Third (number): Constituting number three in a sequence
Bittersweet: The Dates
There’s only one word for it: bittersweet. Earlier this month – the 9th of March – marked exactly three years since Summer was born/died, but it was also exactly three months with our newborn Ellissa in our arms. Celebrating life with one daughter, while acknowledging the gap left by another: bittersweet is the only word I have for it.
In the lead up to the date, a few people asked how I was feeling. The truth is, I didn’t really know. Every day with a newborn presents new challenges, some days are a lot easier than others; I’ve never lived so in the moment, taking it day by day. I like it. The flip side is, there’s much less time to sit and ponder things, to give them the appropriate attention I would like to anymore.
Bittersweet: A New Chapter
Now I hate to say this, because there are so many people still struggling and it’s something out of our control, but for me, the only thing that has helped dramatically in the healing process, is having another baby.
That said, having a baby after multiple losses is still incredibly complex. I naively thought a living child would somehow make it all okay. The shock of my life, is how it actually brought it all to the fore again: the acute realisation of everything we’ve been through. I’ve felt so angry about that, stupid even. It’s not like I don’t know what happened – I’ve spent years talking and processing and blogging about it, but it hit me again: three losses. And in particular, one neonatal death.
Bittersweet: My Daughters
It has been comforting to realise that it’s nothing about Ellissa, but everything to do with Summer.
When I was pregnant with Ellissa discussing whether I thought I was having a boy or a girl (probably not-so-secretly hoping for the latter), someone said to me “we don’t get the babies we want, we get the babies we need”. That stuck with me: Ellissa is – without a doubt – the daughter this heart needed.
We have the most wonderful daughter. Her disposition is an absolute dream. She is happy, she seems so content, she is “easy”. I’ve started to say things like “I think she’s heaven sent” – even though I don’t necessarily believe in that concept, it feels the only way to explain it, not least because so many people prayed for her. Ellissa is truly a blessing.
Her being her, has given me the space to realise that all of the mixed up feelings are nothing to do with lovely her, but the sadness that will always remain from having lost her namesake, her older sister Summer. I try to remind myself of that when I feel guilty or when I worry that I could be branded ungrateful, for “still” being so hung up on what went before.
So, now moving to the day itself, Summer’s third birthday and Ellissa’s 3 month milestone…
Bittersweet: The First Day of Summer
This year we were in New Zealand to attend a close family wedding (yes, we flew across the world with a 12 week old and yes, we know that probably makes us insane), so it was an even busier time than usual and as I said, I didn’t know how I’d feel.
We woke up and went to breakfast at our resort. It was fine, it was absolutely normal. But then when we were walking back, I said to James “I just feel so unbelievably sad” and burst into the ugliest tears. The heart has memory.
We got back to our room, took Ellissa out of the pram, and I just held her. I held her so close and I cried hard, tears dripping down the back of her head. I’m crying again now, just remembering it.
She’s such a special girl though, she just went with it. She let me cuddle her and she didn’t make me feel guilty by looking anywhere near as sad or confused as I felt. She was just her usual self, thankfully unperturbed by her strange, crying mummy.
I think I always knew that morning would be reserved for Summer and the evening would have to be for Ellissa. James had the wedding rehearsal to participate in for most of the day, and in the evening we all had a pre-wedding family dinner to attend.
Every year I worry people will forget Summer, and this year that concern was heightened (as people may have chosen to focus on our new baby, our supposed “happy ever after”). I shouldn’t have worried, not only did The First Day of Summer scrapbook photos flood in thick and fast, so many people in the UK thought to send them to me “early” to account for the New Zealand time zone I was in (now I like to think I’m a thoughtful person, but I know I wouldn’t have thought to do THAT!). All of the beautiful photos can be found on instagram here. There’s definitely enough for a third standalone scrapbook, which is again, so incredibly touching. The photos really did carry me through the day, it’s become such a lovely tradition. Some sunshine on an otherwise hard day – just as we’d always intended.
So what did we do? This year, I wanted to include Ellissa. When I was pregnant with her, I tentatively bought my first item – a babygrow with little suns on it (my little nod to Summer) I showed it to James and we both agreed it was perfect for the first outfit our baby would wear. Ahh how ignorant we were – it turns out a 0-3 month sized babygrow was widely inaccurate for a newborn! It was however inadvertently perfect for Summer’s birthday, so that’s what Ellissa wore. Underneath, I put her in a little personalised vest that her aunty C had bought her, it reads “Hello Ellissa Summer”, as I wanted to see Summer’s name too. We then went out to our deck to read the most perfectly fitting book that I’d found for the occasion.
I’ve said previously that I believe Summer sent us a sign on her first birthday and then again on her second, but I didn’t expect anything this year. Ever since being pregnant again, I’ve had the distinct feeling that Summer has been telling me to let go. And anyway, James and I were hardly together that day, how was Summer supposed to send us both a sign?
When James went off to the wedding rehearsal and Ellissa was napping, I decided to read all the notes that my friends and family had given me at my baby shower. They were supposed to be kept and read after the birth, so I was saving them for a special occasion. With so many mentioning Summer, the messages were unexpectedly perfect for summing up the bittersweet emotions of the day.
As the evening approached, it was time to focus on Ellissa’s milestone. I got her changed into a new pretty unicorn dress for the pre-wedding festivities and took a photo with her “3 months today” card. James arrived and we all quickly hopped in the car, to go to the event. It was a lovely, busy family evening, with everyone excited (and the groom / groomsmen appropriately stressed about their speeches!) for the next day. Just as it was time to call it a night, it started to rain and we noticed an absolutely HUGE double rainbow shining over all of us. A family member remarked “all the babies are here now” and it was only then that I noticed that Ellissa’s skirt (with James holding her) mirrored the colours of the rainbow. Like the baby loss terminology or not, this girl is well and truly ours*.
Bittersweet: This Blog Post
I didn’t intend to write so much about Ellissa, I intend to write once a year for Summer. Yet the two are inextricably linked. Sisters who share a name, but who never met. Bittersweet indeed.
* I blogged previously to say that Summer was supposedly our rainbow baby, but our rainbow died – two rainbows in the sky on the First Day of Summer was therefore rather fitting.
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