I know a family where all the children look alike. You only need to see one of the children once and you know exactly who their parents are, and who their siblings are; they are instantly recognisable as a family unit. I’ve always thought that was so lovely and wanted the same for my children! But when my son was born looking exactly like his stillborn sister, it was anything but lovely. It was devastating, and to be honest – sometimes it was too hard to look at him! Which feels so horrible to admit, but it was true.
Instead of simply being able to enjoy having a living child, I felt like I was looking at a living version of my daughter. Instead of loving his little dainty lips, I was reminded of his sister’s lips that never took a breath. One night, it was so hard that I literally ran from the room because seeing him alive reminded me too much of my baby who died. I couldn’t help but think to myself, “what sort of bereaved mother runs away from the living baby she had been desperately longing for?” *Cue intense levels of mama guilt.* It took months before I was able to forgive myself for running from him that night, and now, four years later, I LOVE that all three of my subsequent children look like the stillborn sister they never met.
Looking back, I wish someone had told me it was ok to struggle and that I wasn’t a horrible mother for finding it difficult. We will never forget our babies who died and we all like to be reminded of them, but that does not make it easy. For me, it was their faces that were the same. I had two days to memorise my daughter’s perfect little face and eleven months of looking at her photos. I had never seen her eyes light up with a smile, but twelve months later, the very same eyes (or so it seemed) were gazing lovingly into mine. The contrast was just so stark! I wish I had been more gracious to myself in those moments, and allowed myself to feel both grief and love. I wish I had known it was ok to cry over the similarities, that it was ok to wish they were different. Because having a child who looks like the one you lost is not easy, and struggling with it does not make you ungrateful.
I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the parents who have a surviving identical twin/triplet. I have found the general sibling similarities difficult enough, and cannot speak for what it would be like for there to not just be similarities, but identical features.
Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash
Larissa is wife to Marcus and mama to four, including one precious girl lost to stillbirth. She writes about her daughter and life after loss at Deeper Still.