When my son died, it broke me. I lived in a dark place for more than a year. My existence was divided between searching out every possible reason or explanation for his death—and screaming. I spent a lot of time screaming. I understand, then, why many people refer to this period of time as the storm. It’s dark and it’s scary, and it often can feel as if the pain and emotions can lift you up and carry you away, like a hurricane.
I also understand why many parents choose to have another child almost immediately. The ache in your arms, it can be unbearable. In the beginning, I tried to volunteer to be a NICU cuddler just to have something to feel. I still don’t know if it was good or bad for me that all the positions were already filled.
As much as I wanted a child in my arms, I personally wasn’t ready for a long time. I needed that time to grieve and to mourn. I needed that time to scream. And more than that; more than anything, I needed to ensure my second child had her own identity.
Growing up, I had a difficult childhood. I don’t think my parents intended it, but they treated us like possessions, extensions of things they needed us to be. I didn’t find out until much later this was because of loss in their own lives. I did know, early on, this was not how my children would be treated.
When I was pregnant for the first time, my son was the most important person in my world. My life before and after him was centered around being the person best suited to be his mom. Because when I chose to bring him into this world, I incurred an obligation. I was obliged to give him the very best life possible, without burying him in expectations.
And when I chose to try for a second child, these feelings hadn’t changed for me. I wasn’t trying to replace my son; I was adding to our family. My daughter was going to be her own person, and I couldn’t let her be defined by who or what came before. Not even and especially not the nightmare that was my storm.
My daughter is a not a rainbow; she is just a little girl. She will never bear the obligation of brightening my storm. She will be my brief companion, as we move through her childhood together. And she will grow to be a woman, and her life will be her own.
So yes, I understand the reference to storms; those turbulent passages of darkness and fear. And yes, I understand the need for love, and holding future promises in your arms. But in my world, those promises flow from parent down to child, and if there is any obligation, it lies with us alone.