Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Daughter of Heaven

'Daughter of heaven Oh, daughter of now
Drifting away and you don't make a sound
We'll cry when we hear that you ran from this town
She's gone to a new place now
She's gone to a new place now'

Happy Christmas my sweet child.
I wish I knew where you were.

In the new place of this song?
All I know is that you feel so far beyond my reach.

This song reminds me of you.
It is the only song that your Daddy ever asks me to switch off when I play it.
I know it is because it reminds him of you too.
And, strangely, this song comforts me for that very reason.
That he can't bear to hear to it.

Our daughter.

I miss you.
I love you.
I hope my love will find you wherever you may be.
Maybe it just evaporates up into the air?

Perhaps it doesn't truly matter?
My love is still here.
My love for you cannot be undone, just as your brief existence cannot be undone.
And perhaps that means that they will, inevitably, meet.

I hope so.
Happy Christmas my sweet child.

May the holidays pass peacefully for everyone who reads this, especially those who are missing children of their own

Tuesday, 21 December 2010


I felt ashamed when the twins were born.

Not of them. Not of Jessica. Not of Georgina. Never of them. I was only ever proud of my children. Still am.
Shame was not my main reaction but one of many subsidiaries. I was ashamed of myself.
Ashamed that my body had performed so disastrously badly. 
And also, embarrassed. 

I felt as though I had waltzed out on the middle of the stage in front of everyone I knew and told them that I was going to do an astounding magical conjuring trick. But it didn't work. And not only did it not work. It went wrong in ways that nobody could have foreseen. Involving extreme peril and death. And I was left standing up there on the stage whilst the audience looked on with expressions ranging through pity, distaste and horror. 

I was embarrassed, mortified, humiliated, ashamed. But those minor emotions were overwhelmed by the enormity of the grief that I felt. That Georgina was dead and that I would never, ever see her again.

I've always had a little store cupboard in my brain for 'The Shameful Words and Deeds of Catherine W.'
It's a surprisingly big cupboard given that I've never murdered anyone or been sued for slander or done anything out especially of the ordinary in fact.

They are, in the main, small, weak things. Built of dust and feathers. And, somehow, that makes them even more shameful. That they are not even proper shameful deeds, not particularly muscular or even interesting.

But also, here in the cupboard, lurks the shame I feel that I somehow caused all of this to come down on my children's heads, that I was a rotten person, that I somehow caused, or failed to prevent, an infection, that I couldn't stop the labour, that I cried out giving birth to two such tiny babies, that I couldn't save Georgina, that I was complicit in her death by my tacit agreement to withdraw all her medical support. Deeply and horribly ashamed. So much so, that these particularly shameful articles are pushed to the back of the cupboard as I simply can't bear to look at them or to think about them. Sometimes in the dead of night. But it isn't usually a good idea.

Over two years later, I look at myself in the mirror. I wonder if am simply sticking my stomach out, puffing myself up with hot air and too many biscuits. I feel as though this little belly is simply a balloon, one which will inevitably pop and leave me standing here with nothing to show for myself except damp, plastic-y bits left over from the explosion. When I tell people I'm pregnant, I blush. I wonder if they think I am taking an irresponsible risk. Or perhaps they don't remember my previous proud announcement and how . . . strangely that all turned out. Or perhaps they just think that everything will be better this time. After all, the doctors are 'keeping an eye on me', what could possibly go wrong?

I tried to buy a baby doll for Jessica for Christmas. But, when confronted by all those plastic, newborn limbs and staring eyes, I couldn't. Hot shame and bile climbed up my throat and I wanted to knock all those plastic babies, who looked so different from mine, on to the ground and jump up and down on them. Which doesn't even make any sense. Do I really want to buy Jessica a 2lb NICU baby doll for Christmas? Still they would come with a hell of a lot of accessories I suppose. I wanted to steal the chunky limbs and apparent life in the eyes of one of them and grant them to my other daughter as a Christmas gift.

