Wednesday, June 04, 2008

When words fail

I keep hoping that the lump in my throat will shatter, breaking into a hundred little pieces that will scatter about -- letters, forming words, allowing me to cast a light on the swirls of emotion that have held me these last few weeks. I find myself uncharacteristically without words as the arrival of Finley has shifted my world, my now and my yesterday.

My baby.




They are each my baby.

How is it then that as I hold Finley in my arms and watch Avery, faint vestiges of her baby self still clinging to her thighs, I cannot see my baby Briar? This new sensation of remembering through forgetting is excruciating. Finley burrows against me, sometimes suckling, other times simply pressing as much flesh against my own as she can. Avery wraps her arms around my leg, "Pick my up, mommy. Want you pick my up." As I bend to lift her, I catch Briar from the corner of my eye, a blur of pink satin and flyaway ringlets.

Holding these two dark haired girls in my arms, my fair-haired princess stands by herself. I can feel the tears that coursed down my cheeks day in and day out as I wept at the indescribable beauty of my firstborn. She was the embodiment of every thing I'd ever wished for, having her in my arms took away every hurt I'd ever experienced and I was breathless with the piercing authenticity of joy. Her every move was chronicled in photos and remember-this-moment scrawls on all manner of paper- notebooks, receipts, book-pages, whatever was handy. My need to have each word and action pass through my hand in words I would borrow to light my way years ahead was unending. How brutal, then, to find myself less than four years later, already seeking out those words, the corridors of my memory already constricting in the dark.

With FInley sleeping and Avery calmly tracing the freckles on my arm I ask, "Briar? You ok, sweetie? You need anything?" She turns, her look is one of surprise that I am there, or perhaps the surprise is that I am talking to her. Again the memory of so many nights comes back, as Avery grew inside of me I would rock Briar, reading her stories before bed and murmuring between the lines that she was my baby.

Always my first, that's you my Briar. My first. Don't you ever forget. You are my baby Briar.

Her neck is long, the distance between the curves of her jaw and shoulder endless, a rich expanse of creamy skin. Her blonde hair nips at her neck and catches in her eyelashes, her beauty is so lush, it catches us off guard. She will break hearts, she already has. I realize that as two pregnancies have grown inside of me, my heart and body working in tandem to prepare, she has grown up. The baby that nursed at my breast now comes to me to let me know that Finley needs milk. She shepherds Avery through the house, teaching and scolding, her tone and inflection mirroring my own. I forget to ask if she needs things, so intently have I been focusing on the things that demand my attention.

I am clawing from the inside out, desperate to find my way back to her. Panic stained with failure, my eyes well and dark shadows lap along my spirit, I cannot resolve my distance from her. Finley's cries are so strong, Avery's hunger so fierce that I turn away and my compulsion to do it all, be all things to all people, has kept my shame a secret. Until now.

Tonight I finally spoke aloud what has haunted me since before FInley was born and what worried me most as we anticipated Avery.

"I've failed her, neglected her," my cheeks flames as I said it and I began crying. Sean, as he always does, said just enough and then followed up with action. He took Avery on the longest walk around the block ever, leaving me free to spend an hour in the backyard with Briar, while Finley napped, no laptop, no dinner to cook, no distractions.

We sat in the grass making "wrinkles" on our clothes as the sun sparkled off her Cinderella costume. We flipped "helicopters" in the air and giggled as the cat leapt to catch them like a dog with a frisbee. I swallowed apologies and bit back tears as I saw her closer than I have in ages. She was luminous and completely without worry or any sort of heightened hunger to be near me. We hugged and talked and had what was ultimately a very normal, uneventful evening. I had worried that we'd never have this again, but what I learned was that I have been wrong. I will never have my first year with Briar again.

What we had was perfect and unhurried and lives on in our memories, the pictures I took and the notes I kept. What we have now is different, not bad. She is still my first, still my Briarriffic. And, after watching the sunset over us I know that as those two pregnancies grew, so did Briar, her own heart and mind doing what they needed to prepare. And so we sat together last night, a mama and her firstborn, legs touching, quietly enjoying being together.

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Crystal D said...

For every moment Briar has had to share you, you must remember what an amazing gift of sisters that you have given her.
I can remember holding Madeline while I had a fully grown Amelia inside me and I cried for her, knowing how I was about to rock her world. I never imagined that I would ever love another as passionately as I did her. But time unfolded and revealed to me this other path and what an amazing path it is.

Cheryl said...

How heart-wrenching. Hugs for you.

Heather said...

i soooooo get this.

Amy Y said...

You have voiced my greatest fears about having my second child and the biggest reason we stopped after two. I just didn't know if I'd have enough love, patience, hugs, time to go around.

I am glad you got to spend that time with Briar ~ and I'm sure Sean's time with Avery was just as priceless for her.

I think it's important for us to bond with our children individually when we can, even if it means scheduling that time or gently pushing another child aside for a bit to make it happen.

You have your work cut out for you but there is no doubt in my mind that you will find the time and that each of your beautiful daughters will know and feel the love that you have for them.

Meredith said...

You've done it again - what a beautiful post. Your daughters are so very lucky to have you.

One of my favorite women has 10 children. She once confided to me that everytime she became pregnant, she was struck with a fear that she wouldn't have enough love for another one, but that each baby brought about more love than she could have imagined.

Ree said...

Pass the tissue darn you.

