Wednesday, 30 September 2009


I am tired.

I'm tired of all those little, unexpected things that run up and stab me in the heart. I'm not talking those hairy biggies that you clock the moment they come pounding over the horizon clutching their whacking great carving knives and skewers. The birthdays, the anniversaries, double buggies, any buggy, newborn babies, pregnant women.

Just the little ones. Those are the ones that are doing me in today. Those little ones armed only with darning needles, pins and thumb tacks. They're sneaky, these ones. They scuttle up to you and before you know it, jab, jab, jab, in with the needles and drawing pins.

They don't really hurt me. They can't. I'm tougher than that. They aren't going to make me fall to the floor and cry. Not individually but cumulatively? Cumulatively it is starting to feel like death by a thousand cuts (or 'slow slicing' as another translation has it, courtesy of my friend Mr. Wiki P)

Yesterday I decided to walk to the post office. Between the post office and my house lies the hospital. Not THE hospital. Only the hospital where the girls were born and where Jessica spent a few weeks in the special care nursery. As I was walking past, the light hit the reflective windows of special care at a certain angle and I could see all the monitors shining through. It still hurts to see those monitors. A darning needle to my battered old heart which is already stuck full like a pincushion. Those monitors that I watched and watched helplessly. Willing them to change, to stabilise, to go up, to go down. Someone else watches them now. Someone else wants them to move just as much as I did.

Prayers are answered. Or they are remain unanswered, words hanging in the air. Binary functions. Up. Down. Stable. Unstable. Alive. Dead.
Those monitor reflections are a little jab to my heart.

I live on an estate where all the houses look the same, these are common in the town where I live. So if you go to visit your immediate neighbours you are effectively entering your own house reversed with the taste of another imposed on it. A bit Alice in Wonderlandesque. This also makes me prone to severe decor envy as I know my house COULD actually look like that, if I only had this.

Oh, if I only had this. Except not this. Not my neighbour's. I actually want what's mine.

As I walked past a house, exactly like mine, with a car parked outside, the same make, colour and year of registration as mine, I noticed a sign in the back of the car saying 'twins on board.' I had an overwhelming urge to knock on the door and say "excuse me, this should be my life. You don't understand, this should be my house, my car. Not this strange mirror image house with your twins in it. My girls should be here, in my house." It felt just slightly possible that I had fallen through some strange hole in time and here was my house, my life. I didn't knock though. Perhaps it would have made a good story for the unsuspecting young woman inside? This poor, feeble lady who trails around the housing estate with her one baby always seeking the other. Completely unhinged, batty old thing.

I don't know how I got here. I don't know how this happened. One minute, I had a normal life which I was bumbling through. A little less happy, a little more happy. And then the bottom fell out.

The next time I wake up, a year later, I'm wandering around with a heart full of thumbtacks and pins. It's still pumping but it's oozing blood slowly and surely. And I'm so tired today. I'm tired of pretending that all those little stabbing implements just glance off my internal organs. That gratitude can deflect every single insult aimed at me. I try to hide behind my good fortune and my thankfulness and sometimes I can. But not today, not always.

My poor bruised old heart with thousands upon thousands of tiny pin pricks in it. I'm still yearning, watching, waiting. I miss her terribly today.

But tomorrow, I will put some plasters over the holes in my heart, I will brace myself again to face those jabs and stabs. Both my girls will keep those reinforcements round my heart strong. They will keep my heart beating, stout and sure. I will try again tomorrow because that is what I always do, it is all I can do.

I love my girls.

Saturday, 26 September 2009


Sometimes, when she is babbling, happily, proudly. I can almost hear another voice, a similar voice, pulling on the outer frequencies of my hearing. Sometimes.

Sometimes, when she moves, rolls, pulls herself to her knees, to her feet. I can almost see another set of movements, just out of my field of vision, on the very edge, a barely perceptible flurry of similar clumsy movements. Sometimes.

