Monday, 30 November 2009

Still waters run deep

Hmmm, I just read yesterday's post again and realise it sounds as though it was written by an incredibly shallow fool. Which it was.

But I didn't like the way it sounded when I read it again.

I thought about deleting it but that seemed a little bit dishonest somehow.

I promise that what changed within me in that moment wasn't only my taste in books, music, TV shows or how much I worry about my weight. Although all of those things did change.

I tried to write about some of the more important aspects of my life that changed as well.
But they resisted having words attached to them, twisted in my hands and finally slipped away.

I have tried to write about how this experience has changed my religious beliefs.
But I couldn't even formulate precisely what it was that I believed in before.
Or after for that matter.

I thought I would try and steer clear of the issue of religion on my blog as it is such a contentious one. I don't want to inadvertently hurt the feelings of others with a clumsily expressed opinion. I know it is only too easy to do using this medium. Sending a flat voice out into the great blue yonder with no intonation, no apologetic smile, no ability to quickly backtrack and say 'no, no that isn't what I was trying to say at all.' Seems a little risky.
So this blog has ended up being a bit like polite dinner table conversation. No sex, no politics and no religion.
Oh but I forgot, there is death. There's a nice big clunking taboo for ya. I think I'll stick to tackling one big subject at a time so religion is out.

I have tried to write about how this experience has changed my relationship with my husband. But it always feels like a betrayal to write about him so I generally don't. He knows I write this blog but he doesn't read it. He's never asked what it is I write about so avidly some nights. He finds it very strange that I should want to discuss what happened to me, him and our daughters with strangers, in a public place.
It is strange, I can't deny it. I wonder why I find it so comforting and liberating myself.
But as he doesn't approve of this venture and I don't see myself asking him for permission to write about him, his feelings about the twins or the impact that it has had on our relationship, I don't think I could (or perhaps even should?) write about him or about our relationship.

The same goes for the rest of my family. My mum and my sister both know I write a blog but (I think) find it odd and don't read it. I don't think my dad even knows what a blog is but if his vehement hatred and mistrust of fac.ebook is anything to go by I could only begin to guess his feelings about this little pile of musings if he were ever to inadvertently stumble upon it. Obviously all of these events took a tremendous toll on my family and our relationships with one another but, again, trying to describe the subtle shifts that have occurred between us in the light of Georgina's death and Jessica's illness would be beyond my skill with words.

My entire world view.
What life could be, should be.
The purpose of life.
Medical ethics.
The nature of love.
The nature of compassion.
What a human being is.

All of these things, that I had fairly sturdy positions on in the 'before', were shaken up and swirled around as though in a snow-globe.

But I can't begin to articulate how. It is simply beyond me. So I stuck to the easy things, things that I could quantify and label, things that don't actually mean anything, things that are used by the insecure to define themselves because the other things, the crucial things, are often just too damn hard.

I also meant to say that Georgina didn't die in that moment. She died the following day.
I was already in pieces by the time I finally held her in my arms.
But, somehow, that didn't seem to matter at all.

I feel better for having written this.
I felt as though I had reduced my daughters to a change in the music on my iP.od or the items in my ama.zon shopping basket.
I hope you know that was not what I intended.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

And for a minute there, I lost myself

I think back to the person that I was just over a year ago and I am incredulous.
I cannot believe that woman was me.
It seems strange that the person I was, or who I thought I was, for 29 years was so easily blown away. In a gust of wind. A huff and a puff and she was gone. Never to return.

Who I am now is different. Not better or worse necessarily. Just different.

Things I considered important before, they are . . .gone.
There is just an empty space where they were.

The music I listen to. I can't bear to hear much of what I liked before. Or I have to really brace myself to listen to it. A bit like lashing yourself to the mast in the face of a gale. Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Nick Drake, The Smiths, The Mountain Goats, Ryan Adams, even twee, friendly lil Belle and Sebastian that I used to listen to in my car on the way to work when I was pregnant. Even my beloved Smashing Pumpkins. I can't manage to listen to anything too sad or too angry. The music that I felt was so close to me, that defined me. Gone.

