Parenting After Loss – 1 Month Old

Its almost 5am and right on schedule I have just finished up feeding Alice. Some mornings I cannot wait for this moment so that I can quickly pop her back in her crib and resume sleep for another couple of hours before Ethan and Megan arise. But some mornings I hold her a little longer, I smell her and give her extra kisses…I have a precious new baby girl and I treasure dearly what I have been given and what my life now is. Blessed.

Our little rainbow baby is a whole month old today! For a whole month this has been my new normal; feeding, changing, baby cuddles, smelling her and touching and kissing those small baby hands and feet. She is a true little miracle of life both in her perfect make up and in how her presence has ignited so much joy in a home and in lives that needed more healing. I have been asked on many occasions since she was born if we feel like she has alway’s been here? Perhaps she fills a gap in our lives now and all is well? and I quickly answer no…she is herself, she takes her place as child number 4 and does not fill a gap or replace that which was lost. That gap, that space of child number 3 and the Poppy shaped hole will always be present in our lives, our photos and experiences, but what she does fill is my empty arms, our hearts with love and joy, and our lives with gratitude to God for sending her. I answer no to it feeling like she has always been here because most days I cannot believe she is here. I look upon her tiny face and her warm breathing body, into her beautiful eyes and I cannot believe this is real. I watch and hold her and cannot believe that she is here and is ours. She has such a calm and gentle presence about her with a little cheekiness thrown in for extra measure, she feeds well and sleeps as well as you would hope at just 4 weeks unless its the odd crazy period where we hit a growth spurt, and with that she is growing well and doing well and is adored and loved by many people, she has brought a great buzz and cheer into each one of our lives, and she is ours!

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Of course it isnt all just snuggles and being in awe of her newness and her presence here, having a new born is hard work and whilst I have been rather successful at life with 3 in tow it also has been hard at times. There is the usual hardness of balancing life and an extra child and the amount of time everything takes now. Then there are the difficulties of adjusting to life with little rest and trying to establish and be comfortable with breastfeeding. Some days I am grateful for an extra half hours snooze, others that I could shower!
And then? Well then there are the days (not too many) when my mind feels a little confused and my heart aches again for everything that we lost, the days I feel less excitement and more awareness and a little more solemn and reflective. There are some days we slip up and call Alice Poppy, some days we talk about it all again and how incredibly sad it all is, how much we missed and still miss her in our family…some days we reflect on how nice it would be for that extra sibling to be here too enjoying the new baby and how strange it is we have 4 kids now…FOUR! Some days are exhausting and feeding loads, some days I stay in my PJs and some days we have incredible adventures with energy I never knew I had. But then some days I sit silently and reflect on all of this and wonder how to answer when people ask me if I think its all so wonderful? Yes it mostly is and yes most days it does feel wonderful she is here, its hard work but it is wonderful to have a beautiful new baby, yet in someways because there are those days where we talk and remember still, things have not changed as hugely as others and there are many aspects to having a baby following a loss that brings these triggers and reminders that are out of our control and are not wonderful but more painful.

I have noticed that I do not talk about Poppy as openly as much and for a while felt guilty that perhaps I wasn’t keeping her memory alive? because I am mostly Okay in life right now and able to function, beaming and overjoyed with our new baby despite that constant ache beaneath the surface, I guess its just something people feel they don’t need to ask about now either because we seem okay or at fear of stirring emotions we have control over. But I choose to talk less because we have learnt (or are learing) to live with that mix and so instead choose to keep her memory alive within our family. I have been hurt too much by others responses and judgemnets, opinions on my stages of grief that I prefer to talk about her often with Nathan as I feel safer this way and know it won’t be dismissed, judged, mocked or made to feel like “we’re still on about that”. She is our daughter and we treasure her memory as we treasure our newest little one month old and our other living children. No parent wants their child put down in any way so its important to me that that aspect is respected and never demeaned. I am happier now, but I still miss her tremendously, its always beneath the surface and I can never forget what I went through, only control the emotions more and love what I have been blessed with in 4 beautiful kids!

