Tuesday, 30 June 2009

What was lost . . .

Since August last year, I seem to have misplaced a number of things.

Some temporarily I hope.

Others, I don't think I'll ever be seeing them again. Sadly.

The last few days of August and most of September 2008. With the exception of a few major events and a bunch of moments caught in freeze frame.

The ability to make decisions, even irrelevant ones, in less than half an hour.

My sense of humour.

My sense of perspective.

Most of my seemingly irrepressible optimism. See? Only most? Irrepressible.
Possibly I am intensely stupid and/or insane.

The ability to ignore double buggies. I just have to look in 'em. Why? Why? Just look away you idiot.

My pride in my appearance. Hair sprouting in places that it shouldn't. A few extra pounds that could stand to disappear.

I suspect a couple of my friendships might have hit the rocks. Possibly just MIA rather than genuinely lost. They may yet turn up again. See irrepressible optimism above.

The ability to look passing strangers in the eye. Ditto smile in the general direction of passing strangers. Ditto make polite conversation with strangers in shops, queues and so on.

The undiluted pleasure I used to take in the children of others. And in imagining the future children of others. All tainted with envy. I find my twin niece and nephew hard to be with. Just seems to throw that gap into relief. Where she should have been. Or could have been. Or would have been. If only things had been different.

My peace of mind.

My ability to sleep for more than three hours consecutively. But I think that one was on its way out anyway.

The ability to have much genuine sympathy with those who want to cry on my shoulder over relationship troubles, financial troubles, speeding or parking tickets, organisation of wedding troubles, exam results trouble, work trouble or anything that isn't actually make or break.
Possibly this is why some of those friendship of mine are currently MIA.

Any driving skill I might have had. I now drive either in a rage or in a dream. Parking ability seems to have improved though. Not much of a consolation prize I'm afraid.

The ability to think about anything other than the birth of my daughters, the death of my eldest and the survival of my youngest. I must have thought about other things prior to these events but I honestly can't remember what. Mascara? Music? Diets? Who knows. Whatever it was, there is no room for it in my head anymore. I've become intensely boring. I bore myself. I even dream about it.

The good times. Hopefully in the temporarily misplaced category.

Fear of death. Probably temporarily and again not much of a consolation prize.

A couple of thicknesses of skin. I feel as those I have been flayed. What would have been a minor tickle this time last year now feels like someone poking me with a sharp stick. Over sensitive doesn't even begin to cover it.

The vague sense of interest I used to feel in newspaper articles about premature babies or twins. Now they are objects for detailed study. Birth weights. Gestation length. And why or why, celebrities out in Hollywood are you all so obsessed with having twins these days?

But yes, now for the big one . .

My girl. My eldest child. My daughter. How did I let that happen?

And why do I have this strange feeling that, if I could only figure out how to do it, I could snatch her back. Steal her back from wherever she is, whilst somebody's back is turned. That I could reach through the veil, make a grab for her and run like hell. That if I can only prove that I am not an appalling person, not an appalling mother, she will be returned to me. That I will be able to hold her, smell her, nurse her, sing to her, love her.

It is the flip side of being an irrepressible optimist. This stupid futile hope that refuses to die. It is so very cruel. My poor old brain whizzes away, trying to come up with a rescue scheme. One that will work. Today's plan. This is the one, this one will work. It's today. Today she'll come home.

But she won't. She was lost. On the 29th of August 2008. She was lost. I had to let her go. She's not coming home. I still don't quite believe it you know?

Sunday, 28 June 2009


I know I've had this blog for all of about two seconds but I'm not sure I want to carry on with it.

I have had a really nasty few days. For no particular reason. I fell right back down into the black hole. Crying in public. That deep dark well that you can see no way out of.

I've tried to shake it off by thinking about other things, doing other things, writing about other things, reading blogs about other things. Just trying to avoid thinking too much about dead babies, premature babies, any babies at all. It doesn't seem to be working.

