We’re bumbling along. I think one of the most shocking things about all this suddenly being ‘a family with a dead child’ stuff is that an awful lot of life is going on just as normal. Partly i suppose that is because we are trying to make it so and partly perhaps because Freddie wasn’t really a part of home life, so the gap is not obvious in our daily life. All the gaps are in the future that now doesn’t exist as we expected it too but although Max and i have been through the hospital bit – the birth, the SCBU part and still have the awful parts of the formalities to go – the impact at home is not quite like it would be if it was one of the girls. And there is no cot, or nursery or anything else – because for whatever reason i felt profoundly odd about preparing for the baby and so didn’t do any of that. I always have in the past: i don’t know why i didn’t this time.
The girls are bumbling along okay; they’ve variously been doing bits of this book (a copy each) and reading some other books that either Michelle or i bought for them. The books have been a bit of a window on their souls really, quite fascinating if i was looking at it in a dispassionate sort of way. Unfortunately i’m not, i’m busy looking at my children processing grief and being somewhere between angry and heartbroken about it. Some other time i might write more privately about that.
We’ve had friends come to play and midwives who have visited and people who have looked after them while we keep appointments. And cards, lots and lots of cards. This April, Freddie’s April, the girls have crafted and played and bike ridden and weeded the garden for us and cried and cuddled. They’ve slept all in a room together and then gradually reasserted normality for themselves. And asked questions – lots and lots of questions. Ones like “can dead people be replaced?” and “why?” and “will it happen to x’s baby?” and Amelie has stared with forlorn longing into prams in supermarkets until she and i have stood in the middle of Tesco and both cried. I wish i had answers for any of the things they ask. I can’t even answer “why?”
I feel bad and i feel glad that in some ways i can carry on – i’m still the same rubbish mum who flaps at them to give me some space. The nagging fear i had that i wouldn’t actually like having a baby again has gone, because i miss him with a physical pain and sometimes, when i do the few things i rehearsed in my head like lying in bed and feeding him, i can hardly believe i can have really been pregnant. Because this is not how it is supposed to end. I feel like i’ve had a reverse phantom pregnancy. It feels bizarrely normal and utterly abnormal to be carrying on as before. It makes me wonder, a lot, about the strange disconnected feeling i had from being pregnant this time. Like i knew.
I think i did.
The girls have made me proud again this week. So here are videos of them enjoying life, for fun and to remind me that as i hovered over Freddie with the black clouds of future disability gathering on his horizon, i knew quite clearly where the joy in life is to be had. The joy in life is being able to do a round off flic tuck back if you want to. Or ride a bike with your dad. Or swing on a rope. Or read a book if you wish. Or colour a picture, or play in the street. No matter how much we reassured Freddie that we would love him whatever he could do, would make a life for him, have a job for him, we both knew that that was not what life should be.
To do whatever you want to be able to do, so long as it hurts no one, that is what life is.
Then of course, i go downstairs to help serve up our first half-in-the-garden barbecue of the year and from absolutely nowhere i’m overwhelmed by the absence of a car seat on the floor, ready for one of us to trip over, with a bright eyed 3 week old in it who might, just might, let me have five minutes of normal family meal time without needing a feed. And he isn’t there. He never has been. But i can still see the place where he should be.