Now I listen to . . .hmm, mainly 'Chilled R'n'B volume I.' I like Jordin Sparks' No Air especially and I listened to it a lot after Georgina died. For some reason, I can still drive calmly and listen to it. Whereas most other music has me in floods of tears and a major danger to other road users.

The books I read. I have always been a voracious reader of novels. Doubtless I would have slowed down a little once Jessica was born but I've also had a complete change of taste there too. Now I read mainly what I would have called 'chick-lit' I guess. Oh and celebrity magazines. I read the complete works of Jilly Cooper whilst Jessica was in hospital. Not any better or worse than the things I used to read, just different. I now read stuff I never would have contemplated reading before. I can't concentrate enough to read for very long anyhow.

But I am embarking on an excellent new book which comes highly recommended by the wonderful Tracy so perhaps I am on the up with that one. I'm only on the first hundred pages and kilts feature prominently. And have just realised that it is St. Andrew's Day today too. An auspicious day for starting, here goes!

Films and TV shows. Previously consisted of Disney movies and the occasional slightly quirky movie. Now replaced by Dexter (a TV show about a serial killer), Prison Break, The Wire and House. None of which are suitable viewing for a one-year old. So annoyingly, where we might have had perfectly corresponding taste for a couple of years, I am now addicted to shows full of violence and swear words which I am attempting to cram an episode of in during nap time.

My personal appearance. I used to panic a lot about my weight and I was always on a diet. It amazes me now to think how many hours I wasted pondering if I should eat this or that. Or save those calories for later.
I used to love, love, love make-up and clothes and shoes and fancy schmancy expensive conditioners and handbags and high heels.I don't even look like myself any more. Not the person I remember from a couple of years ago. She just stopped somewhere, mouth open, mid-mascara application probably knowing her.

Lots of things. Stupid, trivial things no doubt but the things that composed 'me.'
Well, I never told you I was deep. I swim in the shallower waters of humanity I'm afraid.
Lots of internal cogs that whirred in my brain in a nice, orderly simulacrum of a human being just went clonk, clank, fssst and fell on to the floor.
All those things I thought I understood, thought I believed.
Turns out I didn't really understand.
Didn't really believe.

Perhaps this happens to everyone when they have a baby?
Perhaps this happens to everyone when they lose a baby?
I don't know. It all arrived in such a jumble, all at once.
Did the same kind of things happen to you?

That person, whoever the hell she was, just stopped.
I think I know the moment she stopped.
It was in a hospital, not very far away from where I type this, about fifty miles or so. She was standing holding tightly to her husband's hand. It was the middle of the night. She had just got out of a bed in that same hospital. She had been woken by a telephone call. The person on the other end of the 'phone spoke to her husband. Told him that his daughter was dying. Now.
That woman is still frozen in that moment. That moment that returns and returns to me. Sitting on that bed and my stomach plummeting through the floor. My entire body falling through the floor shortly after it.

Sometimes when I am least expecting it and, frustratingly, usually when it would be a really inappropriate moment to start crying. That moment comes back.
At work. Driving on the motorway. This moment inserts itself between my eyes, my brain and the world. I'm back there. Smelling hand gel and hospital soap. Frightened.
The doctor with her blond curls and a flowing tweedy skirt bent over the incubator with a look of fierce concentration on her face.
The tiny, red baby that is my daughter. So small that I can hardly see her through all the equipment and all those people.
The doctor is saying 'night-trick, night-trick' and I'm so confused. I don't understand. What could that be? Later I discover she is saying nitric.
And my heart. My poor heart. It's screaming 'my daughter, my daughter' and I can't do anything.
I can't touch her. I can't help her. I can't breath for her. All I can do is stand there and break. Break into a million and one tiny fragments, shattered on the floor in that room. I can't help but think you would find a few shards of me there to this day. Along with pieces of many other parents doubtless.
But when I tried to put myself back together, I simply couldn't get it right. I feel like I stuck myself back together again in the wrong order.