I'm sitting here waiting for my ONLY born baby to drive home from his last day of his junior year in High School. Officially a Senior. A Senior!

He's going to think I'm awfully strange when I stroke his head and pinch his cheeks.

Trenches of Mommyhood said...

How lovely Amanda. You totally put into words how I feel. My nickname for each of the boyz is "B" as in Baby. All 3 of them. My babies.

amanda said...

i know i say this way to often, but i simply don't know how you do it.

just beautiful.

one lucky mama, three blessed little girls and one darn good hubby :)

Damselfly said...

I'm tearing up again.

That hour you spent with her must have made her so happy.

flutter said...

far from a failure.

Chaotic Joy said...

Oh this post. It should get an award, it's just so beautiful.

Today I took my older daughter out for the afternoon. Just the two of us. It's rare that we get this anymore, something that we used to take for granted has been shoved aside by two needy younger siblings.

Briar will never have you all to herself again, but you have given her something bigger, and stronger, something that will carry her through her life. Two sisters that love her and were also loved by you. What an amazing gift. Don't minimize it.

Ask anyone with a sister.

Kelly said...

This post is lovely. And I completely understand.

When I brought my third baby home from the hospital, I remember standing in the middle of the floor while my five-year-old and two-year-old roamed around saying, "I have too many living things to take care of!"

It's gotten a lot easier though, really.

Mrs. Chicken said...

I fear this feeling more than anything. I find as the days of my pregnancy close in on my due date that I am snappish with The Poo, exhausted and strained. Then I cry because I am wrecking our last days as just two.

This hurts me in my heart and gives me strength all at once. Amanda, I am so glad you are my friend, and I am so grateful for your honesty. I will remember to just be with my girl now, and after.

Bless you and all your girls.

Kimberly said...

::off to get myself some tissues::

Lovely, lovely post.

BetteJo said...

It's such a joy to be able to connect in such an unhurried way, to just enjoy each other. Precious moments.

carrie said...

Oh, you have not failed her. There is nothing like being with your firstborn - none of the others will have that bond in the same way with you (they will have other kinds).

I really get this though, I do. That mourning, the whisking of their littlehood going by so quickly when you're tending to a sibling . . .

This was beautiful.

iheartchocolate said...


She's a lucky girl. They all are.

Colleen said...

Oh how this is what I worry about. As the days go by and our new little one's arrival gets closer and closer, it's not the baby I worry about. It's Zoe. I can say I'm not really worried at all about giving this baby all it needs... I'm concerned about how I will continue to give Zoe what she needs. Such different feelings than I had in the weeks before Zoe's arrival.

I'm sitting here soaking tissues. Your words are just perfect.

Adria Sha said...

What a beautiful post. Your words are poetry. I have no doubt your little ones feel your love through your actions and smiles the way I could feel it through your writing. (And what pretty names they have!)

Kristin said...

I know I know I know these feelings... beautiful post.

Amanda said...

It's hard to keep the balance right. I know how you feel. I feel the same as you do at times with my 4 boys.
Love Amanda x

Christy said...

Amanda your words yet again have me in tears. You are such a wonderful mother and so incredibly blessed. I take my inspiration from you.

Jenny said...

Wow... heart wrenching. We just had our third child and I understand how you feel. My oldest, my sweet Andrew has been so wonderful about getting new siblings but I really worried about it. My heart was so heavy when I was pregnant with my second. I didn't feel as heavy with my third because Andrew not only loved, loved, loved his mommy but his little brother Parker and they both adore our new baby, Piper. God definitely gives you enough love for all but I sooooo wish I had more time to spend individually with each.

Myshka said...

I have no words. But then again, I never do when you write. Gorgeous mummy, sending big hugs. xo

andi said...

I'm bawling.

I was just thinking this weekend how awful it is that I spend a good chunk of my time being angry with and disciplining my daughter. Meanwhile, it must look like to her that my son is my favorite because he never inspires such anger in me. But I know she needs to be guided - I can't stop correcting her just because I know it hurts her feelings in the short term.

All I can do is what I did as I tucked her into bed last night. Hug and kiss her and tell her I love her even when I get mad. I just hope she believed me.

naturalmom said...

Oh wow. You've really nailed that feeling of watching your oldest baby grow up. I've got baby # 3 now too, and I feel it.

I remember when she (my oldest is my only daughter) was about a year old, we were having a grand time together one day. Right in the middle of it all I realized that the memory of that day would be mine alone. It was a bittersweet moment indeed. The love for our children is so great that it cracks our hearts, doesn't it?

(Thanks for visiting my blog, btw!)

Jonny's Mommy said...

Stumbled here from Cheaper Than Therapy.

What a touching, heart wrenching post.

really enjoyed it and will be coming back to explore more.

Janet said...

I don't think I would ever put you and neglect in the same sentence. It's difficult, this sharing our one self among many special children. They adapt so beautifully, it's a shame we can't shelve the guilt and do the same.

angi said...

awww...I feel it too & often *sniff*

Lisa said...

I feel all of those feelings at times, and I only have two...which makes me wonder....can I handle three? I so agree with Crystal that we give them each a gift when we give them a sibling, but there is something so magical & special that you get with that first born. That undivided attention they receive, and that love you've never experienced before.

Please know I read this & then went & gave Goosey the most loving, long hug. Your words are always so perfect, Amanda!