Impact of Replacement Child Condition on Siblings

My situation is slightly different to those I have read about but this forum has been extremely helpful for me understanding my particular path through life and so would like to share and see if there are others out there will any similarities.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

My parents first child was a ‘honeymoon baby’. She would have been 70years this year. It was a ‘traumatic birth’ and clumsy use of forceps was thought to be the cause of brain damage. This wasn’t immediately apparent but as epileptic fits became progressively more extreme and her behaviour less responsive she was diagnosed by medical professionals as ‘an imbecile’. That was the language of the time and is itself is a long tragic story but not for detailing more here. 

My mother said that had she not already conceived her next baby, a son, she may well have felt able to manage keeping her first born at home. Theirs was a busy vicarage household and decisions were made in those days with an authority that was hard to question. ‘Your daughter is an imbecile.’ Shorthand was ‘Best get on and leave her with us – it is best for you and will be best for her’. So away she went into institutional care until she died 48 years later.

I have two brothers who followed. But my mother said she ‘always wanted a daughter’ so when I was born, with the same dark hair and blue eyes I was the ‘daughter she and my father had always wanted’ . Subtext being that I was ‘replacing the disappointment of their first.

As I watch my niece with her first born daughter of two months it is heartbreaking to imagine the separation that occurred for my sister with her mother. But also the confusion that has always been troubling for me in being seen but never quite seen. Every time my mother looked at me I understand now that she could only ever have seen her first daughter and the grief she felt for her. This concept of being the replacement child has helped me enormously in understanding the confusion that I have struggled with in my life, feeling guilt for the life I was given that my sister could never have.

Thank you for reading.


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