A good friend of mine, whose opinion I respect, said to me "you shouldn't keep writing about it. It isn't going to help you."

I feel very vulnerable having all my intensely private thoughts out there in the public domain. It makes me feel a bit nauseous. Perhaps Georgina and my memories of her would be better just tucked up inside my own head. Private and peaceful. Not out here for the world to pick over. A nasty comment on my blog would devastate me. The babylost community is, by and large, such a caring one but the last few days have shown me that I'm much more fragile than I would like to think. I have no resilience left in me.
No ability to pick myself up, dust myself off, start all over again.

Perhaps this isn't a great arena for me?

I want to feel I've moved on. That I am strong. That I can be be a good mum to Jessica and Georgina despite of everything that's happened.

I started writing this blog because I thought it might help. To write it down and try and release some of the experiences of the past year. A kind of weird exorcism by internet.

But I tie myself up in such knots over what I write. I don't want people to consider me ungrateful for having Jessica, I don't want to accidentally offend people (which seems to be becoming a bit of a specialty of mine) that I'm wondering if it is actually doing me any good.

I'm not too bright. I'm not qualified in English literature or law or philosophy anything remotely related to writing or expressing opinions. The last time I wrote an essay was in the late nineties. I get the feeling I'm too darn clumsy for this. One great big foot in one great big mouth.

I don't want to stop reading blogs but writing this one?

Does anyone think this process is particularly helpful?
Is a blog more helpful than a paper journal, which I'm considering moving to?
I'm aware that I am asking a very biased selection of people here but still, do you think that writing about your experiences with your children has helped in any way?

Friday, 26 June 2009


When Jessica had been living at home for a couple of months, I decided to put her on her sheepskin rug, take down the hallway mirror and prop it up next to her. I had some toys with stickery type bases and I thought it would be fun to stick these to the mirror and let her look at her own reflection and that of the toys. Poor old Jessica. She is always having such impromptu entertainments thrust upon her.

When my husband came in from work, he paused in the doorway of the room. He said, "do you realise what you've done, what that looks like?". I don't think he was angry, more disturbed or distressed perhaps? The strange thing was that, despite the fact that I am constantly imagining Georgina, I honestly hadn't thought of Jessica's reflection in that way. It never once crossed my mind. Perhaps because my daughters were not identical twins, perhaps because once they were born they became very separate to me. Whilst I was pregnant they were always 'the twins'. But when they were born 'the twins' ceased to be. They became 'A' and 'B', 'twin I' and 'twin II' and later, Georgina and Jessica. All of Georgina's patient identity bracelets say 'W twin I'. I wish I had named her more quickly.

Jessica's medical records all read 'rank 2/2'. I don't know why that was necessary. The labels on these medical records were printed out long after Georgina had died.

I was not completely pleased to find out that I was expecting twins.
In my defence, I can only say that I didn't know that I expecting Georgina and Jessica. A very different proposition to the anonymous twins of the first instance.

Before my first ultrasound I had many, many 'no baby' nightmares. I'm sure that these can't be uncommon and, tragically, not always unfounded. I dreamt I would go for that first ultrasound and there would be dead space, nothing, a vacuum. My anxiety, and lots of first trimester bleeding, had me very nearly convinced that this particular nightmare would be coming true.

So I went. The first words the sonographer uttered are ingrained in my brain,"there are two babies". You could have heard a pin drop. I went white, jaw flapping in the breeze. The sonographer asked me if I was going to pass out. It was completely unexpected. And I saw them. My girls. My little tiny girls. Both hearts still beating. Both sets of limbs still moving. My daughters. And I became something in triplicate.

I was quite worried about having twins. I have seen a very good friend of mine, my sister in law and my next door neighbour all parent twins. In close up. It is no walk in the park. Perhaps because I have seen twins 'in action' I was very, very nervous. About whether I could actually pull this one off. I only wish now that I had the chance to try.

