The night my son was born, I remember excitedly watching my husband fix a brand new car seat into our car before we left the house. I remember arriving at the hospital in labour and having one last look back. I remember whispering to my husband through tears of joy, “Can you believe there will be a little boy in that seat tomorrow?”
I never got to fasten Aidan into his car seat. I never got to tuck his blankets around his little legs, and sit in the back of our car as I travelled home with my son. I never felt the joy of bringing my first child home. We left the hospital with empty arms and broken hearts. My parents drove us home, and when we returned to the hospital to collect our car, I turned my head away as my Dad unfastened Aidan’s empty car seat and hid it away in the back of his car. I asked him to return it to the store for us, later that week. I couldn’t bear to have it in the house, and I couldn’t take for granted that I might need it for another child.
Eleven months after Aidan died, his little sister, Violet, was born. We knew she had the same metabolic disorder that caused her big brother’s death, and we spent a terrifying two weeks in the NICU with her. I never dared to assume that our daughter would come home. The brutal reality was that she might not.
Buying our daughter’s car seat was amongst the most difficult moments of my life. I was afraid to walk into a store and be asked if I was buying for my first child, and so I ordered it online, days before Violet was born. It sat in in our garage in its packaging until the moment we left for the hospital. I watched my husband struggle through tears as he fastened it into our car, just moments before we left the house. A simple, exciting purchase for most parents, felt like a hollow assumption for us.
This is my daughter, safely strapped in the car seat that dared to wait for her. She was carried out of the hospital by parents who swelled with pride like any other, but who quietly fought back tears. The beginning of the rest of our lives – loving our two children and holding only one.
Babies born after loss fill you with hope. They soothe your pain and fill your aching arms. But they cannot heal your heart. They cannot fill the space that belongs to their sibling. And for every blissful moment of joy they bring – there is heartbreak woven through it all. Constant reminders of what you are missing – the moments that were stolen from you, the smiles you never saw, the tiny hands you can not hold. Every amazing milestone, every ‘first’ and every achievement – always, always bittersweet.