Last year, we went on a family holiday to Sardinia. It was the first trip abroad we’d had as a family of three, and the first family holiday we had been on since Tom had started at nursery. For some time, we had been to-ing and fro-ing on whether to have a second child. I was really enjoying Tom, I’d really got into the swing of things at work, I was pretty happy with my lot. But then we went on this holiday, and I changed my mind. Tom had a great time; we built sandcastles (when I say “we”, I mean me and my husband. Tom just wanted to knock them down); we swam in the sea; we dug big holes. We pretty much spent every day on the beach having a whale of a time. But every so often, we would notice Tom try and join in the games with other kids. He seemed a bit lonely. He missed his friends at nursery, I guess. So this holiday was really the time we decided that we wanted to give Tom a sibling. An inbuilt playmate for life.
It happened very quickly. No sooner had we decided to try for a second, I got those faint blue lines. To say we were excited was an understatement. We immediately started to prepare Tom, explaining there was a baby in Mummy’s tummy. A friend lent us some books, so we could start teaching him about becoming a big brother. We made it really exciting, explaining he was getting a new baby and that he would be brilliant. For the most part, I was always pretty sure this was going in one ear, and out the other. We’d read the books and then Tom would run off, barely acknowledging what we were telling him. I mean, he wasn’t even two yet, so it wasn’t that much of a surprise. In fact, pretty much the only time I noticed him acknowledging the pregnancy was when I found him crouched on all fours in the bathroom, doing an impression of me vomiting. In fairness, I did a lot of vomiting.
Then we found out the diagnosis. And everything changed.
One of the most difficult emotions I experienced, was the guilt of what I thought it would mean for Tom. Would I ever be able to give Tom the attention he deserved? Would our lives be filled with hospital appointments, which Tom would have to learn to patiently sit through? Would we be able to go on holiday again? Would Tom have to look after his sibling into his old age? Would he mind? Was it fair? The guilt was all consuming.
I also then stopped enjoying Tom as much for a little while. I looked at my clever, handsome, talented little boy and I thought I was looking at all the things my second baby boy wouldn’t be. It was all wrong. It wasn’t how it was meant to be. This wasn’t what I had wanted for Tom and it wasn’t how I planned on him getting a sibling.
As I said, throughout the pregnancy, Tom had barely acknowledged my growing belly. Then one morning, as I was lying in bed feeling sorry for myself (I’ll be honest, I felt very sorry for myself) and no one else was around, Tom came into my room and climbed in with me. What he said, will stay with me forever;
"Mummy, is baby in Mummy's tummy sick?"
"Yes Tom, baby in Mummy's tummy is sick"
"Will baby in Mummy's tummy get better?"
"Yes Tom, when the baby in Mummy's tummy is born, he will stay at hospital for a little while and the doctors will make baby in Mummy's tummy better"
"Is Mummy sad?"
"Yes Tom. Mummy is a little bit sad, but Mummy will get better."
Are you kidding me? I thought. He’s only two and a half? How has he possibly picked this all up? I didn’t know it was happening, but he had been taking every, single, thing in. Every negative thing he heard, he had internalised and it was worrying him. My grief was making this scary for him. I didn’t want this to be scary for him, getting a brother was supposed to be a really exciting thing! They understand so much more than we give them credit for.
After that, I got up. I went into the shower. I put on my makeup and my game face. I vowed I would never let my pity for myself consume me again. I had two little boys that needed me. They needed me to be strong for them.
After that, we started to prepare Tom for the slightly different future. We brought him into the hospital with us for the CTG monitoring, so he could meet the doctors and become familiar with the surroundings. We got him a book about preparing to meet a sibling who is in NICU, and explained about the beeps and the wires. We brought him on days out to fun places, to spend some precious time with him whilst we were still a trio.
Without even realising, Tom had spurred me into action and it was the beginning of me accepting this new journey we were on. I didn’t really know what the future would hold… But do you really with any child? All I knew was that I needed to do the best by my boys right here and right now. So I tried, and I’ll continue to try. Isn’t that just what parenting is?
I found these books and toys very helpful in explaining everything to Tom