I guess, looking back to when my baby first died, I was guilty of thinking that other angel mothers had it easier.
Those further down the line where years had rolled by and dulled their pain, those with arms laden with rainbows, and those with other children to at least occupy their broken hearts. Of course, now I know better than that. I can only assume that my quietly misplaced view came from a hope that my pain would one day be dulled, that my heart might hurt a little less when my rainbow arrived. I wanted to believe that one day I would live free from the pain of my sons death, and yet with each crushing turn of the calendar, that belief wore thin. Two years deep and with a living baby on my lap, I have accepted the realisation that loss is forever and there are no alternative circumstances that offer remedy.
As I record our journey through this baby-loss bombsite, I have noted previously that when I write a post with positivity and hope, I am labelled as inspirational, yet a post written when my heart is heavy and I am experiencing an influx of pain, I can be considered weak and mentally struggling, or worse, seeking pity. The temptation to write only uplifting pieces that speak honourably of my little boy is something I have to negate.
There have been many times when I have felt only pride and gratitude for having Winter in my life, and moments that have taken my breath away with the pure beauty and love that this existence has bought me. Like the time when we collected his death certificate and I declared that signing a piece of paper in a grey office building meant very little in terms of the legacy he is leaving behind, or the time I wrote his funeral speech and spoke of the valuable lessons his brief life taught us. Those moments are authentic and candid, and with respect to my son and all the other babies that die so cruelly, it is only right that we also share the moments that weigh us down.
When my rainbow was born, a part of me was hoping for solace, perhaps, naively, even a little ‘closure’. Not closing the door on my son, but rather the pain that his death left me with. A new chapter, the expectation that having a baby in my arms would solve some of the problems that grief presents.
I never assumed that she would replace her brother, nor did I expect to be magically healed, anyone who exists in the world of infant loss is wiser than that. But maybe I was hoping, hoping, to have some respite from the consuming pain of infant loss. It goes without saying that I love my daughter beyond measure and in many ways she has brought a huge amount of love and light into our lives, yes she has even healed my heart a little. But I also was not ready for the new onslaught of grief that her arrival bought with it. This was our ‘happy ending’, a beautiful baby to love and to keep. Happy, I am, ending, there is not.
For the first time since my baby boy died so suddenly at one day old, a whole two years ago, I have found myself lost for words and far too tearful to talk openly about him. I suppose, what I want to share in this blog post and what I want people to know, is that when a bereaved mother is handed another baby, her grief is not diluted but rather it is magnified. Raven has brought Winter to life, he’s more real to me now than ever before. And yet I still don’t know where he is, he remains out of reach, separate, invisible. Here I am, torn in two, loving my ‘new’ baby with enlightened intensity and missing my ‘old’ baby with a renewed animistic ferocity.
For two years my son existed merely as a memory, he was photographs and keepsakes, an urn filled with ashes, a lock of hair, a tiny blue striped romper. And now he exists here, in my arms. I’m living out what I should have already experienced, burping, feeding, and cooing over a wriggly pink baby with the same brow as her heavenly brother. Suddenly I get it. I get everything that we missed out on, and more painfully, I get everything that he missed out on.
The bedside cuddles when the silence is broken only by gentle newborn panting and the room is lit up by street lights, the giggles at bath time as tiny little legs kick with such energy, the bonding nursing when my baby looks deep into my eyes as she nuzzles the breast. Winter missed out on that, he missed out on it all, never enough cuddles, never even a single giggle.
We are here together and he is there alone, and my grief is pouring like a flooded river.
And then there are the more morbidly curious moments that rattle me right down to my toes. I suddenly find myself looking at Raven and looking at Winters urn, and I’m asking myself ‘How is she all flesh and breath and he is simply dust? How can my whole baby boy fit into a tiny silver pot?’ Never did I imagine I would be holding my daughter so lovingly only to be thrown back to the moment we saw Winter in his coffin. Never did I imagine that catching glimpses of Winter in Raven would freeze my bones and pour panic through my veins. I was swept up in the excitement of her arrival and had anticipated feeling only joy at finally holding an echo of my long lost son. I didn’t really believe that it would hurt me too, but it does, I want both of my babies.
The thing with grief is that it is never static nor predictable, it evolves, shifts, morphs, meanders. Anyone who is grieving a loved one will realise there is no end, never the day will come when we say ‘I am fully healed, I no longer grieve this person.’. Having a rainbow baby doesn’t fix the loss of my son. I am both happy and hurting and for now I accept this fresh pain with the knowledge that my grief will one day evolve, shift, morph and meander, returning me once more to the lighter place I had become accustomed to. In the meantime I look for patience from my loved ones and the hope that by sharing another bit of myself on this vulnerable chapter I will help others understand the ongoing repercussions of infant loss and for other bereaved rainbow mothers to feel less alone. Another piece of Winters little legacy.
You can read more from Nicola and follow her journey on her beautiful Instagram Life of Pea.
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