This is a rant.
It will happen from time to time, a topic sends me into mental overdrive. So, here’s a stream of consciousness about gender, grief and assumptions.
Boys & Girls
One of the aspects of our son dying, is that we now have all girls. We already had a larger family than average, and people would often comment on how stressful it must be, or how busy we must feel. I would smile, because my life was beautiful chaos and I loved it. Even the bits I hated, I loved.
Four kids under seven was an experience, it was also a choice. We are privileged to live in a society that offers us choices in our family with free contraception, support for infertility etc etc.
Despite being told I couldn’t have children and it being a tough old road filled with miscarriages and dark, dark times. We were so very happy to bring home baby no. 4 one Christmas. Our family was complete, perfect. My body was wrecked, sleep was non-existent and I often cried from frustration, fear, exhaustion… But there was always joy, love, excitement and laundry. There’s always laundry.
Not once when thinking and hoping for our children, did we give two hoots about gender. In fact, after a boy and then a girl, people were genuinely shocked (and told us too!) when we were pregnant again. Baby four was beyond understanding. Maybe that discussion on children and gender is too long for here. But it’s stuck with me, because it rears its head so much now we ‘only’ have girls.
Not long after Issac died, a lovely friend asked Mike if there was too much pink in his life now? His response was so deep and so powerful. It has stuck with me ever since.
There is just the right amount of pink,
but there is a real absence of blue.
Grief isn’t always about being grateful for what you have, we know we are very lucky in a million ways. It’s also, often, about being sensitive to what you don’t have anymore and I don’t always deal with this aspect very well. I find it extraordinarily difficult to manage how much to share with others. There is a someone I owe an apology to, a friendly and pleasant woman I met in our local park one day.
We returned to a place we had often played, the kids ran around and around, almost hysterical in their manic racing. It occurred to me that the last time we had been there, their big brother had chased them. As if trying to invoke his spirit, or heighten their memories, they ran possessed in a seemingly random game.
Another parent laughed and said, ‘You sure have your hands full!’ My kids looked like the last ones you’d pick up, given a choice. With tears dripping off my cheeks, in a shaky voice I simply replied, ‘They used to be fuller.’
Naturally, she looked shit scared. People want to comfort, but have no terms of reference. I could have simply smiled and not said a word, that’s what I would probably do now. Seeing the pain my pain can create in others is unsettling. No one wins in these random interactions.
Other random interactions often circle around having three girls. This is where the t-shirts came from… because sometimes I want to pre-warn, that there are unseen things going on for most people, and thoughtfulness is a good plan. We’ve been asked if we were hoping for a boy, waiting for a boy, fearful of a fourth girl, ‘given up’ on having a boy…the list goes on.
In my head at these moments I scream WE HAD A BOY. People aren’t trying to be insensitive, or cruel,they are friendly and chatty questions. I imagine I have done the same things many times without being conscious or thoughtful of how incredibly personal such observations are.
It happens all the time when we comment on anybody’s situation; the day after we had a medical miscarriage for twins, I was asked if we thought we’d have more children.
What to do then?
Grief and assumptions is something I’m working on. I try not to call them ‘the girls’, I make a conscious effort to just talk about and call ‘the kids’. Every time I hear ‘girls’, I’m reminded of the ‘boy’.
I suppose the lesson here is to think before we speak, and to be prepared to be kind with any information a person shares with us. Not to make assumptions that the family before us is the whole story, to be sensitive to the complexity all around us. To ask questions if we genuinely want the answer, and can cope with it when it comes. To create a new batch of ‘hello’ type interactions that aren’t so intimate. We’re British, so the weather is a good place to start…