Never in a million years did I think that becoming pregnant would bring me loss. Of course I worried about the possibility of miscarriage, of things going wrong at the birth- but it simply didn't occur to me that bringing a tiny, precious little person into the world would come at such a high price. And not just the once.
Baby M was due in February 2013. Five days before the expected date we had the awful phone call that my beloved grandmother was rapidly going downhill and we should go to her straightaway. She had been ill for such a long time that it was almost expected, but still a huge, devastating blow to our close-knit family. Three days after Nan's funeral my baby daughter arrived and threw us into new parent chaos. My brave, lovely Mum found a huge comfort and delight in M and my besotted Dad absolutely doted on her, along with L's family, she really was and still is, hugely spoiled with love and attention.
That first year was unbelievably hard adjusting to motherhood; we struggled through the sleepless nights -M really was a terrible sleeper - and exhausted I grieved, wishing Nan could have met her. I crammed too much into my maternity leave and started to suffer from anxiety, brought on by the exhaustion and life changes that had happened. We moved house when M was ten months old, and shortly after I returned to work part time, but running on empty.
It was only around the first anniversary of Nan's passing, M turned one and started to sleep through the night, that I felt more positive and that a weight had lifted slightly from me. L and I started to talk about a second baby - could we? I quietly worried about the possibility of losing another loved one, but surely lightning wouldn't strike twice. We couldn't be that unlucky.
But it did. At nearly eight months pregnant this February, my beloved Dad was diagnosed with secondary bone cancer. Mum and I cried helplessly together, both of us just knowing he wouldn't be here to see my second baby. And he wasn't. Within six awful, traumatic weeks of diagnosis we were told there wasn't any hope and there wasn't much time left; I was broken. How would we cope without him? What about my baby, the grandchild he would never meet? As a small comfort and considering how far along I was, the palliative care nurses and the midwives in antenatal were fantastic; they arranged a scan for me at the shortest of notice and wrote down the baby's gender so that Dad would know. We told him jokingly through our tears that he mustn't tell anyone and he didn't.
He was so brave throughout it all. I held his familiar, gentle hand and told him how much I, we, all loved him. After only a week of trying to process that he didn't have long left, my caring and loving Dad closed his eyes for the final time and left all of us devastated. Three weeks later my miracle baby boy arrived, yelling indignantly, in the calmest water-birth I had certainly never imagined. In some lights he looks just like Dad and has somehow given us hope throughout these saddest days. N keeps me going, along with M, and through another recent sad loss of my elderly Grandad. He died only a month ago; his health failed him and also the loss of Dad, who was like a son to him, was just too much.
What do you do when something like this happens? I don't actually know. The days are too early to tell. Mum and I muddle through, as you do. I am on this journey of grief and I don't know where it will take me. I am angry, so angry at the unfairness of it all, why Dad? Yet I don't get as irritated by little things like I used to, life is too short. I cry- a lot. I am tired, even more so since having a newborn, but some days feel surprisingly energised, as though I have to live for them. And I feel all three of them with me when life feels too hard. When M has accidentally spilt her drink everywhere, N is screaming to be fed for the millionth time that hour, the washing is endless, the house a mess and the grief just too much; I know they're around and can almost hear Dad, "Don't worry Beck, it'll soon be a memory" His favourite saying in times of trouble or stress. I find small white feathers in the most unlikely of places- a little sign I think, that he is with me.
So here we are, hoping for better days, for the grief to ease a little and for the sleepless nights to rush by; but at the same time wanting to press the pause button on my two little miracles. Just stop and live in the moment, breathe in the warm, baby scent of N, and delight in M's transformation into a proud big sister, so independent already but still needing her mummy.
After all, I know how quickly this precious time will very soon be a memory.
This summer The Huffington Post UK is spearheading an initiative helping families thrive, with a focus on parent wellbeing, the challenges facing stay-at-home and working parents, friendships and navigating the landscape of modern parenting beyond the 2.4. To kickstart the campaign, Jamie Oliver guest edited the site, bringing a focus on feeding healthy families.
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