I was five months pregnant with my youngest son when my husband died, six or so weeks past the huge exhale that accompanied passing into the second trimester of the pregnancy. My husband and I had been wanting another child for years and had just about given up hope when our baby began growing in my belly. While my husband received the news of my second pregnancy with unadulterated joy and pride, I immediately became a nervous wreck. I only relaxed and rejoiced around the four months mark, finally allowing my heart to believe what my body had known almost from the moment of conception. I pulled down the boxes of my first son’s baby clothes — the boxes we’d lugged with us as we moved from one Caribbean island to another; the boxes I’d been just about to give away, having begun to reconcile myself to the fate of bearing only one child — and felt the euphoria well up inside me. Unpacking and holding up my first son’s onesies and beanies and booties, picturing myself putting them on our new baby, the baby I’d yearned for with all of my being, I was giddy with happiness.
In the weeks following my husband’s death, as friends and family wrote and called to send their love and support, the baby growing in my belly somehow acquired the moniker Sprout. I think it was a viral sort of thing: someone stuck an “s” onto the front of our last name (Prout) and referred to the baby thusly on Facebook, some other people saw it and liked it, then more people starting doing it and then suddenly everyone was calling the baby Sprout. I think maybe that’s what happened. I don’t really know. By the time I emerged from the haze of shock after Mike died, my baby’s name was Sprout and that was that. Looking back, I realize the alacrity with which my friends and family adopted the nickname — a name connoting growth, creation, Life — indicated the need we all felt for some symbol of hope in the wake of sudden tragedy. At the time, distracted by grief, I just thought it was cute.
Though in the first week or two after Mike died, there were whole spans of time during which I forgot I was pregnant — so distraught that I didn’t remember my protuberant belly carried the baby I’d been longing for — soon, the active little Sprout inside me made sure his presence was known. I welcomed the distraction his kicks and flips provided. I was still just another expectant mom when I focused on Sprout, not a tragic newly-widowed mom. I wasn’t the only one who sought solace in the nascent life inside me. His very existence was such a welcome change of subject for everyone. Wondering whether Sprout was a boy or a girl, remarking on the growth of my belly, planning baby showers and going shopping for baby supplies: my family, my friends and I could, in a sense, pause the overwhelming sadness for a few minutes and breathe a bit easier as we talked or even just thought about him. He helped us look forward instead of back. My older son, too, seemed to really relax when he revelled in the anticipation of being a big brother. We’d most often talk about Sprout while we were lying in bed at night, warm and sleepy. My older son was convinced that Sprout was a girl. One night he inquired, “Mommy, when the baby is two years old, can I be the one who takes care of her? Except for the pee and poop part?”
So Sprout carried a lot of weight on his teeny shoulders before he was born. Wished for for years and then turned to for solace, he hadn’t even taken his first breath yet and so much emotion hinged on his existence. The anxiety that had nearly paralyzed me during my first trimester started to return at times. The possibility of the pregnancy not ending well scared me beyond measure. Sprout’s seemingly ceaseless kicks and spins and somersaults could usually consol me, though. He was often very active during my weekly grief support group. I’ll never forget the utterly strange sensation of sitting in a circle with other bereaved souls, listening to stories of loss and heartbreak, feeling my shirt ripple and shift as new life wiggled and squiggled inside me.
The best I can do to sum up the day of Sprout’s birth is to say: relief, devastation, love and awe. It was impossible for me to stop remembering the day my older son was born, to stop recalling my husband’s joy as he beheld his child. None of us could reconcile the senselessness of Mike’s absence on the day of Sprout’s birth. But then there was this child, this tiny, amazing, precious little baby boy, brand new and exquisite, who had surpassed all our expectations. He didn’t make us miss Mike any less, but gazing upon him soothed our immense sorrow.
Within days, Sprout became Logan, a person unto himself rather than a repository for our longing for hope and comfort. Maybe it’s because he was born with so many people loving the very idea of him — needing to love him — but I have countless times stood back in wonder at his amiable, engaging nature. My sister deemed Logan a lovebug when he was just weeks old and he has yet to disprove her designation. He’s now 21 months old, in that fantastic more-than-a-toddler-but-not-yet-a-preschooler stage. He runs around, carrying out schemes or emulating his big brother. He has definite likes and dislikes and passions of his own. It’s such a truly AWE-some thing, watching the kid emerge from the baby. I’m amazed by him. When he was a newborn, I’d just sit and watch him breathe. After four months of living in the shadow of Mike’s death, I marveled at the simple inhale and exhale of an infant breathing, at the fragile intangibility of Life. Now, no longer mired in the labor of tending to an infant, I stop and marvel from time to time at his very presence. This tow-headed little dynamo, this person I’d nearly given up hope of ever meeting; I look at the two car seats in my car and the two hooded towels hanging on the bathroom door and the two sets of shoes by the front door and I can’t believe he’s really here.
He’s here and Mike’s not. It will always be unfathomable. The day that Logan realizes what he’s missing is approaching. I’m savoring this time of innocent toddler glee. One day he will ask where his daddy is and what I tell him will forever alter his fledgling perspective of Life. I can’t make that day not come, but I can love him enough to not shelter him right now, to let him be who he is: a friendly, rambunctious, curious little boy with a fair amount of mischief and a deep and abiding love for planes, trains and his big brother.
Back in the ‘burbs after living in the Caribbean for more than half a decade, I’m a widowed mom of two young boys. I do my best to practice attachment parenting and peaceful parenting, to live mindfully and holistically; sometimes, though, this roller coaster called Life derails my good intentions. Above all else, I strive to be happy and grateful for each day as it unfolds.