This is a photograph of my daughter, River. She is as happy and adventurous as she comes across in this photograph. She broke 3 bones before she was 2 years old, pretty much because the kid thinks she can fly. River is the brightest little spark of sunshine that I know. Always singing and dancing. Last year at school she given an award for being the most spirited child in the classroom.
Okay, enough, you get it.
She is cool and very much-loved just as all of her siblings are. Recently, I took my daughters to a birthday party for their friend. As I helped my youngest daughter get a little plate of party food, I wondered about where my other daughters were. I spotted Scarlett outside talking to her friend but River was nowhere be found. I sent Ocea outside with her plate of food and I started looking for River. After searching through the house I began to feel a little panicked. I headed toward the front of the house where I found her, facing the door with her back to me. I noticed that she was hunched over. I called her name and as I got closer to her, she turned around and it was then that one of the most horrific parenting moments of my life began.
River was choking.
Her dear little face was beetroot red, her eyes – bloodshot and filled with tears. She was silent. There was no noise coming from her little body. She could not breathe and she was panicking. In the horror of the moment I somehow snapped into action. I grabbed her and tipped her body down on an angle and gave her a whack between the shoulder blades. She vomited pretty much straight away after a couple of whacks and she was finally able to get a breath of air in. I got her into the bathroom where she continued to be sick for a few minutes. Thankfully, the worst was over very quickly. I managed to hold myself together as I had to be the strong person for her to collapse on. The poor little darling was so traumatized. Her little hands were shaking. “I thought I was going to die, Mummy.” she muttered through sobs of tears. I never want to hear those words from any of my children, ever again. I kept telling her it was okay because I was there and that I would have always found her in time. After about 10 minutes she was ready to go back out and face the party. I cleaned up the mess and then headed back out where I watched her like a hawk. After 30 minutes she was back to her happy self.
We were lucky that day. Things could have been so very different. If I had of found her a couple of minutes later, I hate to think where she would be right now. Over the last few years I have developed anxiety when it comes to the health and safety of my beautiful children. I find it so incredibly difficult to find peace in the knowledge that I have very little control over their lives. The fact that I have had one child die does not make me immune to child death and that right there is incredibly frightening. The truth is it could happen again, at any time, at any place. How can a person ever make peace with such a truth?
I don’t deal with my anxiety very well. Each night. I pull a mattress out and sleep in our living room so that I can be closer to our girls, you know just in case one of them chokes or somebody breaks into the house. I feel I have to be there with them. My husband sleeps alone in our bed as if he is a single man. Anyone would think we were just house mates, not an actual married couple, who have been together for 11 years. When one of our children tells me that they are feeling unwell, I imagine the worst. In my mind, at different times of my bereaved life, I have planned their funerals if they should suddenly die. I know which songs I would play and which photos to share. I know exactly what I would say about each one of them. Most people probably think I am crazy and maybe I am, but this is the reality of raising children after loss. It takes a huge toll on your heart and emotional well-being. It is not all sunshine and daisies just because we have children here to look after now. This is what we go through. This is the reality. We torture ourselves with the morbid possibilities of what could occur in our future.
At some point we have to ask ourselves, what good is all this worrying doing for us and our children? We must let go of torturing ourselves. By spending our lives worrying about what could happen in the future, we destroy the present, which is essentially, all we will ever have. We have to use our fear to make ourselves better parents. To make each day amazing, not only for our children but for ourselves as their parents. It is about having no regrets as a parent and living our parenting life to the fullest, because we are the lucky ones. We are the ones who get to raise these incredible beings here on Earth. Not everyone is so lucky. We must live each day knowing that we nurtured and loved our children as best as we possibly could have. We have to develop a brave heart so that we can allow our children independence from us. They must learn and grow and experience life without being hovered over all of the time. If only it was so easy, huh? I wish I had all the answers on how to do this. How to trust the unknown and more than anything else – be at peace with it. I find myself praying everyday “Please let me keep them.”
If you are a parent to a child/ren after the death of one of your precious babies or children, how do you handle the unknowing of what tomorrow may bring?