"Edited to Add"....

This started as a pregnancy blog when I fell pregnant in May 2009 after four years of finding a donor, doing all the counselling / paperwork / tests and trying.

And now, thanks to a 4WD which skidded onto our side of the road, killing our baby daughter at 34w and injuring me, my partner and two of my stepdaughters on 27 December 2009, it has turned into something else. We didn't want this something else, but apparently it is all we've got to go on with.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Both my babies

Ali has changed so much already since he was born.  Even within 24 hours of his birth, his head was no longer the soft squished newborn head, and the cord which was so plump and pulsing at his birth was quickly drying up and turning into a belly button.  Too many tiny changes to catalogue - new skills, new habits, growth in every direction.  He's now over a month old - and yet his birth still feels so close - the surprise of having a living baby hasn't worn off yet for me. 

And it hit me that this is what being a parent is - to bear witness and care for another human being through their most intense period of growth and change - where their existing self is constantly slipping like mercury through your fingers, becoming a new baby, a new little person everyday as they grow and change.  As much as I want to grasp onto who Ali is this very minute, I know that this current version of him is just a snapshot - that he is the process rather than the minute by minute product of himself.  

When I had that thought, it made me cry because I'm only just starting to grasp how much we missed out on with Zainab.  Does that mean I completely missed parenting her - because, by the time I held her in my arms, she was still - she was not going to grow or move any more? I felt lost for a moment as her mother.  But not only did I love her through the constant transitions and growth of pregnancy - from a tiny cellular possibility to a kicking, hiccoughing, nearly six pound baby, but I also loved her and held her through that other big transition - from life to death.  I was there surrounding her as her heart slowed and then stopped as we sat in the wreckage, but I was also there after she was born, holding her as the living warmth ebbed away from her body and her little soul stretched away to begin its travels. 

I asked El Prima the other day whether she thought Zainab could hear my dad singing her a lullaby when he held her after she was born, and she said, "Yes - the soul hangs around for a while - at least a day - that's why we stay with someone who has died, with their body for the first day."  That second transition - from someone you love whose heart has just stopped beating, to a cold body - has always frightened me a bit. thanks to all those cultural phobias of dead bodies and deterioration.  There was a moment on the day we spent with her, when I had slept briefly and I woke and asked to hold her again, and the cold on her cheeks was noticeable.  I knew we didn't have much time with her - that the little baby soul we loved so much was mingling back into the atmosphere and gradually relinquishing the atoms of her body back to the elements. 

I look at all the beautiful cards and gifts that family and friends have sent congratulating us on Ali's birth, and it feels so unfair that Zainab got condolences instead.  It will always be unfair.  But I feel now that she exists in a state beyond fair and unfair.  And that having held her as she crossed into death and to love her even all the way into death was all I could do as her mama.  

 *               *             *

I dreamt last night that I was out shopping with El Prima and the girls – we were in a toyshop, and Zainab was with us – she was a curly-headed toddler about fifteen months old.  One moment she was looking at toys in our aisle, and the next I asked El Prima where she’d gone – and we couldn’t see her anywhere.  We were searching all over the shop – calling out her name, and when it was clear she wasn’t there, we ran out to the street and were looking for her.  I saw El Prima run across the road and I was so scared that I’d see her pick up Zainab from the road – I wanted to find her but please god, not on the road, not hurt or killed.
Then a tram came, and I realised it was our tram home.  I felt compelled to get on – in my head all sorts of arguments were tested and rejected – maybe she would know it was our tram, maybe someone took her on it – I had no idea, but I just knew I had to get on that tram.  Somehow we were now looking for both Ali and Zainab.  I stepped up onto the tram and searched up and down, and there was Zainab, running into y arms.  I hugged her to me and breathed her in, simultaneously looking around for Ali.  “Who found her?” I asked “Was there a little boy with her?” I asked.  Some sulky-looking teenagers waved at me to indicate it was them who had found her who had found her.  They pointed, and there was Ali – himself, but a toddler only a few months younger than Zainab.  I drew him to me and held both my babies – a solid little person in each arm.  “Oh my babies”, I cried, “I’m so sorry.  I’m so sorry I took my eyes off you!”