Sometimes, when I pick up the sweet, slack, heft of her asleep. When I smell the gentle little curve of her head and the new hair that is growing, reluctantly, covering that precious skull. I can almost smell another. Another child impossibly grown, another set of thin, twig-like limbs replaced by chubby heaviness. Sometimes.

Sometimes, when I see her determination, her tenacity, her endless throwing of herself forward to other children, on to obstacles including her own mother's face (which deserves to be trampled if it is in the way), on to toys which are too large for her but that she will somehow manage to pick up and wave triumphantly. I can almost see another face, another look of determination. A similar look. I can almost hear an echo of those strange little cries that presage yet another assault, yet another try of something that is actually just slightly, oh so slightly, beyond her. Or so I think. Sometimes.

These shades, these echoes. These vague, intangible, ungraspable glimmers that always seem so tantalizingly close. Just at the edges where the light trembles. If I could hear a little more clearly, if my vision were a little less cloudy, if I could turn my head a little quicker. I could catch a glimpse. A glimpse of something similar to what I see in actuality.

That is all I want. Just a glimpse. So that I know she is alright. I miss her so much. I miss my little girl. I miss my Georgina. I'll always wonder.

Sometimes. It all seems too unfair. That I am searching for a child who isn't here. Who never will be here. That my focus is drawn from the one who is here before my eyes. Broadcasting at frequencies that I can receive with my paltry human equipment.

I'm sorry my sweet girls. I'm no good at this balancing act.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Oscillate wildly

Recently, this describes what I seem to be doing, oscillating wildly.

From sad
to mad
(occasionally even bad once in a while)
to numb
to ambivalence
to acceptance (or acceptance of the fact that I can't truly seem to accept any of this)
to almost, nearly peacefulness
to strange, irrepresible, unsquashable hope, one with a different texture to the hope I had before
to happiness

Return to start. Repeat. Faster and faster.

I still have trouble sleeping in the early morning.
I used to think that 'tossing and turning' in your bed at night was just a handy phrase to describe the difficulty of finding rest some nights. But now I find that I do literally toss and turn. I find it all so very unbearable, what happened to my daughters, that it feels like I need to physically shake it away or as if I am writhing with the desperation of it all. This situation that I cannot begin to remedy, I cannot bring her back, I have to let her go. It feels like a snare, the terrible inevitability of the facts as they close in on me.

Sometimes the bare, stark facts of Georgina's death hit me. Without the little accompanying web of thoughts I spin to try and make it more palatable. They can smash that little fragile structure up with a flick of their fingers, these crushing facts.

That she will never live, never breathe, never again.
That her existence outside of me was one that was so brief, full of so much pain and distress.
That the only tangible evidence I have left of my eldest daughter's existence is crammed into a box in my wardrobe, ashes, stained hats, an incubator label, some badly printed photographs.
That I will never hold her again.
That she never had a chance to feel the sun on her skin, or the breeze, or to hug her sister. She never even ate or drank anything. I find the latter particularly painful because I take so much pleasure in food.
None of the many, many things that I hoped that she would do. That I complacently assumed that she would have the chance to experience.
Of all the pleasures that this life has to offer us, she will experience a very few. I can only hope she knew what it felt like to be loved.

But I don't stay this way for long.

Yesterday, I was shopping in town. Looking for yet more clothes for Jess who already has an outfit for every single day of the next three months but still . . you can never have too many choices. Especially in the unpredictable weather of England.

I was walking out of the shop and a little girl of maybe two or three came running past, giggling. Her daddy was chasing her. I thought it was a game and smiled to myself. One of those wry smiles that resolves itself into a sigh, imagining Jessica doing the same in a year or so, knowing that Georgina will never be the running, giggling girl.

But I had misinterpreted the situation. The daddy stormed up behind her, swept her up and yelled in her face 'why are you such a little shit?' Ach, it made me feel so sad.

