Hugo is Here
On August 2, 2012 our third child burst into the world. The delivery was different from Stella or Sam. Stella’s delivery was stressful, long, traumatic and left me with a severe case of baby blues that still gives me chills. Sam’s birth was at a time when emotions were at an all time high and there was tension, expectation and fear you could cut through despite the ultimate joy at his safe delivery. I cried for days after he was born, Aimee was injured during his birth and we each remember his early days as a haze of help, pain and happiness as we confronted for the first time the realities of living with one child dying and one child thriving. We were only three and a half months into Stella’s cancer and waking up in the morning to the reality was still enormously difficult.
Compared to Stella and Sam, Hugo…well…he just sort of came. It wasn’t as emotional as we thought it might be, it wasn’t terrible or difficult. It felt fairly normal. There was nothing dramatic about his birth, he was just born and the people in the room smiled and he was perfect and healthy and all if a sudden, there was a new baby there. Hugo was born just before 10pm and we were all snug in our beds at home by 4am.
Hugo looks like an almost exact replica of Stella when she was a newborn, except she had spiky red hair and Hugo’s is brown. Maybe I shouldn’t be as surprised by how much they look alike, since they are full siblings, but…it’s still a bit shocking at times. Hugo is too young to have developed his own personality yet, so when we look at him we just see Stella as a newborn and it’s both comforting and crushing at the same time.
Sitting in a dark room feeling tired and overwhelmed it takes you right back to those first few weeks of parenthood with Stella. Looking down at this baby it’s impossible not to remember looking down at Stella and marveling over her perfection as a newborn while she lay in our arms, so full of promise, with our imaginations in overdrive as we planned her entire life. With Stella, I spent copious amounts of time researching overnight camps (she probably would have gone to Tapawingo or Kawabi), lessons (soccer would have started for her this past Spring), even private school (we couldn’t afford it, but I was really liking Giles and Greenwood). She was going to go to Paris with Tutu when she was 16 years old and Disneyland at age 6 with Gracie. When she was 13, Aimee and I planned to take her to Africa to volunteer so she had a bit of perspective before the teenage years hit with a vengeance. I filled out Stella’s baby book faithfully, kept daily logs of her naps and visitors for three months, wrote her journal entries to read her someday as an adult and set aside my favourite outfits of hers so I could someday pass them down to her kids.
With Sam and Hugo I try to stop myself from thinking too much about the future. Partially to protect myself and partially because I feel like I can enjoy them more if I focus on the here and now instead of on the someday. And because planning too far in the future necessitates thinking of a world without Stella and my heart can’t handle thinking about that right now. So it’s not about “someday” right now, it’s only about today.
Today the house is chaotic. It’s messy with toys strewn everywhere and dishes piled in the sink.
Today Sam is crawling everywhere, so one person is designated to chase him around the house and move hazards like Tim Horton’s coffee cups out of the way as he explores.
Today we are still trying to figure out how to give each of our kids the undivided attention they need. So far we’ve only managed it due to the sheer volume of help we’ve gotten from our families who have been showing up everyday to hold a kid for hours at a time.
Today I am still working on physically healing from the labour (I ended up with a dural puncture which has resulted in migraine headaches when I am upright for longer than an hour at a time—it should pass in a week or so).
Today we are once again awed by the strength of our support system and feeling incredibly lucky.
Today Stella is still with us.
Today Stella is adjusting fine to her new brother. She finds Hugo delightful. When we put him in her lap or ask her to help feed him, she smiles and is as proud a big sister as possible. I remember when Sam first came home from the hospital, she could still talk and would whisper to him and could still sit up and would help feed and burp him. She can’t do those things anymore, but she is still aware of Hugo and the fact that she has gotten to meet him is a miracle in itself.
Today we are managing to stay above water and to leave room in our hearts for all the emotions that are crowding for attention.
Tomorrow? I don’t know. Stella is fairly stable again. She is back to confounding the Doctors who have told us they will no longer guess how much longer she will be with us. The Toronto Exhibition starts next weekend—the official “end of summer” festival for all Torontonians. Sam is starting daycare in September. My sister is going back to work in a few weeks as she is a teacher and her maternity leave is over. Aimee is supposed to go back to work in October when her maternity leave ends too. I remember clearly last Fall. Stella was supposed to die last fall. As this Fall creeps steadily closer we are again in a situation where we can’t fathom what the future might bring. So, for now, I am refusing to think too much about it. It makes no difference what I think or plan anyway.
The one thing I have realized this last week with Hugo is that there is no such thing as a “pure” emotion anymore. Happiness has a hint of sadness, sadness is sprinkled with joy, joyfulness has a bitter aftertaste, bitterness comes with hope, hopefulness is littered with pain and pain brings with it immense love. All the feelings and emotions swirl around us constantly, and we have no choice but to wake up each morning and do the best we can.
Today we feel grateful for all three of our children. Today we are blessed.
Today, we have more than enough to make us happy.
Stella shares her beanbag chair with Hugo:
Stella introduces Gracie to Hugo:
Stella and Hugo:
The Kids…Hugo, Stella and Sam:
“I like to imagine that the world is one big machine. You know, machines never have any extra parts. They have the exact number and type of parts they need. So I figure if the entire world is a big machine, I have to be here for some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason, too.”
Brian Selznik, The Invention of Hugo Cabret