New guilt

March 17, 2010

Somewhere in either my second copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting or What to Expect in the First Year (and considering how I feel about WTEWYE, the fact that I own two copies is an odd and contrary thing, but the first one we purchased in the early weeks of my pregnancy with Teddy and I can’t bear to throw it away, and the second, newer edition was given to me by my doctor’s office at my first prenatal appointment with Dot, and it felt like bad juju to decline it or throw it out) there’s a paragraph or two about second children.  Parents might feel guilty about the attention taken away from the first child, the book says.  This is normal, the book says.

I remember thinking, before Dot was born, that this would probably be true for me even though Teddy died, and – normal or not – it is.

I have moments where I feel like I’m letting go of Teddy’s hand, when I’m so wrapped up in Dot and breastfeeding and trying to reenter the workplace in a way that causes the least trauma to 1) Dot, 2) N, and 3) me, that I don’t have enough time for him, enough time to remember, enough time to chant my not-a-rosary prayer of “I want you back, I want you back, I want you back.”  As though I’ve let go of his hand in a giant grocery store or the park and he is wandering away alone.  I don’t want him to be lost.

I tell myself he isn’t lost.  Wherever he is, he is not only beyond my touch but beyond pain and loneliness and doubt.  Unlike his sister, who shrieks with outrage and panic when she wakes up all alone.  The LIONS could have eaten me, Mommy!  Why did you put me down?  Why did you leave the room?  How could you do it? I scoop her up and bounce her up and down and think, It’s not easy, Little One, not easy to be so far from you as even the next room, but sometimes a woman needs a shower.

Sometimes a woman needs a shower, a back massage, a hot meal, a nap, and a large tumbler of single malt, but has to make do with a shower.  A five-minute shower, because hair conditioner doesn’t rank as high on the list of priorities as it once did, and as for shaving the legs – forget about it.

I know the lions won’t get you, Teddy, my brave boy.  If there are lions where you are, then you growl and roar with them, scratch them behind their ears and run with them over the plains.  If there are lions where you are, you are their king.  But I wish I could protect you, all the same.  I wish I had more time for you, that I could hold more time for you now.  Even when I can’t, you are not replaced.  I hope you know that, but I need to say it anyway.  You are not replaced.  You are still wanted.  I still miss and love you, often desperately.



  1. This made me cry both times I read it.
    I feel sometimes that Henry is not replaced, but sometimes displaced.

  2. Such vivid memories of Teddy running wild with the lions.
    Thank you for this post. It was beautitful.
    Feeling the guilt with you. I think Hope is lost in the same supermarket….

  3. What a moving post! I love the image of Teddy leading a pride, but you wanting to protect him all the same. Just beautiful.

  4. Beautiful.
    I agree with you. I think that the guilt described in WTEWYE is still present, regardless of whether your first child is living or dead. I know I feel it. Because I simply can’t hold onto a hand that exists only in my imagination as tightly as I can grasp one of flesh and bone. No matter how hard I might try.
    Hope you get a bit of hair conditioning time soon. x

  5. This is just beautiful. I so understand everything you have written so beautifully.

  6. tears in my eyes. i remember this well, but never said it so beautifully.

    loss does not happen in an instant but over years. i found it hard to let go, and it harder to keep holding on…even though i knew that what was happening could be called healing. i grieved my own grief, because with the intensity of it went the intensity of connection, the pull to my child. and in its place came guilt, and then…finally…some kind of balance. acceptance. but even that has its losses.

    love to you, to Dot, and to your Teddy, the lion.

  7. I hear exactly what you mean. I remember feeling so stunted when CT was born b/c I was no longer able to grieve and “parent” BW as I had for so long. I had to let some of my rituals go in favor of sanity, sleep, etc. The most difficult part for me was (is?) figuring out how to allow such loss to co-exist with such joy/life in our family. I’ve had many mini breakdowns as a result over the last two years.

    You and Catherine have both said it so beautifully above.

  8. I’m so sorry your baby boy isn’t with you… There’s just no easy way through it, and you will NEVER ‘get over it’. Teddy will always be your son, big brother to your little girl. And that is a good thing. Thank you for your writing, you do it beautifully.

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