsequent children.  That could NEVER be us.

We knew that Maxie would always be a gigantic part of our lives and that our subsequent children would know how much we loved their older brother.  It is important to us that Mo knows how much we love Maxie.  It is just as important to us that Mo knows how much we love him.  This isn't even an issue for parents with more than one living children.  Yes, children get jealous at times - but parents can love ALL of their children equally without being judged.  Some have suggested that our love and remembering of Maxie could damage Mo.  I feel very much the opposite.

I believe that it is SO important for Mo (and any other children we may have) to know that death does not stop us from loving and remembering special people with all of our hearts.  I want them to remember their grandparents after they are gone.  I want them to remember us when we are gone.  I believe that it is important for them to know that no matter how far they are from us physically, they will ALWAYS be on our minds and in our hearts.  I believe these are important life lessons.  The people I have loved in my life and lost are still very very special to me.  Their death did not end my love for them.

When those who I thought loved Maxie unconditionally seemed to move on easily, it felt very confusing to me.  Was love this transient?  Could you really get over another person this easily?  And, by the way, would they take my photo off the mantle if I died?  Would they stop mentioning me?  Would they never remember that I was missing from holidays and events?  Would their hearts not be broken if I died?    How they feel about Maxie's death directly reflects how they feel about us and about Mo - honestly, how could it not? There is no way they just didn't love Maxie.  I don't ever want my children to feel that way.  Can you imagine growing up and knowing that you'd had a sibling that died that your parents never mentioned or kept a secret?  What does that say to your living child about a parents' love for their kids?  I'll tell you what....It doesn't say much....

I hope that our children will also learn that horrible things can happen in this life and that people DO get through them.  That the pain softens.  That joy returns.

A friend wrote me a panicked email a while back with the subject "What about Mo?".  The content of the email was basically a bunch of questions about how we would tell Mo about Max.  How would we make sure that he didn't grow up completely damaged by this loss?  My response was basically that life can hand any child a number of unfortunate, life altering, and downright crappy incidents and we do the best with what we are given - divorce, death, disease, poverty....children grow up with all of these things and there is no reason to think my child can't thrive despite the legacy of his brother.  I BELIEVE that Ted and I know more than most the value of having a happy and healthy child.  I believe that Mo will know our unconditional love always.  I believe that knowing how much we continue to love Maxie, in spite of his not being here with us, is an incredible lesson about the power of love.  I believe that with everything that I am.

Mo is only 16 months but this is what I can tell you about him - he is a happy baby.  He loves hugs and kisses and cuddles (and that is a really good thing because he gets smothered in them ALL DAY LONG).  He is well adjusted in that he approaches other children of all ages, he likes being around other people, he enjoys learning new skills, loves being read to and plays well by himself.  I am sure that there will come a time when he will wonder more and more about his older brother and we will be happy to tell Mo all about Max - with all of the love in our hearts.

To be continued.....


Tiffany said...

i agree. i think it's so important for them to know about their siblings. for them to know that while their deaths did break our hearts, the love we have for them made us a better person and parent. their legacy and their story is so much more than what happened. they shaped us to be the people we are today - to love deeper, be more compassionate, etc. and it's important for their siblings to see us remember and honor them and to see how we incorporate them into our daily lives. death is a part of life unfortunately. to refuse to talk about their siblings because it might be "too sad" would be...i don't even have words. i could never leave Julius out of something or not bring him up.

Anonymous said...

My uncle died many, many years before I was born. He was three. I think about him all the time. My aunt died a year before I was born and her middle name is now my middle name. It was the best gift my parents could have given to me. I feel connected to her despite never having met her. Your Mo will love his big brother every day of his life.