I’m writing this on the eve of Alice’s birthday (Tuesday), and I can’t quite believe we are hours away from her turning one! Tomorrow she will no longer be my little baby, but instead an official toddler, and my heart isn’t quite ready for that. I have never particularly been a parent that gets too emotional over my children aging and until recently I have been okay with it all, but this time I feel a physical aching about one of my kids getting older…perhaps it’s not knowing if she’s the last of my babies, perhaps its because she’s our rainbow?
Today, and this week really, is a big reminder that losing a baby continues to affect you years down the line. I don’t think for a second Alice would feel any less appreciated or loved to know I was thinking and feeling all of this the days leading up to her birthday, and knowing her now, I feel she knows what we lost and how her presence is a gift in our lives that balances that all some days. Of course I sit here feeling excited that we have known her for a whole 12 months and can see what a huge blessing she is and has been. We are all super excited to celebrate with her, but I would be lying if I didn’t say how incredibly hard it is too. Tomorrow is another 1st. It’s a milestone we never saw with Poppy, and as I have been hanging up 12 to 18 months clothes ready to go into her new little closet, or as I look to buy a birthday card with a number 1 (which I haven’t yet) it all just feels a little much.
This time last year I lay labouring in the LGI utterly terrified that another one of my babies was going to be born dead. I ran through my mind the events of birthing her sister, still wondering how it was all possible. As the midwives assured me all would be well, I then began hoping she would at least not look like her. I had taken the risk to try again and thought I was ready to give it all another go, but the racing thoughts and the anxiety were a reminder of how hard this chapter was actually going to be. We were moments away from knowing if she would arrive safely and if she was to come home and whilst that meant that I was excited to meet her, I was also incredibly worried too that life would cheat us again.
In contrast to the anxiety of stillbirth all over again, nothing prepared me for the flood of joy she would bring. I for so long felt empty, and whilst she could/can never fill the hole her sister left, she does a blumming good job of filling my empty arms. Its this aspect of her turning 1 that I especially struggle with – an independent little tot that squirms away from the long cuddles she has kept me in good supply of. Its the whole “losing” another baby to toddler hood as well as the milestones we never saw.
For 12 months Alice has filled my arms and expanded my heart. She has given me back a portion of lost confidence, and increased the joy in our home and lives like no other. Through her I feel I know her sister better, and yet through her there are hundreds of little moments that remind us of all we lost and continue to miss with not having her here (Many of which I was completely unprepared for). But I realise I would grieve whether Alice (or any other kids) were born to us following the loss of Poppy, and I would much prefer to take the risk and have the reminders along with the joy and comfort they bring, than just the empty pain of grief alone!
Despite the last 12 months of increased wonderment at what could have been, Alice has helped me to see in new colours. She has shown me what I am capable of, and what my new normal looks like. She has helped me to have more confidence in remembering and including her sister and has taught me new things and interests. I feel like she has given me the direction I have lacked in life since losing Poppy and she has certainly helped me to heal a little more. With all of this she has enabled me to help more people in baby loss and pregnancies after loss.
Ultimately though since we were expecting her, she has given us reason to hope.
She brings joy where there was none and she brings energy and calmness all at the same time. She is tender and loving, funny and cute, and at 12 months she has 6 (yes 6) new teeth! She has conquered both going up and down stairs now, has had her feet measured and is able to walk only holding on with one hand. She will only drink coconut milk and is terrified of toy dinosaurs (much to her siblings amusement!).
Alice Grace is by far the best risk we ever took!
* I will only be updating my parenting after loss experiences sporadically now as I feel getting to 12 months, with all of the firsts has most definitely being a roller coaster and one I needed to share. I expect on big milestones and family adventures there will more moments for us that I will want to share again that convey life after loss (with all of its struggles and beauties intertwined). But please know that choosing to have another baby after Stillbirth was a choice we struggled with since days after she died. It has been a challenge and trigger of grief I never anticipated. As much as we love and adore our little Alice, she does hold the keys to both healing and painful reminders of losing her sister. It isn’t wrong to feel or acknowledge that, it is a known fact of having a baby after one has died – the joy (rainbow) suddenly coexists with the storm. The pregnancy was incredibly stressful, and labour emotional, but it has been worth it and life feels far better these days! HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALICE – Thank you for all you bring to our lives!