I don't have a problem with swearing. I don't swear much myself but my father has always turned the air blue. Seriously, my mother was summoned into playgroup because I dropped my cup of milk and said fuck. She must have been mortified. But he never, ever swore AT us. Those words were never directed at his own children, particularly not as a descriptor.

This world is very strange. A world where we have invented such viciousness to throw at one another, words specifically designed to wound one another. A world where a father would shout at his own child or at any little girl with words that I would not consider acceptable to use to ANYONE. Why do people not accord their own children the respect that they would give to a stranger? Is it because there is no chance that she will hit him? Why couldn't he just say pickle instead of shit? Why did he have to shout with the full force of an adult male voice into the face of such a small child?

This isn't really a judgement of him, of how much or how little he deserves to have a living, breathing daughter. It might sound like one but it is more just an observation. I don't know this man. I don't know what circumstances brought him to shouting in a small child's face in the doorway of a shop yesterday morning. Who knows, perhaps in a year or so I might be swearing at Jessica? I hope not but you never know.

What I had read to be a touching little scene of father-daughter bonding had actually gone kind of sour. As I turned away, I smiled again. But this time, I was thinking of that other girl. My tiny sweet girl. I thought to myself, nobody is ever, ever going to call you a shit. Nobody is ever going to shout in your face like that. It's not much consolation but at least death has some protective side effects. I felt as though I had tucked her back into my heart and smoothed the coverlet over her. She might never get to experience the beauty of life but she will never experience its ugliness either.

It has taken me an awfully long time to accept the fact that life is not always pleasant, people aren't kind to one another, feelings get hurt, hearts get smashed, people trample on other people heedlessly (myself included no doubt). I'm still struggling with this after over thirty years of having evidence shoved in my face everyday. Some would call this stupidity, I prefer to think of it as a peculiar brand of naive, wide-eyed optimism.

The first dance at my wedding was a song called Rose Garden sung by Lynne Anderson. I guess it summed up my feelings about marriage, 'I never promised you a rose garden . . '

There it is, in a country song. Perhaps that is the truth that I am too dense to recognise or too pig-headed to accept.
Life isn't a rose garden. It could actually be that simple.
I can't make it a rose garden for Jessica. I can try my best to smooth it for her but I can't make any promises.
I can't make it a rose garden for Georgina. I can try my best to remember her and to love her but I can't make any promises.
I can't make it a rose garden for anyone, not for anyone here, not even for myself. As much as I would love to. As much as I wish I could fix everything and everyone. But that is not the nature of life. It's amazing and it sucks and it's painful and it's generous and it does all these things, to everyone, all at once, all the time. Life just merrily goes around handing out the good stuff and the shitty stuff entirely randomly. Here have a candy, here have a dead child, here have a sunny day, here have a miraculous recovery, here have a car accident, here have a messy divorce, here have your first love's kiss, here's a pile of dog poo, here's the tenner that you had forgotten about in your back pocket. More and more of it, faster and faster, relentlessly on and on until we bow out of this maelstrom. Whether we are better off in here or out of here I honestly couldn't say.

A little later in the day, I was still walking around and I saw a single sunflower leaning over a wall. It looked like it had just that moment popped its head over the wall to see who was walking by, to look at me and Jessica.
And I thought of this.
And by extension I thought of sweetsalty Kate's post that it refers back to.

Somehow, in this strange jumble of thoughts and references, I felt just fine. At that particular moment. With the sunflower looking at us. Just fine.

I haven't felt 'just fine' for over a year. It is nice to remember how it feels, it's good to know that I can still feel that way. Just fine.

What a mess of a post. But that just reflects how I feel at the moment I suppose.

Monday, 14 September 2009


mistrust - lack of trust or confidence arising from suspicion

Thank you so much for all your comments on my last post. I found them really helpful. I am so lucky to have 'met' you all. I would feel infinitely more alone without you, your kindness and your understanding.

