Today my sweet friend is bringing her second little girl into the world. I imagine she is full of anticipation, some excitement and most definitely a slight dash of fear. Very soon, she will be a mother of two, that’s going to take a little adjusting to and that daunting feeling of, ‘Will I be able to do this?’ will, undoubtedly cross her mind. However, for today, it will be fleeting. That fresh little bundle will be placed in her arms and all she will see is love and will be in awe of this new life she created, excited to get to know her and be her Mummy too.
I am so happy for her and excited to hear the news that she has arrived safely and that both of them are well. However, walking alongside my joy for her is the echo of sadness for me. You see, whenever another friend takes that next step into the ‘Mummy of Two Club’, the reality and stark contrast of our journeys are brought to light. I am a Mummy of one, a little boy, Sam, who has brought a light to this world, the likes of which, I could never have dreamed. He is innocence personified and radiates love and happiness. I fully note that this may be seen as biased, but anyone who meets my little boy can’t help but smile, he draws you in and when he looks at you, he makes you feel like the most special person in the world. I’m sure you are thinking that I seem to be pretty happy with what I have and you would be right. My son is cheeky, warm, clever, musical and loving and he has autism. It is a part of him, but is not the only part that defines him. When I talk about the echoes of sadness I feel in relation to my friends, it is by no means for the little boy I have been blessed with, it is the more the journey itself.
When my son was born I was part of the new ‘Mummy and Me Club’, we all had newborns, all first time mothers navigating through this terrifying journey we had been thrust into. There were the sleepless nights, the nappy explosions, the teething. We were a tribe and had complete empathy and understanding of each others experiences. At that point, we were all pretty traumatised by this new mother world, but also strangely falling more in love by the day. No-one was ready to embark on having another just yet, but we discussed thoughts and tentative plans. Most of us definitely thought we wanted siblings for our first, adored angel. Some had a preference of wanting them close in age, maybe two years apart, others preferred a little longer to recover! They decided three years was the perfect gap.
When I was young, I wanted eight children. Yes. Yes, just reread that again, eight. I was a proper little Mummy and with being the eldest of four, I was able to play this role out nicely. I think it suited me and also gave me a lovely, healthy dose of perspective. By the time I was off to Drama school, I had systematically gone from wanting eight, to six, to four, to two, to most recently, zero. Obviously, being only nineteen does that to you and that suited me just fine, although to be honest I was never really serious about wanting none, but it sounded good and always made people chuckle.
So after many years later and falling in love, marrying my soulmate and moving to Hong Kong, we were starting to get baby fever. This was entirely the fault of living on an expat island, surrounded by families and new babies. I still hold them responsible. Well, a little. It had nothing to do with my womb actually aching, every woman knows what I mean by this. I used to think, how do women just suddenly feel broody? Well, I found my answer. We had always had the romantic discussions of having a family one day and dreamily talking about our future little ‘mini-me’s’. We had agreed on two children, as you do. Both having siblings ourselves influenced our prospective decision. After our beautiful boy entered our world, we both thought a three year age gap would be nice if we still wanted to have another.
Well, here we are almost three and half years later, during that time, we have moved countries again, we have also had a less than typical journey as parents. Not less, just different. I must say it has been filled with some of the most joy I have ever felt and that has been in the little moments, ones that may have gone unnoticed had we been on a more typical path. The saying; “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans” seems to ring true, especially for us. I do not profess to know what other friends experience through their parenting journeys on a daily basis. Trust me, I know that being a parent in general takes a huge part of you. However, as far as I know they are parenting ‘typical’ children. Now, to many who are reading this and feel that may be a strange way to describe it, well, the one thing that special needs parents can’t abide is the word ‘normal’. There really is no ‘normal’. How boring would that be? We are all unique. In the Autism world, children who are on the spectrum are neurodiverse and children who are not are neurotypical, hence the use of ‘typical’.
So, for me the plans to have another child have shifted. Sam has been my sole focus since the moment I held him. He is my heart and I really haven’t thought about wanting another until recently. My head and my heart are at different airports, so until they decide which way to jet off to together, it is still just a floating idea. As much as I am not a fan of functioning labels, Sam has ‘high functioning autism’. It is very similar to Aspergers but differs due to speech delay. He really is making huge progress at the moment and his speech is coming on leaps and bounds. I will never get tired of hearing him say, ‘Mummy!” I am truly blessed to hear his call.
I seem to have have digressed, a little back story was needed to frame the picture. I had plans to give my little boy a sibling, hoping to be carrying the growing weight of our second child before my first had blown out his three candles. And yet, I am not where I thought I’d be or maybe assumed I’d be. For one thing, my sweet soul, cried sad tears when we sang Happy Birthday to him. The tune was too low and unpredictable. I do sympathise my boy, I believe only the Voices of Liberty at Epcot could make that song sound any good.
I certainly haven’t felt particularly broody, I haven’t had time to. I have honestly felt that Sam has needed me completely. There is just no way I could have split my attention between two little ones, especially with having no family around for support. They are literally an ocean away. When hubby goes off to work, its just me and Sam. His independence has been gently strolling up the mountain, taking in the views as he goes. There’s no hurry and no race to the finish line. He needs his Mummy and thats that. And so, I have been and am, Sam’s Mummy. Solely his.
However, more recently and certainly within the last six months, my old tribe of ‘Mummy and Me’s’, have started the next chapter of their parenting story. They are having that sibling we all tentatively talked about in those few months after our first arrived. They are ready. Why wouldn’t they be? Their paths have stayed in line, they didn’t veer off down a different route. I was the only one singled out for that path. Their ‘Mummy and Me’ groups will evolve to ‘Mummy Plus Two Clubs’ and they will share new experiences of only having one pair of hands or having constant mummy guilt over having two little people needing you at the same time. Mostly, they will share how much love they see between the two siblings, even if the firstborn originally wanted to send the second back. They will feel content and have that blissful moment of, “This is exactly how it was supposed to be, just how I planned.” And that, however wistful it seems, is what I can never have. I will never be afforded that carefree feeling of just deciding to have another baby. For me, there will always be more to think about.
So yes, there are echo’s of sadness when I see a new announcement from my old tribe “Guess who is going to be a big sister/brother”, or “Baby no.2- coming Christmas 2016”, because, there was a time when I thought I would be joining them. Ready to be a Mummy of two. And for just that moment, I feel like I am being left behind. That’s not us, not yet. And that’s ok. And even though this is my choice at the moment, really, it doesn’t feel like it’s been wholly my choice.
So, when I started the walk down this different path a while ago now, I took a last look behind me, as the other Mums kept on going straight, chatting away further in to the distance. I realised, I would have to find a completely new tribe. The old tribe will still always be there, but I won’t always feel like I fit. And in those moments, I will need my new tribe to lift me up and remind me that it’s ok and that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I chose Sam, over all else. Has it been a bit of a lonely walk so far? Hell, yes. Would I have chosen the straight path over the beautiful gift I was given? Hell, no. And deep down there is still a little part of my heart, that loves just being a three!
By Jade-Marie Sinclair-Harris