juggling joy and grief

It’s amazing to me the power one teeny, tiny baby can have. Not even 20 inches long and weighing less than a sack of potatoes when he was born. Yet this little human is transforming my life.

Ryder turned one this week, and from the moment he was born, joy began weaving its way back into our broken lives, and I never thought that would be possible.

When Jackson moved to Heaven, I was in a deep, dark place. I struggled. With everything. Grief is heavy. It weighs you down. I constantly juggled being happy for Kate, and not wanting to have any fun because I felt it wasn’t fair to Jackson. I didn’t even simply want to smile because that implies happiness, and I was far from happy.

And then August 18 came, and things changed.

Giving birth to Ryder, and welcoming him into our family, has made my heart beat again. He fills my days with a love that was lost. I have found an ease in smiling again. Every minute with this kid makes me happy, even the tough ones. Watching the first smile sweep across his face. Seeing his first wobbly steps with his walking toy. And kisses from him melt my heart. I love to watch Kate make him giggle, knowing they’re building a lifelong bond that will never sever. And listening to Eric play guitar and sing to his baby boy puts peace in my heart.

There is something about a baby that gives us hope again. They are miracles from Heaven, and I know how blessed we are to have Ryder with us.

I’ve been asked numerous times throughout this last year, “How is it?” Well-meaning friends who aren’t asking about how things are with a newborn in the house. They’re asking how it is having a baby after losing one.

While there are so many joyous moments, it definitely hasn’t been a year without difficult ones. The day we cut into the gender reveal cake and saw bright blue, I have to admit I was shocked. I thought God would go easy on me and that I had a little girl growing inside my belly. (Well, I should know better by now that isn’t how God works.) I knew having a boy, after losing Jackson, would be tough. I can’t lie. It took me a little while to get over that shock. I’ve learned that God doesn’t play fair in my books. He knows what He’s doing, and I just need to trust His plan. It’s just not always easy.

And then God threw me another loop and gives me a little guy who, in certain moments, looks just like his big brother.  Right now, Ryder looks like Jackson did at about 20 months old. Ryder has his brother’s fine, blond hair; cute, little button nose; and cheeks to squeeze for days. Sometimes when I am rocking Ryder to sleep, and he is curled up in my arms, it feels like I am holding Jackson. The resemblance at times is uncanny. And quite often, it takes me back to the last moments I held Jackson.

Eric and I are definitely a lot more aware of germs this time around, overprotective when there’s a fever and constantly checking the video monitor. But the worries and fear are worth it.

I miss Jackson every single moment of every single day. I think about him constantly and wonder what the dynamics would be like with three kids in the house. Even after two-and-a-half years, tears still fall almost daily missing my sweet boy. But there is finally joy in between those moments of tears and sadness.

As I was rocking Ryder to sleep the other night, and once again seeing Jackson in his face, the tears began to fall. But in that particular moment, I realized that my heart is big enough and strong enough to allow the grief and joy to intermingle with each other in an astounding new way that’s creating a beautiful masterpiece.

Ryder Jackson Reese

Ryder Jackson Reese