My pregnancy with Bethany was very similar to that of Kira’s other than I couldn’t take a nap whenever I wanted as I had a 9-15 month daughter, rapidly growing on the outside, at the same time that Bethany was growing on the inside! It was busy times and as with Kira, I skipped the chapters in the books that told me how to deal with two and instead decided to figure all that out when she came along. We had actually named her Lucy Mae throughout the pregnancy and Kira loved playing with my ever more protruding belly button and stroking my tummy. She was very excited to have a little sister, helped paint her bedroom and enjoyed the big sister books we read to her each evening.
During the summer both Kim & Paula were pregnant and had their babies due in October. Paula was pregnant with identical twin girls and Kim with a girl also – her second. When we arrived back to Caracas after the summer I will never forget the heart wrenching day when I got a text message from Paula which read “Freya & Rosa were born today but sadly neither of the girls had a heartbeat. We are devastated but still enjoying cuddles with our beautiful babies whose eyes will never open.” I vomited in a trash can and sobbed like I have never sobbed before. We talked over the next few days on Skype and Paula & Andy shared the details of how it happened. They cried, I cried and stroked my ever growing stomach. My mum went to the funeral on my behalf and gave Paula the hugs that I wasn’t able to give. I donated to the charity that they set up to raise money for the hospital where they had amazing support through such a harrowing, awful time. It was another reflection of how my wonderful friends, at the worst times in their lives, were thinking of how to help others. They needed to do something positive and have something good come out of it. And their fundraising website was titled “two little girls, making a difference…” At their darkest moments they were still thinking of others before themselves. On the site they wrote “We cannot bring our Rosa and Freya back, they are part of our family but just not with us in person. Not a day goes by when we don’t think about them or wonder what they would be like now, or what they would be doing. Please help us to create a dedicated bereavement room at Kingston Hospital so that other parents can make the most of their brief time with their babies and enable them to create some precious memories.” An amazing, amazing family and I was overjoyed when just over a year later they were able to have a wonderful healthy baby girl of their own.
I write, reflect and remember this now because it had such a profound effect on me – I felt terrible for their loss and grief and wished there was something I could do but I felt so incredibly guilty, lucky and spoilt in the fact that I had a healthy daughter with another on its way. I essentially ensured that these emotions were the only ones I should be allowed to feel for some time after this. I never complained about being tired or sleep deprived, or about having to puree food, or about not being able have freedom – because these problems were nothing – not compared to what it must have been like to lose your children and never be woken up in the night by them. I imagined that Paula wished she could wake up to the sounds of a crying baby in the night – that’s what she had prepared herself for over the past 34 weeks and instead she found herself returning nursery furniture to the store and a silent house. It was not even a tiny bit fair.
It took a decent amount of time before I let myself feel or admit to the normal rising and falling emotions of parenting again, and this was only through the love and support of those around me as the first year progressed with Bethany. To feel comfortable enough to confide to a close friend that I was sleep deprived, or that I would love an evening with my husband, or to go out for lunch with a girlfriend and have some time for myself and not feel guilty about it. I love my kids, but I also need to look after myself just that wee bit better sometimes and that being a martyr and being there 100% of the time does not make me a good parent. Having a weekly massage however, and an evening meal or lunch out with a close friend does help me to be a better parent. I realized that parenting is such a huge privilege but it comes with it’s own hardships – and that is okay. I need to be able to confide in a close friend and cry sometimes and laugh my head off at other times.
The stream of visitors to the hospital after Bethany arrived (bursting with personality) was quite something. I was told off a lot by the nurses for talking too much and moving too much but what’s new? I loved having the hospital ‘suite’ filled with my friends and colleagues. With Kira we had not been able to get online to Skype home but with Bethany she met her grandparents and aunts within minutes. I had an issue with the meds I was being given after the birth – I had no feeling in one of my legs and it turns out it was due to an accidental overdose by a self-medicating machine I wasn’t meant to be on! I was quite concerned, as was Kerri who was in the room visiting with me, when on the second day I tried to get out of bed and use the bathroom only to find myself collapsing onto a leg that had no sensation in it. We soon had it figured out and Ian had to go and organize some more paperwork so that we could have it removed.
Our welcome home was also beautiful for Bethany as we had flowers, a gift package and a banner from my parents who had sneakily arranged for Mike to have it set up while I was in the hospital. Kira happily played with the balloons and poked Bethany while I got settled into a feeding routine and both girls were so snuggly that I spent several hours a day just cuddling on the sofa with them. Kira would feed her toy baby while I fed Bethany and then she would climb into me too and at times I really felt like I didn’t have enough arms! We ate Cinnamon rolls baked by Katherine and enjoyed the buzz of the apartment as different friends dropped by for cuddles. It was a truly special time.