An outfit catches my eye with 'Baby Alive' emblazoned on the packaging. I briefly consider the launch of an accompanying, less appealing range. Don't think there would be many takers for that one.

I still insist on trying to join conversations about pregnancy and child birth but, as I can't quite bring myself to spell out the story to those who don't already know, it comes out terribly odd. Bits and pieces emerge which must leave the listener thinking, 'Eh?' Or perhaps not, as they never ask.

I always intend to keep quiet but the words keep tumbling out. I obliquely refer to a twin pregnancy, I apologise for Jessica's poor speech and attempt an explanation, I try and shed some light on my lack of sympathy for complaints about young children and stretch-marks and disinterested husbands.

But I can't bring myself to say what happened out loud any longer. I feel too ashamed of myself.

Friday, 3 December 2010


I remember reading a book about twins, in that brief pause between discovering that I was expecting two babies and taking home one.

I remember I wanted to skip the chapter on the death of one or both babies, as that seemed an outcome too horrible to contemplate. But I read it. There was a passage that stuck with me, about how women who lose one or more babies from a multiple birth, mourn the loss of their 'status' as a mother of twins or triplets or more. That seemed strange to me at the time. Now . . . not so much.

I did feel special, clever almost. That I had conjured up two babies where you would normally expect only one.

I don't feel quite so clever about it now. 

The fact that I will, in all probability, never raise twins is a strange, subsidiary little loss. 
That people will never know me for the mother of twin girls. 
That strangers will never stop me in the street and ask if my two babies are twins.
Those weeks of searching for double buggies and buying identical outfits rise up before me like a fever dream. That proud, bustling woman unrecognisable. And, quite frankly, rather irritating. 

I was so very proud of 'my twins' but the loss of that formless, faceless doubling of babies is nothing really. 
A drop in the ocean. 
Compared to the loss of the person that was Georgina. 

But Georgina's 'twin-ness' was a part of her. One of the few things that I can say confidently that I know about my eldest daughter. That she was one of twins.

When I found out I was expecting twins, I was upset for a little while. I didn't believe that I would be able to cope. I was frightened of being a good enough mother for one baby, let alone two. I felt somewhat outnumbered.

Although I haven't had to worry about the practicalities of changing two sets of nappies, trying to synchronise two sets of feeds or two sets of naps, I am still Georgina's mother. Just as much as I am Jessica's. I am still a mother to twins, although not in a way that would be immediately remarked upon. 

That inverse space where Georgina could be, that tiny, ill baby just beyond my reach, that pale ghost of a toddler, her living sister in reverse.
An imagining that I scarcely dare to try to colour in, because if I started I don't think I could bring myself to stop.

I cannot wish her away. I cannot undo her. I wouldn't want to. My thoughts often whir around that strange emptiness, that 'could have been'-ness that is Georgina's absence. It is my want and love that keeps her here. It nudges at me. It murmurs in my ear. It keep me returning to the places where she might have stood, or sat, or eaten a rusk, or had her nappy changed, or slapped her sister's cheek. To all those things she might have been or done. Might. I just can't leave that possibility alone. Although it hurts and hurts and the places themselves are worn to unravelling with my pacing, waiting feet and my yearning that she will, impossibly, come back.

That lack in the middle of our family has formed us. We have grown around it, contorted and twisted and grown in strange new patterns to accommodate the death of one of us. 
That tiny absence is so powerful that bits of me have simply dropped off and turned to ash, friendships that I trusted have untwisted, new parts sprung out. 
We are a different family because of Georgina. Her life and her death and our witnessing of both of them.
I don't think I ever saw anyone live quite like my daughter did.
I've certainly never seen anyone else die. 
I am a different mother. My husband, a different father. 
Because we were Georgina's parents.
As well as Jessica's. 
Because we had two daughters.

This time, when I found out that I was not expecting twins, part of me was wistful. 
Stupidly, as there are a multitude of reasons why it would not be a good idea for me to have twins again. 
But there it is.
Sometimes I still feel a little pang of regret for my twins.