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The Loss and Gain of Having Two

Almost the very moment Juliette was born, I realized that my relationship with Veronica had changed. I think I knew it in the days leading up to giving birth for the second time. Each night in those last days of pregnancy, I crawled into Vera’s bed with her and kept my arms around her until she had fallen asleep. My swollen belly was there in bed between us and on those last nights I could quite literally feel the sand draining out on my time in this one-on-one mother and daughter bond. On each of those nights I couldn’t keep the tears from slipping down my face. I couldn’t keep myself from thinking about how it felt to lose my mother so young, and hoped that Veronica would never experience that herself. Nonetheless I could feel loss coming our way.

I am an only child and for the last three years my relationship with Vera has been very much like my relationship with my own mother — incredibly deep and connected and urgent. My mother was my absolute universe. She gave light to my entire world and for much of my life my days unequivocally revolved around her existence. And then they revolved around her death. My relationship with Veronica has easily mimicked that closeness, giving me a much deeper understanding of the bond I shared with my mom. I never imagined that it would really change, until those last days of pregnancy when I suddenly realized that everything was about to change.

We brought Juliette home after just one night in the hospital. We got to the house around 7 that evening and Vera danced around the living room, wild with excitement about her sister’s arrival. The next morning when Vera awoke, I left Juliette and Greg and in our bed and climbed into Vera’s bed with her in an effort to keep things the same as usual. But instead of snuggling into me like she normally did, she opened her eyes, looked right past me and said, “Where’s my sister?”

In that very moment I knew that everything had changed. In that moment I realized that these two girls will probably be closer with each other than they’ll ever be with me.

While that breaks my heart a little, it also mends it in a strange way. My biggest fear as a mom is of more loss. Because I know mother-loss so intimately, I worry all the time about the girls losing me. Them having each other assuages my fears about that in an unexpected way. I can’t even imagine how different the last decade of my life would have been had I had a sibling. So even in the midst of mourning an overly close relationship with Veronica, I feel incredible gratitude for what she has, and will have, with her sister.

We’re four and a half months into this change and, although things have shifted irrevocably between all of us, I can certifiably say that Juliette has only served to enhance our little family. (The fact that I’m more crabby and stressed out than ever before in my life must be acknowledged but does not count in this context.) Veronica is still a momma’s girl and yet her relationship with Juliette has already planted deep, deep roots. Now, whenever Vera is upset, it’s not just me she runs to, but Juliette too. Crying over a scraped ankle the other day she moaned into my shoulder, “I want to snuggle with Jules.”

I feel such an enormous responsibility to these two girls, to them as women, to them as individuals and to them as partners. I know that I am going to have to grow and stretch and face all kinds of things about myself in order to carry out this responsibility in the highest fashion.

Here goes nothing.

 

11 Comments

  1. Have you read Motherless Daughters, Hope Edelman – it is a classic, and she lives in So. Cal – you probably would be friends; It’s a must. As far as loss, when I was first pregnant with my son (I was told I could never be pregnant), I thought about loss – I’ve faced early loss and confusion more than that. Then I thought (I’m a Baha’i so this influences my view) – my child has begun his journey outward and will continue on –

    As far as my dying, I hung in there, and I’ve been sick a lot, but notw at 74 am strong, rickety in my unseen moments. I bent over backwards to be sure my son wouldn’t feel criticized as I had and i am sure loss played into it. My thoughts would be now – he’s great btw, trust and release; it’s a process; you will always have that extra sensitivity of a writer; the kind where the crumbs on a French baguette are awesome, and doom is a hurt feeling. Find Pearl Buck’s quote on feelings; if you can’t find it, i’ll find it for you.
    I hope i don’t sound too bundinski; but we are all in this together. You go girl!

    Comment by Esther Bradley-DeTally on October 23, 2012 at 11:00 am

  2. u have 2 kids – i should find the quote:

     The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this:
    >
    > A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him … a
    > touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy
    > is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is
    > death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering
    > necessity to create, create, create — so that without the creating
    > of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his
    > very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out
    > creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really
    > alive unless he is creating. ~ Pearl S. Buck, novelist, Nobel
    > laureate (1892-1973)

    Comment by Esther Bradley-DeTally on October 23, 2012 at 11:02 am

  3. fantastically said Claire!

    Comment by antonia on October 23, 2012 at 11:13 am

  4. It’s amazingly nuanced, all that you’re going through. I’ll just say that I know how incredibly comforting it is to be close to a sibling and you should definitely take heart in that. But they are going to look to you for everything only you can provide them with, don’t you worry about that. Sidenote: your girls are beautiful. Lovely piece, Claire.

    Comment by RachPo on October 23, 2012 at 11:33 am

  5. This is so beautiful. Our family is complete, with two children, and the only thing I still mourn is that my daughter will never have a sister. She’ll have to make do with her brother! :) But you write so gorgeously of the loss that’s inextricably wound together with life’s most startling gains and greetings. xox

    Comment by Lindsey on October 23, 2012 at 11:54 am

  6. As a mother to 2 boys and as someone who has only one sibling, a sister, I related to the post in many way. Thanks!

    Comment by Evelyn on October 23, 2012 at 5:31 pm

  7. Every time I read “Here goes nothing, ” I think “Here goes Everything”.

    Comment by Erin on October 24, 2012 at 8:21 am

  8. I so can relate to this with my 3 girls. I love the fact that they will always have each other.

    Comment by Vanessa on October 24, 2012 at 10:17 pm

  9. I have a sister and I love her very much, but nothing could ever compare to the comfort I get from my mother. :)

    Comment by Rita Arens on October 25, 2012 at 8:22 am

  10. Having had my first daughter in 2009 and my second in 2012, as you have, I’m right there with you. This is a beautiful post and a poignant one for me.

    I do have a sister, and we’re incredibly close. We are absolute best friends as adults, and I long for my girls to experience that same type of closeness in their intertwining lives.

    Comment by Jen in MN on February 20, 2013 at 9:15 pm

  11. I have not read every post here, on your blog, but I did read your book and have seen the photograph of your beautiful mother. When I look at those two beautiful girls, it seems to me your mother is right there with you every day. They look just like her and must be so similar in uncountable ways.

    Comment by Anne on May 26, 2013 at 11:37 pm

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