My main consolation was that I was having siblings or, as I later found out, sisters. Sisters. Always together. Someone to confide in. Someone to play with. I have a slightly rose-tinted view of sisters. I only have one sibling, a younger sister. I love her very dearly.

When I found I was expecting twin girls, I hugged them to me and thought to myself, sisters.

But it wasn't to be. I feel as though I had the most precious gift in the world to give my daughters, something precious beyond measure, something that money can't buy, something that can't be replaced, something that I thought I had a firm grasp on, had wrapped up, with name tags on. Georgina, here's your sister Jessica. Jessica, here's your sister Georgina.

But these presents, these precious gifts, they slipped. They slipped through my fingers, they shattered and I can never, ever repair the damage that I caused. Jessica will always be the eldest, but not the eldest. An only child perhaps, but not the only child. A twin. A single twin.

I sometimes wish that I could rescue her from it. From the knowledge that her mummy can't actually protect her. From the knowledge that, faced with the biggest monster that hides in the closet, mummy is actually as helpless as she is. I can tell her she's safe until I am blue in the face but I can hear how hollow I sound. I can't protect her from death. I can't actually protect her from anything much. The innocence that died in our family. Jessica is going to have to grow up much more quicky than I did. Dead siblings do that to you.

I didn't realise my own mother could even make a mistake until I was ten.
Hmm, perhaps that is slightly disturbing the other way?

Any other children that I may be able to have will also have a missing big sister. Georgina. She will be there. On the edges. That tiny, big sister.

One of my daughters went off into the dark alone. She had never been alone before. Never alone. She was conceived with a companion. From when they were a few cells.

But she went into the twilight of the NICU alone. In an incubator. In an isolette. A quick google reveals that isolette is actually a brand name. Who came up with that one? What a cruel word. Isolated. And then she left us. Alone.

I couldn't hold her, I couldn't keep her here. She left. Alone.

I'm so sorry.

I have photographs of Georgina. To show Jessica. But I haven't actually managed to show these photographs to anyone outside of my family. I think I see two images simultaneously.

My girl. My Georgina.
A tiny, purple, ill, swollen baby. Not even a baby really.
My girl. My Georgina.
A tiny, purple, ill, swollen baby. Not even a baby really.

But will anyone else see my girl?

What will Jessica see? Will she be frightened? Disgusted? Will she be angry with me? Will she be able to see that sweet sister of hers. That sweet sister that flickers around the edges of that tiny, purple being with the blue, blue eyes.

I hope she can. It is all I have left to offer her. That and a plastic bag full of ashes. Marked Baby Georgina W. Wrapped in a blanket. I need that blanket to be there.

I'm so sorry.

Monday, 22 June 2009

What are the Odds?

Before all this happened, I worked as an analyst for a healthcare organisation.

I don't really know how I fell into the world of statistics, I have no natural aptitude for maths at all. But in some ways statistics is more of a dark art than a science. I always feel that, as a field, it is a bit fuzzy around the edges. Perhaps that is why I like it. There is always wriggle room if you make a mistake. What generally results from all the numerical manoeuvring is an answer something along the lines of "hmmmm, I am x% confident that the true value of this particular variable lies within the region between y and z".

Occasionally, I do get the feeling that I might be a bit of a charlatan who will one day be exposed with cries of "ha, she never really understood what she was doing " but in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king. Some of the people I work with don't believe that they can calculate a percentage change (they can, but they just don't believe that they can) so I feel pretty confident in my royal, one eyed status continuing for at least a while yet.

Sadly, this means I am a bit of a data geek. There is nothing I like more than a freshly constructed database full of nice, complete fields. Hmmm, I can smell all the initial analysis, charts, scatter plots, models. Yum, yum.

It also means that I can't help looking up all the numbers related to what happened to me and my girls. I'm not going to quote them here as I'm using some pretty dubious sources. Ends with -paedia, first bit rhymes with icky.

