Thursday, 30 July 2009


Lately I've read quite a number of posts about 'miracle' babies and how hurtful these stories can be to people who have lost a child. As you know, I've got a foot in both camps here. For whatever reason, a reason that even I am not entirely certain of, this blog has been mainly about Georgina. The twin that did not survive.

Maybe because I have nowhere else to talk about her anymore, not in real life. I suppose that this could have been a blog about my miraculous micro-preemie, Jessica. But it isn't. I question why it isn't myself. I don't think it is because I am ungrateful. I hope that I don't come across that way. I tried to reflect the nature of this blog in its title. I feel as though I was torn in two the day I met my girls, I don't think I will ever be able to stick myself back together. Not seamlessly. Not without cracks.

I don't particularly like stories about 'miracle' babies myself. I don't like seeing all the too-familiar equipment in the accompanying photographs. I don't like the way that I always have to read them, to mentally jot down the gestation and the birth weight and compare them to my girls. I hate the suggestion that the survival of very sick or very premature babies has anything to do with the 'determination' of the mother or the 'fighting spirit' of the child. I'm afraid that I don't believe in miracles, if the word is being used to imply the direct intervention of a higher power in the workings of this world.

I am told frequently that Jessica is a 'miracle' and I don't generally debate the issue or even take particular objection to the term. I think she is a miracle. I have no other word for the combination of medical technology, luck and biology that conspired to result in her being here today, sleeping in the next room. It knocks the breath out of me on a daily basis. I simply cannot believe that a child so small, so vulnerable, so very, very sick at times is still alive. A miracle seems as good a word as any.

Nobody will ever mention her twin, nobody will ever call my sweet Georgina a miracle. And she was. She really was. A miraculous person. My daughter, I wish you could have seen her.

All of our babies are miracles. No matter what happens.

The waiting room of the NICU where the girls were taken was plastered with incredible stories of survival against all the odds. I appreciate that these stories are placed there to provide hope to parents but I can't help but wonder if they sometimes inspire false hope. Understandably, there aren't any stories about the babies that die in the NICU.

I remember desperately searching for babies of the same birth weight or of a similar gestation who had survived. In the corridor was a newspaper article about twin girls, of similar birth weights to Jessica and Georgina who had been resident in the NICU the previous year. The twins had survived and gone home after a stay of several months. In the few days that Georgina was alive, I stopped and read that story every day. I hoped, wished and prayed that I would be that mother, that mother who took both her daughters home. But I wasn't. And I couldn't stop by that particular notice board again, after Georgina died. I just didn't want to see that mother's smiling face, I hurt too much.

Google reader recommended that I read a blog about surviving life with twins, it is not the most tactful of technological gubbins and obviously does not have sufficient powers of discrimination to tell that the reason I'm writing this blog is entirely because I don't need such advice. To torture myself, I clicked. The article that came up was about 'single baby envy'. How much twin mamas envy women with one baby. I very nearly posted a comment. But I didn't. In another world I'm probably typing a comment saying how I wish that I could have one moment of peace or sleep or relaxation and just one baby. Sadly it isn't this one, not this world, not this time around.

And in that other world, the world where I have a Jessica and a Georgina who were born healthy and at term, I don't have a clue how lucky I am.

Sometimes I worry that I am that woman in the newspaper article, the smiling woman with her 'miracle' twins who doesn't quite know how lucky she is.

Sometimes I worry that I am that woman writing a blog article about single baby envy, that woman who doesn't really understand how lucky she is.

I know I must be at times. I suppose I'm just trying to say that I acknowledge that.
I know how it feels when your baby isn't the 'miracle' baby who defeats the odds and lives.
I know how it feels to walk out of a hospital and know that one of your children will never come home.

But I don't know how that feels when it doesn't occur simultaneously with another one of your children being the 'miracle' baby. That is all I know.
These two experiences occurring at the same time.
That is how my first and only experience of pregnancy and childbirth worked out.
So very unlucky.
So very lucky.

Sometimes I hear an old Massive Attack tune playing in my head 'just be thankful for what you've got.'


  1. Catherine you must be so torn inside having to deal with your grief and joy at the same time. I do think of your Georgina as a miracle, just like I think my Sophia & Ellie are miracles.

    While I was reading your very beautiful post a wave a grief struck me. I remember laying on the bed before I delivered the girls and thinking "maybe I am off on my dates and they will be able to survive" although I knew this wasn't the case. It is so sad (and selfish) that I wish my girls would have made it to the NICU. I just wish I had more time with them.

    Thank you for sharing.
    Much Love,

  2. Both your babies are miracles, let me be clear in saying that. And I think you are so incredibly brave, Catherine (there is that word again) as I can't imagine the internal conflict you have of feeling so damn happy and grateful and so damn sad and broken at the same time. I think you are doing so well, and you don't need to explain yourself here. We, your loyal readers, understand.
    You can talk about both your babies as much as you want here. Both of your gorgeous little miracle girls. Like Hope, Georgina was just the little miracle who got away. And on the other hand, I'm so totally thrilled that Jessica is the little miracle who got to stay. We don't need any more mamas with empty arms coming home totally empty handed.
    Lots and lots of love to you.

