While, of course, I loved my children before Abi died, that love has changed quite dramatically since.
I gave birth to Abi, back in 2000, and it wasn’t long before my second child was on her way. She arrived when Abi was 22 months old. Back then, I worked 4 days a week and my husband and I had been married just three years. We’d just about settled into our first home together when we had to move to a larger house. I’d only been in my new job about three months. There was a lot going on. On top of that, I suffered what I later realised was Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following my second child’s birth. It was fast, furious and unbelievably painful, and a stress to both me and my child that still has repercussions today.
Life felt hard. It’s fair to say, I can’t remember much of the early years with the two girls and I’m thankful for the photos we took, as it reminds me that it was – in the main – a good time in our lives.
But back then our lives were like many other people’s – more about getting stuff done, getting us to places, sorting things out, stressing about work. There wasn’t much time to water the roses let alone stop and smell them! We complained about all the ‘normal’ problems of parenting that I see countless people complaining about online today. At times, I’m sure it felt like my children were sent to ruin me, not bring me joy!
After a few years had passed and life seemed more settled, and me recovered, we had another child, this time a son. His home birth was much more positive and calm. I finally felt in control and confident in what I was doing. Life was good again, and we were more able to see the wood for the trees and appreciate each other. We made some really good memories. But it still had its challenges, challenges that almost tipped us over the edge, challenges that – today – mean nothing…
When Abi died, in 2013, I seemed to remember every time I lost my rag with her, or ignored her or didn’t go to an assembly because I was working… I regretted a lot. Yet I also began to remember the things I thought I’d forgotten. Memories of the little girl came back to me, they were always there, just squashed by the trials of life.
Having my rainbow baby, a boy born a year after Abi died, has had a profound healing effect on our family. When I look through my social media feeds there are countless photos of him; like any proud parent, I’m sharing my joy. But I also wonder if people might see this as favouritism for a child who is replacing the pain of losing another.
Despite being pregnant at the hardest time of my life, and coming into a family that was broken with grief and anxiety, this little boy seems to be full of double the joy, double the ‘life-loving’ nature, double the character. He seems to have the best bits of us all in him, and we all love him very much. But that’s not to say I don’t love my other children any less. I have a bond with each of them that is unique. We have a relationship where we can remember life with Abi, something my new son will never know. We have been on a long journey together and already have many happy memories stored up.
I don’t share so many photos of my teenage daughter online now, more because I’m not allowed! She’s at an age when she doesn’t want to be shown up by her soppy mum (unless she has vetted them!). Equally, my 8-year-old son is camera shy and will usually hide if I point my phone at him. So I am mindful what images I share of them both, but when I do it is with as much love and pride as with my toddler. In fact, I’m sure if I had a phone camera when the girls were little I would be just as ‘click happy’!
We look at our toddler now and marvel at everything he does and says. We’re fascinated by his little ways, his discovery of the world. It’s hard to admit that Abi’s death has gifted us with the ability to see and appreciate the small things, to know that our children are little for such a short time (and that they will soon grow into teenagers who hide from the limelight!). We want to create a bank of memories for the future, not be remembered for how hard we worked or how little energy we had for them. We want them all to feel loved and appreciated. Although I should stress that we are still doing this around our ‘normal’ life. We still get harassed by the morning rush to get out of the house, shouting to get shoes on and teeth brushed. We still get frustrated by their behaviour. We still have the common challenges of parenting. It’s just that we forgive more easily, we show love more often than anger, we know just how precious they are to us, that they really are gifts from God.
My rainbow turns 2 today and it’s been an emotional rollercoaster at times as we adapt to life without one blossoming in her teens, but life with a new one taking us back to nappies and toys! I love that he says Abi’s name whenever he sees her photo. He seems perfectly happy to accept she’s there with us in some way, and is part of his life.
And, while we naturally have anxieties over our next baby due to arrive in the spring – everything from a safe birth, a healthy child, to how on earth we’ll cope – I also trust that we’ll be okay, and that this ‘double rainbow’ will only go to bless our family even more. If you follow me online, just be prepared for a lot of unashamed baby spam…!