1, 2, 3 – Loving all my children

When I was pregnant with Xavier I worried that I would not be able to love him as much as I did Isaac.   How could I love anyone with the same intensity as my firstborn, my little buddy, my constant companion?  We had been each other’s world for so long.

What I had not been prepared for is that the all-encompassing love you feel when your first is born hits you all over again when your second enters the world.   I had thought this love bomb had already been ignited when Isaac was born, but here was this intensity once again.  The love you feel right to your bones and takes a hold of your soul.  A thousand loves impacting you all at once. The only thing vaguely comparable is the obsessive love you feel in the first throes of a relationship when every thought is occupied by your crush.   Take that feeling, deepen it and multiply it by a thousand and you still won’t come close.  This is the all-consuming love that is born with your baby. Your first, your second, third, fourth – it doesn’t matter, that love remains just as powerful.

Xavier became the centre of my world, just as surely as I was his.  Everyone else just orbited the peripheral edges.  Including my darling Isaac.   He came to see us in the hospital.  His three-year old body ridiculously large.  His hands and feet preposterously enormous.   For a split second, as he shifted in my mind from baby to big brother, he seemed a stranger.  I had not expected this.   My heart expanded and swelled and there was more love for both of my boys.   But my focus had shifted to the child who needed me more.

When Elijah came into our lives I was prepared and I knew that my relationship with Isaac would change again.  I also knew that my relationship with Xavier would change.  Early in grief I had decided not to relate to Xavier as a newborn – he had a different role in our lives.   I disassociated pictures of infants from Xavier – I tried to avoid imagining what he would be doing as a baby and instead focused on the more abstract ways we experienced him.  The sunshine, butterflies, nature’s beauty and the kindness of  others.  It was a way of protecting my heart.

But when Elijah lay on my chest for the first time it was impossible not to think of Xavier. To remember what was and what might have been.  But in that moment, I didn’t feel an aching sadness, I felt gratitude for this new life and Xavier’s part in protecting his little brother.   My relationship with Xavier continues to shift and grow.  My need for a baby in my arms has been soothed by Elijah.  This portion of my grief – the fact a newborn was ripped from my arms like the severing of a limb, has been begun to be healed by littlest boy. But my need to still love and mother my middle child has not eased.  The fact I miss just him remains – that has not lessened.  My relationship with Xavier has become more uniquely about who he is and what he means to me, and less about regret for what we will have never have with him.   The way I mother him will change accordingly.  Each of my boys with their special place in my expanded heart.

DSC00267Isaac with Eljah

IMG_2118Isaac with Xavier

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Xavier’s Room / Elijah’s Room

Xavier never slept in his room.  Never played in it. Never watched the sunrise creep in through the window. Never begged another story or asked to keep the light on. He slept in our room for the entire length of his short life.   But the room remained his.  His things in the drawers.  His teddy bear waiting expectantly in the cot. The room was a reflection of our hopes and dreams for our son.

I had chosen an airplane theme and decals of paper plans adorned the walls.   A paper plane mobile I had made him gently moved in the breeze.  Tiny cut out airplanes were attached to his cot. A plush helicopter nestled with cushions on the feeding chair. And in the centre of the main wall, the wooden word “Fly”.

“Fly” – those words mocked me for months until in a bout of teary rage I ripped the “F” from the wall.   I let “ly” remain – it seemed apt.

When I was 20 weeks pregnant with Elijah, I started to think about how to re-decorate the nursery.  How could this room become another baby’s whilst still honouring Xavier’s memory?  How could I take things down and put others in their place without feeling I was erasing and replacing Xavier?

I decided that the room could still reflect Xavier – but Xavier as our family experiences him now – his spirit, his presence.  Of course, the room holds things that are uniquely Elijah – new toys and clothes.  Furniture moved around.  A newly upholstered chair and a pretty new rug.  But there are many things that reflect Xavier’s love in the room.

I chose a sunny yellow and grey theme.  I printed the lyrics to “I won’t give up on us” (our song from Xavier) on a series of canvasses that hang above Elijah’s cot, where “Fly” once was.  I made bunting with an opening at the back of each flag that allowed friends and family to write wishes and words of hope – a variation of the prayer flags I make for Xavier.  More words of welcome were written on hearts and framed.  The gifts of words, prayers, and hopes meaning more to me now than teddy bears and nappy cakes.

At my Mother Blessing, loved ones hung a crystal each on a branch.  That branch hangs in Elijah’s room, refracting Xavier’s sunlight and throwing rainbows around the room.    I can imagine Elijah trying to catch them as he gets older.

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Practical Notes

The mobile was made using the instructions here to make the round ruffle balls – Beautiful Nest .  I then strung the balls onto an embroidery hoop that I had covered by wrapping ribbon around it.

I created the lyric canvases by first creating a document (in Pages, but it would work in Word also) with the text and background colour for each canvas.  I then saved this as a PDF, which  allowed me to export each page as a separate jpeg image.   I used the Kmart photo service to create the canvasses themselves – $19 per faux canvas.

The rug is from the Etsy store  – Camille Designs

I made the bunting, cushion and reupholstered the chair with fabric from Spotlight.