Barney Arthur Cole was born on Tuesday 26th May. He was born at home at 06:19, seconds before Holly emerged from her room, so she met him very soon afterwards. The whole experience was very surreal and very calm. Home has become an extra safe place for us since Oscar died and doesn’t hold the same connotations that the hospital does and that was why it made sense to us for Barney to start life at home. I had been worried that when we held him in our arms for the very first time that we would be overwhelmed with sadness and grief for not having Oscar in our life but actually, for me at least, it was all about him. I guess that is self preservation for you. For sure it is how it should be. We had realised a few months ago that it would be really important for him not to live his life in Oscar’s shadow and now that he is here I can see that it will be easy for us to ensure that that does not happen. During the course of my pregnancy with Barney I had said that this was not our Plan A, that we thought that we had already completed our family but now that Barney has been born I see it slightly differently, that we were meant to have three children we just didn’t know it until now.
After the blur of the first couple of weeks our minds leveled out and the thoughts that we have daily about Oscar are now intertwined with Barney too. It is amazing getting to know the little man, who is a very relaxed chap, but his existence gives us a whole new set of triggers to get used to. I catch myself thinking how nice it is to hold him in my arms and then flash back to the last time that I held Oscar. He looks me in the eyes and I think he must know how much I love him and then I wonder when was the last time that Oscar knew that he was truly loved by us because in the last days of his life we now realise that he was slowly drifting away. As I feel the breathe of Barney on my face the same thing happens. It’s not that either of us wish that Barney was Oscar and it certainly does not dilute the pleasure of getting to know him. Our new life that now includes Barney is infinitely better than the one that we’ve experienced over the past 12 months, but it does nothing to fill the void that Oscar has left behind. One of the things I am enjoying most is watching Holly’s smile. Perhaps I’ve been over thinking it but I have felt that at times she has looked quite a lonely figure and that has been upsetting to watch. Whilst she continues to talk about Oscar on a daily basis she has added Barney immediately into her family hierarchy and seeing the delight on her face when she plants the most gentle of kisses on him or when he turns to smile at her is delicious to watch.
The other recurrent feeling over the past six weeks since Barney was born has been one of excitement as we realise what we can achieve through Thinking of Oscar. Whilst the provision of children’s toys and books, and then the vein finder devices that we are funding does meet our charitable objectives of improving the quality of life of young children whilst in hospital care, for me that is not enough. Oscar’s legacy is all about changing lives, not only of the patients themselves but also people around us. We have talked before about how radically our perspective of life has dramatically shifted. It is not so much different looking inward. That is to say, I don’t imagine that we love our children any more than anybody else but how we look outside of our family is completely different. In our old life we spent our time working, saving up for something, enjoying socialising with a wide circle of friends. We had a good idea of what we thought the next five or more years might involve. In the evenings we talked about where to go on holiday next , what we were going to do about Holly’s latest temper tantrum, who we wanted to win the X Factor….. now we spend our evenings talking about where we might take the charity next. We don’t spend any time worrying about any problem that doesn’t need addressing right now. Admittedly we aren’t that great at relaxing. That’s not something that was ever my strong point but now it is hard for both of us because it’s not possible just to sit down and watch a movie or listen to music – there are just too many references for us to pick up on when we let our minds wander. I’m sure over the years we will work out a new way of being able to let our minds rest. But in the meantime it is interesting. We’re learning all of the time and meeting new people whom we would not otherwise have had the opportunity to meet. And through Thinking of Oscar, along with many other people, we are all able to contribute more to the world around us than we would otherwise have done.