I don't know who I am. I don't know who I ought to try to be. I thought I would be a mother. And I am.
But I never expected motherhood to start like this.
Then I briefly thought that this blog would take the turn that many of us hope for, a 'pregnancy after loss' blog. But it didn't. Or maybe it kind of already did as I do write about Jessica from time to time.
But perhaps that wouldn't have helped anyhow.
I think I invest too much in another pregnancy. Hoping that another pregnancy, one that doesn't end in death and intensive care, would somehow fix some of those pieces back in place.
But it wouldn't. And it won't. And I have to contemplate the possibility of who I am without that.
A funny kind of mother. To two tiny children. One who grew. One who didn't.
But still a mother.
And it isn't really about me anyhow.
I'm kind of an irrelevancy.
It's about those two daughters of mine.
Love you my sweet girls.
I'm so proud of you both.
I love you.
I miss you Georgie.

Thursday, 26 November 2009


One evening earlier this week, Jessica walked for the first time. We had bought her a little trolley over the weekend and on Tuesday she marched up to it and pushed it along. My husband and I were both a little taken aback, perhaps we purchased a magic trolley? One that imparts a sudden ability to walk. Who knew? We are considering loaning it out for a small fee.

She walked towards me with a beaming smile on her face.
She looked so pleased and so proud.
I couldn't stop my grin.
And then I couldn't stop my tears.

This endless process of realising how much I have gained, how much was granted when Jessica survived and left the hospital.
Whenever I think I have grasped it, defined it, touched the edges and been sufficiently thankful for it, that is when I discover yet more.
It seems boundless.
All the opportunities that I have been given.
Jessica shows me how much more I have, more than I will ever realise.
More happiness, more surprise, more gratitude.
More than I think I can completely understand.
Not until our time together is over. Perhaps then. Perhaps not even then.

But there is an antagonistic process, like those muscle that work in unison to move a joint, that pulls in the opposite direction. Because I haven't even begun to realise how much I have lost.

I lost something immeasurable when Georgina died.
More than I think I will ever completely understand.
I lost my tiny baby and I lost her at this age too. At every age.
She'll never be older than three days old.
She'll never be bigger than 1lb 10oz.
I still don't believe it. I still catch myself trying to think of ways to fix it, to bring my little girl back to me. How ridiculous can you get?
It happens in my dreams too.
The hospital 'phone me to say that they have found her.
Or that they have another baby which I should take, as they knew I was going to have twins.

My head swims with it.
How much I gained.
How much I lost.
Somehow I feel that they should cancel one another out, that I should be feeling flat and calm, that one should reconcile me to the other.
But it doesn't.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009


I feel as though I have ground to a halt. Whatever pale fumes I was running on up to this point seem to have been exhausted and, with a splutter and a cough, I've simply stopped.
I think I was relying so heavily on a new pregnancy to push me forward, to give me an impetus. I don't have a back-up plan. Or even the beginnings of one.
Stasis. Too frightened to try again. Too frightened not to try again.
Losing faith in the notion that my body can ever, ever do this terrible and amazing thing, the one thing it was designed to do.

Sometimes, as I sit in front of my computer at work, I can almost feel the words rising in my throat. Forming a palpable clot in my mouth. The word 'Georgina' seems to have grown edges, manifested itself as a physical presence lodged between my jaws. An aching tooth, an inflamed taste bud, that I sit and prod at for hours at a time.

Calculate, calculate, type, type, mail, phone, prod, prod. Georgina, Georgina, Georgina.
I go and sit on the bench I sat on to eat my lunch when I was pregnant, prod, prod, Georgina, Georgina.

She was here. In this office. In the grim multi-storey car park where I park my car. On the street, past the Job Centre. She lived. She existed. In these unlikely places.

