Tonight, you’re sleeping in my arms. It’s taken a while for you to settle but not because you’ve been distressed, you’ve been so full of life.
You’re 9 months old now and I marvel at how far you’ve come.
9 months already! The age your brother was when you were born. I think back to when he was your age, it makes me smile with delight to remember him so small. It feels like a lifetime away, I suppose it was – your lifetime away. Then it makes me sad.
Your birth was such a heartbreaking time for us, especially your brother. His ninth month of life was tainted with abandonment and upheaval. Your stay in hospital forced us to choose between you both. Although the choice was harsh, the reality was easy. You needed us more.
But he needed us too, just as you need me now.
9 months old. When you were 1st born, I felt as though your brother was old enough to cope without me. Old enough to accept change. He’d never been a ‘needy’ baby. We’d been able to leave him with his grandparents overnight without any upset or withdrawal. Yet, I had always known that our situation wouldn’t be ideal (even when there should have been nearly 12 months between you), that it would be a transition we’d all have to adjust to. I expected turbulent times, was prepared for the jealousy and the anger, the frustration and the confusion. However, I could never have been ready to mend his broken heart.
Those emotions I’d been preparing for never showed their ugly head. From the moment we brought you home, he was besotted. A ready made friend, a companion and an ally. He loved you instinctively and I beamed with pride (I still do, he makes me proud every day) but bringing you home was only the start of his recovery.
Having you with us eventually meant that we could start our lives together, eventually establish a new routine. It meant that there would be no more days spent away from him, no more nights he’d go without his bedtime cuddle and story. It took him a while but soon, he learnt to trust that we weren’t leaving him if he fell asleep. Eventually, he relearnt how to settle at night. How to close his eyes and know that we’d be there when he woke back up.
The most noticeable affect your birth had on Tristan was in his eating habits. During your time in Hospital, Tristan learnt that there wasn’t many things in life that he could control (it kills me that he learnt this cruel life lesson at such a young age)…but he could control his eating. So he stopped. He closed his mouth and took back the power. He intelligently realised that this earned him some attention.
We’d spend hours pleading with him to eat, we’d spend days worrying about how little he’d consume. He’d spend feeding times throwing food in our faces, ripping it from his mouth with such intent and disgust. He’d cry at the sight of his high chair, throw tantrums to avoid meal times at all costs.
Then, one day, he ate.
Then, the next day, he ate again.
To me, this was our biggest break through. I read it as a sign of his heart mending. I saw in his eyes that he was starting to relinquish his control and allow us to parent him again. He was starting to trust us again. There’s been plenty of relapses, plenty of times he’s used food to manipulate us but now these times don’t worry me so much.
Your time in NICU also made Tristan anxious. Before you were born, he was care free. He’d trust us implicitly, from dunking his head underwater, to swinging him upside down. Then we left him and he became nervous. Bath times became problematic. He’d cling to us as though he were afraid we were going to let go. He’d cling to us in most places, in most social situations. Last Saturday, he jumped into the pool on his own, he trusted that my arms would catch him. Last week, at his 1st nursery visit, he ran off to play with the other children.
He didn’t look back for me once.
You’re 9 months old now and every day there’s fewer signs of your premature birth. Less evidence that our lives were ever rocked upside down. You still have a heart murmur (or so we concluded from your last stint in hospital) but although your heart hasn’t mended, ours are beginning to. Your brother has started to play again. His smiles grow bigger every day.
I may always harbour guilt for the way your brother felt but having you here makes me feel better. So, tonight as you sleep in my arms, I’m going to snuggle you harder. I’m going to make sure that your ninth month of living is much much sweeter. Then, when I can, I’m going to snuggle into Tristan and make sure his eighteenth month of living is just as sweet too.
It’s true what they say ‘time is a healer’. I’m going to make sure both your hearts mend, I’m just going to need a little more time.
You were 10 weeks old when your sister was conceived. It was not something we’d planned for so soon but something we’d definitely hoped for in the future. You were our firstborn and had shown us a different way of life. Before you, there had been laziness and selfishness. You’d opened our eyes to what life was all about and your newborn radiance was simply addictive. Suddenly, we knew that we needed more children.
Even still, we’d hoped to wait a little longer than we did. When Siena chose us as parents, the feeling was completely surreal. With you, there had only been joy. From the tiny pink line that indicated you were baking, love and excitement had ran through our blood. We were changing, getting ready for parenthood and couldn’t wait for your arrival. When the tiny pink line appeared only 15 weeks after your birth, we were left momentarily petrified. Not because we didn’t want Siena, we wanted her more than our hearts could imagine. We were petrified for you. You were so young, just budding and you needed us so much.
