As irony would have it, the date my last post was published, my husband and I sat beside our rainbow daughter’s hospital cot. Wondering if the ten weeks we had spent with her in our arms were all we would have. We had only brought her home eight weeks earlier and now, again, we were staring at whitewashed walls, listening to eerily familiar beeps. Questioning if we would leave with empty arms.
We covered our daughter in kisses, captured countless photographs, fought sleep for fear of missing just one moment. We were afraid of the ‘if only’s that cling to your lips after loss. Conscious that these days, these hours, minutes – they could be our last.
We emerged into daylight, four days later. A little older, worn down and exhausted. But thankful – so thankful – to still have our baby girl in our arms. And yet knowing that we had simply overcome one battle, with the war still raging on. Knowing that this wasn’t the first and wouldn’t be the last time that we slept beside a hospital cot, wondering if we would lose another of our children. Knowing that fear was a permanent part of our lives.
Before my son died, I thought I knew how it felt to be afraid of something. But I didn’t, not really. Like Beth, my lifelong acquaintance with fear began with the fear that I would lose my husband. He went back to work and I went to quiet corners of the house, to wonder if he would be taken from me too. I saw how losing their first grandchild affected my parents, and I worried about how they would cope. I felt as though nothing, no one was safe. Fear wafted into every crevice of my life. It would rise up in my chest and steal the light from my eyes. I thought I knew fear, then.
Three months after Aidan’s death, I found out I was expecting another baby. In the eighth month of a long, anxiety-ridden pregnancy, we were told that our daughter had the same genetic condition as her brother. We could lose her too. A life that was precious beyond belief became suddenly more fragile than we had ever imagined. I knew that I would feel true fear, every day, for the rest of my life.
To love and raise a child who you are so afraid of losing is no small task. It is momentous. Exhausting. Grief bleeds into every branch of life, making parenting an entirely different experience to what it might have been. To what it should have been.
I know what it is like to miss a child with every fibre of my being. I know the silence of an empty nursery and the ache of empty arms. Of course I would be afraid of knowing it all for a second time. Of course I am frightened of losing my daughter.
But I will not let fear cast shadows on her life. I will not let it snatch away the time I have with her. She deserves a Mother who is stronger than that.
And I am.