I think that my feeling of loneliness was sparked by an incident that happened a couple of weeks ago. I was out walking with Jessica, in a bit of a dream. I'm a terrible one for walking around looking slightly abstracted. Like one of those nutty professor types but sadly without the associated brains. I noticed that I was approaching another couple of walkers, an older woman and a younger woman carrying a toddler. I moved to overtake and as I did, I heard a hesitant 'Catherine?'

The younger woman was a girl I had attended school with. I haven't seen her for a long time, possibly ten years if not more. We were not particular friends at school but we know many of the same people. I also knew her husband. We all went to the same schools until our ways parted when we went off to university.

She slightly wrong-footed me by asking if Jessica were my child. I don't know why this question caught me off guard. Perhaps because I was waiting for the dreaded 'if she your first?', a question that always floors me even now. So I said yes and we chatted about her little boy and her husband's career and her career and where they live now. And I'd just started to say something about Jessica being born a bit early when she reached the driveway to her mother's house. So I never said anything. Not about Jessica. Not about Georgina. Not about the hospital. Not a squeak.

Which is what I always intend to do. I expected to feel pleased with myself, that I had resisted the temptation to give her the whole sorry story.

But, somehow, I felt so sad. I felt ashamed and disappointed in myself. That I hadn't told her anything about my life. Or the past year. I expect she might tell mutual acquaintances that I have had a baby girl, if she even remembers running into me that morning. But part of me wants to say, two. I had two little girls, I have two daughters. I don't know why. And I don't know what to do with that impulse in myself.

When I re-read my post and the responses to it, I thought to myself.

(a) I do have a tendency to imagine that, if both my girls had lived or if I had a more 'normal' birth, everything would now be peachy keen. It ain't necessarily so.
What is attributable to becoming a mother for the first time? What is attributable to a multiple birth? What is attributable to the premature birth? What is attributable to a long NICU stay? What is attributable to the death of one of my children? I could sit and stir this tangled web of strings round and round for hours and still be no closer to the truth.

(b) I do see the world very much in black and white. I still keep thinking that I can find the elusive magic bullet, that one size fits all explanation that I can roll out on all occasions. That I can find words that I can use to talk about Georgina and Jessica every single time to every single person that will make me feel good about what I have said. That these magic phrases are in existence.
I dont think they are. It is up to me to judge the context, I can say as much or as little as I want to. It isn't really lying if I don't tell the whole story from beginning to end. It isn't a betrayal.

(c) Hmmmm, I don't really trust anyone do I? Not even myself.

One of the lovely counsellors I have seen over the past year confided to me in a revelatory tone "You have some issues around control and trust don't you?" Really? Really?! You're kidding, no s***! As if I'd never noticed. Still, sometimes it does pay to have these things spelt out for you and I suppose that is part of the role of these good folk. I do have some minor league issues with these two things.

Control. Trust.

Most of the time I am not even willing to let people try because I don't trust them. I simply don't trust the world at large anymore. I don't trust them to understand. I don't trust them to listen. I don't trust them to take this fragile memory of a few days and look it at, give a little bit of kind attention and hand it back to me so I can tuck it back into my heart. I'm frightened that they will stamp on it. I won't even give them the opportunity to listen, to understand, to say something comforting. The majority of people will never know about Georgina because I don't trust them enough to tell them that she even existed.

As Sara wrote 'some people will do better with it than you think' and I think she is right. But I am so terrified of people saying the wrong thing or nothing at all. I feel as though I cannot absorb any more bruises at the moment. Georgina is my heart. She is my tiny, precious, beloved baby girl and I am very protective of her. Protective in a way that I am not with her sister. My relationship with Jessica is one that is plain as day, understood by most people and generally not subject to interpretation. It is what it is. A child and her mother. Nobody feels the need to call upon religious imagery, cosmic schemes, deeper meanings or to question the validity of my feelings because Jessica is young and small.

