Over the Rainbow  

Elliot is 5 months old

17 months since we lost Nieve

Lately I’ve begun to struggle with the idea of using the term ‘rainbow baby’ for Elliot. It’s not a label I tend to attach to him anymore because it feels like it’s caught up in the idea that his whole existence is as my salvation- that’s a huge responsibility for a person to carry. It feels laden with expectations and gives him a lot to live up to. He isn’t here for me. He is an absolute blessing but he isn’t here to soothe me or fix me. He is here to live his own life and I’m just lucky I get to share some of it with him. He isn’t here to fill the void left by Nieve; it’s my job to do that, not Elliot’s.

I’m so grateful for Elliot. Every single day I look at him and I feel absolutely blessed and absolutely terrified in equal measures. Please don’t take him away from me.

I sometimes have intrusive thoughts of bad things happening to him. I don’t let these overwhelm me because I know they are rooted in the trauma of what happened to Nieve and not based on fact.

I have been surprised by the abundance of patience I have for Elliot’s tears and his night wakings. I’m not immune to the tough parts of parenting but after losing a baby, crying a million of my own tears and having my own sleepless nights riddled with nightmares, the hardships of caring for a baby don’t really seem to compare.

Since Elliot was born, people often ask me how it feels to be a mother. Its a question which stings; It disgards the fact that I was already a mother. When I’m asked by those who know my history I automatically remind them of Nieve, but then I feel guilty for making them feel awkward. Yet I understand that although I’m a mother to both of my children, my role is different now and I too struggle to find the words to represent this.

Since Elliot arrived, I can’t help but feel that some people have less patience for me speaking about Nieve any more. I wonder if they deem it ungrateful for what I now do have. But this is the difference between losing a baby compared to losing a different loved one. If one of my brothers had died nobody would deem me ungrateful of my other siblings if I spoke of my lost one.

Some people also seem quick to forget that Elliot is not my first child. Would they rather discard Nieve’s memory because it is easier for them? Or Is she forgotten because she wasn’t seen to have as much value as someone who lived outside of the womb? Or is it another way of ‘protecting’ me from what my heart would remember every single day regardless?

When others speak of childbirth they forget that I have had two births. They speak about Elliot as he was my first and only pregnancy experience. Without living proof of the child I carried it seems some people deem that she was never really here at all. I forgive most people this faux pas but It saddens me that I feel some want to forget my daughter so quickly.

“Are you feeling better now?” Was a question I was asked outright after Elliot was born. I could not even begin to address such a question, most of all because the fact that the question was asked in the first place shows that the question-asker would never be in a place to fully understand. She wasn’t malicious, just completely oblivious. It didn’t warrant my energy or my upset.

I recently read a post on a baby loss webpage asking bereaved parents to submit their thoughts on things they deemed ‘it’s not ok to ask or say’ to bereaved parents. Since we lost Nieve I have had several people say hurtful things, but they are in the minority. However, I’ve been overwhelmingly struck by how many people shy away from saying anything at all.

I think so many people are afraid of what to say to bereaved parents. I wouldn’t want to scare people to approach us anymore than they already are. I want others to know not to be afraid to talk to me about my loss. It won’t ‘remind’ me, I will always remember. it won’t ‘make’ me sad, I always will be. But I’ll always be thankful to those who feel able to reach out in the dark times and just be there. They don’t have to have the ‘right’ words. There aren’t any. They don’t have to ‘fix’ me. They can’t. But their willingness to try, no matter which words they find, means the world.

I tried to take heed of my own advice recently with a friend going through a divorce. I did a google search- ‘How to comfort a friend going through a separation’ and I quickly realised that this is exactly one of those situations where we don’t know the ‘right’ words to say so often choose to say nothing. I vow to try to never to be that person again. To try to remember that I don’t need to be there with answers. I don’t need to be there with advice. I just need to be there.

I often deem myself lucky because I’ve had a boy and a girl. What a strange way to think. The perfect but imperfect family. Mum, dad, a girl and a boy. The perfect story but not quite.

I love being a mother to my baby boy yet it’s a very confusing feeling that I’ve lost out on the chance of having a daughter. It’s like another facet of my grief- I grieve for Nieve my baby, I grieved for the loss of motherhood and I grieve from the loss of a daughter.

When I found out I was pregnant with a boy this time it was a very strange mix of emotions; I gained a son but lost a daughter all at once. I hadn’t hoped for a girl- I was happy as long as baby was healthy, and that’s all I hoped for. I feel so blessed to get to parent a boy yet it’s very strange to be so thankful for him and yet from time to time allow my heart to envisage what might have been with a daughter. I feel guilty for even wondering that because she would only be here if he wasn’t. And he is only here because she isn’t.

it’s that I wish I had them both.

I have anticipated the day a close friend or relative tells me they are having a baby girl. The feeling it evokes is so confusing. It makes me feel guilty, ungrateful, greedy. Yet it’s not about wishing for a ‘daughter’ as much as it is about wishing for Nieve. And it’s not about wanting to exchange Elliot or wishing he was a girl, or wishing that he was her.

it’s that I wish I had them both.

Today one of my best friends announced she’d given birth to a baby girl. I envisaged a feeling of jealousy but that wasn’t the emotion that came. It was more about the reminder- a daughter, a baby girl, pink baby grows and frilly blankets. A reminder of the daughter I lost. I couldn’t envy my friend her daughter because her daughter wasn’t Nieve. But it feels like a tangible reminder of the little girl who should’ve been in my life.

To some I must seem ungrateful of Elliot to mourn for what might have been with Nieve. but I know now that this isn’t true. Nieve and Elliot are not interchangeable. I love them both. The love I had for Nieve did not transfer to Elliot, it just grew to envelope him too. Yet when I shed a tear for Nieve people are quick to remind me of Elliot which serves to add guilt into my already strong cocktail of emotions.

I envisage the next few months could be delicate- fresh reminders of Nieve brought to the surface by the arrival of my friend’s beautiful baby girl. I’m so conscious of trying not to tarnish her experience, of making any of it about me by allowing her joy to open up my own wounds.

I’m trying to prepare. To anticipate the things which will hurt my heart and armour myself against them. The terms we might’ve used “Our daughter” “our little girl” I’m scared that something will catch me off guard. Experience has taught me that it’s the unexpected things which are hardest to handle because we’re unprepared for them.

I dug out the box of girl’s baby clothes I was storing, in order to pass them onto my friend. A part of me wonders if this is a step too far, but my practical sense tells me that there isn’t any point in them sitting there gathering dust. It feels like the right thing to do, to pass them on to someone who needs them, but it isn’t without a twinge of hesitation and sadness.

I feel like I’m entering a new chapter in my grief. I feel like I am now going to have to face up to the inevitable fact that other baby girls will be born and live out the life that I had hoped to share with Nieve. I guess all I can do is to tackle it as I have the rest of my grief journey, with openness and honesty.

So here’s me being honest- I miss my daughter every single day. I think of her every time I see a mother with her own daughter, or even when friends talk about sharing time with their own mothers. I think of her when I look at my nieces and I wonder if she would’ve looked like them. I think of her whenever I see a baby girl or even a young child or teenage girl. I wonder what she would’ve been like, as a baby, a little girl, a teenager, an adult. I wonder what she would’ve chosen to do with her life, if she’d have been like me, if she’d have children of her own. I think of her and I cry and then I wipe my tears and put them away for a while.

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