Saturday, 8 February 2014


"You make me sad Mummy," he wails. "Sadder and sadder and sadder. That is how you make me."

"You sad Mummy? You sad? Wanna hug?"

"Your fault. My fault. Our faults."

Because this child is not silly. He has identified my weak spots and is honing his aim. My attempts at discipline falter and fail amongst sadness and fault and blame and 'positive parenting' and 'aha! parenting' and all the other things I read. In the interests of damage limitation. Trying to do the right thing and ending up paralysed. Frozen with indecision.


'You can't see me,' she boldly claims. Lurking around the corner with a stolen slice of birthday cake. At breakfast time. Heavily coloured icing stains the edges of her mouth.

'Oh yes, I can. I can see you," I reply. "You know that cake isn't a breakfast food."


It is the best I can hope for. Because your big sister died and I . . . . . well, I lost my confidence. And, really, that is what you want from me. Confidence. To show you the way.

Because mothers aren't supposed to stand empty handed. Bemused. Amused. Confused.
Mothers aren't supposed to get lost.
Mothers aren't supposed to be sad.

They are supposed to say that cake is a fantastic food to eat at breakfast time.
Or that it isn't.

But truly. I'm indifferent. Eat cake. Don't eat cake. There are larger things at stake here.

Just breathe. Please do continue to breathe.

I don't see my way clearly on the smaller issues.


But this be the verse. This be the way. Sigh.

Some things are easy, like, 'don't bite your sister, don't poke me in the eye, don't squash the baby.'

Others like cake for breakfast, requests for DVDs and help with putting on tights.
Well they are a bit more tricky.
Take it or leave it.

I'm probably not a very good parent. Despite all my avowals and wishes to be so.

And if I'm not a very good parent then I have let you all down horribly. Including the one who is dead.


I lie awake at night. When everyone else is asleep.
The pressure on my chest. Makes my lung crackle a little.

The pressure of a baby. Not a tiny baby. A baby that weighs 13 lbs. At least. A 3 month old. Fourth in my arms.

My mind slips. Back to five years ago. The click, hiss, click of the oxygen concentrator. The feel of plastic tubing against my skin. In the dark, time shifts and layers of memory pass over one another, transparencies containing feelings and smells. Acetates overlaid.

Time flexes. In my mind. I nurse you. I hold you. It seems unbelievable that I didn't. First.

The sweet curved head. The short blonde hairs. Tiny, dear girl.
I bury my nose into the tender neck, slightly sour with unwashed milk.

Because I can repeat and repeat. I can pretend. That she is you. Just for a moment.
But it is a lie. I never nursed you and I never held you. Well, just that one time but you were dying and it was so very far from this that it almost feels like a different action. Because surely that was something other than simple holding. Regret, regret, regret.

Terrible, terrible regret. Still stalks me. When the house is dark.

Alice will be my final baby. I don't have enough money, or enough house, or enough heart. or enough brain for another. Yet already I yearn. Because what will I do? When there are no more babies? I've always had a baby. To stave off the pain of the one that I will never hold.

The touch of tiny, tiny limbs. The clicking of hospital equipment.
Overlaid with broader limbs. Lighter breathing.
But always a baby. The one age that I seem to be confident in my abilities to care for.

And soon there will be no more.


"Five years ago," he says. "It is all so very long ago. How can you still think about it? So often? Surely that isn't right?"

I can't explain why. And so I say nothing.


So come the storms of winter and the birds in spring again
I have no fear of time
For who knows how my love grows?
And who knows where the time goes?