The Parallel Life

Being pregnant after the loss of our first child, brings with it layer upon layer of challenges. As we have progressed through the past thirty weeks, we have found that placing certain things elsewhere, ready to pick up later, is the way forward. 

What I mean by this, is that we can only carry so much emotionally. As a result, we’ve had to adapt certain things – working from home, fewer social activities, and reducing even the energy we place into our grief. It’s felt lately that I haven’t really tapped into my grief or thoughts about Leo, and have just sat on the surface of those emotions.

Leo Phoenix, 15 months

A few weeks ago it was bothering me, I felt that perhaps I was learning to be too okay with not having Leo here. Was this where people expect us to get to? Moving on from him? I realise now though, it’s more that I just can’t carry the same depth of emotion for both Leo and Magpie right now. The past few weeks I’ve managed to stay on top of both anxiety and grief. I’d conclude that’s probably a good thing for now – although, no doubt, temporary.

Grief still bubbles. It’s always there. It always will be. You can’t put it in a box for long. The triggers change. Sometimes there aren’t any specific ones. Sometimes it’s really obvious what events take you back there. And it is always the underlying tone to why this pregnancy is such a challenge. 

Weekly monitoring for Magpie, wearing Leo’s birthstone
Lately, it’s The Parallel Life that’s constantly around me that I am finding challenging. The reminders of what our life was meant to become. The conversations, the scenes of normality. Other people’s normality. Leo would have just turned fifteen months old if he had lived. He’d be toddling, eating, babbling away. He would be becoming more child, and less baby. I’d probably be saying things like where’s my little baby gone, I wish he could stay small forever, he’s growing so quickly. 

I never want to wish those things for Magpie. I’d want to be able to celebrate his life, growth and breath. Leo will always be that small forever. And hearing people wish that makes my skin turn cold. I know it’s not what they mean, but when it’s your reality for your child to never grow, it’s a hard thing to hear. 

Seeing what he could have become, what he should be now, in other children, can actually be quite painful. It’s all around me lately. The universe seems determined to remind me what life with Leo could be like. That scene of the toddling child is constantly everywhere. And I just can’t look at it. I avoid eye contact with that bubble of my parallel life. Head down, run away. It’s a world I’ve always struggled with since he died, and it becomes more of challenge with each developmental milestone that other children meet, and Leo can’t. 

I call it The Parallel Life because it often feels as thought the scene is taking place inside a snow globe or a giant bubble. That it’s my life, my alternative reality, infront of me. And that if I could just burst the bubble, the alternative world would just be my world. It’s as if getting Leo back, alive, is as easy as popping a bubble. But I don’t have anything to pop it with. It’s so visual, so real. 

The image of a child walking seems so powerful. Walking. That wonderful level of independence that they gain. The sense of freedom! Leo will always be a newborn – I wish he was never denied these milestones.  Any milestone. 

It’s a scene I know I’ll probably be faced with more and more as Magpie hopefully enters the world with a future ahead of him. There will no doubt be scenes of newborns and their toddling big brothers. I won’t really be able to avoid it, without denying Magpie of experiences that he should have. But it’s something I genuinely find incredibly difficult, and it doesn’t get easier.

Nursery prep – take two
I’m sure the naive to these feelings might brush it off as me being jealous, riddled with envy perhaps. That I should get over it, and that it isn’t their fault – the families or the child’s. I don’t identify these feelings as jealousy though. Not in the ‘ugly’ sense that people give it anyway. 

I identify it as longing. A deep, empty armed longing. A feeling that somewhere out in the world, a Leo is toddling around when he should be with us. As if its actually possible to find him, and reverse the past fifteen months of missing. It’s a deep, natural grief. It’s missing someone, my child, my first born son. It’s 4D full technicolor reminders of exactly what has happened to you, to the point that it sends you back to that day. The day it all changed. It can take your breath away.

The naive to these feelings may anticipate it changing once Magpie is here, breathing. Yet I anticipate the feelings of grief to increase in vigour, to become more vibrant and uncontrollable as they battle for space alongside the standard newborn post-natal cocktail of emotions. The truest meaning of bittersweet motherhood. The juxtaposition of two realities. 

I can only hope that people understand that, and allow us the support to learn how to carry both. 



– J x

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