We feel guilty. We do not want this life as a physical two. We are three. This is not how it is supposed to be, how we thought it would be, how we thought our family would look.
We feel as if we are operating on time that is not ours. The uncertainty of how to live a life on stolen time taunts us, threatening to leave us teetering on the edge. It is off-putting. It feels wrong. It is scary. Sometimes we are able to manage. Other times, we sit and wonder why. In these moments, we question how our family will survive this battle death has brought before us.
Leading up to Owen’s arrival, my husband had a wonderful idea to have weekly dates. Yes, Owen (known as ‘Speck’ then) was very present, kicking and squirming away like the active little guy he was, but it was still time together. The last days of our innocent, care-free lifestyle. The ability to go out without the need to pack a bag for an assortment of newborn ‘what ifs’. If only we knew how accurate we were, how our innocence and naivety would be no longer, and how meaningful this time together would be, for the three of us.
Now, it seems that we have all of the time in the world and we do not want it. Surely it is not ours. Someone, something, has gotten it wrong. We want the bag. We want the weight of our son’s needs. We want the type of uncertainty that accompanies planning a dinner out with your newborn baby. We want the life changes involved with having him here physically. We want all of it. We wanted it all before, but now that it has been taken away from us, we are desperately yearning to have it back. Please.
In the first couple of months after Owen died, I did not feel like I deserved life and its little joys. My son had died. I did not want to be able to live a life without him physically here to take care of. While I know I will never receive an acceptable answer, I question why this has to be the case. Every moment of every day.
The mind is irrational. I have not been able to have a glass of wine or a cup of coffee. My husband and I have not been able to sit down and watch a movie together or binge watch a television series. Some of the little pleasures we used to have. Instead, we sit and binge read grief books and writings of other bereaved parents, looking for answers, for understanding and the knowledge that we are not alone on this path.
I struggle to do something that is not even loosely related to Owen. I am afraid to allow my mind to become distracted. I fear for the day when I will have to return to work, when I will have to juggle other responsibilities with the one that matters the most. I fear for the day when expectations of the world around us will try to push us forward before we are ready. I am safe where I am right now, sitting with my son in my heart and having him occupy my every thought. I am afraid of doing otherwise. Forward is a scary notion.
I feel happier when I am able to talk about my son, when others acknowledge his beautiful presence that we feel at all times. We have learned that we need to live our lives in honour of our little boy. That he would not want to see us wasting precious time. That adventures have to be pursued, and the world discovered, for our family. That our family story includes Owen and that he will always be on these adventures with us. We know we need to live. We need to experience for him. See for him. Feel for him. Taste for him. Hear for him. Everything for him.
We know these things, yet we still feel undeserving. Our counsellor calls it shame. The shame of enjoyment. The feeling that somehow we are not entitled to life. This feeling has dissipated to some extent over the months, but only slightly. We have allowed some things in, but we have a long way to go.
But maybe this is all okay. I am confident, hopeful, that we will be able to enjoy again – with Owen. I am not sure how, but I know we have to. I am not sure when it will happen, but we will get there. This road is not easy to travel, but we are somehow managing.
Our son deserves to be a part of our every thought, he always will be. Our lives were meant to change when Owen was born and we became parents. We could not have anticipated any change, because while we like to believe life happens by the books, it does not. We are new to this parenting thing. There isn’t a guide to being a parent to your child. This is how we are learning to live our life as a family – one little joy at a time.