I am very wary of talking about Georgina because I do not want others to dismiss her, to make light of her, to call her a miscarriage, part of a grander plan or somebody that simply wasn't meant to be. No matter what their motivations might be for doing so. I do appreciate that the platitudes that I hate so much generally originate from kindness, they are said to offer comfort, in a vain attempt to console the inconsolable. Georgina is my child, my daughter. My relationship with my dead child is very similar to that I have with my living child, minus the practicalities. I love her. Plain as day. This similarity might not be immediately apparent to everyone. It might not make people feel comfortable. But it is what it is. Just the same.

I have to learn to trust other people with my daughter's memory and the love that I hold for her. Outside of this place. Who knows I might even be pleasantly surprised. People might want to talk about her. People might even understand that I love her. It almost seems a bit stupid that I am so scared and spend so long agonising over speaking about her.

But then I will get occasions like a family gathering last week that just make me squirm. My SIL felt the need to tell me a whole long tale about how her friend's daughter is expecting twins and how the cost is such a worry to them. I just wanted to scream 'well perhaps one of them will die and it won't be a worry.' I didn't though.

Has she already forgotten about Georgina? Does she not think that I might not appreciate hearing about someone else's financial worries with regards to the cost of raising two babies? I would love for that to be my only worry. This is coming from Georgina's aunt. Whenever something like this happens, I want to snatch up Jessica, snatch up my fragile little memories of Georgina, stuff them deep inside my chest where nobody can say anything that hurts them and run like hell.

After every incident like the one I've just described, I have to start building myself up again.

Having established that I don't trust other people it also turns out that I don't trust myself either. Ho hum.

I don't trust myself to relate these events with the 'matter of fact'ness described so well by Sophie. But I know that I can. It isn't a question of shrugging it off, I can stick to the facts. And I suspect that being matter of fact will make it easier for other people to hear about Georgina and Jessica, to ask questions of me and for me to talk about her. I obviously still need to talk about her or why all this blogging?

I don't trust myself not to play down her importance in my life when, as so often happens, I end up trying to comfort the person who has asked some awkward question and caused the whole thing to come tumbling out. I hate catching myself saying those same platitudinous, trite little phrases, it wasn't meant to be, it was for the best. They aren't true. My life will never be happier or better for not having Georgina in it. Never.

I don't trust myself to recover from this. Why am I still, a year after the fact, still sitting here in the dark, early hours of the morning pouring my heart out to strangers? Why am I still waking up in the middle of the night, sweating, heart pounding, from my dreams of tiny babies? Babies that I cannot hope to save, blood, pregnancies that end abruptly, malevolent machines, kindly machines. It still feels as though I am living under ice, separated from the familiar world I used to navigate so easily. I now live on the perpendicular to that world. At a strange angle.

I have to go back to work next month. I have to trust myself to go in there and not scream the place down, to be able to concentrate for longer than a few minutes on things that do not concern either of my children. I have to trust myself.

I have to try and have a pregnancy that ends . . . . well, can I ask for more 'normally' than this one? If this is to be my only experience of pregnancy and childbirth I will still count myself more than fortunate, more than lucky. But I hope it will not be. I have to trust that my body can still conceive and carry a healthy child to a decent gestation. I have to trust myself.

But I can't. Sigh.

Thursday, 10 September 2009


I don't think that I ever anticipated how isolating the experience of having my children would be.

Before the girls were born, I was concerned that I would lose touch with friends who do not yet have, or don't want, children. That I would miss my work colleagues during my maternity leave. That I would not be organised enough to load both my babies into the car, with all their accompanying accessories and drive to visit friends who live a little further afield. That I would end up trapped in the house with two babies.

