Our lives descended into emotional turmoil following Cathal’s birth. This new member of our family burst onto the scene with five little words:
And nothing was the same again.
Huge sadness. Gripping fear. Unbearable pain. Sense of Loss. Un-comprehension. Overwhelming powerlessness. Most of all, for the days and weeks that followed his arrival, the constant worry, relentlessly occupying the mind, physically gripping the body during the day, invading dreams during troubled sleep.
I first saw Cathal in the Intensive Care Unit of the maternity hospital. He was only a few hours old, waiting for his transfer to the Neonate Cardiac Unit of Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital. I was standing by the incubator with the Mammy, and we both agreed he looked perfect. Simply perfect. Yet by then we knew our lives had taken a turn onto a road so less than perfect! And the following 18 months indeed turned out to be so tough!
A few hours after meeting my first grandchild, once back home and talking to my sister on the phone very late that night, I remember saying to her: “He is going to need a lot of love, so much love.... All I can do is love him so much... I can’t do anything else....”
These words were absent from our vocabulary last Friday morning when Oisín joined our family. When I asked the Mammy “What is he like?” she said “He is perfect!” With a laugh I reminded her that Cathal was perfect too when he was born. “Of course he was. But Oisín IS PERFECT!” Joke aside, I knew what she meant.
Strangely, I did not have any sense of relief at the confirmation that Oisín was as we had been told to expect. Somehow, I was not worried, and even though all the signs pointed to a “no diagnostic needed here”, the shock of Cathal’s own diagnostic had prepared me for accepting anything that may come our way. All I felt was joy. Joy of the anticipation of loving and spoiling another little being, joy for the joy my own daughter was experiencing.
Oisín and his Mammy went home the next day. I had been looking after Cathal and we waited another 24 hours to allow parents and new baby some time on their own before introducing Big Brother to Little Brother. This introduction went very well, and all signs are that Cathal is very accepting, and mindful, of Oisín. I am so proud of him!
But two things struck me on that day: The first was the atmosphere of serenity and joyous contentment in the house. Relaxed faces. Happy voices. Ease of interaction, where no one was afraid of saying the wrong thing, or letting their own angst spill out. Also the ease of looking after a newborn who is in good health, who can feed so easily, who does not have weak muscle tone hampering his sucking, who is not exhausted after a few seconds because his little heart cannot keep up the pace. It all felt ordinary, even (dare I say it?) “normal”.
And then, I noticed how grown up Cathal suddenly seemed. Even though he was the same child as the little boy who had been playing in my house earlier that day, or cuddling up to me in bed that morning, he was no longer the baby. Rather he simply looked older, responsible. He radiated with knowledge, ideas and imagination.
Oisín has no idea yet of how lucky he is to have a big bother like Cathal. Deep inside me is the certainty that I will truly enjoy watching the two of them growing up together.
Do not tell the Mammy and the Dad this, but I secretly hope that the two of them will quickly gang up together and drive their parents demented... You know: “grandchildren are parents’ revenge over their own children”.... ;-)
Oh! The fun they will have!