A few days ago, I was busy about the house vacuuming all the carpets. It is generally a two-day process because most parents know cleaning a house with kids inside it is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos. The second you leave the room with the vacuum cleaner, totes of blocks get overturned onto the floor.
I was upstairs, plugging the machine into the hallway outlet when my two year old pulled the safety plug out of the wall.
“Really?” I stood back and watched him. He carefully placed the plug back into the outlet and then pulled it away again. Perhaps we didn’t need these plugs anymore. I collected a few from various outlets I use often and made a small gathering on the kitchen counter. Later, I pulled down the box of baby proofing items from the hallway closet. As my body and the small box descended from my perch on a step stool, I began weeping.
Our family has outgrown most of the babyproofing items. I had a few tears before picking up and putting the plugs in the box.
A few hours later, my husband and I were talking about how and when we would like to transition our middleborn out of the crib. Yes, he still sleeps in a crib at the age of two. The reasons are twofold: One, I’m not sure I am ready to handle the idea of not needing a crib ever again. And Two, Grantzilla earned his nickname fair and square. The dude is straight up crazy. As soon as we take away his walls, we are likely to find him in our bedroom at 4 AM eating a tub of raisins he retrieved from the fridge and demanding “bideeos.”
As my husband and I talked about how we would move the furniture between rooms, I was overwhelmed with a sense of intense grief. When we move our middleborn into a “big boy bed” he will change rooms entirely, leaving the nursery empty.
We aren’t supposed to have a “spare bedroom” here in this five bedroom house. The basement room is a guest room and the others are full of boys and parents. My husband mentioned that we would need to move items out of the room where Grant will sleep. I went to the closet and pulled the door open. Inside are boxes of baby clothes, bibs, sippy cups, a breast pump, and an assortment of baby items we will never need again. I stood at the open door and began to cry.
“I just can’t. I know we don’t need these things like the pump and the toys, but I just can’t yet.”
“It’s okay,” he said over my shoulder, nestling his chin next to my ear in a hug. “We can just move them into the other closet until later.”
That’s the funny thing about grief. It comes in a wave when you felt like you were swimming along fairly well. It hits you in the face suddenly and makes you sputter and gasp for air. It wasn’t until later that I realized maybe my heart knew what my head had not yet noticed. We were coming upon Reece’s 9 month birthday. Nine-month olds are often on the move, crawling or scooting, and making you reevaluate every single decorating choice you have ever made in your house. They require baby gates on stairways and outlet covers and drawer hooks (unless you love scooping up Ziplock bags from the floor 9 times a day) just to keep the adults sane and the mess manageable.
It wasn’t just that we were outgrowing these items throughout the house. It was that we were outgrowing them just in a time when we would have genuinely needed them again. Cover every last outlet with a plug! Mind the computer wires. Rearrange the houseplants for safety, place a picture of grandma up just a little higher, there is a busy baby on the loose!
Yesterday at a birthday party, I sat for a while and just stared at a friend’s baby who was born just four days before we lost Reece. She was busy on the floor. Watching her made me ache for Reece to be there with her, grabbing her pacifier from her and finding Goldfish crackers on the floor. I have all but forgotten the day-to-day baby life except for the intense ache and the awareness of the hole in our lives. Sometimes seeing babies Reece’s age make me stare. I have no doubt I seem odd to those who are unaware.
As I reflect on this day as the marker of the ninth month since Reece’s birth, I think about where we have been. Sometimes the grief just bubbles up to the surface without the griever’s consent. Often times, life feels very disjointed. I straddle two worlds, both Heaven and Earth, as I love and parent three boys in two domains. I also struggle with what”should be” against what is. I’m learning slowly to accept what is and be thankful for what was.