Wednesday, 29 September 2010


I've been sick. So sick that I took to my bed for over twenty four hours.
If I hadn't had to get up intermittently to puke my guts up, it would have been quite luxurious. 

I am so lucky to have my parents living close by, poor old Jessica would certainly have had a very miserable day if she had been left to the tender mercies of her mother. I would probably have managed to stumble around and thrown a bit of food in for her, perhaps changed one or two nappies.

She was most unimpressed when I had to stop my (rather less wholehearted than usual) rendition of Tanka Skunk in its tracks. She was unceremoniously shoved on to the floor and attempted to chase me into the toilet, hitting me around the legs with the book and then, when that plan was foiled, beating on the door with it. I emerged to an irate toddler and an enormous spider scuttling around the kitchen sink.

That was when I placed the emergency call to my parents. The spider was the final straw.

It was a strange day. Being in bed with the curtains drawn during the middle of the day made me feel like a child again. 

I drifted in and out of sleep. The radio muttered on. 

I learnt some interesting facts about Gauguin who is having a retrospective at the Tate. 
Although when I say learnt, I find that I can dredge nothing up now.
Apparently all we thought we knew about him was wrong. 
But as I can't remember the new things I guess I'm still misguided.

I must have fallen asleep.
I dreamt that a woman was standing over me. She had smooth brown hair and blue eyes. Kindly. 
At first I thought she was my mother.
I thought that I was four or six years old.
Then I realised that it wasn't my mother.

In my half dream, my heart leapt as I realised it was Georgina.
And that I was an old, old woman.
I felt so awful because I was dying.

Then I woke up properly. I wasn't dying. I felt a bit foolish. I just had a stomach bug. Like I've had tens of times before. 
It wasn't Georgina.
I cried.

I remember reading somewhere that some people loom large in our lives, like giants. 
The girl that bullied you at school, the lover who snubbed you, the passing stranger that saw you trip over your own toes and fall in a heap on the ground. 
Scenes of our grandest humiliations, our defeats, our upsets. People associated with those times stalk through our dreams and thoughts. 
And we probably never, ever appear in theirs. Such a one-sided affair.

So it is with me and Georgina.
She did not see me hurt or embarrassed.
Yet she persists because I love her so very dearly and there is nobody there to love me back. 
Unrequited in the fullest sense of the word.

I have spent hours and hours and days and weeks and possibly even months and hundred on hundreds of words trying to bring her back. To make sense of her death. To bring something back. Anything.
I lost a three day old premature baby and my dreams hand me back a forty year old woman. With kindly eyes.
Her presence, or more appropriately, her absence is such a void in me. 
That I will fill it with anything. 
Any old words. Any old dream. Any old image of a person that might be her. That could have been her. 

Oh Georgina. I'll try anything but I often know that I'm not close. I'm not close to you.

'What I meant to say 
Is that I didn't mean to say 
the things I said
Cornered, cut and rolled
and going mouthful mad 
with things I never said to you

All this time,
All these words,
I'm not even close. . . . .'

You'll have to excuse the video. This song comes from the land that You Tube forgot, the early 1990s.

Darcy and Elizabeth's silences have got nothing on me and my daughter. 

Thursday, 23 September 2010


I have often wished that I worked closer to home. I went from working ten minutes walk away from my front door to over thirty miles away. So I have the best part of an hours drive to work in the morning and the same on the return journey. It is mainly motorway so it is not particularly interesting or taxing to drive. Sometimes it is hard to stay awake at the wheel.

It is a strange time. Spent doing nothing productive and yet unavoidable. A kind of enforced 'sit and think' time. Even when I would rather not have it. Of course, part of my brain is fully occupied with controlling the hurtling chunk of metal that I sit in. But the rest is free to roam.

I'm frightened of silence these days. So I put the radio on. Even then, I frequently find myself driving down the motorway crying. I wonder how many of us there are. In all those cars charging past me. How many of us have tears running down our cheeks, which we try to wipe away clumsily with one hand, all the time trying to ensure that we don't hit the car in the front? Sometimes I try to peer in. To find a fellow travelling mourner.

