"Oh you have your hands full!"
"You've got your hands full there!"
"Aren't you a busy lady - you have your hands full don't you?"
I seem to attract some variant of this comment no matter where I go with the kids, most of the time of late it has been on our lockdown walks (let me tell you there have been many walks - we've literally walked in rain, hail and shine for our 1-2 hours a day). Typically I'd have the double pram carrying Maeve (2.5 years old) and Clodagh (16 months), Tiarnán (4 years old) on his bike or scooter beside us, the baby bag, four drink bottles, blankets, jackets, and even Maeve's wooden tricycle balancing over the pram handlebar. So I am sure we are quite a sight to behold and yes to the onlooker I can see why they'd think my hands are full.
Usually it is older women who comment, always with a smile or a laugh. It is a comment made in jest perhaps intended as encouragement or even praise. It is a comment that has been made so many times now, that Mr. 4 has even started getting in first when people make eye contact: "Yes, mummy has her hands full!" But it is a comment that couldn't be further from my truth.
Yes, I have three very young children - and I am in no way denying that it is a tough gig some days. But my hands are not full, just like my heart is not full. Someone is missing...and along with her we are missing all the joyful chaos and complications that would... should have been. Others see and hear my three living children - their smiles, footsteps, cries and laughter. What they don't see is the gaping Nora-shaped hole that I push along in that pram. They don't know that there should be four children. They don't know that there should be twins in that double pram. They don't know that my hands were meant to be much, much fuller.
They don't know that my hands were meant to be much, much fuller.
When we first found out we were expecting twins it was news received with shock, nervous laughter, more shock and then delight. We already had an almost 3 year old and an 11 month old at the time, a boy and a girl -so having more children at that stage was not in our plans. I thought my own hands were full then. But when we found out that there were two more little people preparing to join us, my heart and mind soon started to imagine what four children under four would look like. Twin bassinets, two cots, three highchairs, bigger pram, bigger car, four car seats, we'll need a nanny, the noise, the mess, the laundry. I allowed my imagination to skip ahead to Christmas' and holidays with my big family. I imagined dressing my twins in matching outfits. I imagined marching all four of them out the door for school each morning. I imagined our dinner table (which we bought so it was big enough for guests) almost filled by just our children and ourselves.
As we learned of our Nora's medical challenges we prepared ourselves for a future with a medically complex child. I was training to be her primary carer. I imagined bringing her home. I imagined her growing up with her brother and sisters. I imagined taking her on our walks. I imagined juggling her care with my husband as we navigated the hustle and bustle of having four children. It terrified us but it filled us with so much hope.
But we have learnt first hand that life doesn't always play out the way we hope or imagine. I am so blessed to have three cheeky, healthy, joyful children keeping my hands busy - and they do such a good job at it. But I live everyday without one of my babies and because of this, there will always be an empty place in my arms and in my heart that will forever belong to Nora.
There will always be an empty place in my arms and in my heart that will forever belong to Nora.
I often picture what my walks would be like if she was still here. My twin girls would be side by side - yes with all the machines and equipment Nora would have needed in that first year or two. Maeve would be forced to ride her tricycle much further than she'd like to and Tiarnán would ride ahead, leading the way for his sisters. Yes, then my hands would be full. And so would my heart.