Elliot is 4 weeks old
Before Elliot was born I tentatively pondered what life would be like with him in it. I never dared commit fully to the hope that he would be coming home but I made brief glances towards that future and then begun to contemplate a new set of concerns. Four weeks on, I am starting to see the shape that our new lives are taking and can answer some of the questions I held during my pregnancy. I’ve learned that as with many things, the worries that I had about motherhood were far more extreme than the reality.
Bonding with Elliot has thankfully not been an issue for me. I never detached myself from Elliot during the pregnancy and I think the fact that I never used dettachment as a coping mechanism has really helped me to establish that bond. I’m one of those lucky mums who felt instant love for my baby when he was born. The ability to love him so readily meant that my pregnancy was fraught with anxiety and worry but a lot of that fear has melted away now that he’s here.
For me, the anxieties of having a newborn baby are no match for the fear I felt in pregnancy. I spend a lot of time fretting about what’s normal and if I’m doing things right, but probably no more than any other new mother. Google is still my number one port of call, even though I should know better by now.
I love that I can get second opinions when I’m worried about Elliot- I no longer feel the heavy burden of the sole responsibility for my son. There are medical professionals who I can turn to – he’s here, we can physically examine him rather than base his perceived wellbeing on the readings on a tape measure, images on an ultrasound or on the perceptions of an over anxious and paranoid mother.
I still have moments of anxiety that he’ll be taken away from me. I pause in the street with his pram to check that he’s still breathing and I wake up with a repeated nightmare that he’s stopped breathing whilst I was asleep. I’m hoping that these fears will ease in time.
When we first brought him home I was terrified that he would stop breathing. I slept with one eye open and one hand on his chest to feel the rise and fall. Over time I’m gaining confidence and I feel well supported by the medical professionals caring for us.
When Elliot was first born I bombarded the midwives with questions about him. Was his breathing pattern normal? The noises he made? The jitteriness? What were these spots on his face? The red mark on his neck? Why did his foot bend that way? Were his nappies normal? After I left hospital I wrote huge lists of queries for the community midwives. I vowed never to be too proud to ask questions and it’s a pledge I intend to stick to throughout parenthood. I drunk up as much knowledge and information from the midwives as I could and it’s helped me to gain confidence and reassurance.
Parenthood is amazing yet exhausting. Elliot wakes every hour and a half through the night to feed but he’s worth all the effort and exhaustion that he could ever demand. My pregnancy was fraught with sleepless nights fuelled by anxiety so in many ways this is much less gruelling. That’s not to say the sleep deprivation is easy to tolerate. Like most parents, I feel overwhelmed with the tiredness at times but I try to employ the outlook from my pregnancy of focusing upon one day at a time and tackling each day as it comes.
Nieve is in my thoughts everyday. I never anticipated that Elliot may look like Nieve but there is such a strong resemblance. It makes me wonder what she would’ve been like- would she have had the same big bright eyes as her brother? The same disposition? His curiosity? I look at her photograph where she is so still and through Elliot I can imagine life injected into her. The image is both a happy and sad one. Elliot makes Nieve more real somehow. He brings her to life and when I look at her picture I now see all the lost possibility. I see the child she could’ve been and that breaks my heart a little bit every time.
Elliot brings me all the love and joy that I ever dared to hope he would. He has filled my world with happiness amid a background of pain and sadness. He hasn’t removed the pain of losing Nieve but he has added joy into my life again. He’s given me a purpose, a meaning. My life has never felt as rich as it does with my son in it.
When you lose your only child the loss is twofold- there’s the loss of your baby and then there’s the loss of motherhood. Elliot will never fill the void left by Nieve but he fulfills my yearning to nurture, my yearning to mother. It’s a need that feels like I’ve waited a lifetime to fulfill.
Much like many other mothers, I experienced the baby blues in the days following Elliot’s birth. The rush of hormones, exhaustion and the mix of so many overwhelming emotions created an emotional storm which left me feeling fragile and vulnerable. But I recognised that it was in the realms of normal for a new mother, particularly one bringing home the subsequent child after loss.
I rode out those early days and accepted that emotions were always going to run high in our circumstances. That initial tide of emotions has now passed although I recognise that this will always be an emotional journey.
I recently spoke to a friend of mine who has just become a mother herself. She spoke of her difficulties, the tide of emotions, the mother ‘guilt’ – and all this she experienced amid the feeling that she ‘should’ be happy, grateful and ‘coping’. It struck me that she was perhaps having a more difficult time than I was and that was due in part to the fact that I anticipate all the range of emotions, I accept them, expect them, whereas she, like many other mothers, won’t cut herself the same slack.
Last week we registered Elliot’s birth. Just one year earlier we’d stepped into that same registry office, tasked with the heartbreaking job of registering Nieve’s death. Such contrasting experiences; One fraught with pain and anguish and one filled with joy and celebration. It was a healing experience- to revisit a place associated with so much pain and make new happier associations. And that’s true for many aspects of life now- all the pain and sorrow that was woven into situations and places is now being undone. Happiness replacing sadness, joy replacing pain. Hope replacing desolation.
Elliot will never replace Nieve but the pleasure he has injected into my life is such a gift. Elliot and Nieve were both amazing gifts and I actually feel very lucky. When we first lost Nieve people told me that time was the greatest healer and while it’s true that time does help, I’d say that it’s love that is the biggest healer of all.