The radio murmur has it own little triggers.
The phrase 'strangled at birth.'
Discussions about medical ethics.
Snippets of news related to pregnancy or miscarriage.
Some poor member of parliament who found himself telling us all about his wife's recurrent miscarriages in an attempt to defend himself from allegations regarding his sexuality.

One evening this week there was a story on the news about an elderly woman who died at the grand old age of eighty nine in the seaside town of Torquay. What nobody had really known about her, until after her death, was that, at twenty three, she had been a secret agent in occupied France. She was found out, captured and tortured by the Gestapo and wound up in a concentration camp. She had survived but kept her secrets to herself. Nobody had known about this lady's past.

She had been due a pauper's funeral but, instead, was buried with full honours. As befitted her.
The closing sentence of the item was "You will never be forgotten, addressed to a lady none of us really knew."

Inevitably, I suppose, I thought of Georgina's funeral.

My mother used to say that the old mourn more at funerals than the young.
That they have a cumulative effect and that, at every funeral, you mourn again for all those that came previously. I used to think that was awful, that humans couldn't even take a few hours to mourn specifically for one individual but that we had to take out all our own little individual griefs and superimpose them on the one we were supposed to be  mourning currently. Seems a little disrespectful somehow. But that is why we are human. Those ties that bind us to the dead may stretch and strain but they never snap. Those threads only go slack when we go to join those who go before us I suppose.

I'm not entirely sure of the date of Georgina's funeral.
It has merged into that blur of after.
We wanted to have her buried initially. We live within walking distance of a children's cemetery and I wanted her to be buried there. But they wouldn't take her, the cemetery is full.
And so she was cremated.

There were two mourners.
The service was taken by the hospital chaplain who had blessed her days earlier.

I remember waiting outside the crematorium. We weren't sure where to go. We walked around the gardens.
There was a path around the edge of the building and this was edged with places to put flowers. Each slot had a name. And there was her's.
Baby Georgina W----.
That appellation. That 'Baby' nearly undid me. At once so tender, so gentle. My baby. Baby.
And simultaneously, so dismissive.
Only a baby.
Not even her full name. Georgina Jane.
Just Baby Georgina.
And there are those who would argue with affording my daughter even that status.
Other people being cremated that day did not have a qualifier prior to their names. Old Man Joe Bloggs. Middle Aged Woman Sarah Brown. Because they didn't need any clarification.

We hadn't thought to bring flowers for her. We didn't bring anything. The place where her flowers were supposed to lie was bare. Just like the space her life should have occupied.

The slot next to Georgina's was also a baby.
As we walked into the chapel, another couple walked out. Like walking into a mirror.
As we passed them, I wondered if we looked as destroyed as they did.

We sat down. Georgina's coffin was at the front. As there were only two us at her funeral, the chaplain told us to come and sit right up by the coffin. And so we did.

The three of us, my husband, myself and the chaplain sat around the white box that contained our little girl.

I remember that I wanted to open the coffin. That I wanted to pick it up and run away with it. That I wanted to fall to my knees and cuddle it.

But I didn't. I just sat there and cried.

There was no music.
There was the funeral service for a child from the Alternative Service Book.
I didn't say anything.
My husband didn't say anything.

Sometimes I regret Georgina's funeral. I wish she'd had choirs and horses and doves and hundreds of mourners.
I wish her mother had wailed and pulled out her hair and thrown herself on to the coffin.
I wish that there had been somehow . . . more.

Because she lost her life.
Life is a strange state. But it was all I had to offer. It was all I hoped to give her. I don't know anything else.

I sometimes wonder about the process of cremation. I wonder what the inside of the ovens look like. I wish I hadn't left her there, in the chapel. I wish I had walked down to wherever they were taking her, stayed with her.

I have a vision of flames burning my daughter's body away. But I don't suppose it works like that.

Sometimes I think Georgina's funeral was right. In a horrible way. Right.

Sparse, short and sad.

I miss her.
I miss her so very much.
My baby.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010


We are at the wedding.
The only wedding we will attend this year.
After last summer's glut, just this one.
Lonesome at the end of the summer.
A day of mourning.
September 11th.

The groom, handsome and kindly.
The bride, radiant.
All is as it should be.

Jessica sleeps through the speeches but wakes in time to snaffle the lion's share of her mother's chocolate fondant pudding and ice cream. Spoon fed to her by a proud and careful eight year old relation. Wary of stains, grass or chocolate. Some kind of cousin one or more times removed. We tried to work it out, her and I, but decided it was too complex and we would just call their relationship 'cousins.'

