When we were pregnant with Charlie, it was our first time as parents-to-be, so everything was done in overdrive. There were monogrammed outfits, birthing classes, and birth plans detailed down to the minute. We also had a pet name for Charlie before we knew his gender. We called him Monkey. Throughout his 5 years with us, I would find myself calling him monkey … because he was a monkey! He loved gymnastics, had ridiculous upper body strength, and I am pretty sure he was more agile going across monkey bars than an actual monkey. Monkey just suited Charlie.
Those of you with multiple children can probably relate to the shift in preparation the second time around. You breathe a little easier, the nursery doesn’t come together quite as quickly since you’re busy chasing after your first, and so the splendor of subsequent pregnancies isn’t quite the same as the first. There is no less love involved, the time to cherish those 9 months is just not always available. So when we were pregnant with Ellie, her pet name was number 2. I know, I know, it’s pretty pitiful. But that was it, no time to think of another while chasing a toddler all day. Still number 2 did not come without concerns. Instead of thinking about monograms and curtain colors, I spent most of my time during that pregnancy worried about the sibling relationship Charlie and Ellie would have. And towards the end of that pregnancy, I was fearful of how I could love one more like I loved Charlie. But as I quickly learned after Ellie’s birth, love does not divide – it multiplies when you bring a new member into your family. Charlie and Ellie made us a family of 4. Two healthy children, we were blessed more than we knew.
I will never forget one of my first visits to the doctor after Charlie died. I was checking out with the receptionist who handed me a summary of my appointment. As I was reading through the basic health information, beside number of children, the paper read “one.” I tried to keep my composure in the middle of the waiting room (honestly, later I wished I had thrown a temper tantrum right then and there) and when I got in my car, I had a meltdown. “We have 2 children,” I screamed in the car, “not 1!” We have 2. One here on Earth and one in Heaven. How can my doctor not have the sensitivity to even acknowledge that? I cried and cried sitting in the car that day, pissed that my healthcare provider had even tried to brush Charlie’s death under the rug, like he didn’t even exist. It still hurts me to think that Charlie could be wiped from my medical records, but in truth it says more about the big picture. Charlie will always be our first child, nothing can ever replace him and he can’t be wiped away. Everyday we talk about him, we laugh and cry when we think of him, and he is and always will be my first child … my monkey.
Growing our family was never off the table, even before Charlie died. In fact, 2017 was the decision year for us. Do we “close up shop” or have another child? Of course there were many factors to consider when making this decision: finances, work, age (Michael is old, y’all!) to name a few major ones. But never was our ability to love another child considered in this equation. We always knew there was room in our hearts for another. Again, love does not divide but multiply. When Charlie died, the equation became much different. Would growing our family be a sign to Charlie that we had moved on or replaced him? How can we bring another life into the world when we are still grieving the loss of Charlie? How would another child affect Ellie? Would she think a baby was a substitute for her big brother?
After lots of conversations with those close to us, including the big man upstairs, many answers became clear to us. We will never stop grieving Charlie, so waiting on the grief to end was not an option. Charlie can’t be replaced, and thank God for that. There will never be another Charlie and, as sad as it makes me to know that I will never hear his raspy voice or silly laugh or watch him play with Ellie again on Earth, I am thankful that our hearts will continue to be filled with love for him until we see him again in Heaven. Michael and I also realized, that growing our family was not just important to us but to Ellie. She came into this world not as an only child, but with a brother. And while Charlie will always be her brother, we want her to have a sibling here on Earth, too. We want Ellie to have the chance to cultivate a sweet, loving relationship like the one she had with Charlie. To walk through life carrying a special bond with her sibling, knowing they have a beautiful, big brother shining down on them from Heaven.
Love does not die in death. We love Charlie now more than ever. Love is not finite, but infinite. Charlie will always be our monkey, our number 1. Ellie will always be our number 2. And number 3, who we will welcome to our family in July, will know no less love than her other siblings and will allow love once more to multiply in our hearts.