‘Do you just have the one?’, an innocent enough question that never fails to make my eyes sting and my face do this thing where it feels like parts of it are paralysed while I compose myself to answer that, ‘Yes, I have just the one child’. I feel disappointed in myself that every time I respond I mirror the ‘just’, but know that for some reason dropping it would be just enough to give away the upset in my answer.
Bean is by no means ‘just’; she is one, a complete, a whole. I have never heard anyone ask if someone has ‘Just the two?’.
My answer is normally followed by flippant questions along the lines of, ‘One enough to put you off then…?’, when the truth of it is I would give almost anything to have another child.
Having Bean was the event that took away my ability to have another one. I had no idea of the depth of the love I would feel for this little human until she arrived, and then two days later had the ability to feel that love for another baby taken away. I bled profusely and had my life saved by the removal of my uterus.
So it is not only the ‘just’ that makes my eyes sting almost five years later, it’s the inability to detach it from the trauma and loss that is the reason I have one child. It’s the fact the stinging in my eyes proceeds the image of my baby, fast asleep, being pushed out of the way in her cot as the crash team responded to me. It’s the way the increased frequency of my blinks to hold back the tears invariably coincides with an image of the bright theatre light directly above me that I looked at while totally convinced the strangers around me were the last people I would hear speak. I simultaneously wanted them to anaesthetise me, so they could try to make it all better, but also take me back to the people I loved so I didn’t feel alone. After a failed attempt to surgically stop the bleeding while preserving my uterus and copious amounts of blood being transfused through numerous lines, every part of my being thought my baby and I would not see each other again. Perhaps my prior working in the hospital I was now a patient in was not helping any potential for some blissful ignorance of the severity of the situation.
I had assumed that by now the various pre-cursers for the frozen stinging face would have stopped being associated with such vivid images, but it turns out some things do not appear to fade. I know now these images will cease as quickly as they flash before my eyes, but I do not think I can expect they will ever become more distant in my mind. They are just not like other memories; these ones seem like they are etched on the inside of my eyelids at times, stubbornly refusing to be blinked away.
They do however serve to remind me that I am very fortunate to be a part of my ‘just’ one’s life, and for that perhaps I should be grateful. I appreciate the new phases of her life in a way I would not be so acutely aware of as being the only time I will see them, and once I put the bittersweet in that aside I can see the positives.
My ‘just’ one often refers to her Grandmother’s Labrador as her brother, but maybe life is too short to worry about that. And maybe most dogs are better than most humans anyway.
Perhaps one day someone will carry a baby for me and perhaps I should be able to verbalise the truth of my feelings to people more easily so as to stop the stinging in its tracks, but until then I will focus on what there is to be grateful for.
Commonly used language may refer to Bean as ‘just’, but to me she is my complete.