A Retrospective

I recently received the official wedding photos for mine and Lanie’s wedding. I won’t bore you with why it’s taken over three years for me to receive the photos we paid for – at least I have them now and that’s that.

The pictures made for difficult viewing as you’d expect. Lanie died within six months of those photos being taken and every bit of them is drenched in sadness because of that. However I’m glad to have them, both as a memory of an astonishingly important and wonderful event and because I really don’t have as many pictures of Lanie as I’d like. One day the twins will want to see these.

Another reason the pictures were hard to look at was the complete cock Lanie and I made of the wedding. Getting pregnant with twins really messed up the plans for the dress. We got the music badly wrong and made a terrible job of making our guests feel welcome. And I was so nervous I spent the morning puking. Lanie and I would laugh about all these weeks later, but I still feel embarrassed that we didn’t mingle properly with our guests – sorry once again folks.

As for the now and how we treat the subject of losing Lanie with the children – we do try to answer their questions regarding “Mummy Lanie” but it’s hard as they don’t really understand what really happened. They are getting an a grip on the concept of death – but one which often jars with me – “look Daddy this spider is dead, just like Mummy Lanie” is quite a kick, though I can also see the humour in it.

Selfishly I’ve always hoped that as the twins get older they will come to fully understand the loss I suffered when Lanie died and share in my grief. For I’ve no-one else to share it with – no one to sit and reminisce with. This is a double loss for me, no one close by that remembered her, can talk about her with smiles and share the joy that she brought to our lives.

The twins have a strange versions of events in their mind. But that’s three year olds for you. Wild imaginations and a lack of comparison in their own lives make it hard for them to understand. As far as Jo and I can tell this is their current understanding of what happened:

Daddy and Mummy Lanie got married. Mummy Lanie was poorly and died. Daddy was very sad and looked after us on his own. Then Mummy Lanie became Mummy Jo like a butterfly does. Then Daddy and Mummy Jo got married. Baby Will wasn’t born yet so he was kept in a cupboard.

I suppose that will do for now. Thought the cupboard thing bemuses us greatly. How can one explain the grief, the pain and the loneliness that I went through to the twins? One can’t. And I wouldn’t really want them to understand such sadness at this tender age. They are at an age where they are terrified of cats and Pat of having a haircut, losing a parent is as unthinkable as Peppa Pig being a boy.

Over the last year we welcomed a new life into the world in the form of Baby Will. This gorgeous cheeky bundle of smiles and laughter has helped heal parts of me so still badly scarred by events of over three years ago. The experience of looking after a small baby has been so very different – obviously so – with two parents caring for one child, rather than me looking after twins alone.

Looking back to the birrth of the twins and Lanie’s death the reasons for such hardship are obvious. I was suddenly left alone without my best friend – enough to cope with on its own. However I also had to care for two little babies with precious little help from Lanie’s family or from the medical and social services. There are your babies, get on with it.

Ignoring the matter of grief for a moment – if one can – the practicalities of the situation scared the complete crap out of me. How on earth was I going to work while looking after two small babies. And more pressing – how was I going to support us, Lanie and I just scraped by on our two incomes. Suddenly there was just me and I had a big tax bill to pay and a million and one baby things to buy.

The generosity of those who heard our tragic story was amazing though – within weeks people (many of whom I’d never met) gifted us so much money that the tax bills, immediate financial concerns and all the baby needs were taken care of. Being a berk I did then go and max out my credit card buying myself some toys too – but you’d do anything to cheer yourself up when drowning under such grief.

Pressing financial concerns solved it was the not so simple task of looking after the twins that befell me. I had no interest in doing so. None at all. My emotional link with them – so amazingly strong at the moment of their birth – was severed when Lanie died. The day after the funeral the twins came home and I was left to it. I was all alone and had no idea how to look after one baby let alone two. The weeks that followed are now a complete blur in my memory. I have no idea how I did it. I must have slept between two and three hours a day and continued to work from home – while looking after two small babies.

It was insane. I should have left work and thrown myself completely into being a father. But my work was the only thing keeping me relatively sane. It was my oasis of calm and rationality amidst the chaos, the crying, the nappies, the tears and the pile of bottles to be sterilised. As you can imagine I began to burn out after a few weeks. The human body can’t take that much physical and emotion stress without becoming damaged. I was losing it and I knew it.

I reached out for help and luckily managed to find someone in social services willing to help. Thank goodness for that really. I may have not made it otherwise. I know social services is a difficult and thankless task, but I came into contact with plenty of people from that field during this time and only one of them was any use. Her compassion, intelligence and willingness to help made all the difference when all her colleagues seemed like barely sentient halfwits.

What followed for me was respite. Friends generously offered to foster the twins for a while (thanks again folks, so very much). That gave me a chance to get my life together, physically, mentally, financially and practically. Ironically it was during this time the twins were on holiday that I began to understand myself as a parent and the duties that came with that. It was during this time I decided I wanted to be, and could be, a father after all. It was also during this time that I went on a date – this was completely unexpected, and shocked me more than everyone else. This was the first step in me reclaiming my life from the poor wreck that everyone in my local area perceived me to be.

So where’s all this come from Harry, you’re wondering? This is the stuff that’s been on my mind since I received the wedding photos and with what would have been our wedding anniversary approaching on September 30th. Today I live a happy life and there’s this gorgeous little bundle of fun in my life called Will that would never have existed if it hadn’t been for these tragic events. At the moment I’m reading a novel which features a character that can rewind time and fix mistakes or problems. However the price for that is that he changes life so the grandson he loved doesn’t exist in a timeline where he fixed some problems. The message is clear – we may wish some things didn’t happen, but that doesn’t stop good things coming along. One shouldn’t feel guilty for the things that make you happy after such sadness.

That said, there still a part of me inside that weeps every day for the loss of Lanie. How could I not? I thought it would get easier. I was wrong, it gets harder. Thankfully though I’m surrounded by a family that loves me, so I don’t have to suffer alone, even if no one else understands it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to give my wife and babies a cuddle.