I have read book after book after book.
I have searched blog after blog, reading similar laments that made me feel slightly better about the "if - then" consequence I had doled out earlier that morning.
I have asked therapist after therapist for 'sound advice' on parenting children in the wake of loss.
I emply empathy and compassion, trading them for the 'tried and not so true' strategies of the past.
I am continually told that I am doing the best I can and my kids will be better for it.
But nothing really solidifies it for me. In the wake of loss... that is the permeating factor here for to live in the shadow of a sister you never knew, regardless how light and pretty and non-reflective the visage is - is a shadow none-the-less.
For as I often say, parenting Emma is easy. She doesn't wake me in the dark hours of the night or fight vehamently about her dislike of green vegetables. She doesn't beg for 'just one more movie' or strike me down with a vilified look when the timer goes off on her computer time. No, she fills me with joy and light, with purpose and desire, and - of course - with sadness and longing that I wish her perfect self was here to do all those same things.
And there is the problem. On some fantastical level I truly believe that she would be this easy to parent. That if miracles could reverse the tragedy that was her death she would be filled with the resulting gratitude and embrace her life as a gift; eating all her vegetables, offering help to all in need, sailing through pre-teen years with grace, and infusing me will all the afore mentioned emotions.
Rest assured, I do live in the real world. I live with two subsequent children who are, as siblings go, as different as night and day. They see the world through different eyes. They each possess their own intrisic set of rules for living. They feel the world filtered by opposing anxiety thresholds. One is flexible to a fault, the other rigid only able to bend at the ankles. The fir tree and the oak tree if you will.
And, as any parent of siblings will tell you, it takes a different skill set to parent one than the other. But what if that toolbox was orginally filled with hope and wonder and blissfill ingnorance that the worst thing babies can endure is diaper rash has been stripped and repacked with grief, and disapointment, and reality, and an image of perfection that is unattainable at best?
Funny. My biggest fear in having rainbow babies was that I would be unable to differentiate my visualized experience of Emma from their reality. That I would compare and question and wonder until I had blended my tangible child with her angelic sister. I fought hard against this. I have not done this.
But I think, without realizing it, I have failed at a more organic level. Although I put no obvious pressure on them to achieve, I clearly enjoy them differently. I prefer to venture into the world with them individually, embracing whatever they have to offer on that day; leaving the other one to do the same with daddy, or nana, or Grandma.
Perhaps it is a natural response of an only child raising siblings. Or perhaps it is a natural consequence of living intense joy after life-altering loss. I don't have answers, only questions - as ususal. But now, these queries are laced with doses of guilt that I might prefer one reality to another, one self-made fantasy to the facts that are placed before me.
This is hard. Really hard. I am doing my best, and - without saying too much about what our family is currently going through - I hope that the best I am doing is what they need, what will allow them to flourish.
So thanks for your words - and if you are having, or have a tiny rainbow baby and want to remember who they are in connection to their angel sibling check out this awesome link. I wish I'd had one or two!