Today marks one year with our rainbow baby. Our son, Hunter Emmanuel, is ONE year old today! I am sitting in a nice, quiet house as I write this, while my husband and mother-in-law are at the park with my son, reflecting on what a beautiful year it has been. Like most moms, today is an emotional day. My baby boy is not a tiny baby anymore. He is entering into the toddler phase and growing more independent with each day. I think about this past year and how different it was than the year before it.
If you’ve read my blog previously or know me, then you know that we lost our first child, our son Luca Gabriel, in 2015. And while my grief has lessened, I will always have a pain in my heart – a heartbreak that can never fully be repaired. Many months of unbearable sorrow after Luca’s death were eventually followed by an anxiety filled second pregnancy with Hunter. When I got pregnant for the second time, I knew I was as ready as I ever could be, but it was an emotional rollercoaster and I was a mess half the time, worried that all my hopes and dreams would once again be shattered. I will never forget hearing Hunter’s first cry the day he was born. He emerged and screamed and the doctor said, “He’s a big boy!” That sound filled the room and brought me so much relief – a stark contrast to the deafening silence when Luca was born still – all two pounds nine ounces of him. And here was my newest sweet little boy, all eight pounds twelve ounces of him, breathing and crying and looking into our eyes, his warm little body right up next to my skin allowing me to feel every breath he took. The hospital staff asked us if we wanted to get home as soon as possible or have a longer hospital stay. I told them I wanted to stay as long as insurance would possibly cover, since I felt safer being around nurses and doctors who could look in on my baby and make sure he was doing okay.
Looking back on this year, I feel SO grateful. So incredibly grateful to have experienced this joy – a level of joy that I never would have fully felt if I had not had to say goodbye to Luca. I think about all of the cuddles… holding my precious Hunter in my arms so many times to nurse him, comfort him, or just simply stare at this perfect being while he slept so peacefully. Watching his chest rise up and down as he took each breath, many times while I cried silently feeling like my heart could just burst from the love I felt, thanking God over and over for this beautiful gift and praying to keep my baby safe from harm.
I am so fortunate to be able to stay home with Hunter each day. While this was a big change for me, since I’ve always worked, I cannot imagine having it any other way. Quite honestly, it’s very difficult for me to leave Hunter with anyone. Particularly in the beginning, I just could not bear to not be watching over him every second. There is no one else who could possibly do everything as carefully as I would! I am sure that some moms may judge me – I hold him all the time and never let him cry. He slept next to me for months while my husband was deployed, because that was the only way I could ever feel safe, knowing that I would hear every breath he took… if there was an emergency, he would be right there. If he flinched or made a strange noise, I would immediately wake up. We even bought an Owlet monitor for him to wear on his tiny feet to ensure that he had a healthy heart rate and oxygen while he slept. My husband would have bought anything to try to ease my worry. I knew he had his own worries too. He stayed in our room until recently, because we just needed to have him near to us. These were the best choices for us given the journey we are on.
In the beginning, I also felt sad and guilty. That I was able to take Hunter home and not Luca. What would Luca think? Would he feel sad that we now had Hunter? How would I ever have enough love for both of my children? Was it okay to feel this happy? Was it okay to also feel very sad? Hunter is very much his own person. I did not have him to replace Luca or to fix my broken heart. But being able to parent Hunter has helped me to heal. I can channel the love and yearning I had to give Luca a wonderful life into nurturing Hunter each day. When I look at their pictures, I can notice some similar features. Seeing Hunter each day reminds me of Luca in a happy way. I can imagine what it might have been like. I think about how much fun they would be having at this age together and it makes me happy to think about what that would be like.
Luca gave us the gift of appreciating each and every moment with Hunter. Every second, every minute, and every hour of each day. When I put him down for a nap or bed, I hug him and kiss him and talk to him like it could be my last chance. To most, perhaps this is a morbid or scary thought, but I have learned that life is precious and also fragile.
With each day, it gets easier and I am less anxious. Hunter is so happy and good natured. He is independent, but loves coming back to mama for a quick snuggle here and there while he plays. He also has a great sense of humor and loves to make us laugh! I love watching him grow. I cherish each milestone and special moment… skin to skin in his first minutes of life, first smiles and laughs, tummy time, rolling over, learning to crawl, making all kind of sounds and now a few words… his sheer joy every time he sees our kitty, Momo, when he wakes up in the morning, his giant grin when Daddy gets home from work, petting my face as I cuddle and nurse him, giggles when he does something silly, clapping and waving and dancing, his love of food and the fun that is meal time… the list goes on! I do not ever want to miss a thing.
Sometimes I feel guilty for not making time to blog more, since that is one way I honor Luca. It is hard to find time for anything these days! My life revolves around naps and mealtimes. Dishes and laundry pile up more often than not. However, I feel as though I can also honor Luca by trying to be the best mom I can be to Hunter. Unnecessary tasks can wait a little, so I can enjoy these days that go by way too fast. Happy birthday to my precious boy, Hunter! I love you to the moon and back! ❤