Some happy news..

It’s with joy and relief that I can announce that our baby girl was born on Monday. Her birth wasn’t entirely as planned or expected but she arrived safe and well and we are all smitten with her.

We have named her Naomi Grace.

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Choosing her name was fairly easy on reflection although during my pregnancy it seemed a huge responsibility, and perhaps because Abi isn’t here we wanted to think more deeply about what this baby should be called.

We like quite traditional names but ones that are not that common, also we like names that are easy to spell and that won’t cause a lifetime of explanation about spelling or pronunciation.

We seriously considered another A name, so rounding and completing our family with another A. For a few months, I had a strong yearning just to say an A name again! But I found the names we liked were similar to Abigail’s, either in the number of syllables or the sounding. We could do it, but I wondered if we’d later regret it.

My hubby came in from work one day and had a few names on a list. There were 3 or 4 ones I liked and one in particular that we all liked. Naomi.

We chewed them over (and over and over) for a few months but always came back to this name. It didn’t sit entirely comfortably when saying all the children’s names together, but I reasoned that she will be a person in her own right, not a part of a rhyme or always talked about as a set of children.

I also wanted a name with meaning. Not necessarily biblical, although Abigail is a biblical name meaning father’s joy and my sons have variations of the biblical names Joesph and Jacob. We considered flowers or something natural to represent the blessing of this double rainbow baby, there is so much choice! But Naomi had such a serene and pleasent feeling to it, it felt right. It is also the name of a strong and admired female from the bible.

Naomi means pleasentness. Grace, which we chose much later, means God’s favour.

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I’d not read the book of Ruth until we thought of the name. I was interested to find out more about this woman and when I did I felt the name was even more relevant.

So who was Naomi?
The book of Ruth is very short but it’s a beautiful book of the Bible that I encourage you to read. Naomi was a widow and in fact not too much is written about her, but what is gives a huge impression of God and his awesome forgiving love and how he turns pain and misfortune into the greatest blessing.

In short, thanks to Ruth’s (Naomi’s daughter in law) love of Naomi, they looked after each other and through Naomi’s distant family connections and wise and loving counsel, Ruth, having been widowed and childless, married a wonderful man called Boaz and had a son.

It could be a perhaps unremarkable story but for the fact the son of this marriage would go on to be a distant relation of Jesus himself.

Ruth was a poor widow, she was also a Moabite, someone not recognised by the Israelites; again God surprises us by not doing things the way we expect (or want). Using people from ‘humanly’ low backgrounds, sinners, the poor, a woman, perhaps not seen as of value to anyone… and creating something wonderful out of their story.

Jesus was expected to come as a strong king, not a weak vulnerable baby,  which is why his own people eventually killed him. He wasn’t the warrior saviour that they expected.

What I like most about Naomi and Ruth’s story is that the ultimate blessing (the birth of the Messiah) isn’t seen by them as they lived out their lives. They had no idea how their family line would continue, like all of us. Yet they trusted God nonetheless and were thankful for all they had.

Life was far from easy yet even in their bleakest times they stayed true to (perhaps clung to) their faith. Despite her inner strength and kind heart Naomi still expressed despair, grief and unhappiness following the loss of her husband and children, and the desperate situation she found herself in. I like that she is so relatable and real.

My children may not do what I expect all the time, but I trust that God has their lives in His hands and that our stories are just tiny, beautifully created links in His chain.

I also liked in this story, when Ruth’s son was born, the people celebrated that Naomi had a son too. Ruth’s blessing had blessed her life again, a double rainbow of hope, as she sees her beloved daughter-in-law settle into a loving marriage and is able to see new hope and God’s grace. Just like my rainbows have brought joy to not just me and my husband but our family and friends too.

But then isn’t that what God wants? I believe without doubt he has eased my anxious heart through this pregnancy. He has helped me through my two losses with hope upon hope. A double rainbow.

And that’s by any means a romantic Christian dream that everything will be OK. That God’s will be done and all that. This is a much more realistic kind of spiritual acceptance. I feel that, no matter what, it will be OK.

With my grief, I have had to find a way, through my faith, to accept the ugly side of life. I may well face pain with my husband or children in the future. Life doesn’t feel secure in that sense. So I’ve tried to find a way that I can live with this and still walk with Christ.

Naming our child Naomi Grace, I am reminded of God’s immense love and
grace, and I hope she will be too. No matter what happens, we are loved and I will try not to doubt that. Even though I know the life journey ahead will not be a smooth road, having that deep trust in God will be essential to my journey on this side of heaven.

Welcome to the world little one!

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The hardest thing to admit…

After you’ve lost a child, you somehow find ways to live on. You don’t actively seek ways to help your situation, the adjustment sort of happens by itself.

