I felt sad when we saw the evidence on the ultrasound screen that this was a baby boy. Disappointment. Anger at myself for feeling sad and disappointed and conflicted.
From the beginning, I thought this baby was a girl and more than just thinking it, I had hoped it was a girl. Carrying another son seemed too hard. It seemed too close, like it impinged on the memory of my first son. Like it somehow replaced Wendell. How could I hold on to my love and memories of Wendell when this baby now inside me was also a boy?
I felt anger at myself because, of course, this baby was a different person from Wendell. He was his own, then-unnamed individual. I knew logically, as I had told myself over and over, that each of my children are different and unique, there is no issue of someone being replaced or bumped down in status. But it didn't feel that way, in the days following the ultrasound gender reveal. It felt hard to accept, this baby being a boy.
Some of the hard feelings that have surfaced have to do with how fast this pregnancy happened. We didn't expect a baby to pop up within the first month of trying for one. As much as we longed for another baby, another try at fulfilling the longings we'd had for years to grow our family, and as thrilled as we were to know that we had been given what we hoped for, it was a shock when it happened so soon. We didn't expect to be fully recovered from Wendell's death before conceiving another child, because we knew that Wendell's death wasn't something we could "move on" from or "get past," it's simply part of our lives now - but I think we did think there would be more time in between to process difficult emotions and get them out of the way before moving into a new pregnancy.
But the timing happened as it did and as glad as we were to have another baby, there were these very hard and uncomfortable feelings - sadness, disappointment, fear, grief. When I felt these things after the ultrasound, I wanted to be angry at myself, to condemn myself for being an awful mother who couldn't accept her child as he was. But I recognized quickly that treating myself in that manner was not helpful or kind. I couldn't change what I felt. If I could have controlled my emotions, picked out exactly the set that I would have liked to have felt, I would have chosen to feel immediate joy and excitement over the news that I was carrying a son. But I couldn't control my feelings, so the next best thing was to accept them and choose kindness towards myself, allowing myself the space to feel those hard things without fighting or suppressing them.
And you know what? I don't feel those feelings anymore. The same day that we found out we'd be having a second son, we picked out a name out of the blue for that little one. Virgil Emerson became a named individual, one who had just begun to interact with me daily with little fluttery kicks and bumps. Now, 13 weeks later, he is a baby who probably weighs well over 4 pounds, whose hiccups I can feel reverberating through my hip bones, whose movements aren't felt only as sharp jabs but also slow deliberate rolls within the depths of my belly. I feel deep love for him and love for him as his own, unique self. His kicks feel different from the kicks his big brother administered last year. He feels like a different baby, because that's what he is. He hasn't superseded Wendell, he's got his own place in our family as his own person.
I'm grateful to have had that hard time of working through emotions I wished I didn't have. I know it won't be the last time on this journey with Virgil. As desired as he is, as much as he is loved and we are so excited for him to be out in the world with us, I know his arrival will also mean the arrival of sleepless nights, endless dirty diapers, and all the tough emotions that can accompany physical exhaustion. All of that is ok. All of that is normal. A joyful event can come alongside many other harder feelings. I can accept and be at peace with the joy in tandem with the struggle.