The end of year rush is stressful on all families, on all people.  For my family, there are additional lenses intensifying the time.

November 24 is my first son’s birthday.  December 9 is when we took him out of the NICU into hospice care at our home.  December 28 is the day he died.

This is the first holiday season that my second son is on the outside, followed by his first birthday in early January.

I am trying to balance honoring Oberon’s life and memory with making the holidays special for Everett.  It is important for me to keep our traditions remembering our missing son, and it is also important for me to engage with and make memories with our living son.

It’s times like these that it’s even more clear to me how lucky I am to have a supportive partner.  My husband watches Everett while I scrapbook for Oberon.  My husband helps with holiday travel planning.  My husband calls me over when Everett does something amazing so I don’t miss it (his favorite thing right now is playing peek-a-boo by opening and closing a door or ducking below the edge of the Pack ‘N Play).

Last year was the first holiday season after Oberon died.  I was very pregnant with Everett, and because of that we did not travel.  We mostly opted out of the holidays.  No flurry of visits, no snow, no plane flights, no late nights.

This year will be so different.  We will be flying with our infant son across the country, we will squeeze in many visits, and Everett will get his first look at snow (hopefully).

One central struggle in Parenting After Loss is balancing remembering our missing children with parenting our living ones.  No parent wants their living child to feel second best, but we also need to keep our missing babies actively in our lives.  How do we do it?  What’s the right balance?  I’m still working on it, but some things that are working for us include:

  • Oberon’s birthday is his.  We have cake, spend time as a family, and it is a nice day to spend together.  We may craft, we may hike, we may relax, but whatever we do we are thinking of Obie.
  • Everett’s birthday is his.  His party and gifts will be for him.  While we may include Obie’s O or Molly Bear in some pictures, it will not be the focus.
  • Separating Oberon’s important days from the holidays.  The day we brought Oberon home from NICU is called Obie Xmas in our house.  We celebrate this day with presents for everyone, aimed at taking care of ourselves (bathtime goodies, food, socks, etc.).  We don’t smoosh it together with other, traditional holidays.
  • Holidays are for everyone, and everyone is included.  Some holiday presents are sentimental for Oberon (bees, yellow, charitable giving), but not all.  Some are just fun gifts for our joyful little Everett.
  • Being gentle with ourselves.  Oberon died on December 28, and we planned our travel so that we would be back home on this day.  It’s hard to predict how we’ll feel that day, so it was the right thing for us to give ourselves options and avoid the stress of travel and expectations on that day.  Travelling back when there are still a few days off work will give us time to wind down and center ourselves around our family before getting back to day-to-day obligations.  I think this will be a good thing for us, especially this year.

I don’t want Oberon’s special days to be sad ones in our house.  I want Everett to learn to love his brother, even though he isn’t here.  I hope that by having celebrations that involve everyone but sometimes focus on Obie, we will help cultivate that love.

Christmas with Oberon, 2014

Christmas with Oberon, 2014

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