Uuuuurgh a blog post on parenting. Have I lost you already?
This is not a blog post on parenting actually. Nor does this come from someone who is even remotely close to being a seasoned expert in parenting. I’ve only been at this lark for less than 3 years so I know very little, yet I feel like I’ve learned something INCREDIBLE that I need to share. Not with those of you who are experienced though as you already know this gem of truth I have just learned. You lot can stop reading now and go and do something useful.
I actually need to share this with my pregnant self from 3 years ago and my other pregnant self from 1 year ago. I really need to share this with any first time preggos. Actually, second, third, fourth or more timers whose previous children seem to be doing pretty darn well in the world and any adopters who are almost there and are awaiting that baby or child you’ve been yearning for.
Okay here goes. Parenting, basically, is about loving a child. That’s it. So simple. There is really nothing more to it.
You see, the thing I wasn’t really thinking about 3 years ago when I had a Betsy in my belly or even 1 year ago when I had a Rufus in my belly was the chances of my babies not being perfect. Why would I? I’d had my time at having an imperfect baby in my belly. I’d had my turn. Let’s backtrack. 4 years ago, this month, I was rushed into hospital after collapsing in a bleeding heap on my living room floor whilst losing a 6 week old baby 11 weeks into pregnancy. Life couldn’t get much worse. There was no explanation as to why this happened. Most of the time there never is. Professionals and friends consoled me by saying that maybe that baby wouldn’t have survived in this world or would have been so badly damaged that it would’ve had a terrible life. It was my body rejecting a defective foetus. Yep, I’m pretty sure that was part of the ‘counselling’ script I remember being read out to me by a well meaning nurse afterwards. That was supposed to make me feel better. That was supposed to explain it. Everything happens for a reason. We all say it so I had to believe it. I had to believe something as my world couldn’t have got much shakier than it did back then.
So I got pregnant again and had my beautiful baby Betsy. She couldn’t have been much more perfect really. Yes she was a nightmare of a baby but she was a baby in my arms all the same and anyone who has had a baby after losing one or yearning for one knows that you have to kick yourself back into reality every time you find yourself complaining about sleep deprivation, smelling of sick, life never being the same again etc. You’re a parent. Shut up. It’s ace.
And then I got pregnant again and had my beautiful baby Rufus. If you’ve read my first blog post you’ll know the next bit of the story so I won’t repeat myself. In brief, unbeknownst to us for the first 13 months of his life, Rufus was born with a genetic condition called Angelman Syndrome.
So, pregnant Lucy from 2013, are you listening? Assume NOTHING about the baby growing in your belly. You can guarantee NOTHING about this baby. Stop with the dreaming, the planning, the organising. Just stop. In pregnancy there are no guarantees. There is hope. Gosh, there is so much hope. There is so much longing but there’s just no guarantee. Really there’s only one thing and that’s love. This baby has every chance of being perfect and every chance of being imperfect. Don’t assume that this baby will be great for his older sister as they’ll grow up together with a small age gap and therefore be best friends. Don’t assume that this baby will be the son that your husband has longed to do boyish things with. Don’t assume that once you’ve had this baby you won’t want to have any more because you’ll have the perfect package, one of each. Don’t assume you’ll be like this family or that family who have two kids, one of each, who do the school run and go on holidays and fit everyone perfectly into the car, into the house, into their lives. Don’t assume anything. Hope. Oh please hope. And pray. Pray your socks off. But imagine for a moment that the damage (if we can call it that) is already done. Imagine for a moment that you are carrying a baby with such profound special needs that he is likely to never speak, likely to need a wheelchair, likely to have seizures, struggle with sleep, with the most basic of tasks and will need care for his entire life. Of course, you will humour me and briefly imagine that and then quickly snap yourself out of it because it’s a terrible thought. Surely not me. I’ve had my time. I’ve had my imperfect baby. People told me that my body rejected that baby because it would’ve had a terrible life. This wouldn’t happen to me. But what if it does? What if it has already? Would it change a thing?
What if the only thing, the ONLY thing you were ever called to do as a human being, the most basic part of parenting was to love? To love your baby with whatever imperfections he was born with? Would you do it? What if it meant that this perfect little life that is playing out before your eyes as you stare at your pregnant belly and count down the days until you’re due was not to be? Would it change a thing? Really? See, you had a moment when you took the Down’s Syndrome test and your results came back with low risk. You jumped on the testing bandwagon. You weren’t really sure why you took the test but you told yourself it was good to know. It was good to be prepared then you would know what you were faced with. You were happy when the test came back negative. Healthy baby here we come! Perfect life here we come! But actually, you were growing a baby whose needs are going to be equally, if not, in some cases, more challenging.
These are pretty difficult questions to put to a hopeful mum-to-be. Surely parents-to-be shouldn’t be thinking about such terrible things and should just be left alone to dream their dreams of perfect family life. Pregnancy is a pretty mystical, magical, miraculous thing and we think that with a few tests and a couple of scans we know everything. Really, if we’re completely honest, tests and scans mean nothing and we all go into parenting blind! We really do have no idea what we are looking at so why do we do so much ridiculous planning? Why do people ask pregnant women and dads-to-be such ridiculous questions? Why do people recommend books on parenting? Why can’t the only question we pose to pregnant people be this:
Are you ready to LOVE?
I’ll never know the whys and the whats of the abrupt end to my first pregnancy. It’ll certainly be one of the first questions I ask the Big Man in Heaven though. What I do know is I now have two PERFECT babies. Rufus may be missing a pretty important chunk of his 15th chromosome and may be faced with some pretty huge challenges in his life, therefore, turning our lives and our plans upside down but it’s difficult to look at him and see imperfections.
I look at him and feel a stupid amount of love in a very different way to that which I feel towards his sister. A love that says ‘This is enough, this is everything I need to feel, to do, to accomplish’.
And as for those silly parenting assumptions, he’s already great for his older sister who he has turned into a mini-mother. Of course he can do boyish things with his father, they’ll just look a little different to the way he dreamed. Our family won’t look like anyone else’s family. It’ll look like our family and it’ll be a darn cool little family.