I even sit and think about her in the office toilets. I spent a lot of time there whilst I was pregnant as I was so sick. Sometimes I just go and lock myself in a cubicle and sit. Try to conjure her up. Prod.

I am so desperate to talk about her. To talk about the whole experience.
But there is nobody in the office to talk to. Or even to talk at. I'm not fussy.

All those mundane conversations about children, birth, babies, families.
They all feel closed off to me.
Marked with a 'do not enter' sign.

No freaky low birth weight children in this conversation please.
Not to mention the dead child. Please leave your dead children at the door.
We are discussing childbirth with K here. She has just had a normal, healthy baby boy. K here knows what we are talking about. This little boy has suffered the trauma of having an NG tube inserted for two whole days. This conversation is falling oddly silent because it is not for you C. Why are you trying to join in? Your surviving child simply fell from the sky into an incubator don't you know.
We are trying to have an enjoyable chat about J's pregnancy, which is obviously well into the third trimester, and we do not appreciate you, C, hovering around the edges of the staff kitchen like a bird of ill omen.

Hell, part of me feels that I will curse poor J if I hang around her too much.
My eyes snag on her all the time though. She must surely see my surreptitious glances at her belly, my desperate wish that it was me, that it was my girls.

I'm sure that nobody actually thinks of me as bad luck. Well, not consciously perhaps.
I'm sure most people aren't avoiding me. I'm probably just being paranoid and more than a little bitter. Or remembering relationships that were always professional in the past illuminated with the warm glow of the excitement of pregnancy. It's twins! Really?

I'm sure most people have forgotten. Perhaps forgotten that I have even been on maternity leave.
Some people just aren't interested in the exterior lives of their work colleagues. I certainly can't pretend to know the inner workings of many of mine, the hidden tragedies or triumphs of their lives, the secrets they walk around holding pressed close to their souls. An office environment isn't conducive to such exchanges.

I'm sure I have inadvertently hurt many of them. Just as they now hurt me. What goes around, comes around.

Couldn't tell you if N was married.
Couldn't say for the life of them whether O had children or not.
And C? C? Has she any children? Was she pregnant at one point? Didn't something go awry there?
Or maybe not even that. C. I need some figures and I need them now. I'll ask C. She knows about that sort of thing.

And as ever. I would prefer it that way. Except when I don't.

But sometimes, in the midst of all this, I find a breathing space. I find someone who, despite my blathering and trying to laugh and pretending and keeping it together and make-up application and work identity badge carrying and calculation performing and functional functioning, hears me.
Hears what I am actually saying.
Sees that brief glimpse of my interior before the blinds flicker downwards and the truth is covered up.

Who knows that, underneath all my words, even the most stupid and mundane things I say (and I say more stupid and mundane things than most believe me) is that experience. The end of August 2008.
My two tiny, tiny children.
My Georgina, so briefly alive and now dead.
My Jessica, so small and frail, grown so healthy and alert.
All my words resonate with them. With my children. Because they are at my foundation, at my roots.
I can't see the world at all anymore, except refracted through them.

And in that moment. In that presence. If that presence is in a letter or via computer wires or in person.
I can lay that stone that usually resides in my mouth on the table. I might not be discussing it directly, although I can harp on upon the subject of the birth of my children for hours, but it is there. It is acknowledged and I don't have to smash my teeth to pieces on it every time I try to speak. And for these brief pauses I am so very grateful.

I've been thinking about this beautiful post of Kate's at Glow In The Woods.

I trust Kate. I've never met her but I would trust her to the ends of this earth.
I know that, one day in the possibly not too distant future, I will have my very own 'one day at suppertime' moment. When the room will spin and I will think 'I haven't thought of it today', I sat and calculated and calculated and mailed and called and filed and cleaned and cooked and ate and drank and played with Jessica and kissed my husband goodnight. All day and I didn't think of it. Not once.
But that day is not today. Not yet.

