Over the weekend, my husband and I began to clean out the room for the nursery. In practice of spring cleaning, we purged more than a car full of things to donate, and probably equally as much garbage.--Who knew so much trash could build up in all the little nooks of our apartment over the year?--And after an entire day of sorting and organizing, we finally have the beginning of a nursery forming. We still need to get the crib in place, which has been living at my parents home since we lost Joey. But otherwise, the room is ready for decorations and any baby shower gifts we get next month. I'm excited to see the room once everything is done and in it's final place!
It was an odd feeling, setting up the nursery. Over a year ago, we had started to clear out that same room in preparation for Joey. At the time, it was our office/computer room. But after the loss, it felt too strange to leave the room as it was. Our house seemed too ordinary, too untouched from the loss. It was uncomfortable how much our home was the same even after such a great loss. We needed to see that things were different, that things had changed. Leaving our apartment as it was only felt like we were ignoring the fact that everything in our lives had just changed completely. So we decided to rearrange the whole place. The office moved into the living room/dinning room area, and what would have been the nursery became more of a storage room.
Watching the room transform into a nursery at long last, the whole reason why we rented a two bedroom apartment in the first place, it felt so right and yet kind of lonely too. As we cleaned out the room I kept glancing up at the picture above the doorway; it is a picture from a magazine of an ultrasound where the baby is holding a video game controller. Next to the baby in the picture, I had written "Pickle" in silvery marker. It has been up there since we first found out we were pregnant with Joey. It never felt right to take it down. Even though the nursery was supposed to be his, we left the picture up as a reminder that he is looking down over his brother, loving and protecting him.
Once everything was in place, my husband and I sat in the room envisioning what it will look like in the coming months. I was excitedly mapping out decorating ideas in my head when I heard a soft sniff come from my husband. He was sitting in the nursery chair, holding onto the big stuffed teddy bear that had been sitting there before, softly crying.
"Tiny," he asked, "how do we tell Andy about Joey? Do we wait until he's older? Do we keep it between you and me? I'm afraid if we tell him about Joey that he might not feel as special, like he's not the oldest son."
I sat at my husband's feet and held his hands. "I don't want to drop it on him when he's older. I think it would be harder and scarier to accept if we wait too long to tell him. I think we should introduce Joey to him early. Even before he fully understands it all. We don't have to start off saying Joey's dead. That would probably just scare him and make him wonder if he himself is going to die like Joey did. No. I think we could start off by just saying 'brother Joey is watching over us in heaven.' Make him more like a guardian angle in a way. Or if we want, we can even start by introducing Joeybear (the teddy bear the hospital gave us when Joey was born). We can tell him that Joeybear is named after little Joey who was about the same size as Joeybear. And that, Joey showed us how to take care of Andy, telling us what we needed to do to make sure Andy could grow up big and strong. After he told us how to take care of Andy, he had to go away to heaven and watch over us from there so we could use the lessons he taught us. As Andy gets older, we can explain in more detail that mommy's body couldn't hold onto him long enough to finish growing so he went to heaven. And as Andy gets even older, we can explain it in even more detail the more he can understand it, if he wants to learn more about it. As for helping Andy to feel like the older child; we can explain to him that he is the first to be born 'older.' That, although Joey was born first, he was born much smaller and younger than Andy. Andy will be born bigger and older because he was in mommy's tummy longer."
As I spoke, silent tears fell from my husband's eyes. It was a hard conversation to have. How do you tell your child that they had a brother who died before them? How can you tell them about it in a way that won't scare them about thoughts of their own mortality? How do you show your love to the child you lost without making the other child feel jealous? I don't pretend to know the answers. But I pray that, when the time comes, I'll have the strength and clarity to know what to do.