*warning – baby photo at the bottom*
One of the biggest changes in this pregnancy from really any other, is the difference in all the relationships surrounding it inside this house. When I was pregnant with Freddie it felt very much that the girls were aware, in a different way to they ever were when they were under 6 and I was pregnant but this time, it’s more of a group effort. I’m very much the pregnant person surrounded by anxious, loving and caring people. I think I am beginning to understand how royal women must have felt in those days when everyone hoped and prayed for a strong boy as heir and safeguard. I feel like I’m carrying treasure. Max, understated and fairly straightforward as he generally is said yesterday that we are in a limbo until February and that it is hard to believe that probably everything will work out and be okay. I’m not as uncomplicated as that, nothing will ever make up for Freddie’s loss or take his place, but I know what he means. We’re just hanging on for our “happily as possible ever after” but we still don’t know if our fairy story is being written by Disney or Hans Christian Anderson.
The biggest change is between Max and I. We’ve looped the loop through marriage, from young couple navigating a tricky start in parenthood and onwards. Freddie’s pregnancy was difficult for us both. We were still stretching tenderly at the healing skin over wounds that had, through both our foolishness, left us battering heads like small brained dinosaurs in a Relate office. I realised too late he had come round to the idea of another child, too late to ever really relax and enjoy being pregnant. He realised a bit too late too. I don’t know what he’s processed in his head about that. We can’t change it. We can’t go back. But we did make it – and we both loved Freddie as much as any other child of ours. This time is, all caveats of caution and anxiety aside, so much easier. We are both willing it on, both enjoying the moment and moments, being glad of kicks and time to believe in it all working out. And he’s taking such very great care of me. I have a friend who once said their came a point in their marriage when they stopped trying to see who deserved time off more – we’ve got there, over the years leading up to this but more than ever I can see that we are kind to each other now. It’s a bigger deal to get to that point in marriage than it feels like it should be.
24 weeks came and went in a flurry of a house full of guests; I marked the moment (VIABLE!) and carried on. Marmite is awake more and more, getting stronger, kicking harder. I think he’s trying to turn now, a little later than Freddie who swooped around while I was stood in a kitchen talking to a (the same) friend at 23 weeks or so. This one is more about booting me out of the way as he cartwheels. This baby is occupying the space and making it his own, not lying peacefully in it. I can’t say 24 weeks exactly reassures me; I’ve seen 24 weeks in a neonatal unit and I don’t want to see it again thank you, even if that baby did make it home. I’ve seen 34 weeks too and it looks a great deal better. But I’m very aware that I’m hurtling into the last 3 months of pregnancy now and that with life as busy as it is, it will go fast. Very fast. And then, whatever happens, I don’t want to do this again. I can’t. This baby is having my marrow for breakfast, sucking every last bit of energy out of me. There has been no let up in the tiredness.
Between 24 and 25 weeks though, something important happened. My sister had a baby. Again I’d be lying if I said the day I knew it was happening was easy for me and I’m not proud at all of the horrible, malevolent things my brain thinks either. They aren’t directed at anyone, certainly not my sister but roiling around in the horribleness of pregnancy after loss are many complicated things. Sometimes it is “don’t let anyone be pregnant if I’m not” and sometimes, coupled with “don’t let this happen to any one else ever, please” is a vile devil that whispers “make it happen to everyone, so I’m not alone, so that every mother knows this”. I think that must make me a harpy I rather lost the plot at Max about all this meanness that sucks away at my humanity; as he often does, he said the right thing. “This is not you being horrible, this is your mind being mean to you and giving you another stick to beat yourself with.”
It sickens me, to be honest, to have a head that can’t help foreseeing doom and gloom and assuming it will happen, almost wanting it to, while definitely not wanting it to as well. I sincerely hope it will be something I will eventually learn to control, in the same way I’ve learned not to blurt it out to everyone that I have a dead baby son. I managed not to today, when I took a telephone order and the person said “F for Freddy”.
What is supposed to happen though, did. Baby Nina was born pink and healthy and her parents very kindly gave her my name in the middle, coupled co-incidentally with a family (on their side) name which I also happen to associate very closely with Freddie. And she was a girl and the moment she was born I knew I wanted to see her. So I did. Max took me and I was the very first family person to meet her and hold her and be pleased about her and that was the biggest and most enormous thing to happen in recent times. I turned a corner that afternoon. This is me holding her. I didn’t think I would be able to do that. I’m still in awe to have held a baby that breathes and moves and opens it’s eyes. That’s an underrated miracle.
It’s a funny thing, but Marmite was conceived the night I discovered Nina was under construction. I think she was meant to be and whatever else happens, she and Marmite are going to be very intertwined. It gives me some hope that at some point I’m going to do better with my nephew, who is 3 months younger than Freddie should be. That’s still a bit of a work in progress really but I think I’ll get there.
Right now, I’m just hugely grateful to my sister for all the time she gave me to get to grips with this event and for letting me to do what I needed to do. And thrilled for her; Nina is as gorgeous as all the rest of her children. And pleased for me too. I learned some important things on Tuesday while I was holding her, things that have helped put to rest some big anxieties and fears. One is that sleeping babies don’t in fact look like dead or damaged babies. There is something different about the eyes, something less triggery than I imagined it might be.?I let go of another piece of fear when she was born too, something much more complex than the fear of giving birth to another child who hasn’t remembered how to breathe. When she was a girl, another piece of me began to believe that the universe has forgiven me and that it has stopped rubbing salt in the wounds. And that other babies aren’t Freddie (I don’t know why I didn’t get this) and that when I look at Marmite, he will be his own self and less full of ghosts than I fear.
Those are things, with something less than 15 weeks to go, to be glad of knowing.