Being a new Dad once again has given me a good opportunity to reflect on how I thought it would be with Owen, but having 2 kids is a different challenge. I’m still human, I get frustrated, at times I forget the bigger picture and occasionally guiltily I wish I had a few moments to myself. I would probably not have anticipated that, hoping instead that our experiences would have prepared me for a totally selfless fatherhood.
The free flowing tears come less frequently now, for both myself and my wife, that certainly doesn’t negate the continued depth of the sadness, it’s just a reaction that’s slowly dissipated. We frequently smile and laugh, it’s not the same as our wedding day but that’s okay, we’re parents, our smiles were always going to be different, tinged with new knowledge and experiences. There’s less shame in being seen this way, it doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten or “moved on”, it means we’re living, as a family.
We worked hard during this pregnancy to normalize any trauma associated with Owen’s birth, this was predominantly based around the hospital he was born at. Bravely, we made the decision to deliver at the same place for his brother. With our amazingly supportive team, we progressively visited different places that held tough memories and painfully negotiated what had happened there, what stuck with us and what still hurt. It was important to us that we ensured that our history didn’t overshadow Elliott’s birth, he is entitled to his own story and we crafted that by allowing him to make his own space within our family during the pregnancy. He had his own personality during the past 9 months and while he sports some of the dashing good looks defined by his brother, he’s his own self in every way.
Some friendships have gone, new ones have flourished, those that are lost aren’t mourned, we still feel like “that family” in the eyes of many, likely a result of feeling the need to tenderly defend our position on how we parent Owen. We know that going forward this will be a continual struggle for us, especially as we begin to embrace having a physical child to parent, while ensuring our family is understood in its unusual make-up. We negotiate “Is he your first?”s with a varying tactics provided by hours of counselling, never dishonouring Owen but sometimes protecting our hearts.
We honour Owen in everything we do, rarely does a moment go by when he isn’t remembered, thought about and loved. However, sometimes in the distractions of having a newborn physically present, he isn’t front of mind, and the guilt takes hold, grappling with the bittersweet moment of soothing those beautiful cries or seeing a flitting glance of progression towards a developmental milestone. The onset of tears regularly burn the backs of our eyes as we see Elliott grow and react, usually swiftly taken away by a special moment and the reassurance of knowing that there’s a beautiful brotherly bond being built there.
There’s an additional 8lb 3oz (going on 10lb) weight on my shoulders, and in my arms, these days and it’s a truly beautiful one, constantly reminding me; that life is amazing, time together precious and that there’ll always be a deeply adored older brother in this unique family.
(Article title from Jens Lekman — Your Arms Around Me)