Later the first dance.
The happy couple have chosen Starship's 'Nothing Gonna Stop Us Now', not the choice I was expecting to be honest. It was released in 1987 when these two can barely have been knee high to a grasshopper.

The lyrics take on a strange poignancy and I'm suddenly whizzed back to my own wedding. In a strange, half light my husband and I dance through the NICU to the sounds of Starship.

They look so happy and brave.
I think to myself . . . nothing?
I hope so. And find I am crying.

The band starts. They are playing 'Johnny B Goode' and red and green lights chase around the floor. Jessica alternates between attempting to capture one for her very own and staring at the band. My husband and I work out, shamefacedly, that is probably the first time she has witnessed anyone playing an instrument.

My aunt and uncle dance close to the front. Proper dancing belonging to their generation. Not the shuffle of the 1980s. Jessica watches. She puts a leg out and up. Then brings it down smack on the floor. And again. Joining in.

I take her hands and we are whirling in the midst of them. And I am happy.

Not the flattish contented feeling I termed happiness before.
Life gave that old thing a good shake and up it popped, into three dimensional solidity.
Happiness sits over my heart, claws extended into my skin. Like a small vicious animal.
So sharp that I can almost feel it, a shard of glass penetrating my skull.
I am suddenly self-conscious. I wonder if anyone else sees me and my happiness and judges.
Look at her dancing over there, her with the dead daughter and all that shiny, spiky mess over her heart.

But nobody is looking.
Their eyes register briefly then slide on.
A sweet toddler in a silk dress. Mistook her for a boy initially, with that short hair, but in a dress?
A woman with hair that is too long for her age. She would have done well to have attempted to squeeze into those Spanx this morning but perhaps she's just the type who lets herself go? That child is too old to still be carrying that baby belly. Don't know who these two belong to, bride or groom?

But I don't care for their thoughts.
If they even pause for long enough to spare us a thought or two.

I feel free.

We whizz around and around. Chasing one another, this way and that. I smile, she smiles.
Everything tumbles into place, just for an instant.
My heart beats. Her heart beats. It is enough.

And on the edges of that splintered, glimmering, glowing mess that is my happiness hovers Georgina.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Three Years

Since the second anniversary of Georgina's death, I feel sad. Very sad. Too sad to feel angry. Too sad to feel anything other than just . . . .  sad. My heart is so heavy.

In that first year, I felt such a strong connection to Georgina, the person. My daughter. A human being who moved and thought and looked about. Inside my womb and outside.

Now I think of her as a spirit or a ghost.
A brief touch on my shoulder, then gone.
A tiny hand in mine, withdrawn.
A few breaths, then no more.

Or as a copy of her sister.
A toddler who has never been, who never will be.

Neither of these incarnations are my Georgina.
That connection that I had, or thought I had, feels so very gone, so absent.
I don't take her photographs out of their box.
I don't take out her ashes in their plastic bag.
I don't take out the only hat she ever wore, that scrap of pink woollen with the ties and the crust of blood on the strings.
I don't cradle it in cupped hands as I used to. Trying to will the former occupant back into some form of existence, even if only to fill it with a memory. A memory of a glimpse of a ghost.
This is the hat, that held the scalp, that held the skull, that held the brain, of the person that was my daughter, Georgina.
Who I miss so terribly.
Or so I claim. I feel I've lost my hold on who she was. That makes me sad.

On the evening of the 29th, I played some music. Loudly. I don't usually play my music that loud although our neighbours in the adjoining house are not likely to complain. Three young guys who like to play their own music loud occasionally and have a few beers out in their back garden from time to time.They won't come round a-grumbling. They are nice neighbours to have and they seem to like Jessica which is the most important thing.

I played Ben Harper, Regina Spektor, The Shins, Nick Cave, Mountain Goats, Bette Midler, Snow Patrol, Peter Mulvey, Pearl Jam, Ryan Adams, Kate Rusby, Florence & The Machine. A jumble of everything. Songs that remind me of my daughters. Songs that I have found here.

I lit some candles. I gazed out of the window in to the darkening evening.
I hoped she knew that I was there. That I remembered.

