It’s not like I go out of my way to lie. In fact, often, perhaps it’s myself I’m kidding on more.
Is it really lying when the truth is inconvenient. Uncomfortable. Inconceivable?
It starts innocently. My newborn baby opening up a conversation without uttering a word.
“How old is she?” Funny how 9 times out of 10 the gender guess is incorrect.
Truth: “He is (insert number of) weeks”
“Oh, sorry. Is he your first baby?”
“No” -gawp around inwardly for an answer- “Third”. There it is, lie number one. Two babies unmentioned.
“Ah, an old hand then. What do you have at home?”
“A boy and a girl. 6 and 4.” Mega fat lie alert. Or is it?
You see, RD still feels so very present, in that the space he leaves behind is unfillable. It sparkles, fizzes. Sometimes feels as murky and pitched as a black hole. He is stitched into every atom of our house, our hearts, our brains. He is here and not here, always. But that’s not an answer for the checkout in Aldi.
There are lots of new decisions to make around raising BD, and I wonder what a snapshot of that looks like. Probably not like some of the truths that sit behind them.
It started with DD when she was born. To get her and RD out of the house in his wheelchair, or to survive the monthly hospital stays with RD and a newborn, she spent her first year in a sling. Strapped to me closely freed up my hands and calmed her. Win win.
Now, with BD, again, I rely on the same.
“She looks very cosy in there.” Can’t always be bothered to correct gender.
“Do they not get too hot in there?”
“Always seems a miracle they can breath in there”
The truth: I love feeling the heat of him, the weight of him, his breath damp against my chest. After a pregnancy so full of fear, anxiety, and a desperation to get to the end, with a vague grasp on it being successful, this is my exopregnancy. He’s on the outside, where I can see and believe he’s okay. But here, tucked in next to me, he’s still part of me.
This truth, my trimester on the outside, lies behind breastfeeding BD as well. I am lucky in that bar the usual difficulties: soreness, leaks, tennis elbow, I don’t struggle. BD doesn’t struggle as DD didn’t before him. With RD I pumped and pumped- alarms set, sat in soulless rooms in hospitals. And he couldn’t tolerate even 1ml every hour. A fifth of a teaspoon.
With RD I felt I’d failed twice. DD helped repair some of those negative thoughts. And now, with BD, where I worried that something drastic may happen with my placenta or cord, here I can give him life and watch him grow. Not wait between scans.
Plus, with all I have learned along the way, I have mastered no hands feeding. Which means I can feed and put on make up. Do my hair. And, more altruistically, dress up dolls and do jigsaws with DD.
Let’s cycle back to the fact this is my third child.
Agreeing to this isn’t a lie. It’s true. But I’m so conscious of it, the stampede of time. Even in four, nearly five weeks, every tiny molecule of change feels drastic. With DD I was keen for her to show her next skill, after RD had missed or ever so slowly achieved the tiny steps that would eventually lead to something like a milestone. A yardstone.
So I take far too many photos. Which I spam far too many people with. I document and keep. Try to squeeze every cell of my brain to remember this as it is. But new cells, as some are ringfenced just for RD.
Because here’s the most uncomfortable truth. Sometimes, my arms and heart are so full of two children again, that the hole RD has left behind isn’t so big. Or maybe its edges feel less jagged?Because it’s reminiscent and yet completely different from before. I’ve got something I wished for, hoped for. Which after a plateful of everything I feared, I simultaneously take in voraciously and grieve that it isn’t as it should be at all.