Last May, we were right in the middle of our stolen months with Holden at home, in an unseasonably cool month that allowed our nature-loving boy to spend every waking hour in his stroller. This May, I’m still spending a lot of my time outdoors, but it’s a different baby in the stroller. It's a surreal life at times.
I keep waiting to wake up and return to normal, but normal is gone.
That sweet new baby in the stroller has done more for my spirit this year than I ever thought possible. I think the main thing I’m going to remember about Carter’s first few months is joy. He radiates joy. He brings so much happiness to hearts that have been filled with bitterness and regret. I call him my Stinkbug, but he has also been my saving grace. He’s healed our hearts in so many ways.
He is the happiest baby I have ever known. He is constantly smiling. When he sees my face in the morning, through diaper changes, at family, at strangers- he even smiles when we give him medicine. He smiles throughout the day, so much that it’s hard to be anything but joyful when I look at his face.
And it’s a fat, handsome little face. He joined the world as a big baby, and his growth hasn’t slowed down at all. He is over seventeen pounds, probably eighteen by now! He's wearing 9-12 month clothes already, and his head is so big that I can’t fit it through shirts that don’t include buttons. He is a monster baby, for sure, but that’s one of our blessings. As his godmother says: We prayed for healthy and strong, and God delivered!
Carter’s little body is healthy and perfect, and I thank God for that every day. Every single day.
He is already spoiled rotten, and I don’t know if I could stop myself if I tried. I don't even try. I just want to enjoy his babyhood as long as I can! I find myself wanting to memorize every little thing. The sweet smell of his baby scent and little boy sweat. The feel of his peach fuzz head on my cheek. His smile as he’s nursing and feeling playful. The way he snuggles up to his burp cloth and sings himself to sleep. I stare at him as he sleeps, letting him linger a little longer than necessary, snuggled into my body. I know that those memories will be forever etched in my mind, no matter what happens tomorrow.
He doesn’t know yet that the world can be a cruel and ugly place, and I pray he doesn’t find that truth for a very long time.
Seeing Holden's life cut so short has made me immeasurably grateful for the little moments, which I now know I am never guaranteed. But at the same time, I’m also incredibly wary. When you live every second with the knowledge that there’s no guarantee, it’s so hard to ever be truly happy in the moment. I’m trying to learn how to enjoy each moment in the moment, because there may not be another, but it's difficult.
Many people have asked about my virtual silence, and I’ve told them all the same thing: sometimes, it’s just too much. I don’t even know whose story I’m telling anymore. Is it Holden’s, or my own? It’s hard to write, it’s hard to find the words to adequately describe what I’m feeling, and it’s a struggle to describe our lives without sounding like I’m whining.
We have much to be thankful for, but I struggle daily. I struggle to be thankful, when I feel like so much has been stolen from us. I struggle to be faithful to a God who is always good when I am not. I struggle with acknowledging the little blessings that are made our own each day, while trying not to dwell on how much I don't have. I struggle with being happy in the moment. Some days, I just don’t feel like being happy.
I’ve been attempting to rejoin the world of the living, after spending much of the past year in a fog of depression. I’m trying to find my way out of that fog, but it’s sneaky. It comes back for me every time.
I’ve also been looking for a job for a while now, as part of my efforts to rejoin the world. Jobs are hard to come by in the best of circumstances, and I don’t think mine have been the best. It only adds to the fog to get turned down so many times. But I’ve been out of that world for almost three years now. I know potential employers look at my resume and wonder what I've been doing for the past three years. How do I even begin to describe what my job has been for so long? I'm sure I'm not alone in the depressing task of job searching, especially not in this job market. It’s just one more bump in the road, but I hope that it will be a small bump in the long run.
Our road is full of those small bumps. I think so much of what has gotten me through each day was simply survival- the need to get up each morning, because I didn’t have a choice. I’ve lived with daily, constant visions of what could have been- what should have been. I second guess every decision we made, and I think of everything I would have done differently had I known what the outcome would be.
We handed our brave little man over to others who were better equipped to take care of him, time after time. Surgeons, doctors, nurses. Ultimately, God. It’s funny that the safest arms for him have been the hardest for me to accept.
There’s a Holden shaped hole in our house, and I’m exhausted with trying to remember how this place felt when he was here with us. Did I appreciate each breath he took? Did I notice each time he laughed- truly notice? Did I remember to recognize each second with him as a miracle? Did I thank God enough for those seconds? I don’t know if I did any of those things, not enough. But I do them now.
Plastic containers below our bed sort clothes he’ll never wear again. The puppy sleeper he was wearing the night before his surgery. The button-up shirt that made him look like such a big boy for his one year pictures. The soft little jacket that covered him when he came home from the hospital last spring. The camo fleece outfit he wore on Christmas day. I can’t put Carter in them, but I can’t bear to get rid of them, either.
His big memory box sits in our closet, and I can only handle opening it occasionally. I read through the hundreds of cards, letters and notes from people who were touched by Holden’s journey. I’m amazed that a child who had no words spoke to the hearts of so many.
More than anything, that’s what I need to remember. He mattered.
I need his life validated. I need to know that his life and death made a difference. That he’s not forgotten. That his hope is not lost. That his legacy didn’t go unnoticed.
This part of the journey is the hardest of all. It’s challenging, and lonely at times. I’ve depended on many people to help lighten the load, and it's been really hard to be that person who needs so much. So many of you have ministered to me in the most amazing ways, and God seems to use you exactly when I need you most.
You all remind me often that nothing about Holden has been lost. I am humbled. I am grateful. And I am certain your prayers have brought untold blessings to our lives.
I try each day to grow closer to God, so I know who my baby is living with now. That has also been a struggle. It takes a mighty effort to get past the mad so that I can even try.
They say God's grace should be sufficient in seeing me through the darkest days, but honestly? Sometimes it isn’t. It’s hard to admit, but it’s the truth. Sometimes I hurt so much that nothing is sufficient. Of course, I’m mourning for my own loss, not Holden’s. I know where he is, and I do take some comfort out of that. But it doesn’t change the emptiness I feel.
My view of the world is bitter at times, even with the sweet in my life. But I hope that someday, next week or next year, my view will be a little bit different.
God’s grace is more than I deserve, and He gives it to me anyway. So today, I’m not asking Him to take the pain away. I’m just asking for His mercy. Praise God for His patience in moving my feet to a better view.