My husband came downstairs. I went into the front room to speak to him. He went into the kitchen and turned my music off and blew out my candles. I was hurt.

Later he mentioned something about Jessica's 'learning disabilities' and again I was hurt. I felt he had slighted my mothering. I felt he had slighted our daughter.

My husband is a practical man. I often think that he would be a better mother than me.
I'm likely to be looking at Jessica and saying "she looks lonely, do you think she misses Georgina?" and he will bat me out the way saying, "Can't you smell that her nappy needs changing?"

I know that he is not the sort to play music, light candles, gaze out of a window. But it still hurt. It hurt that he didn't know that I needed to do it. Because that is the type of person I am. That is the sort of mourning I do.

We spoke about it later. We both apologized.
We do things differently, we always have. If the knowledge of over a decade has taught us anything it is that we are not the same person. We can think, and act, very differently but that does not necessarily mean that one of us is wrong.
We are both such terrible 'fixers', we both want to make everything perfect.
We look at our broken daughters and want to fix them. To give life. To fix damage.
We look at each other and we see the fractures. We want to fix them.
We look at our marriage and we want to fix that precariously balanced mess too.
But we are not gods. More's the pity. Only mortals. Such gifts are not within our grasp.

We try. But there are things you cannot fix. And some things still work even if they not perfectly intact. Function, not form, is what matters.

After two years, I feel like the slow one.
The child who can't quite grasp it.
Not the joker, occupying the back row with a nonchalant gaze at the teacher. Flicking bits of papers about.
The earnest one.
Right up at the front.
Chin stuck out towards the blackboard.
Tongue poking out in concentration.
All available brain power directed toward unravelling this one thing.

She died.
Your little baby girl died.
She isn't coming back.
Not soon.
Not ever
No matter how much you yearn and love and wish and write and attempt to support and cry and ache and drink and talk and swallow pills and sleep and dream and wake and wish. You can wish your life away on this one.
She died.

When you thought you'd been handed the golden ticket of an instant family. Of more twins joining the family. A grandmother who told her colleagues that it was twins AGAIN. The strange weirdness of those weeks when something almost unbelievable had happened to you. Not only one. But two.

Well, you did have the golden ticket. You had them. Those two daughters. Georgina. Jessica.
If that isn't the golden ticket then I don't know what is.
Even if you had only had them for an instant.
They are the golden ticket.
Even if you had never known that they were there.
The. Golden. Ticket.
Once in a lifetime. Winning lottery numbers. This is my perfect moment. The real deal.
Not the fact that they are arrived together, not their 'twinness' although that was a quiet satisfaction all of its own.
But them. Those particular children.

It wasn't quite the prize you'd been expecting. That's all. Still the prize but . . . .
She died and you have to live.
To live well.
Because there is nothing else you can do.

This is the lesson. My tongue is out, tasting the air. I can hear the words, they make perfect sense. Like a nice neat mathematical equation. My brain nods.

But my heart. . . . my heart is a dunce.


In other news . . .

Jessica appears to be saying something other than GUNK! At last!
Thanks for the advice Heather, it was much appreciated and it's helping. She now says . . . .Aaaarrrrrr (Car). . . . D'oh (Dog or Cat or any animal with four legs) . . . . Aaaapppp (Apple) . . . . still GUNK (who knows?) . . . . and Doooooooooorrrrrr (not door, seems to be a catch all for all other words she can't say yet)
She understands so much, I feel awful for her sometimes. It is almost like living with the wise old owl who lived in an oak, who . . . .

The more he heard, the less he spoke. 
The less he spoke, the more he heard. 
Why aren't we all like that wise old bird?

The next lot of tests at the fertility clinic seemed more promising. I saw a different doctor who did a different test. She thinks that the first result was an aberration. Hopefully everything is where it should be and it all appears to be 'doing the do.' Just to no benefit as yet.

Still that has to be a good thing? Right?


'Little ghost, little ghost,
One I'm scared of the most
Can you scare me up a little bit of love?
I'm the only one that sees you
And I can't do much to please you'

I am sorry, my love, my own sweet girl. I wish I could please you. I wish I could remember you. I wish I could stay but time does pull at me so.

'When I held her, I was really holding air.'