I Couldn't Do It

July 3, 2018

By Sanda Rathamone



You've helped me see the mother in me that I wanted to be.
For those of you who do not know or needs reminding, Jazmine is my husband's niece and Elijah's cousin.

My sister-in-law announced her pregnancy a couple months after Elijah had passed and Jazmine was born in February 2017; three months after Elijah's due date in October 2016.

If Elijah was here, he and Jazmine would be three months apart, making Elijah the "older" cousin. 

I have published blog posts about Jazmine here and there, since she had joined the family at a time when my husband and I were tragically hit with stillbirth. (Read more on: Making A Breakthrough: Holding A Baby After Loss and Balancing Aunthood, Grieving Mother, With A Side of Infertility.)

I have also written about Jazmine and my father-in-law and how their relationship influences me.  (Read more on: The Grandfather I Wished He Had.)

Every day that Jazmine is happily greeting everyone in the house, running circles to and fro, gibbering away about who knows what, digging through boxes, drawers, and shelves, being her inquisitive, trouble-mess-making, boisterous self, she brings with her a kind of innocent joy that we all fall in love with, including me.

I had wished that Elijah would bring that same kind of innocent and wondrous energy that makes everyone laugh and smile. It makes me sad knowing that the thought of Elijah makes the family sad, instead of happy, like how Jazmine does it.

If only they could see how much joy Elijah brings, even though he isn't here. 

I don't know if this makes any sense, but yes, thoughts and memories of Elijah does bring me some kind of joy -  not just a sorrowful, gut-wrenching of pitch black emptiness in my heart. It is because I love him that I am happy. It is because the love I have for him is special; it comes from my mother heart. Knowing that I have a mother's heart and that my love for Elijah comes from it makes me happy.

Which is funny because I had just relearned that "joy and sorrow is of the same coin." 

I don't know where I am going with this blog post today, so I'll start off with what inspired me to write. 

It was yesterday.

Jazmine usually goes home in the afternoon, but occasionally sleeps over with grandpa and grandma. Yesterday happens to be one of those days that she had a sleepover.

Her sleeping routine used to be wild and I could remember how she would take very short naps and never wanted to sleep. Now, she takes much longer naps and has more energy to play a lot more. Her parents make her stay up until at least 9 or 10 p.m. after picking her up from grandpa, so that she sleeps longer throughout the night.

It was a little past the time of when her mom picks her up, so my father-in-law told my husband not to let her fall asleep, until 10.

So, in our bedroom, my husband puts on Moana to keep her awake.

I said, "She looks like the baby Moana." 

But with a lot more curly hair.

He said, "Her mom says that Moana is her favorite movie." 

Watching how quiet and concentrated she was on watching the movie was... Adorable? Cute? I'm not sure what the word is, but it makes me giggle and wonder if she could understand the movie.

I could feel her slowly putting the weight of her head on my arm, as she sits in between my legs and sucks on her pacifier. I had hoped that she wouldn't fall asleep; she was soooo quiet.

Since Moana is a children's animation, there's lots of music and singing involved - and Jazmine loves it! It was near the end of the movie that music and singing came on. Jazmine wasn't as still and quiet anymore, I had felt her wanting to get up and dance.

My husband - watching how excited Jazmine was - told me to stand up and move. He told me to dance with her. I stood up, shook my head and said, no. I told him to dance with her. And he did. I watched him holding her and swinging her around and dancing with her. I watched how his movements and the music made Jazmine go crazy with laughter. I watched how the both of them found joy in something as simple as music, and letting loose and being silly.

What really made me smile was how her face had lit up with so much joy, as if she was filled with light herself. She looked as if she was having an exhilarating time, while my husband was in the flow of her innocent giggles of energy.

Every time that I watch my husband in his "uncle mode," I fall more deeply in love with him. He's the kind of uncle who throws kids in the air and spins them around, teaches them things that most people forget, and understands how to "let go" and have fun. His "uncle mode" is comparable to the father I know he would have been.

My husband would have been the fun dad (including the tough lessons and boundaries). Although, he would have been the "funner" parent because I tend to be more uptight about things.

Anyway, later that night when grandpa was trying to put Jazmine to bed, my husband and I was having a late dinner.

We were talking about Jazmine, like how we usually do when Jazmine does something interesting or funny. I mean... it's even interesting how Jazmine has become a part of our daily conversations, as if she was our own. She's become a part of our lives in not just her being a niece/family kind of way, but because we see and bond with her very often at home.

My husband was saying how I didn't want to dance with Jazmine and was being shy. 

True, I didn't want to dance with her. 

True, I was being shy. 

I am NOT a dancer and have terrible hand-eye coordination and singing voice. I guess when you have kids, none of this matters.

But, it was also true that I did want to dance with her and it wasn't true that I was being shy. 

I wanted to dance with her the moment I got off the bed and had Jazmine on my hip, but I couldn't do it. I couldn't do it, not because I was shy or because I didn't want to, but because I had felt that dancing with her was on a much deeper level, plane, degree? Level of intimacy??

It wasn't that I didn't think Jazmine deserved to dance with me, it was that I couldn't do this with my baby, my toddler, my child.

I told my husband, "No. That's too intimate for me." I was even surprised by my own words and wondered if I had really said that.

I guess he had understood and didn't say anything more, but a flat "Oh." 

But what exactly did I mean by "intimate?" 

Most people use the word intimate to describe a sensual connection or close relationship/connection. I was using the word in connection/bond sense, but more of a mother-child sense.

The truth is: Dancing with a child (that was not mine, but that I had cared for) was a very intimate thing.

The funny thing is: I didn't know that this was one of my boundaries after baby loss, until it was called for.

I made something so simple, so complicated, but realized that this wasn't exactly all me. This was grief. This was the feeling of: some things are just too special to be shared with someone else, even if it was as simple as dancing.

I know that I am not alone in this because my husband sometimes feel the same way.

That "she is not ours," so I am not going to do more than my duty as uncle/aunt. It's not in a selfish way, but more of like in a way that we feel that we could love and care for a niece to a certain extent. The truth in that we are not her parents already makes us feel at a loss... most of the time for me anyway.

Sometimes, I am afraid of loving her so much that I end up loving her more than I do Elijah. Even though that will probably never be true or happen.

So, I play the loving aunt because she needs a loving aunt and because I am happy with being the loving aunt, but will not play the motherly aunt. Dancing - I learned - was motherly aunt stuff that I couldn't do with her.

I couldn't do it because I didn't do it with Elijah.

I love Jazmine and her openness. I love how she quickly learns things and greets us at the door. I love the smiles she brings on everyone's faces. But I can't love her too much, simply because I am not her mother. I can't love her the way I had wanted to love Elijah.

I still think about future art projects and books that I would like to read with her. I think art and reading are fun ways to teach children how to be creative and use their imagination. But I didn't think that dancing would be this hard. I don't know if or when I would be able to dance with her, I'm not even sure if I ever will.

I wonder if Elijah would have had a face like hers, while I danced in front of the T.V., with him in my arms.

With love,


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