When people say to you ‘I don’t know how you cope’, you look at them blankly, and most likely simply say ‘I just do’. But it makes you realise you have been coping! Inside you’re thinking how exactly have I coped? Am I a bad mother for coping the way I have? Will I ever feel on top of this?

There are things in my life that have changed for the ‘better’ in the three years since Abi died. We had our first rainbow baby a year after her death. A huge new adjustment on top of the trauma of early grief, no matter how joyful a blessing his arrival was.

There is no doubt at all that he is a blessing and has not only helped us to see hope and feel joy again but has also helped family and friends. This little boy has a clean slate, no trauma or pain or sorrow, no worries or fears, just simple happiness and wonder at what life is. I wish I could bottle that!

We’ve also changed our home in a big way to what it was. We finally have the kitchen of our dreams after years of waiting and dreaming. We have added another bedroom giving us some much-needed space. We’ve had all the manky old carpets replaced and had new double glazing fitted, as well as having most rooms professionally redecorated. Big, expensive jobs that needed a remortgage to achieve but have enabled us to start to love our home again without leaving or eliminating the memory of Abi.

I’m in the final few days of pregnancy as we wait for another baby girl to arrive. We’ve adjusted to our new son and now we know we’ll need to adjust again, through tiredness and worry and fear, through joy and happiness and hope.

I am naturally anxious for a safe delivery and keen to meet her after all these months of getting to know her as she has been growing inside me. I long to see her tiny fingers and toes. To smell her head. To hold her close for a feed. To feel that rush of love whenever I cuddle my child.

But…

…this wasn’t the life I wanted.

Admitting that is hard, very hard, because I know how fortunate I am. But when someone is going through a major trial, saying ‘there are others worse off than you’ often doesn’t help at all.

I know there are other people living in terrible situations and I am thankful for what I have been blessed with. If I died tomorrow, I would be very happy with what I have achieved in my life.

But still… this wasn’t the life I wanted.

I look at my amazing kitchen, the one that replaced cupboards hanging off the walls, rotting wood and a grotty floor. It’s now clean, bright and functional. I like it, knowing it’s new and just as we want it makes my life easier, but the joy of it has never been felt.

Because now, of course, material things don’t matter. It has helped lift my spirits, as having a nice kitchen that looks clean when I’ve cleaned it helps me when I feel depressed. Having a home that I know we have invested in and that has space to spread out helps me not feel so hemmed in. I feel comfortable in rather than irritated by my surroundings. But I’d still switch it all back in a heartbeat to have her back, to be back to complaining about my old kitchen or lack of storage.

It’s similar with our new child and this pregnancy. I can feel at times a sense of sorrow. Sorrow that I’m living on. Sorrow that I’m taking such joy in my new children knowing what I’ve lost. Sorrow that my other children have had to adjust to this too, but live with their own anxieties about illness and death that we have to try and help them with.

I feel love and happiness for my rainbows, how can I not?! The love I feel for them is so deep it hurts. In many ways they have saved us from despair. Yet I can’t ever feel the simple joy of a new parent at the arrival of a baby, because it’s always tinged with pain.

I know people who have lost a child and wanted another, it’s natural to want to feel that rush of love again, but to think that it would somehow replace the grief, or make it less painful, is misguided.

To have another baby or babies after a loss brings up unique emotions. Despite wanting the baby more than anything, you realise that this child is here because another is not. That the grief you felt for your lost child is what helped create this new one. That part of them is in this new baby, when your core is screaming out for your dead child.

It’s an admittedly negative way to reflect on the birth of a child, but it’s essential to acknowledge. Grief and blessing when blended together bring emotions that no one can warn you about. Life is always a complex mix of looking simultaneously forwards with hope and backwards with regret.

I realised that I’ve been thinking thoughts like this recently. I suppose a typical mother’s guilt response to the excitement I feel at having another child after thinking my chances of having any more children were over before Abi died. I also recognise it as typical pre-birth jitters, the fear of the change and of the whole aspect of ‘coping’.

It is my grief’s way of taking the edge off my joy as I marvel at my blessings. Life is not about simple joys any more, there will always be an underlying emotion, a fear, a hankering for what once was…

Yet I am grateful for life.
I am grateful for the people in my life.
I am grateful for Abi.
I try not to live with regret.
I try to move forward each day.
I try to use what I have learned.

I am realising it is possible to cope. That joy through grief is still joy, and that in fact the grief I feel is actually a way of keeping Abi close to me as my life and needs change.

This post may seem somewhat sombre, self-pitying, defeatist but it’s those kind of thoughts I don’t want to keep to myself. It’s those kinds of thoughts that are taboo, that isolate the grieving from others. I have to release them in order to cope.

No. I didn’t want this, but it’s what I have and I will allow the sad feelings to accompany me along with the good. I will remember that my life’s perspective is changed for the better because of what I have been through, even though my perspective on mortality has changed for the worse.

My children have enriched my life, I only hope that I can return that gift by enriching theirs.

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