Sweetest child of mine,
I can call you that because you are my only child. My superlative girl. You are the loudest, quietest, youngest, oldest, tallest, shortest, you are the est of so many things. Of all the things. This is the joy of being an only child. What you are too young to know is that we didn’t want you to be an only child.
So, I have an apology for you. In your short time your dad and I have tried, tried, tried and tried again for a second baby. You have been in and out of scanning rooms, doctors’ offices, clinic appointments. The first few times it might not have impacted, I am not sure at 18-months-old you were taking on board your mother’s dark mood as she found out that she had miscarried in the night while feeding you back to sleep. You are a quiet girl – the specialist calls it a significant speech delay. Because of this lack of response from you it is hard for me to know what you do understand from the world around you. So maybe now you are three you are picking up more than I am giving you credit. So I am sorry you have been privy to my tears, I’m sorry you’ve heard bickering as hormones and stress flood my body, I am sorry that I have been short with you.
What I want you know, more than anything else, is that this was never because you weren’t enough. It was simply that we had more to give.
One day I will tell you the intricacies of our family story. Your mam has an illness, something is wrong with her genes. One day in school you will learn about genetics and recessive diseases and you might raise your hand and say your mam has Cystic Fibrosis and instead of looking at blue eyes and brown eyes your teacher might well use CF as their example to explain. You will already understand the percentages of the illness. You are our luckiest baby, our first try, you avoided my disease. Your brother and sister were not lucky.
Unfortunately many women experience the loss of a pregnancy. It is something that society does not deal with very well. There are failings for those of us grieving. I have lost babies but I lost two in the wrong way. I ‘chose’ to lose those children. Sadly for us termination is politicised like no other form of loss a person can experience. As you grow older you may hear people in the public domain who say your mam is evil. Never your dad, only me. I am not evil. Your dad and I made these decisions, the hardest in our lives, as we were advocating for your brother and sister. We were acting as their parents, and yours, when we decided not to bring them into the world.
This fifth pregnancy started with a phone call.
‘Mum,’ that’s what I call my mam – your mamwyn.
There had been a break in my voice, she knew something was wrong.
‘I’ve had another miscarriage.’
A day later the blood stopped. Maybe I was still pregnant. Two long weeks later and two scans later it was concluded that in fact, I was. This pregnancy has been traumatic, I’ve tried to hide it from you but you have seen the blood, demanded I needed plasters, you’ve patted my back while I was sick.
There has been so much blood, most days. It is hard to bond with a pregnancy you are constantly in fear of losing.
With my previous pregnancies I was so hopeful. Told everyone. This time I could tell my hope had waned. I imagined getting the good news over the phone but that’s as far as it went. Over the 9 weeks of waiting I never once imagined our lives with two babies. In fact, we made plans – career, holiday – assuming that we would be a one-child family. I knew that this would probably be the last time I was pregnant. I was ready to stop. At least for a good long time. I felt it was important to start spending my emotional energy on other things; myself, you.
Well my special girl I have some news for you. It’s another apology. I am afraid that your superlative status is to be contested. You will remain oldest. But you have a new title to enjoy. Technically a noun (I’ll teach you about them when you’ve grasped basic conversation), but it carries the weight of an adjective. Sister. I got the phone call. I got the news. We have a healthy baby on the way. It’s going to be an adjustment for all of us and it will be tough on you at times. I think it might be tough on me too (and Dad!). I’ll hold your hand if you hold mine.