A postcard to Juliette
It's hard to explain to people who don't know our family about our dynamic, but for those of you who do know us, this post will come as no surprise. I can remember the day I said goodbye to my brother Patrick a few days before he went to live in America and start a new life with Carlotta. We'd been out in Maidenhead, something I don't think we'd ever all done before, dolled up to the nines the evening before, for a leaving party and laughed so much on the dance floor I thought my sides were going to split. It was a perfect send off and even typing just a little about it, makes my chest ache, thinking about the tears mum, Natty and I had rolling down our cheeks on that Sunday afternoon. But without doubt it was the best decision he ever made because it led to Juliette.
A small girly we had all been talking about pretty much since they met. The daughter that was meant to be.
With Juliette it's not been 9 months of excitement, it's really been years. When they imagined themselves as a family it just was natural to talk about a pink one being part of the picture.
We were in America for my brother's 30th birthday last year when they played us his holiday video from our trip to Paris, which ended with a little extra something coming home in the suitcase. A pregnancy test.
We knew that Rich and I would be lucky enough to be on mum's staff travel and with the help of my very kind in laws we would be able to fly out to meet our new niece when she was born. I love first visits, hearing the new parents relive the most incredible moment when everything changed in an instant. The drama, the tears, feeling like you were there. On the day she was born we had all been on a group text, Pat was giving us regular updates and I don’t think mum, Natty or I had stopped holding our phones in over 8 hours. In between text updates we were Face Timing each other and were all on tenterhooks when we got the “Omg… push time! 10cm” and a few seconds minutes later “This is amazing” messages!
It felt like all our hearts were in our mouths and then up popped a photo of Carlotta holding this tiny person in the hospital blanket. We were in the middle of the local pub and I blurted out to the waitress “Ahhhh my brother’s just had a baby!” with tears in my eyes and we hurriedly got the bill and raced to the car park to FaceTime my sister who had popped a bottle of pink bubbly already!
But it's not the same as holding them in your arms, studying their little faces, debating who they look like, being part of the newborn bubble.
It’s weird how you can feel so far away and so close all at the same time. That 6 years of keeping close through messaging, Skype and Face Time, meant that it was completely normal for us all to have been on the end of the phone. In fact, often when Pat and Carlotta have visited for big birthdays or a few days at Christmas, the boys act as though they saw them last week, there’s no real dramatic home coming, it’s just normal to all be together again.
Parenthood is a challenge, whether the first few days seem like a blissful haze, or complete chaos, at some point it hits you that life will never be the same again. Carlotta has Natty and I on the end of a text, whatever time of night and we all felt like we lived those early days together.
A long week passed and finally it was time to get on a plane, and land in the garden state full of pink magnolia and blossom trees. I was so proud of how my brother and sister in law have taken this new chapter in their lives in their stride, sharing her with us and being so open about feeling vulnerable and making it up as you go along. They are not fazed when she cries, they work through their routine of tricks to settle her back down and just like the four who came before her, Granny’s singing works a treat.
It sounds extraordinary to fly to America for just 48 hours, but in fact our time meeting the newest member of our family was almost the opposite. In a good way. It’s like she was just meant to be here. Slip into their ready made unit after the fanfare of a baby shower and the build up of 6 months of excitement planning and discussing another pink one joining our brood.
The house was calm and content. Almost like life was normal with a little swinging chair in the corner. This tiny little fair haired poppet was just with us, greeting us at the front door in her daddy’s arms. It’s funny but I felt like we almost tip toed in. You forget what life is like with just one, compared to the mayhem and noise of our house with excitable boys and Natty’s with Yasmin bouncing off the walls with that toddler unquenchable enthusiasm and excitement for everyday life.
There was really nothing to do except be with them and take her in. The house was up together, there wasn’t a mass of school uniform spilling over the laundry basket for mum to attack with her fairy godmother magic like she does when she gets to our house, we just sat on the sofa with this teeny girl stretched out on my legs and talked.
We passed her around like a precious parcel and whilst the boys got on with some DIY on Saturday afternoon fixing the garage doors, (see I told you it was a normal weekend) Carlotta, mum and I played babies. Snuggling, snapping and taking it in turns to feed her and love her.
Carlotta is like me. She keeps scrapbooks and photos and our hearts melted when we set up a mini shoot on their bed. We were giddy looking at this sleepy princess, totally oblivious to our cooing. I'd taken just my camera so we improvised by using a soft fleece blanket and their duvet without any covers on it! The backdrop didn't really matter as this sweetheart was the star of the show.
We had known for a long time that this sweet one was going to be a Juliette, and that her middle names would be a tribute in some way to her great grandmothers. With her initials going to spell JAM my brother nicknamed the bump Jammie and Natty could not resist sending them this ridiculously cute strawberry summer outfit! Carlotta's mum is an incredible seamstress and overnight whipped up a fabric green strawberry patch for her debut in front of Aunties' camera!
The cuteness made your legs turn to jelly. Perfect bud lips, English rose complexion and not hint of the dark hair that dominates our family. She is her own girl.
I am so happy to post this on my sister in law's first mother's day. Nothing can really prepare you for motherhood. No one can tell you exactly how you will feel, that really you just learn every day. But having people to share the journey with makes life a little easier. And that's how I feel about my nieces and nephew. That Pat, Carlotta, Natty, Andrew, Rich and I are all navigating parenthood together, that even though they aren't mine, they feel like mine. That we have this not so secret society where we can one minute be deliriously happy and the next fall apart at the seams. This core group who love each other fiercely, people you couldn't be without.
Oh sweet Juliette, my newest of nieces, I've had this note in draft for far too long. You are starting to smile, starting to know day from night and we are all counting down to the summer, talking about dates, flights for your Christening and your first trip to Southbourne, even if it's just for one day. Your big cousin is desperate to hold you, doesn't realise you will be a much bigger girl by the summer, and I look down at the little gate at the bottom of the garden and picture the 5 cousins all together, the start of a new generation.
I can't wait to have an ordinary few days with you, like you live around the corner. Rolling in the garden, on the same mat Sammy learnt to move on, sleeping in the cousins' bedroom at Auntie's house (best not tell Yazzy) and simply being part of the gang. Snuggling in the boy's beds for bedtime stories, sharing a bath, if we can squeeze you all in!
You are a lucky girl because you have two homes. One where you will grow up, with a little American accent and one where there will always be a big welcome home.
Long distance love is hard, but we feel like we know you, even though we don't see you every day, every week or even every month, because you are part of us.
Linking up with The Ordinary Moments