But I believed that those bonds would be replaced by stronger relationships with my family and with my friends who already have children. Even during my pregnancy, a few friendships which had cooled over recent years, rekindled and came back to life. I hoped to meet new acquaintances at antenatal classes, mother and baby groups, the local twin club. Friendships fuelled by the giving of advice, discussion over which pram, crib, highchair, carseat to buy, initiation into the mysterious secrets of labour and childbirth. That chuckle that those with children make when the childless fall pregnant and are so shyly proud. Oooohh just you wait, you won't know what's hit you.

Well I couldn't wait. They couldn't wait. And I still don't know what hit me. It's been over a year now and I still can't put a name to it. This turn of events.

And you know what? I never made those new friends. Not a single one.

Obviously I've never set foot in the local twin club.

I never made it to antenatal classes, I was due to start them three weeks after the girls were born. Bit late by then.

I didn't go to mother and baby groups over the winter for fear of germs, RSV, complications, setbacks that could land Jessica back in the NICU. The oxygen being a hassle to move around and to explain. Other little ones were fascinated by it but that meant they pulled at the tubing and wanted to fiddle with tank dials. Not good. Well, maybe Jess would have appreciated a blast of pure oxygen. Probably would have made mother and baby group a little more fun. Heck, I would have gone for a pure oxygen hit myself.

Jessica came home at 5lb 4oz, which to me with my distorted NICU eyes, looked absolutely enormous but was still small enough to attract attention. And I couldn't cope with attention or questions, I just wanted to be normal.

But my longing to be normal existed in constant, weird tension with this feeling that I wanted to tell EVERYONE what had actually happened, that this baby they were looking at used to be 1lb 7oz, that she has spent four months in hospital, that she nearly died, that she was a twin, that her sister died, that I watched her sister die, that she died slowly in front of me. I wanted to spew the whole lot up. At random strangers, shop assistants, everyone. I didn't though. I don't.

I go to the mother and baby groups now. I want Jessica to meet the other children, to see other children. I don't go for myself. I don't go to meet people, to make friends as I thought I would. I think the other parents probably find me standoffish or cold. But I feel a million miles away from them sometimes. My only experience of pregnancy and childbirth is so different from the one that they all discuss so eagerly.

Chances are that there is at least one parent in that room who has lost a child or had a birth that didn't go well. I think that there must be statistically. But I don't know which parent(s) exactly and I don't know if they would want to talk about it.

I will talk about Jessica's birth if I can't avoid it. I usually just say that she was born prematurely and had to stay in hospital for a bit. Most people, fortunately, don't really understand extreme prematurity. One of my husband's friends expressed some bewilderment when, about four weeks after the girls were born, he had not been invited over to our house to view Jessica. I gently broke the news to him that she wasn't at our house, that she needed 24 hour medical attention, that we didn't have an incubator, a ventilator or all the other gizmos that kept our daughter alive, that we couldn't care for her at home.

I generally try not to mention Georgina at all unless we get into a discussion of precisely why Jessica was born so early.

I just don't know how to handle it. I desperately want to re assimilate myself into polite society but I can't seem to manage it.

I want to be honest because
(a) I am an absolutely appalling liar and I blush and get all flustered when I try to lie
(b) I feel as though I am becoming part of the 'babies don't die' conspiracy and
(c) Georgina and Jessica are my children and I want to talk about them. It doesn't make any difference to me that Georgina is dead. I still love her. She is always in my thoughts. She is still Jessica's sister. She is still Jessica's twin. She is still part of our lives, part of our family. A much loved part.

But I don't want some unsuspecting person to ask an innocent question and have all this suddenly land in their lap. It isn't fair to them. I almost feel like I am asking for the responses that nobody in our position appreciates, well at least you have Jessica, well at least you know you can fall pregnant etc. People only say those things because they want to offer comfort, they say them out of kindness and because I've put them on the spot. But they still sting a little.

All those fondly imagined friendships I thought I would form, that little circle of mothers, all with children the same age as my girls. Sadly, I don't see it happening. I think they will remain imaginary. Like so much of what I thought would happen will. It makes me so sad.

