Our First Year
There is a crack in everything… that’s how the light gets in
We are almost 15 months on from Henry’s birth and death, have just been through our second Christmas without him and are hours away from our second New Year. I meant to write something about our first year with and without him back in October after his first birthday but it is only now with the start of all the second anniversaries I can really appreciate just what this first year has been about.
Twelve months ago as 2017 came to an end we were just twelve weeks into our new parenting journey. Those first twelve weeks are a blur of grief and pain. At the time it felt like a lifetime had passed but now looking back I realise twelve weeks is in fact a laughably short amount of time in grief. Like most firsts that first Christmas and first New Year were scary prospects. We spent Christmas surrounded by family, didn’t really participate but attended, were held by others, observers to the usual rituals without any expectation to join in and it was gentle. New Year on the other hand was not. 2017 had been Henry’s year, his whole life was lived within it, 38 weeks in my womb, two hours in our arms. Moving into a new year, a year in which he had not lived, felt like we were leaving him behind which was my very worst fear.
Henry, however, came with us into 2018, and where 2017 may have been the year in which I physically cared for him, 2018 has been the year I’ve learned how to parent him.
The camera reel on my phone for this year is full of his photos. His name written in sand, stones, snow, sticks, condensation, by my hand and by others. Foxes, giraffes, stars and his bear crew are all his. He has travelled with us, been skiing and sailing, hiked up hills and across moors. We have fund raised in his name: I swam the length of the channel for him, friends baked and sold cakes with us and another friend ran a marathon raising money in his name. During this first year, old friends stood with us at Henry’s grave, sent messages to say they were thinking of Henry, wrote his name on Christmas cards, baked and sold cakes with us, sent him birthday cards, continued inviting us to things even when we repeatedly didn’t attend and remembered with us. New friends have come into our lives, shared their missing children with us, taken Henry with them on their travels, spoken his name, guided and supported and cheered us on in our parenting journey. In October we celebrated his first birthday, a beautiful, happy and sad day full of love, surrounded by family celebrating his little life.
And now here we are almost twelve weeks into our second year as parents. This first year has been hard, in so many different ways. I have felt impossibly sad a lot of the time, my heart has ached and I have missed my son every single second of it, just as I will miss him every second of next year and the rest of my life. Heading into 2019 the grief that carried us into 2018 is still very much there, still quite raw, ever present bubbling away below the surface but whereas last year it contained mainly sadness and pain it is now softened slightly by the happy memories we have made during this first year as a family of three, memories of the ways Henry has been remembered and celebrated and included and the love that has surrounded our family and bound us together. In 2019 we will meet Henry’s sibling and begin our life as a family of four; this will be the start of another parenting journey, hopefully a slightly different one where we get to parent a living child alongside Henry.
Henry’s death and the physical absence it left is a massive crack in our family, and always will be, but he is the light that shines through it and the reason we have survived our first year as parents. 2017 was definitely his year but 2018 has been his too and so 2019 also will be.