My chances of conceiving fraternal twins in the first place were pretty low. I don't have any of the risk factors for conceiving twins. I'm not very tall (5ft 8), my BMI is not over 30, I fell pregnant when I was 28, there are no other fraternal twins on my side of the family, I didn't have fertility treatment.

Jessica and Georgina were non-identical twins with separate placentas and separate sacs. I was reassured time and time again that these are the 'safest' type of twins to have.

Once I had made it past 12 weeks, I felt so relieved. I knew that the chances of having a second-trimester miscarriage were much lower. I started to relax. I started to talk about the girls after that point. The costs of two of everything. I even bought a double buggy, two cots, two chairs. Oh dear.

I honestly don't know what the odds of babies of such early gestation even surviving a natural birth are. I shouldn't think they are great. The girls were very large for their gestation (my dh is 6ft 4) but large is relative.

I don't know what the odds of Jessica surviving at all were. Again, I am thinking that they weren't good. I remember 50:50 being mentioned to me at one point. And that is 50:50 chance of surviving, not the odds of surviving without any serious consequences. Now, that sounds horrifying. At the time, it seemed pretty good given that Georgina's chances were always described as small to vanishing.

So very unlucky, so very lucky. Perhaps lucky and unlucky don't really come into it.
All these outside bets, all these strange chances, all these long shots.
It is so very tempting to try and read a meaning into them.
But I really should know that long shots do happen. I would call them outliers if I was analysing the course of events that led up to this. A bunch of outlying events occurred. Triggered by conceiving twins which raised the chances of all the subsequent events happening.

There is the person who dies of lung cancer who never touched a cigarette.
It is all just a matter of risks, tipping the balance one way or another.
There are no certainties. But I can't help asking, why me? Why me? But why not me?
The outside bets have to happen to someone.
I just wish they hadn't happened to my Georgina, my sweet determined little child. My eldest child. My first born. My girl.
I'm not even sure how to describe what happened to her. Did she die? Or did I have a miscarriage? In my mind, she died. She was a very palpable little person, she moved, she looked around, she held my finger. She existed for a few days. And then she didn't.

But I want another child. There, I said it. I love being a mama, to both my girls. I used to have so many doubts, would I love them, would they love me, would I look after them properly, would I know what to do, would I be able to stop them crying, would I be bored sitting at home all day. All those doubts evaporated, the moment I saw them lying in their incubators.

I know that I can say I want another child a million times but it doesn't mean that it will happen. I want doesn't get, as my mother used to say. Everyone I know who hasn't lost a baby says, you are just trying to replace Georgina, you are just trying to fix it, you should enjoy Jessica.
Maybe I am. Maybe I should.

But it feels like do or die. I feel like I've never been pregnant, it was all over so quickly. I don't think they understand what fuels my desire for yet another child.

Will I ever fall pregnant again? How long will it take? Will I have another miscarriage? Will the 12 weeks ultrasound reveal twins again? Will I have to spend months in the NICU again? Will I have to agree to switching a ventilator off again?

I want certainty. If this, or some other horrible permutation of events, happens again. It will break me.

I suppose that I only really, really, really want another child when I'm prepared to take that chance. And would that just be foolish? Perhaps I should call it quits. I don't know.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Long Black Veil

I have a sudden yearning for mourning.

I want a big black dress and a long black veil.
I want a black arm band.
I want a mourning ring.
I want some jewellery made of jet.
They knew how to do these thing properly in those days. When the handy phrase "I have x children still living" was in common usage.

I want to re-decorate my house, change to black curtains and a black front door.
I want to spray my car black and tint the windows.
I'd like a dead tree to plant in my front garden and dead flowers to plant in our window boxes.
I want to leave my hair long and greasy.
I want to let my skin wrinkle and sag, the bags under my eyes darken.
I want to carry extra weight around with me, pads of fat on my hips.
I want to walk around in clothes that no longer fit me properly, let my stomach poke out.

