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Sabina Khan-Ibarra Headshot

The Paths to My Heart

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I am not sure why I have not written in a long time. I try to dissect my feelings. To open up the bloody mess and follow the veins of my thoughts and explore the chambers of my heart. I get lost every time. I must accept that I will never find my way through the clutter.

Of course, I miss Ibrahim. I have learned that I will always miss him. I miss him in different ways every day. Most days, I miss his smell or even the smell of the sterile hospital. His yellowed white hospital hat, which I store in two Ziploc bags and smell daily, no longer has his scent. So instead, when I visit people at the hospital, I pump the hand sanitizing lotion twice, close my eyes and breathe it in deeply. I am immediately taken back to his bedside -- his pink abdomen moving rapidly and his lips cracked around the breathing tube. I don't feel grief but joy for the short moment with him. I open my eyes to see my husband, the only other being on earth who knows why I do this, looking at me. I avoid eye contact and rub my hands together as if nothing happened. Like I said, it's complicated.

My living children remind me of him. My third child and second living child, Anabiya, is Ibrahim's twin. When she is sleeping, I sometimes pretend she is Ibrahim. I watch her sleep and count her breaths and revel in the fact that she breathes freely with no machine. I feel guilty when I do this, because I feel like I am not enjoying Anabiya for who she is and only enjoying her for the memories of Ibrahim. Of course this is not true, I love Anabiya. Her resemblance to Ibrahim just makes my path messier.

My son, Musa, is a rambunctious one. I imagine sometimes what it would be like if Ibrahim had lived. Would he join in with Musa and wreak havoc in my home or would would he help me talk to Musa and explain what he should and shouldn't be doing? How much taller than Musa would he be? Would he know his ABC's? These uncertainties further muddling the clarity I need to understand how it is that I feel.

After my heart failure following Anabiya's birth, doctors advised me not to have anymore children. I knew I wouldn't have anymore, but having it as a part of my prognosis just made it a reality I didn't want to face. I always liked the idea of having three kids. I just have to learn to accept that while I only have two living children, I am the mother of three children. Instead of raising Ibrahim, he is in heaven, waiting. I am at a place where I am content. I am not ungrateful for all that I have been given. But I also realize that I am forever altered and cannot pretend that Ibrahim did not exist.

With each child that you have, a new part of you grows, like a limb, and as your child grows, the limb becomes bigger and stronger. You learn to live with it and cannot imagine surviving without it. Losing a child is like losing a limb that only the parents of the dead child can see missing. It is a limb that you must learn to function without. I am trying to live my life happily. To function normally with my missing limb. I want to be a good mother to all of my children. But what makes this seemingly easy journey messy is doing this without taking away from my children, the dead and the living. How can I love Ibrahim wholeheartedly while giving my love daily to Musa and Anabiya in a very practical way? And how can I love my living children in the deep, spiritual way I love my dead son? I wish I knew how to find this balance. The rhythmic beat of my life continues while I try to figure out my way and there is no stopping it, and so I continue to love all of my children, each individually for who they are and hope they can all forgive me for my shortcomings. Because my children must know that if they were to look deep into the chambers of my heart, they would find only themselves.

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