There is this cardinal rule in parenting that says you should never compare your children.  Not to each other, not to other people's children, not to averages...not to anything.

Of course, every last one of us does it anyway.

When I posted to Facebook that Siena had passed away, a woman I met many years ago (after Kenna died) posted a comment cautioning me that even though I have done this before, the second time is much different.

Understatement of the century right there.

All I have done for the last 12 days it seems is compare one thing to another.  The delivery experience, the memory making, the funeral arrangements, support from family and friends, parenting through grief, and most notably me.

To this day, I don't post many pictures of Kenna because they make me really sad.  She had been dead for three days before she was born and her skin showed that.  With the exception of her petite face, most of her skin had degraded a lot and was raw and red.  I couldn't look at it then, and I don't like to look at it now.  Of course we have some nice pictures of her, all bundled up, and of her tiny feet but mostly I've never felt great about Kenna's pictures.

Siena's pictures, on the other hand, are loved not just by me but by hundreds of other people. So much beauty and joy in her face and in her life that within hours of posting something new it has been liked by almost as many people as have seen it.  And I have so many more to share!!!  They bring joy to me...and the fact that others are not turned away by them brings me comfort.

Comparing delivery days, I only remember sadness and bad memories from the day Kenna was born. Siena, I only remember good.  I only remember being wrapped inside this supportive little bubble where every wish I made, short of her survival, came true.

But not everything is better this time around.

I was outright devastated and shocked when Kenna died.  No warning, just gone from our lives...kind of in the middle of some other minor speed bumps.  It was overwhelming and I really did just kind of check out of the life for most of that fall.  I feel like I started to come out of my hibernation somewhere around Christmas (4 months), which is also when we found out I was expecting again, and was feeling mostly human by spring (6-8 months, which corresponds with when we finally made the decision to have me stay home full time).

This time, hibernation isn't really an option.  My older kids need to be getting out of the house, especially this time of year when they can't escape outside as much as they would like (although thankfully the weather has been mild so outside has been at least an option).  Being overwhelmed and turning on the TV and checking out might work when you have a 4yo at preschool every day and a 1yo who is willing to watch PBSKids all day.  It's not so much really an option with an 11, 9, 6, 4, and 2 year old!  Who instead of being relatively clueless, are actually acutely aware of everything going on and have their own thoughts and feelings about it all.

In the effort to provide some sort of routine (hello Autism my old friend and flying chairs, growling voices, and stomping feet), I have found the energy or motivation to do a lot more practically than I actually want to.  Most of the time, working and being productive (I did dishes and three loads of laundry today!) makes me feel like I'm contributing something and have some sort of useful purpose after all, seeing as my uterus is evidently defunct.  The result, however, is that I feel like I am teetering on a very sharp cliff at every moment. I'm fine and then I'm not, because the wind blew east... and then I'm fine again because the sun aligned with the second closest moon of Jupiter, or something equally unpredictable.  I can swap between feeling elation, loved and supported by strangers and then equally devastated and ignored by friends.  Who aren't actually ignoring me, just to make things crystal clear as mud.

Crying because I have no baby to feed my milk... and then crying later because it's almost dry.

I am a mess.

A put together hidden mess when I need to be, if I need to be, but a mess nonetheless.

It's hard to imagine living like this for 4 or 6 or 8 months, but it's equally hard to imagine this ever getting better.   The simplest decisions seem like mountains that can't ever be climbed.  And I don't feel like I have a good sense of which ones I'm supposed to be climbing in the first place...or first at least.

If you talk to me, or ask me, I will say I'm ok.

And I am...for the most part.

Except when I'm not.

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