As adults, we like to have a sense of our place in the world; an impression of how we fit into things and a feeling of our foundations. My name is Jane, I’m a 40 year old mother of three and, in truth, I am trying very hard to relocate my place, re-align my fit and rebuild my foundations after an incredibly difficult few years.
During one of our ‘life conversations’ recently, my two elder children, Skye and Noah, asked me a very serious question:
“What do we mean to you, Mummy?”
They are both going through a period of adjustment after their new little sister was born in September.
“Now we’ve got Nico, and she’s SO cute, do you love us as much?”
It was a very fair question and one I was expecting. Their father and I split up back in 2010 and my baby daughter is a result of a subsequent relationship. When my new husband and I told Skye and Noah we were expecting a baby, they seemed happy, but I was mindful that the reality of a newborn and the difference it would make to their lives could prove challenging and confusing for them both.
It was a tough question – one of the most important ones I’ve ever been asked. I really didn’t want to get this wrong.
After assuring them both of my unfaltering love for them both, I explained my theory to them – my suggestion of how they now ‘fit’. I began the tale of My Firstborn, My Baby, My Miracle.
My firstborn arrived at the crack of dawn one March morning in 2007, as the birds began to sing in the trees outside the hospital window. I will never forget that time, or that feeling that first-time parents wish they could somehow bottle – one of pure, undiluted, planet-encompassing love and gratitude. Love for your new child, love for the world and humankind and sheer gratitude for the gift that now lies in your arms.
I’ve often told Skye the story of her birth. She never tires of it, particularly the part about the midwife finally passing her to me in such a way that all I saw initially was her bottom. She always giggles when I say “And I knew you were MY daughter because you had a gorgeous, white, wobbly bottom, JUST like Mummy!”
This time, however, when I emphasised the importance of her being my first born child, she was unimpressed.
“First born?” she wailed, “That’s just boring. Not important at ALL. I want to be a miracle like Nico!”
“No, darling, you don’t fully understand. You see, the first born is the one that changes the mummy’s life the most.”
A beaming smile spread across her face and her cheeks flushed with pride.
My boy Noah, my baby, was born in Switzerland just 13 months later. I was thrilled to have a boy and felt certain that my partner would feel the same. However, his concern for Skye’s possible insecurity over her new brother’s arrival, left him unable to fully bond with Noah. I think he feared he was somehow neglecting his daughter if he spent too much time with his son. I felt I had failed Noah, somehow. His arrival simply had not been as joyous as Skye’s. I felt utterly torn and began feeling angry at the world. I was clingy and fiercely over-protective over him, feeling very much like everyone was against us both and that I must guard him at all costs. The relationship with my children’s father had been faltering badly. Eventually I was diagnosed with postnatal depression.
To this day, because of my continued feelings of guilt over his birth and the first few months of his life, he remains ‘my baby’. I simply cannot help it. We have a ritual before bed, as he snuggles down under the covers, I whisper, “Are you still my baby?” to which he sleepily replies, “Yes Mummy, always.”
However, he has recently said to me in a wistful voice, “I miss being the youngest. I’m just not as cute as Nico.”
I hug him as hard as I can manage and remind him that he is simply the cutest, funniest, most adorable boy, son, brother…. and baby, that anyone could have.
Nico, nearly 6 months:
My miracle happened last September. I won’t say too much right now as there is possibly space for this in later posts, if indeed the time is right.
Nico arrived fast. In 1 hour and 10 minutes, to be precise. And very nearly in the hospital toilet.
It was a hellish pregnancy, endured during a time when our family’s situation was in nothing short of utter turmoil.
I wasn’t sure my recent marriage was going to survive the pregnancy, or indeed my mental health or that of my husband. In truth, I was fairly convinced the pregnancy wouldn’t go full term and that my baby would never make it into the world. I was barely surviving myself, so I could not imagine that I could adequately nurture the life growing inside.
But as it turns out, my miracle, my beautiful baby Nico really WANTED to be born.
She arrived with her foot on the throttle, bursting out into the world in record time, no pushing required, as if to say, “Enough of this rubbish! I’m here now and I’m going to fix you all!”
And fix us she did. They always say that a baby isn’t a band aid for any relationship, but Nico is the exception to the rule, it seems. The marriage isn’t perfect (show me one that is!) but it’s rebuilding its foundations nicely again and the house is once again full of love and hope.
As I tell Nico’s birth story to Skye and Noah, I remind them of the set of truths I hope they carry with them as they grow up and throughout their lives.
They are all miracles. They will all forever be my babies. They have all changed my life in momentous ways.
And when those inevitable times come when they themselves are searching for their own meaning, I hope they will find some comfort, some solid foundation at least, in knowing just how much they mean to me.