CNN's René Marsh Reflects on the 'Hope and Heartbreak' of Welcoming Baby Girl After the Death of Her Son
The journalist opens up to PEOPLE about her experience living at the "intersection of loss and love" as she welcomed a baby girl two years after losing her son, 2, to brain cancer
Two years after the death of her 2-year-old son, René Marsh is feeling grateful to have her home filled with the sounds of a child again.
The CNN National Correspondent, 43, and husband Kedric Payne welcomed daughter Siena Marsh Payne last month — and for the nine months Marsh was carrying her little girl, Marsh tells PEOPLE her daughter has, and forever will, serve as a reminder of hope.
"It's been great to just have this role of mother in the physical sense, in the present sense, again, to this little person," says Marsh, whose son Blake died from pediatric brain cancer in April 2021. "We are just so happy and grateful that we have this new life in our house again, and we have sounds in our house again of this young child."
"The silence of a home that had a 2-year-old and then to come home to that child no longer being here, that the silence was was really striking," she shares. "So we wanted to have that sense of family again."
Being pregnant with Siena while continuing to mourn the loss of Blake was a time of complicated emotions for Marsh.
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Related:CNN's Rene Marsh Shares Heartbreaking Message About Marking Her First Birthday After Son's Death
"It was a constant tug and pull, with joy and pain and hope and heartbreak," she says.
"While grieving the loss of my son daily during my pregnancy I waited in great anticipation for the birth of my daughter," she explains. "Through the tears her gentle and sometimes not so gentle kicks in the womb reminded me more was on the horizon I will tell her one day how her kicks gave me hope at a time of great heartbreak."
"I felt happy to be able to have this chance again to be a mom again," she adds. "And it was finally happening for us, the fact that I was pregnant again gave me hope. It gave me something to look forward to that was positive. This pregnancy really renewed my spirit of hope."
Before the birth of Siena, Marsh says she envisioned her grief at the time like a seesaw. "It was just grief and I was just flying up in the air and I had nothing kind of holding me, grounding me to the day-to-day."
"But I knew that if I could get to the day she was born, I'd have something to balance it out," she explains. "I'll never get over the loss of my son, but now I have the love of my daughter to at least give me the balance that I was lacking before she got here."
Marsh recalls being in tears the day Siena was born for a variety of reasons.
"To have made it through the grief, to get to motherhood again, it felt like I had accomplished something huge," Marsh tells PEOPLE. "I think that's where the tears were coming from, and there were tears of relief, there were tears of happiness, but there were also tears of reflection of just all the battered, bruised journey that I had taken to get to this point."
Reminding herself of all that she's been through and giving herself grace continues to be an important step for Marsh throughout her grieving process.
"It's important to take a self-assessment of what you have been able to endure so far, even if you're still enduring it, and give yourself a pat on the back, that reflection is important," she says.
Marsh also explains the importance of "listening to the soul and not the mind."
"Listen to your soul, and not so much the messages from your mind, because your soul will tell you to keep going when your mind will tell you, 'There's no way you can survive this.' "
Marsh hopes to keep son Blake's memory alive by raising awareness about pediatric cancer as well as making sure daughter Siena "feels that she knows him." The journalist has also written a children's book in honor of her son, for which all proceeds are donated to pediatric brain cancer research.
"The way I mother my daughter will be quite traditional, as most moms will have their child in their physical sense, but when it comes to Blake, I will continue to mother him in a way that I will continue with my work, through teaming up with the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation."
As for Siena, Marsh hopes her daughter can "understand who her brother was, the impact her brother had in his short two years, and that she feels that she knows him."
Reflecting on Mother's Day over the weekend, Marsh adds that she feels "extremely fortunate to once again experience the day as a mom in the physical sense with the arrival of my daughter, Siena."
"The gift that my daughter has given me this Mother's Day is the gift of renewal," she adds. "The gift of proof that on the other side of 'the worst,' there can be joy and beauty again. This Mother's Day, thanks to my daughter, joy has returned to my home."
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