I know that the world still turns, the sun still shines, people still go shopping in supermarkets, The Simpsons is still shown on television, children are still being born, books are still being written and published, other people's surplus junk is still advertised for sale on e-bay, people still die, celebrity gossip magazines are still purchased and read, I still breath in and out. Treacherously.
But I stopped. On the 29th of August last year, some vital part of me just stopped.
The world carried on and left a bit of me standing, frozen, waiting, stagnating, paused.

When I say that I am still waiting for Georgina to come back to me, I really mean it. Some crazy part of my brain is still waiting for someone to leap out from behind a bush and go "surprise, really got you going there didn't we? Here, you can have your baby back now. You didn't really believe that all that crazy tiny baby stuff was actually reality did you? It was all just a test. A game. We were having a laugh with you. Here you are."
And I'd nod sheepishly and hold out my arms for her. And we'd be back how we were. Me and my girls. And my husband I suppose, I'll make a bit of room for him in this strange day-dream. Grudgingly.

This whole pretending that Georgina never existed thing. It's just not cutting it for me anymore.

I suppose what I really want is an external sign that I am not over this yet. Not yet. Every time someone tells me how strong I am, how well I am coping, how they don't know how I get up every morning and how amazing it is that I do, I don't feel as though I am being complimented. It cuts me to the quick. All I hear is, you're over it. Swiftly followed by either (a) good stuff, now we can move on and discuss something slightly less embarrassing than your tinchy, tiny, dead/ill children or (b) my God but you're a cold one, to be living and breathing and walking around still. How could you?

I think, rather oddly, that I am actually missing the oxygen. When Jessica was discharged from hospital, she still needed constant oxygen therapy. She developed chronic lung disease as a result of being born so prematurely and being ventilated for such a long time. On a practical level this meant that she was hooked up via tubes to either a large machine in our house or a gas cylinder. She hasn't needed oxygen for about six weeks now, apart from the odd day or two.

Nothing screams 'something didn't go to plan with this one, avoid, avoid, avoid' more loudly than a baby with tubes taped to her face and stuck up her nose. Most adults seemed to avoid catching my eye. The poor folk who stuck their heads in the buggy to see the baby always looked as though they regretted doing so and moved off pretty sharpish.

Children were a different story, they always wanted to know what is was all about, what it meant. Some of them asked me straight out if my baby was going to die.

A few adults were a different story, oddly enough mainly young guys. The young man who cleans our windows came out with "what's all this she's got going on then? What's all that about?", and the other delightful young man who remarked that the shop we were in wasn't a hospice.

But now we just look 'normal'. I look like any other happy young mum clutching her first born, fussing over the buggy, twitching the blankets, wiping her mouth. I feel so torn about it. Part of me seems to want to inflict the whole sorry tale on everyone, like I'm desperately waiting for an 'in' , as if to say look, we aren't what we seem. I often look at all the women around me and wonder which of them might resent me, hate me even. I want to rush up to them and say, wait I'm one of you. Not exactly I know, it's complicated you see but I'm not just another blissfully ignorant new mother.

But when I do tell the whole tale, either including or excluding my Georgina, I don't feel any relief, any catharsis. I just feel embarrassed, like I've said too much, let my mouth run away with me. Uneasy.

Perhaps I should make up a ficticious age, birth-weight, birth story. A labour that went on for hours. How pleased I was to bring Jessica home the very next day. How proud my husband was of our big, bouncing baby girl. How her grandparents crowded round to meet their first grandchild.

I think I'll skip the baby that didn't make it. I think I'll skip the incubators, the ventilators, the lines, the CPAP machines, the blood transfusions, the infections, the kangaroo care, the sheer fragility of those little lives that meant everything to me, those endless days of incubator watching, the endless nights of pumping breast milk. They just make people uncomfortable.

Looks like I'm right back where I started. I still want my long black veil. Just to tell people to stay away from me and not ask too many questions.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien

Humph. If only.