Some nights when feeding, Some days when pushing the pram and some mornings when I am pulling tiny clothes out of the washing machine my wound from loosing Poppy stings a little more, then the odd tears well up and I reflect a lot more on her and on who she is/was, why again we couldn’t keep her, how much it hurts to have missed parenting her and how I still continually miss out on her life and growth. I love parenting little Alice yet at the same time I see daily how many things I do for her that I didn’t get to for her sister. I see how much joy I feel over Alice, the kisses and cuddles, little smiles and cute expressions, and am reminded occasionally that for Poppy this was swallowed up in the most painful of emotions one could ever feel. On those days, in those moments, what I feel is gratitude intertwined with the pain of loss too. I hold Alice closer, thankful for her radiant presence and I know that this is normal and okay, but that for a while, perhaps a long while, it is present and feels strange.

And then there are the weird behaviours that no one notices, that people may think as morbid or madness when I tell you why but that I have done with little thought and probably appear normal on the surface…the first couple of weeks it was all about checking her breathing and overthinking how many layers she had on at fear she may be too hot or cold and something could happen, then being paranoid about her positioning in the car seat. I then noticed occassionally that in the innoncence of looking at her hands, feet and features I would get flashbacks of how Poppy looked when I held her which leads to thoughts and emotions and heartache again as I can’t help but think of where her body lies and that she died. I take pictures almost every day, not to keep as I often delete most the following day, but it is so if something happened I have a picture of the last time I saw her living. I smell her lots to capture that as a memory and also hold her blanket or muslin close to me as she sleeps…again not always but I never have with other babies and I believe its for comfort as I sit sometimes wondering if I will have her to raise or will she go too, again I cannot believe she is here and is ours! Its all a whole mixed bag of emotions some days and I am sure these things in time will subside, but for now it is how I treasure my rainbow and come to terms with another layer of my loss. Its how I cope with another first which is the first born after loss, and whilst I could talk for hours on it all with people, how do you really say that sometimes my living baby reminds me of my dead one and the things I missed and longed for??? It sounds mad and many I see are so delighted for her being here too that I have choosen to hold these things in my heart, because now when the pain hits I have our newest child to hold and my arms are no longer empty though a portion of my heart still is. There is more light and happiness in our lives now and I guess people don’t want this to be disturbed, so when these moments come or I do these weird things for reassurance that Alice is staying and all will be well with her I realise¬†whilst one is in my arms bringing me Joy, I can still ponder on the other. It is no measure of love or my gratitude because each one of my babies are special. I¬†miss and grieve for Poppy when I need to because I love her as much as I love Alice, Ethan and Megs when I look upon their little faces, it just all makes me wish once again, with the arrival of Alice, that I had them all here to hold and love as dearly.

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The last month and our 1st month as new parents after loss has been pretty much all of that; the appreciation of what we have and delight in that but more present reminders of what we lost too. Our grief for Poppy intertwined with our overwhelming burst of love and joy over Alice. I do love her so very much and know that I talk far more than normal about breastfeeding and what I have bought for her than naturally I would. I love to baby shop, its a dream come true and when we are out I wrestle Nath to push the pram because its such a novelty for us both…its all because it feels so surreal and amazing that we can do all of this again for one of our children. Its amazing to me and a privlidge that I can sustain her life after feeling like my body failed her sister and I cannot believe this is my life, I certainly feel like a blessed new mother with a gorgeous baby girl and have more hope in our future..It is a life and time of such sadness at what we lost and over who we miss, but such happiness and gratitude over who we have been given to ignite our lives with love and colour again, we are utterly exhausted but so in love with our lovely Alice Grace… you are a little beaut and what a great adventure this month with you has been, I know you will teach us a lot and bring more than you will ever realise to life!

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