If you read my blog post last week about my shortcomings as a mother, you may have been left feeling concerned for my children. Children deserve to grow up with the guidance of someone who actually knows important things and can perform basic tasks like building with Lego. Well, I am very happy to report that while I know nothing about dinosaurs or fort building, I know a lot about hosting a fabulous slumber party in honour of our Big’s 7th birthday! I know, why would parents of five decide to care for four children overnight who do not belong to them?
First, I’m totally trying to win at this parenting thing and I don’t believe all the hype about there not being a big award at the end for the most awesome mom. Second, it was an excellent opportunity to send the Middles to Nanny’s for a slumber party of their own. We quickly realized that five, six to seven year olds and a couple of rambunctious two year olds is much easier that our two four year olds. Ah-hem. We seem to have isolated the problem(s). Lucky for them, The Middles and their four year old attitudes are a pretty good problems to have. Anyway, point is, I’m really good at birthday parties, if I do say so myself!
But in spite of my feelings of accomplishment post birthday, like every year at the end of January, I am reminded that life is brutiful – simultaneously beautiful and brutal.* Just as the excitement and joy of our wonderful Big’s birthday is starting to wane, we remember the baby we lost who should also be having a birthday at the end of January.
Z and our baby Isaiah were born four days apart. As she was coming into the world, too soon, he was going home to his foster family who loved him dearly until he was able to be loved forever by us. They were born into the same incredibly snowy January in Ontario. They were born, four days apart, into the arms of mothers who would not watch them grow.
For seven years I have sat with the uncomfortable feeling that without loss we would have missed out on the joy of raising our big guy. It’s amazing how we can balance joy and sorrow. It’s weird how I can feel so blessed to have our Z and so desperate for our Isaiah. I struggle with the fact that I can’t have them both. If Isaiah had lived, we wouldn't have our big guy. I cannot imagine my life without him.
I struggle with our family’s story. Sometimes I tell people that we lost our first baby and that soon after, we adopted a baby who came home the day before her expected due date. Sometimes I tell people that we named the baby we lost Isaiah, and the only name we could think of for Z, was also a prophet from the bible. Sometimes I tell people that the day we named him, the day we found out he would be ours, was also a day in the Jewish calendar when Rabbis read from the book of Isaiah and the book of the prophet after whom Z is named. Sometimes I show people the picture from the first day we met our boy – the one where he is looking up at me as if to say “You’re my mommy.” After hearing our story people often say, “It was meant to be. He was supposed to be your baby all along. He was sent to you by Isaiah.” I hate those words. They suggest to me that Isaiah was never supposed to be here. Like she was wrong and he is right. I know that’s not what people think, but that’s how it feels. I want them both. They’re both my kids. I was meant to be a mother to both of them. I am a mother to them both.
Z knows about his sister Isaiah. Z knows that we love her and although he has claimed otherwise when he’s extra angry with us, he knows that we love him. “If Isaiah was here, she’d be my twin (Lord knows all the Silverman-Akande kids, have to have a twin!), he says. He tells his little sisters about her and speaks about her like she’s part of our family because… she is.
One evening when we were talking about the loss that he feels sometimes not being raised by his biological mother, he asked about how I feel about losing Isaiah. When I told him that I feel angry and sad, he looked at me and said, “When people die, God turns them into birds in heaven, then they can visit us here on earth. God made Isaiah into a bird so that you could see your baby again.” My kid, who by no means is always compassionate, understands that there is a "universalness" in loss. We all celebrate those who are near while we long for those who are not.
When I started writing this post, my intention was to write a neat and tidy piece about love and loss and this brutiful life but I’ve run out of space and there is nothing tidy about this. Like life and for me, the end of January, this piece is messy and brutal and hopefully beautiful.
*A term used to describe underground death metal, but for me, a term coined by writer Glennon Melton. I am not familiar with death metal, but I’m sure it’s brutiful!