My letting go is only very tentative.
But Georgina. One day. One day I will say 'have-a-safe-journey, wear-your-mittens, don't-forget-to-eat-a-good-snack' my darling. Last touch, my sweet girl. Last touch.

But not today. Not yet.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Teeter totter

I had a D&C last week as the pregnancy did not miscarry naturally. I was strange being in hospital again. Not pleasant but not as unbearable as I thought it might have been.

It was actually quite an interesting experience being admitted to the EPAU. It was a fine line as to whether they would admit me at all or not as the usual criteria involves 'recurrent' miscarriages. My GP views my pregnancy with the twins as a miscarriage as it ended so early. However, the EPAU considers my pregnancy with Jessica and Georgina a 'successful' one. And it was. I suppose I've become so used to thinking of that pregnancy as a 'failure', that my body let my girls down, that I'd almost forgotten that it was the pregnancy (my one and only) that resulted in my two daughters. How could I possibly consider that experience a failure when it resulted in Jessica who is still with me today and my darling Georgina who I got to hold and meet? It was actually good to see my previous pregnancy recast in a different light.

This brief pregnancy was very different. No living child, no body to hold, no baby to be seen, no scan pictures. Things never progressed that far. Nothing. Not as crushing yet somehow more crushing at the same time.

I always seemed to be in two minds about this pregnancy. On the one hand, I felt as though I was 'owed' a normal pregnancy. That if I managed to fall pregnant, I was almost guaranteed a full-term, healthy baby. Despite the fact that I know that the world does not work this way and, given my line of work, I should have some appreciation of independent events.

But on the other hand, I was (and still am) worried that there might be some underlying reason why I cannot carry a pregnancy to term. My memories of my pregnancy with the twins are so blurred. I felt as though I was going to throw up every single waking moment and I was so tired, it all seems so impossible now. I never really felt the girls move because they were so small still, I also had two anterior placentas that might have made perceiving their movements even more difficult. It all seems so very unlikely, that I was ever pregnant. Pregnant? With Jessica? That she actually had anything to do with my body and wasn't created in a hospital by doctors? Really?

Perhaps I am trying and trying to do something that is simply not a possibility for me and, in the process, I will wreck everything I hold dear. The conclusion at the hospital was 'bad luck' but still . . .

Whilst I am sad that this pregnancy did not progress beyond a few weeks, it made me appreciate what I have, how lucky I am to have a child.

So strange, this terminology that is used to describe pregnancy. When the EPAU contacted me they told me that the pregnancy was 'failing', they then double checked that I understood this to mean I was miscarrying. How strange. That one little word, failure, cut me right to the quick. Nobody likes to fail and it seems bizarre that something that is so far beyond our control should be termed as a failure. Failure seems to imply neglect or carelessness.

I know that, when Georgina died, I thought it was my fault. I felt that way for a very long time. I still blame myself to some extent. I raked over everything I had done or neglected to do over the course of my brief pregnancy. I wondered about make-up and bath oil and depilatory cream and deodorant and the caffeinated coca cola I drank once by mistake and whether I had been too fond of alcohol or chocolate or work prior to falling pregnant. Whether I was too fat or too thin or too young or too old. Too smug. Too happy. Too lucky. Too unlucky. Whether I was an awful person, a person who would be a terrible mother. Whether it was a punishment. I'm still not entirely sure it wasn't. Just a feeling that I can't quite shake off.

It took me a long time to stop hating myself for killing Georgina. I felt as though I had killed her twice over, once by birthing her and once in the NICU when I stood by and watched her die. I still hate myself from time to time, I suspect I always will. Sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night.

I feel a touch of that old self recrimination about the failure of this latest pregnancy. But not as sharply. Just bitter, bitter disappointment for the main part. And regret. Regret that I told my husband and my sister and my parents. And then had to tell them all over again. Not to expect the child or the grandchild or the niece or nephew. To take the gold star off the calendar that my mom had stuck on with so much glee.

But still. I am so pleased and proud of Jessica that I can't stop this bubble of excitement building up in my stomach and pushing my hopes higher and higher.