I almost feel like I could peer over some strange space-time fence and see myself, talking with another mother with a baby. We are laughing and swapping tales of sleep deprivation and nappy contents. Sadly, in this other world, I no longer see myself with twins. Almost as though I have now accepted that I was never intended to be the mother of twins, not in real life. I see a world where Georgina never existed and Jessica was born 'normally'. That makes me sad, it makes me feel like I am wishing that Georgina had never been. But in this world I don't have to hedge and lie and pretend that everything is fine.

Yes, everything is fine. I enjoyed those months when Jessica was in ICU, I always knew she would make it, I always knew then and still know now that she will have no lasting health consequences, that she won't be developmentally delayed, I always knew she wouldn't develop cerebral palsy or blindness. I enjoyed my unbroken nights (people have never heard of the joys of expressing milk) and a few more months of blessed child free existence. I didn't mind Georgina's death. I've accepted it completely. I'm at peace with it. It was understandable that she died. It wasn't so bad watching the life support being turned off, watching my first born child take her last breaths. It was absolutely fine, I'm fine. I'm back to normal. Look I'm smiling and talking and breathing and walking around and purchasing goods and services and driving my car. Just look at me go. Functioning away like nobody's business.

I know that most people must be hedging and lying about something. I'm sure that most people have a terrible, sad secret in their lives. Something that preoccupies them. Something that they usually don't mention but which is actually at their very centre. I know that, at my centre, is a NICU and Georgina and tiny, red, shiny babies. That will always be at my core. This isn't to say that there isn't anything else there, that it won't be joined by other, happier things or that I won't add some pretty bits to my edges. But if I am ever to make another friend, a real friend, who I can speak my mind to I think I am going to have to let them in on this. Or they won't really understand me and I won't really understand them. I don't have to worry about that here, here I know you all understand. It comes with the territory, you wouldn't be reading if you didn't already know about that place, that place in me and that place in yourselves. But how do I handle this sort of introduction in the real world? Perhaps we should all write introductory blogs prior to meeting any potential new friend?

I just need to figure out how everyone else does it, how they keep it all in or shrug it all off as no big deal. Then maybe I could do it. I need to learn how to pull this one off or I suspect that I am not going to be a good mother. More a damaged one. One that doesn't like being around other people.

Saturday, 5 September 2009


When Jessica & Georgina were born so prematurely and particularly after Georgina died, I was utterly, utterly convinced it was because I had done something wrong. Perhaps because I do have a tendency to think that the world spins around me. As my younger sister said to me during an argument, 'the trouble with you Catherine is that you are like this. Hello, my name is Catherine and it is all about me, me, me, me, me.' She was right, I am like that. Because the alternative puts everything scarily out of my control. Out of my reach.

I went through all the things that I had done 'wrong' during my pregnancy, perhaps my diet hadn't been healthy enough, perhaps it was the caffeinated coca cola that I had drunk on my work lunch out when I had forgotten that I wasn't supposed to have it, perhaps my baths were too hot, perhaps I hadn't done enough exercise, perhaps I had carried on working long hours for too long, perhaps the drive to work everyday was too stressful, perhaps one of my beauty products was toxic, perhaps I was toxic?

And that was where my chain of thought finally ended. Where it ends for so many people.

It was because I was toxic. I had killed her. I remember crying on my mother's sofa, balled up into myself and sobbing that it was because my insides were rotten.
I remembering being curled up on the floor in the NICU quiet room and asking the doctors to let Jessica die, to let me die, that we were cursed and that it was all my fault. That it would be kinder to kill all of us together. Poor old doctors. They must see some sights in that room. I did apologise for this particular outburst when I had 'come round' from those first few crazy weeks.

