Parenthood, Reimagined

I remember a week or so before Evie was born, standing in the empty but newly decorated nursery looking at the softly washed baby clothes and imagining what parenthood would be like. How would we do it? I imagined the wee thing that would come home from hospital and fill those clothes, sleep in the empty cot and be clipped into that carefully selected carseat. How would we cope?
How could I imagine that five years down the line I would be in the car, about 400 miles from the home I was nesting in, discussing with that wee thing, the one that came home and became the thing that wore those clothes, took hours to settle in that cot and who only seemed sleep soundly in that carseat, and her little sister Isla what it would be like if daddy weren’t dead.

Isla: “Why is daddy in the sky?”

Me: “Well because his heart stopped working and he died, darling.”


Evie: “What would we be doing right now if daddy was here and he wasn’t dead?”

Me: “I don’t know. Perhaps we’d have been swimming or to a soft play with him. Mind you it is Tuesday so daddy would most likely be at work. But what would you like to be doing with daddy if he were here with us?”

Evie: “I’d like him to take us swimming and throw us up in the air.”

Isla: “No Evie” [A huge amount of screaming at Evie because she got in first so there is some hitting and other forms of violence]

Me: “What about you Isla what would you like to do with daddy if he were here?”

Isla: “Cuddle him”.

We are in a new phase. Isla is working out how the land lies. She is obsessively talking about daddy. ‘Did I wear this when daddy cuddled me?’, ‘How did daddy carry me?, ‘Can you carry me like daddy carried me’, ‘Was this daddy’s favourite book to read to me or was I too little?’, ‘Did he like this book better’, ‘Can daddy see my new shoes?’, ‘Does he like them?’, ‘Where was daddy when I was born?’, ‘What song did daddy sing me when I went to sleep – was it rock-a-bye-baby?’, ‘Did I smile when he sang it?’… is endless and hard not to cry. I did cry once this week. At bedtime but my face was over her shoulder so she couldn’t see it upset me to talk about him like this. But as we hugged in I saw wee Evie standing in the doorway, listening. She put her finger to her mouth in a shshshush and disappeared only to return to stand, still hidden by the doorframe, waiting for me to finish my goodnight kisses with Isla. I knee shuffled over to her hoping I had a reassuring look back on my face but then she silently dried my tears with the toiletpaper she had disappeared for, kissed each of my cheeks and hugged me close. Oh my girls.

So nope parenthood is nowhere close to how I imagined it. And the life I imagined for my children is nowhere close to how I wish it could be for them. You just wouldn’t want any child having to grow up trying to understand where the daddy that so loved them for such a small amount of time, here in this world, is. But that is how it is and I have to help them through it. I don’t want either of them to see my sadness but sometimes it sneaks through. I do want them to talk about it so I always will. This is my experience of parenthood. Everyone’s is unique but this sometimes feels like a particularly hard version of it that has been thrown my way.

However, it makes me proud to currently be training to run for Richmond’s Hope in the Edinburgh Half Marathon next month. This bereavement charity was set up to help local children understand their grief and feelings of loss and has already helped Evie who wants to go back because sometimes she can’t tell me why her head feels funny. I think it will also be on the agenda for Isla soonish. And I know it has helped friends’ children too. I would love it if some of you would help me, help them, help more on justgiving.

4 Replies to “Parenthood, Reimagined”

  1. Hi Nicola

    Just thought I’d take the time to comment on this post. My Dad died when I was just 13 months and from then it was my Mum and me , unfortunately my Mum never really spoke about my Dad I guess it was just to painful for her. That is something I do wish she has done, but I do understand,how hard it could be, to keep remembering” out loud”. So keep your girls Daddy alive for them it’s a wonderful thing for them . My dear Mum passed away in January this year and I’m missing her but hey I will be 60 this year so how lucky were we to have all those years Keep well, your a wonderful inspiration to many I’m sure

    Love Anne

  2. Thank you Anne it is wonderful to hear your perspective on this. I do think it is better in longterm for them to be able to talk about daddy and I am so sorry you didn’t have that opportunity. Nic

  3. Oh this post and Anne’s reply hits home. My husband died 18 months ago, our daughter was almost two. This was not the plan. I hate that she misses out on a lifetime with a great father and I hate doing it alone. She also asks about her daddy and says things like “my daddy liked …” Some are true and some made up. I let her see some of my grief, to know I am so very sad he’s not here but never the full extent of it. Also I agree with Anne, my father died at a similar age to my husband when I was a similar age my daughter was (lightening does strike twice), so I don’t remember him but I love hearing stories about him, especially from his friends, things that describe who he was, his humor. So I will try to keep talking about my Chris and hope to keep his friends close so they can tell our daughter about him too.
    Thank you for your blog. It’s an immense support to feel like I’m not alone in my thoughts. Esp 18 months in when I feel time is up for burdening friends. 🙂

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