I hesitate to post too much about Jessica on this blog. Mainly for fear of jinxing myself. Which is silly but it is hard not to be superstitious about life when you are in the midst of it as it were?

But she is doing better than anyone ever suspected that she would. Apart from her ICU consultant who always told me that she would be 'a normal little girl'. How he knew this, I just don't know. None of the other consultants seemed to agree at the time.

She is doing things that I feared she never would. She is standing, she is starting to walk, she is communicating, she is smiling, she is eating like a champ, she is breathing on her own, she knows who I am, she knows who her daddy is, she wants to join in with everything, she loves other children. I can't help but feel my heart sing when I watch her.

Sometimes I get a little glimmer that she is different. She isn't a big child, or a developmentally advanced child, for her age. But she is amazing. When I look at her arms and legs and think of the twigs they once were. When I look at her breathing, on her own, and think of the machinery it used to take. I can hardly believe it and I was there. I saw her change in front of me.

The other day, when we were at an activity group I take her to, a little boy fell off the slide and landed right on top of Jessica. Now, this little lad was a fair bit chunkier than Jessica and he landed with quite a splat. He cried his eyes out. She just carried on. This little lad's mum was almost embarrassed by her son's roaring as Jessica ploughed ahead regardless.

It made me proud and it made me sad. Premature babies often have high pain thresholds apparently. I've often wondered whether this might be true as Jessica rarely cries. Sometimes she attacks her food with such ferocity I can only assume she must have been starving but you will never hear a peep from her. My poor girl, so beaten down by her early life that she can ignore these later pains.

I don't know where I am going with this post really. I seem to judder back and forth between elation and upset. I still want another baby. Greedyguts that I am.

My mum's theory is that I fall pregnant easily and, therefore, I will miscarry easily.
Easy come, easy go?
Except that the going isn't easy. Not really.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Letting go

Even after over a year of trying, I am still not good at letting go.

At accepting Georgina's death.
At accepting that I did not cause it, that I could not have prevented it, that I could not have saved her from pain or from death.

There is nothing to be gained from clutching at this thin little memory of my tiny daughter, worn insubstantial from months and months of my hands worrying at it, turning it over and over, round and round, holding it up to the light to see if I can see something new there.

At risk of this turning into some kind of meta blog, where all I ever post is 'what she said' and link to another blog which is written better than this one, I've been thinking and thinking about this post of Jill's at Only A Whisper for months now.

As Roald Dahl said '"I've seen one of my children die. It's easy, anyone can do that. I'm ready."

I saw my daughter die.
I watched her take her last breath.
I don't think it was physically easy for her, the process of dying.
It was painful and difficult.
But she let go.

So gracefully.
My tiny little girl simply let go of whatever it is that holds us to this earth.

She tried to carry on breathing, her heart tried to carry on pumping.
But she couldn't, her organs couldn't function for her.

She let go. She showed me what I have to do.

This song plays in my head at the moment.
I think it is more about the end of a love affair rather than a death.
But the words have hooked themselves into my brain.

'Such a painful trip,
To find out this is it,
And when I go to sleep,
You'll be waking up.

Four, three, two, one,
I'm letting you go.
I will let go,
If you will let go.'

I should let go. Georgina already has. A long time ago.

Her body failed her.
A body that I have thought about so much, loved so fiercely.
A body that is ash and has been ash for so much longer than it ever housed a living being for.

Her grip on us was so tenuous, so short-lived, so gentle.

But I'm still holding firmly on to her ghost, with white knuckles, trying to keep her here.
I don't think I'm helping any of us, not my husband, not Jessica, not myself, not Georgina. But I am at a loss. I am lost. Immobilized. Somewhere at the tail end of last summer. As it turned to autumn and I went back and forth to the hospital. I'm still stuck. Frozen in time and space.
Afraid to let go, afraid to keep clinging on.
I have to let go.
Of Georgina.
Of everything.
Sooner or later.