  3. "I hate the suggestion that the survival of very sick or very premature babies has anything to do with the 'determination' of the mother or the 'fighting spirit' of the child."

    YES! This is my visceral reaction to miracle stories, and comments about jinxes, and curses, and all that crap. I nodded through this, not that I have the same situation, but I have a living child, and a dead one. So very unlucky. So very lucky. Perfectly put. XO

  4. One day I cracked and posted a comment on a blog where someone was complaining about the tragedy of seeing her child struggle to make friends on the play ground. I said that I hope she never learns what real tragedy is. Ok, so not my finest moment but not horrifying either. I've managed to stay out of some postpartum depression boards. Kudos to you for not commenting on the single baby envy thread.

    As to the larger issue, it's hard for me to fathom the worlds you straddle. I bet that most of the world desperately wants to assume everything is okay with you since you have one healthy baby, but you prove our point that one baby does not replace another. Hugs to you.

  5. It's so interesting to hear your thoughts on this after I rather clunkily tried to get at what I was feeling around the whole miracle thing. And I think you nailed it - our babies are miracles no matter what the outcome is. I was thinking about it today like this - a miracle, by definition, pretty much has to have a pretty significant impact on your life right? We wouldn't call something miraculous otherwise. It would be more like "Well, that's a bit of luck then" or whatever. If it's a miracle, it's that way because it's impact is huge.

    In that way, our children that have left us can't be anything else - there impact is enormous. It affects everything we do, everything we feel and think and the very air we breathe. And when, despite enormous pain, we take the impact these little lives have had on us and turn it bit by bit into good, well....that is a miracle and a gift that we would probably not have received without them being here.

    I don't blame you a bit for focusing on Georgina here. It's a tricky balance I think sometimes - I feel like my blog has somehow become a "loss" blog, and therefore I shouldn't talk about Anika on it because what if someone reads it who has lost an only child and is desperately hurt by it? But then I decide that's silly; my blog is about my life and therefore discussing Anika sometimes is okay.

    You need a safe space to work through what you've lost. You need an audience where people aren't automatically going "But look what you have!!" You *know* what you have. There's no question of that. But it's okay to acknowledge what you've lost too, no strings attached. I don't know for sure but I bet it's a bit harder to do that in real life.

    I sometimes feel like my blog is the only place I have to "parent" Oliver. To honour him; to give voice to the things I feel and the things I hope about him. I wish it were different, but it's all I can do for him now - to *let* him impact my life. I think it's perfectly honourable and lovely to do that for Georgina too.

    Peace my friend.

  6. As I've said to you, having a baby die and another survive isn't "lucky" to me. Babyloss sucks no matter what. I only wish Georgina were here with her sister. xo

  7. As you know, I've been struggling a bit with being 'lucky' at the moment; like Angie said I identify with lucky and unlucky at the same time.

    On the question of why this blog's focus is Georgina and not 'miracle' baby Jessica, I'm not sure if I'm way off with this, but so much of what you do in 'real life' is for Jessica so this space is Georgina's to balance that? I've always felt that my blog was my way of mothering Iris. I hope this isn't too presumptive.

    Love as always xxx

  8. You read my mind when you discus people who dont know how lucky they are. I get tired of some of the comments I hear when I just want to tell people to shut up, that they have their babies alive and well with them.

    And all our babies are miracles.

  9. This is a very touching post Catherine. My son was a miracle too. Upon seeing him I thought "he's perfect!", which of course he wasn't since he was missing several vital organs. He certainly doesn't fit into the common vision of a "miracle baby".

    Much love to you and your beautiful, miracle girls.

  10. What an insightful post. I found myself nodding along with each sentance, although I have only experienced a fraction of that of which you wrote. But I wholeheartedly agree - all our beautiful, perfect babies - with ten fingers and ten toes! (and even those without!) - are miracles.

    It bothers me when people suggest that our babies were anything less because they didn't survive. (Or that a baby is more/ less of a miracle because the parents did/ did not use fertility treatments! Just a personal one thrown in there :)) And I hate the suggestion that mothers who are able to carry their babies longer "did such a good job" or are "so strong and brave."

    My dear friend - you are one of the strongest and bravest women I've had the pleasure to "know."

  11. one of the women in my support group lost her twin son and her twin daughter survived. she mentioned that many people act as if her daughter is a consolation prize. i was horrified. no matter how wonderful the surviving child is and how happy you are to have them, they in no way can make up for their lost sibling. there will still always be that void. i can't imagine what you are going through, torn in two, but i know it just isn't fair.
    big hugs to you, and both of your miracle babies :)

  12. Catherine,

    I didn't know you had started blogging - I'd have been here so much sooner if I'd known.

    This was such a beautiful and poignant post. You do an amazing job of cherishing both your little miracles.