I am often sandwiched between two realities. It's as if the moment Kenley's heart stopped beating, my universe split into two - into Kenley's Universe and Piper's Universe, two worlds that will forever be seperated.
You live with me in Piper's Universe. In this Universe, you have watched me cope with the daily struggles of losing a child. You have seen me work through my grief through writing and volunteering. You have witnessed the birth of a Rainbow and the rebirth of hope in my life. Piper's Universe is the one we all know well. What you don't know well is Kenley's. So, let me give you a quick glimpse.
Kenley's Universe: Kenley Evelyn Wood was born happy and healthy on Feburary 25, 2013, just one day after I finished her nursery. She weighed 5 pounds and 1/2 ounce and had a headfull of black hair, just like I did when I was born. My room was overrun with excited friends and family, and we took her home just a few days later. She was a wiggly baby who always squirmed out of her clothes when I changed her. I was able to breastfeed uninterrupted by work for a full 6 months, so by the time school started up again, we had a good rhythm going. The first year of her life passed full of excitement and happy milestones. Due to enthusiastic shopper friends and family, she never ran out of owl clothes to wear. We had her first birthday party at our home. The theme was "Owl Always Love You!", and my Little Ninja smashed her face into a pink and green owl cake. Everyone else enjoyed a delicious homemade cupcake with green icing. Because she loved to rip apart paper, opening presents was a hoot! As far as first words go, hers was really strange. It was "pipe" We aren't really sure why because we don't know anyone who smokes, and she's not exposed to a lot of plumming terms. Whatever...it was super adorable!
Her second summer was so much fun. She loved the beach and we visited often. As a one and a half year old, she ran around happily in little swimmers and her purple bathing suit, smooshing wet gray sand between her fists and running after the receeding waves. Her screeches and squeals pierced the air as she chased the seagulls down the shore. We also went to Disney for the first time. Just for the morning...I'm not insane! We rode Peter Pan's Flight and had a Dole Whip. She loved it. Going back to work again in the fall was just as hard as the year before. Good thing Nana loves to watch her! Today is one month from her 2nd birthday. I am working on planning a good one. She's been really into penguins lately. Maybe it was that trip to Sea World the other day. Who knows why, but she's obsessed. For her party, I found a really fun outfit with a penguin on it for her to wear. It came with hair bows, so I can put her thick, black locks into two little pigtails. Her hair never lightened like mine did. She's my raven-haired beauty. People have been asking me when we are going to have more kids. Since she's almost two, Mike and I have been thinking about it, but having kids is so expensive. We aren't sure if we can afford it. Plus, I'm almost 37. Do I really want to be pregnant again? I hated being pregnant. We are both leaning towards being "one and done". Kenley is so precocious...it's like we have two anyway!
Looking over into Kenley's Universe, I see happiness and innocence. I see a mother who never lost her child and a child who gets to grow up. I see joy and light and a life untouched by tragedy. But, I also see many things that are missing. My second child, for one. Piper isn't there. It might be possible for her to be, but not likely. Also missing are the dozens of people I have met through my loss journey, people I would have never gotten to know, babies I would have never known existed.
My two lives are so different. In one, I mourn the loss of my first born. In the other, I am oblivious to the existence of my second. Clearly, I can't chose one life over the other. Kenley's Universe simply doesn't exist. It's only a whisper of what could have been, a shadow life that floats across my brain. It would be crazy to actually live in this world, but that doesn't mean I don't always wonder, that I don't often think about what would have been. And that creates the conundrum that accompanies the loss of a child - the desire for a life that negates the one I have.
I have finally gotten to the place where I can find happiness in my life as it is. I have a beautiful second daughter, a loving husband, wonderful friends and family, and an awareness and appreciation for things I didn't have before. It's hard to drift back and forth between the places where only one of my daughters is alive. I love Kenley with all of my heart. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of her. I still shed tears. I still feel empty in places. I still wish she hadn't died. But she did. She did die. I have taken the broken pieces of the life I could have had and have shaped them into the one I have now. And it's a good life, despite the reason for its creation.
Kenley has almost been gone for two years. (Two years!) Since she died, I have worked so hard to find happiness again, to merge Kenley's Universe into this one, but she will always exist as a "could have been". I will always watch her grow up in my mind and in other people's children. Life will always be hard because she is gone, but what I have realized is that the life I have made isn't a slap in her face. It isn't a betrayal of her life. It is a testiment to how life carries on and how reaching for joy doesn't mean I have forgotten my past. I can be happy because of her life and not in spite of her death.
I can't trade one for the other, and I wouldn't want to. I can't choose between my children, so I have decided not to. I was talking about this to my Grief Group the other day and someone said something that stuck with me. She said she tells her Rainbow sons that the twins she lost brought her boys to her. I like that. I like that the path I spiraled into is the one that brought me to Piper. I like that I have created joy out of sorrow.
So, I am not going to choose. I am not going to let myself feel guilty for wanting both of my girls. I actually do have both of them...maybe not in the way I would like, but death doesn't mean she's not mine.
I have a baby in the stars and I have one in my arms, and just because I can't hold them both at the same time doesn't mean that they don't fully belong to me and that I can only have one without the other.
I choose both. I choose to love them both and to have them both in my life. While Kenley's Universe will always be a misty impossibility, I choose to weave what I can of her into the fabric of this reality - the reality of where I am today. I am who I am because of both of my girls, and I am proud of who we are together. I am proud to be their mother and proud that they are my daughters. That will never change....no matter the Universe.