When I realized - and then it was confirmed - that I was pregnant with another baby on the very day that Gavin died, I felt every feeling you can imagine. My biggest concern was what it would be like to grow a baby under a broken heart. I was so afraid of losing her if I succumbed to grief. Between that and parenting a little boy who missed his brother, it was quite a challenging time.
We made it through.
I didn't give much thought to what it would be like once she got here and started growing outside of my body. I'd done this parenting thing - how different could she be?
Very different, as it turns out. In all the best ways.
I am definitely not used to a child who insists on doing things alone - that's a new one for me. Hope has a confidence and desire for independence that seems past her young age!
But what do I know, really. I only have my own parenting perspective to go on. Gavin's milestones were delayed - and Brian was calm and quiet and very happy to let us do things for him! It could be that Hope is my first "typical" child!
All I know is this. The days and weeks and months and now close to two years following Gavin's death could have been so much worse. Suddenly we found ourselves grieving and anticipating. Mourning what was and planning for what would be. I think that time would have been - could have been - and still can be so much harder if it weren't for the gift of this child.
In many ways, Hope has a LOT in common with her brothers. She is very sweet, incredibly affectionate and loves her family. Every morning when I open her door I hear her say "Hi Mommy!" before she sees my face. I am always greeted with a big smile and a hug. Then she instantly asks for her Daddy and Brian - wanting to know where they are. At night, she heads off to bed like a dream. I have been saying the same little "ditty" to my children since Gavin was an infant. I whisper, "I...love...you! You...are...so...so...special." Hope can say it along with me now, but then she insists that I do it a few more times. Once for Daddy, then for Gavin, then for Brian. And she would never dream of going to bed without hugging and kissing her brother and her parents.
We have a blast together during the day when the boys are at work and school! While I'm getting dressed (on the days that I decide to get out of my pajamas, ha!) you can find Hope rooting through the "Hope proofed" drawers of my jewelry box or trying on my hats in front of the mirror.
We always have fun in our basement playroom. She loves to color at the art table or on the new easel that Santa brought. But she's busy!! She colors and then moves on... plays and then she's off. There's too much to do and so much to see!
She loves to put on sunglasses - big and small - but gets very concerned that you won't know who she is behind the tinted lenses.
I made the mistake of calling her "cool" and, as you'll see, she quickly corrected me. (I love this video!)
Don't worry, Hopi - we know it's you.
This girl LOVES to be outside, too. Thanks to her cousin, Sean, who had Hope for pollyanna this Christmas - she has a new shopping cart that she can use to cart around sidewalk chalk, rocks, leaves...you name it!
One thing I love about Hope is her pretend play. It's so cute to watch her feed her baby in a highchair just to turn around and be the doctor to her lambie.
Speaking of highchairs...
Last week I brought Hope down from her nap and told her I was going to make her lunch. I pulled out the bread and started making a sandwich and happened to see something out of the corner of my eye. I laughed so hard. Hope had climbed onto one of the chairs at the kitchen table and was sitting there patiently waiting for her lunch with the biggest smile on her face. Her first "happy meal" was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on raisin bread.
It's clear she's been watching from her highchair this entire time. As soon as she was done, unprompted, she got out of her chair and carried her plate to the counter just like Brian does! I'm glad my floors are clean (at least they were at the filming of the video - ha!)
Brian is thrilled to have her at the table!
I have never liked the expressions that are attached to ages - like the "terrible twos" or the "train wreck threes" (I made that one up, but you know what I mean...). Whenever I start talking about how Hope is so busy and is into everything and has me chasing her everywhere - I am only speaking from a place of exhaustion (at 45 years old!) and wonderment. I'm just not used to such an active child!! She's not being "naughty" - she's being Hope! She is a good listener - and can sit still, like she does for her haircut...
...and doesn't pitch fits at all. But she can be busy - and curious! I always tell people this: when Hope does something wild or is SO curious about something she HAS to get it or expresses herself when she has a need... I remember. I remember that I had a little boy who I prayed would do something "wild" or work hard to get into something he wanted or was able to express himself when he needed something. I don't take anything for granted because of Gavin's life - not because of his death. And I remember that everything is a phase that is necessary for growth. So when Hope does something that might frustrate me in the moment, I remind myself that if this were Gavin in front of me, I'd be throwing a party about that exact thing.
The four of us were at one of Gavin's favorite places for Ed's birthday a couple weeks ago. Arnold's Family Fun Center.
I am sure he was with us and was just as amazed as we were at his sister's bravery. She has been pretty timid about going onto the inflatable bounce houses and slides with Brian - as much as he has encouraged her to join him. But on this day? All bets were off. I was STUNNED when my little two year old climbed the inflatable (and steep!!) ladder and went down the big (HUGE - AND STEEP!) slide!!
The first time she went down with Brian. I'm not sure who was the most excited! Listen to the reactions...
The second time they went down together again and I filmed it in slow motion to get the full effect of their reactions. This girl has no fear!!
After that, she was confident to go up and down over and over all by herself. We were cracking up!! And, as you can see by the amount of photos - we were pretty obsessed with this new milestone. I'm feeling confident I have another ride buddy when we go to amusement parks!
Hope and I have a special bond, for sure. We are joined at the hip from morning until night and, much to my own surprise, we're still nursing at nap and bedtime! But the minute Brian or Ed are in sight - I'm toast. I think her favorite times of the day are when the school bus arrives home in the afternoon - as you can hear by her reaction to seeing him...
...and when her Daddy comes home.
And I am sure, in the dark of night or in the quiet sunlight, she has her favorite times with Gavin, too. It's clear that she knows him.
Yes, I definitely feel it would have been much harder if not for the gift of this child. And as all of us, Brian included, are raising Hope... we can feel our own hope rising.
Life is so unpredictable.