Although still overjoyed, It was very clear that your happiness was at the heart of everyone’s thoughts. I’ll never forget the reactions we encountered as we broke the news of our second bundle. ‘What about poor Tristan?’ They chorused. ‘He’s too young’ they said. We sensed their anxieties, heard them muffled in their throats. They stood out louder because they were all anxieties we’d dealt with to begin. The most upsetting reaction we encountered left me tormented throughout your sister’s pregnancy. ‘Tristan will have to grow up on his own, he’ll have to grow up very quickly now’. It tormented me because it made me feel so guilty. I’d loved every sleepless second of your childhood (okay, maybe that’s rose tinted, you’d been hard work but completely worth it). I didn’t want to put an end to the fun we’d been having, I didn’t want you to ever become anything less than my main priority. I certainly didn’t want you to feels as though I didn’t care about watching you grow, I cared so much.
You should have been nearly one by the time Siena would arrive – old enough to recognise change but not old enough to understand. This gave us time, time to form that inseparable bond I hope we never lose. I didn’t want to deprive you of your childhood, I wanted to dedicate ever waking second to you. I didn’t want to rush you to grow, I wanted to slow time down and keep a hold of you. You were by far the most precious jewel in my possession. I wanted to nurse you and protect you for all eternity. I made a promise that until Siena arrived, your every need would be my main priority. I was determined that having a pregnant Mam wouldn’t affect you in any sense.
So, until the day I delivered (and even in the delivery room), I was there for you. I lay on the floor and stared into your eyes as I encouraged you to do Tummy Time, I sat legs apart and passed the ball back and forth, back and forth a million times. I carried you on my hip through supermarkets and shops, beaches, parks and riversides. I gave you your bottle and snuggled into you each night, stretched over your cot to make sure you didn’t stir as I put your sleepy body back to bed. I was your Mother and there wasn’t one thing that would stop me from caring for you the way that you needed me to.
Then Siena arrived and our world suddenly came to a halt.
She was so poorly and needed me so badly. I had no choice but to break our deal and make her my priority. Momentarily, you were forced to ‘grow up on your own’ and it broke my heart. Now you’re 15 months old and we’re back to trying our best. Siena still needs me but we all need each other just as much. I watch you with her, gentle and caring. You beam when she enters the room, love to be near her. There’ll come an age when you’ll play wit each other, I used to worry but now I know I needn’t. I dedicate my time to making sure you cherish each second of your childhood. I make sure each day is spent making memories and living experiences. I’ve maintained your baby routine, make sure it’s me that gives you your bottle, make sure it’s me that puts you to bed. Throughout it all, I listen to your giggle, I marvel at your smile and I ask myself, how could I have stolen your childhood? It’s still very much your own.
There’s plenty controversy surrounding the issue of Breastfeeding in the Media of recent. The debate over bottle v breastfed babies is spiralling out of control, it’s to the point of teetering on ridiculous. As a mother of two, I have my own opinions on this matter. Opinions that rival those of millions.
Don’t let me go to sleep Mammy, I don’t like it when it’s dark. I can’t see your beautiful face. I search for it Mammy but all I see is black. I try my hardest to recall you, to summon your features, to picture you exactly as you are but its hard. Sometimes I manage and can’t but help smile. Even though I’m sleeping, it’s you that makes me happy. That smile that you’ll claim is simply ‘just wind’ is because I saw you in my mind but it doesn’t last Mammy, you vanish quickly then I’m left feeling alone again, abandoned without your face.
Before my children were born, I lived in a world of ignorant bliss. My idealistic views of Motherhood stemmed from American Soap Operas and Chick Flicks. They were, in truth, Disney influenced.
It took me three weeks to fully adjust to Motherhood. That was, three weeks of making myself Ill with torture. Don’t get me wrong, and I know you’ll understand me, I LOVED my babies. I loved them so much that my heart would literally beat outside of my chest. The worry and anxiety I felt was all BECAUSE I loved them more that I’d ever known possible. The pressure I put on myself was all because I wanted to be the very best for them. It took me three weeks to learn that these feelings were normal, that many new mothers feel exactly that same as I did. It’s taken me a full year to say this out loud. And even now, I know there’ll be some who judge me. Some who will never understand because they never felt that way. I envy them but only for their ‘perfect’ transition. A full year on and I’m confident in my abilities. I hold my head high (even throughout the tantrums) and KNOW that I’m good. My children are happy, they’re blessed with a loving home. Their laughter and smiles reassure me that I’m on track and…eventually…I can say ‘it’s okay, I’ve got this’.