I woke to my own crying, and find my arms around someone warm – El Prima.  I listen for Ali’s snuffling breath in the co-sleeper next to our bed, and when I hear him, I exhale, grateful for him, grateful for Zainab visiting my dreams (it's been a while my darling girl), and so so grateful for that feeling, however brief, of holding both my babies in my arms.  


  1. What a beautiful, beautiful boy. Oh how seeing his picture and knowing he is safe in your and El Prima's arms makes me so happy.

    "When I had that thought, it made me cry because I'm only just starting to grasp how much we missed out on with Zainab." I had the exact same experience. I could not look at Clio for the first two weeks of her life without thinking of her brother. It isn't fair, you are right, how much they missed out on and how much we missed out when we lost the chance to mother them.


  2. Oh yes. I think that (it's a difference not a better or worse) is one of the things that slightly separates those of us who lose our first or our not firstborns. It was that which hit me immediately, it is there in my first blog posts .... 'we have been robbed' I wrote. I see that thought appear later for others and I ache for that re-emerging of grief for people I care for.

    It is good to hear from you, I have been thinking of you.

  3. This brought me more comfort that you might ever realise:

    "I asked El Prima the other day whether she thought Zainab could hear my dad singing her a lullaby when he held her after she was born, and she said, "Yes - the soul hangs around for a while - at least a day - that's why we stay with someone who has died, with their body for the first day."

    This post was lovely, but the above quote just really warmed my heart, as I have never thought about that before. We spent 21 hours with Hope, so I hope she heard us too..


  4. He's so gorgeous. What a lovely photograph.

    I hope that holding them through that other transition counts for something. I feel it must. That we came with them right to the gateway. It was all we could do. I hope they felt that love and I hope that El Prima is right and that the soul stays for a little while longer. And, after that second transition, I felt she had definitely gone. That the body that remained behind was just that, a body.

    What a beautiful dream. And I'm so sorry for all you missed out on. It seems so desperately unfair but, I agree with you, I don't think events like these exist in places where the terms fair and unfair apply.

  5. Oh wow that dream gave mechills and made me tear up. I so badly want a dream with Camille in it! I love that you held both of them in your arms, loving them both simultaneously on the tram. I sometimes have the feeling that my baby is just lost, needing to be found. Otis so unfair that you do not have both of your children!
    Infancy and childhood are such a fleeting time, with too many changes in such a small period of time. It is both magical and sad in a sentimental kind of way. I remember thinking with Kai, it cant get better than "this" but than it does. It just keeps getting better and the magic increases and the love increases. Being a mother is the most amazing experience on earth to me. I never thought I would be a mother I never knew I wanted it. I am so glad you get to do all of this with Ali and wish you could have done it with Zainab

  6. Oh goodness, Hanen, what a beautiful post. I nodded my way through so much of it. You write so eloquently of the joy and pain of parenting after loss. And the dreams of losing the child(ren) - actually losing them, not having them die - I have had a few of those too. I wish I dreamt of Otis more often.

    Ali is gorgeous. Love that hair. Reminds me of my Otis.
    Sending you love, mama.

  7. Gorgeous little boy, I am so happy to see him.

  8. He's such a beautiful baby, your Ali. Your dream gave me chills - I was on tenterhooks waiting for the ending and I still feel relieved that you found both of them.

  9. What a beautiful boy! And what a dream. It is cruel that you only get to have them both in your dream. It's my great sadness-- to not know how they would've gotten along, to see only the faint outline of what is missing in the dynamic. When I think of the faint outline, I realize how far the ripples go. Even siblings and cousins born after A are missing him, even if they don't know that they do-- the family would've been different, their life influences would've been different....

  10. I love this description of parenthood here - the holding onto and supporting an ever changing being, the longing to grasp onto who they are right now. I have moments as a mother, and have had moments as a mother, when I wanted my (living) boy to stop, right where he is, and not go forward anymore while sitting in awe of his being while it changes. It's heartbreaking and awe inspiring all at the same time. Thanks again for the insights and for sharing your sweet little Ali:) He's beautiful!