“Did I break it? Did I break where the baby would grow?”
I immediately reassured Bean that no, she did not break where a baby would grow. I also immediately regretted the reason she had clambered onto my lap, from the back seat of the car, to ask the question with wide worried eyes.
I am sorry for how I cried my exhalation of feelings to Bean.
Just a few weeks earlier, while being interviewed about the importance of blood donation (register to be a UK blood donor here), I had stumbled over my answer when asked when and how I would explain what happened in the days after she was born to Bean. I have never lied about what happened when speaking to her, but so far I not been full in the truth (described here). Questions so far responded to with the minimum of detail; omitting anything that may be upsetting to her, while simultaneously protecting myself from my feelings. I skipped over the truth and changed the subject when asked when she will have a brother or sister, I suppose hoping that maybe one day she will.
I stumbled when interviewed, as beyond knowing that I would sit down with Bean when I felt she was old enough to understand, I knew neither how I would know when that was nor exactly what I would say. But however I had envisaged even the smallest inkling of what I would say, it was not how I said it.
Instead of Bean asking when she would have a sibling, her current go-to wondering when faced with a hint of boredom, she asked;
“Why don’t I have a brother or sister? I really want a brother or sister. Like my friends do”.
Bean’s question was entirely reasonable. Most of her friends do have a brother or sister. And maybe she has sensed the incompleteness of my answers when the subject has previously arisen, with the sixth sense children seem to be particularly adept at engaging with.
I pulled over in the car, abandoning our plan to search for new home furniture treasure in the local charity warehouse, and blurted out all the words I had not wanted to say.
Tears immediately pooled in my lower eyelids, welling up out of nowhere and spilling out in large blobs down my face. They continued to fall in spite of my quickened blinking and fingers pressed to my eyes. The words I had wanted to keep in fell out of my mouth as uncontrollably as my tears, while I explained another baby could not grow because there was no home for them to grow in. How the home for a baby became poorly shortly after Bean was born, and how it was taken away because it was bleeding. Words continued to waterfall out, words I wish could inhale back in and save for a measured and calm delivery.
Bean’s concern as to whether what happened was her fault was everything I had wanted to avoid. My tears did nothing to convince her that my lack of being able to have another child was a small price to have paid to be here to see her grow.
I looked my silenced six-year-old in her eyes, which appeared unblinking, as she tried to squeeze her ever-growing limbs into the small space on my lap in the car. I told her how much I love her, and how I would do the whole thing again in the knowledge of exactly what would happen to have my baby be her. Knowing it meant there was never another baby. Because she is more important to me than any other possibility of growing another human.
Bean hugged me and looked at me closely, taking in the emotions exposing me as not only her Mother but also a human unable to always protect her from my feelings. Bean showed me I should not have hesitated to have been fuller with the truth in the recent past.
I am not sure any amount of planning what I was going to say would have protected Bean, or I, from my tears. I could have said it better, and I will build more carefully on what was said today, but my honesty was always going to bring upset. And I cannot be a buffer for all upset Bean may be exposed to.
What I should have done is to have been honest sooner, taking her questions as the lead she was ready for the beginnings of a greater depth of explanation. This perhaps would have avoided the spilling of emotions I had buried with each previous question asked, and been better for both of us.
Bean now knows I would give her the sibling she wants if I could, and I will listen to her feelings without slamming the brakes on the conversation to avoid upset. Some of my feelings overlap her feelings, and I should have trusted her ability to process more than I had judged she could.
I will now always find a way to be honest with Bean about experiences so intrinsically linked to her being. She deserves my honesty. I’m sorry I said it how I did, but mostly I am sorry I didn’t offer her the explanation she needed sooner.