Monday, June 1, 2009

The replacement child

Last week Tim and I had our final joint counseling session with David. We have been meeting with David since two days after I delivered Cara. I remember that first walk up the steps to his office. The steps were narrow and steep. I walked up them slowly in tears from the pain of delivery and the weight of my grief heavy on me.

Our times with David have been the calm in the midst of the storm. It is there we have gone for affirmation in our grief, clarity of thought, and direction for the future. He has been one of the greatest blessings of our past year. The sessions started with grieving Cara, but eventually moved to our marriage, our relationships with others, and the hardest to process, ourselves. Tim and I often had talked about seeking counseling before losing Cara. Her death was the final push we needed.

We met with David weekly until about the end of last year. Then it became every other week, then once a month, until this last session we talked and there was silence. We asked David if there was anything else we should touch on again from previous sessions. His basic response was "no, I think we have finished." He went on to affirm the process we have been through and shared something I will always remember.

He told us the story of a colleague who wrote an article called, "The Replacement Religion". This individual had a very unique perspective, because he had been the replacement child. His parents lost a baby as infant, and he was the subsequent child. Their grief was such that they named this man the same name as his dead brother and essentially lived into all of their dreams for the first child.

David said, "I don't think this will be the case with your next child. Cara has a unique place in your lives. You have made a space for her, and she has become a child in her own right in your family."

I'm not entirely sure it was by design. I wanted to get pregnant right away after we lost Cara. I wanted another child so desperately to ease the pain. But it didn't happen. What we got instead was long cycles that would not support a pregnancy, a miscarriage, emotional cycles of infertility treatment and finally a glimmer of hope.

In that time, grieving Cara was very, very difficult, but it was also necessary. We found ways to remember her as our child and to honor and celebrate her.

Our excitement in learning that our next little one is a girl could also seem in a way to replace Cara, but that could not be further from the truth. We are excited to live out some of our little girl dreams, but we are already making new ones. Cara could never be replaced. However, we do expect that this little one will teach us to love Cara even more, in ways that we had not previously known.

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