But I was so sure it was me. My own toxicity.
Because I was an awful person who would be an awful mother.
Because I didn't love them enough.
Because I loved them too much.
Because I was so smug and proud. I was proud to fall pregnant so quickly, I was proud to be expecting twins. Even though neither of these things are anything that I can take any credit or blame for. Just the dumb workings of flesh and biology. I certainly can't seem to orchestrate a repeat performance.
I never considered the possible pangs my pregnancy might have given my SIL or my friend, who both went through the hell of IVF to conceive their twins.

I don't think that I will ever stop blaming myself for Georgina's death. Not entirely. Perhaps because what killed her remains unresolved? In the first instance, obviously extreme prematurity and pulmonary insufficiency. But what caused her to be born so ill when Jessica was so healthy (relatively) and what caused her to become so ill that she triggered my labour? How did she manage to survive for three and a bit days? Why didn't she die when everyone said she would and have so many amazing recoveries only to die in the end just the same? I don't know and I can't seem to find out. I will always wonder if I could have done something or avoided doing something. I will always regret.

But . .
meeting other parents in the NICU.
Reading the blogs of other parents whose hearts are broken by losing a child, having a premature baby, having a child who is ill.

My heart broke for all those other parents, more than I can ever say. Suddenly I realised that, as far as my admittedly very limited brain can see, there is no reason. No toxicity, no curses. There might well be biological reasons, medical reasons. Sometimes even those are obscured. There is no clear explanation for so many things in this life including why the lives of some people should end before they have even begun. I don't think it is a question of blame, that there is any intention behind it.

Through a mirror darkly, that is all we can hope to see. I'm not so sure about the face to face part. Perhaps clarity will never come, either sooner or later. Perhaps that part is actually irrelevant, perhaps the focus should be on the darkness. I can't conceive of any possible explanation that would satisfy me.

I have felt sad until my sadness is just an ache. Until I can't always summon those tears that used to flow so readily.

I have felt angry until my anger is just an ache. There was, and is, really nothing and nobody to be angry at. It is all in vain.

Sometimes all that I can summon up is regret. Regret for the children who would have been so loved. Regret for the parents that might have been if they had parented living children or if all their children had lived or if they didn't have to parent after losing a child. I'm sure that changes you irrevocably. Crushing regret.

I know that those parents who are frequent NICU visitors, who are bloggers, are a self-selecting group to some extent. But I know that their faces, their words are full of love. I sit here and read and I ache and I regret. Regret the lives that these children should have or could have or would have lived. I know that, if these children had a choice, they would be here. I feel certain. I would pick any of you here as parents if I was given a choice. Do you want this person / these people as your parent(s)? Yes please. I'll certainly take them. Whizz me on down there.

I can't help but think about that Dr Seuss cartoon 'The hoober bloob highway' where Mr Hoober Bloob gives the little baby in a pram the choice, does he really want to see what goes on down there? On Earth. They would have come down here, I'm sure. They would have said 'yes Mr Hoober Bloob give me a push, I want to get down there.' If it was as simple as a children's book. To meet the parents who would have loved them. The families who would have loved them. Sure they would have been told off from time to time, there would have been arguments and smelly nappies and tantrums but also cuddles and stories and toys and all those things about life, the good things, that we wish to share with our children.

Sometimes there is only one thing I come away with from reading blogs about the death of a child. Although some (including my husband and my family) think they are just depressing and upsetting and that I shouldn't read them let alone write one. But the 'take home message' (to use a truly awful turn of phrase from work) from all of these blogs is . . love.

These places, they are full of love. Sometimes sadness, anger, wailing, howling, bitterness, hate and jealousy. But always, always, always love. Because this is one of the few places where it is acceptable to express your love for a dead child. Where their names are spoken. Their images shown.

They are written for children who were dearly, dearly loved. Cherished. Remembered. Loved. Loved. Loved.

'Some moments last forever but some flare out with love, love, love.'

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Jethro Craig Wilhelm

Jethro Craig Wilhelm

29th August 2009 to 1st September 2009

This candle burns for you.

Loved, cherished and remembered.