I regret so very many things. Pointless I know.

As making lists seems to be the way this blog is going, why not? A list of things I regret.

Being so damn pleased with myself. I was horribly smug about being pregnant, I'm sure I did all that annoying belly rubbing and whining about morning sickness and was generally unbearable. God, I hope that no one I work with ever lost a baby. Or struggled to conceive a baby. They must have wanted to stick needles in my eyes. I want to go back in time and stick needles in my OWN eyes.

Informing everyone that I was expecting twins. It just seemed too strange and special to keep it to myself. One of my good friends has twins, my sister-in-law has twins, my next door neighbour has twins. And now we were expecting twins as well. I couldn't stop telling people it was twins. Even total strangers who asked when the baby was due.
Counting. Chickens. Prior. To. Said. Chickens. Hatching.

Not paying more attention at my scans. I had four ultrasounds with the girls, one at 12 wks, one at 20 wks and two further detailed scans at 21 and 22 wks. I wish I had known that it was one of the only opportunities I would every have to see Georgina. I wish I had savoured every single minute. I wish I had tried to fix every single image of her in my mind. But I didn't. At one scan I forgot to bring my glasses so I couldn't see too much.

Not being better informed. I knew that there was a chance of premature labour with twins but I was too frightened to read up on anything. I clung on to the fact that every medical professional I had spoken to told me that it was unlikely that anything would go wrong. I even told the doctors that night that I was 23 weeks when they asked me how far on I was. They might not even have tried to save my girls because I said that. It sends a shiver down my spine. I didn't know to lie, to say 24 weeks or higher. I had no idea what was coming, I didn't know anything about brain bleeds, haemorrhages, NEC, MRSA, ROP, chronic lung disease. Any of it. I didn't advocate for my children as I wish I could have.

That I couldn't stop them being born so prematurely.

That I let them start the medical interventions for Georgina.

That I let them stop the medical interventions for Georgina.

That it wasn't my arms she took her last few faltering breaths in. That I let her daddy bear that burden and that privilege. It should have been me.

That I slept whilst she was alive. That I left the room whilst she was still alive.

That I didn't spend longer with her body. I wanted to hold on to her for so long. So long. I had to leave her. Everyday I wish that I could go back into that room and pick her up and kiss her cold little face. But she's ash now.

That I didn't realise that my husband found my behaviour ghoulish. That he found watching me cuddle, bathe and dress our dead baby very, very upsetting.

That I didn't see Jessica at all until several hours after her birth. That I spent virtually no time with Jessica during the first few days of her life. That I took her survival for granted.

That this list could go on for much longer.

But I don't regret my girls. I don't regret that I loved them so desperately, so fiercely.
Every bad decision I made. Every good decision I made. Those bits where I wasn't making any decisions at all but just stumbling along as best as I could. I did it with all the stupid, clumsy love I have in my stupid, incompetent body. I tried my best. I hope they know that.

And really I don't regret any of it. If it had happened any differently they might not have been my two girls. I love them. Georgina. Jessica. Those two specific, particular individuals.

Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien. Sing it for me Edith.

Monday, 15 June 2009

What's In A Name?

I have found that I am very reluctant to refer to my daughters by their names when I comment on blogs. I'm not too sure why. Perhaps it is some sort of misguided attempt to protect their privacy but given that . . . .

(a) I'm blogging under my real name with a photograph of myself as I actually look in real life, albeit with a face obscured by hair.

(b) one of my daughters is never going to worry that I've invaded her privacy

and (c) my other daughter is only nine and a half months old and I'm fairly certain that she herself doesn't even know her own name yet. Or how to read. Or how to operate a computer. Probably by the time she is old enough to do all of these things, blogs will be part of ancient history

. . .it's kind of mysterious why I don't want to write their names. I'm going to break my own taboo.

My older twin was named Georgina Jane. She weighed 1lb 10oz at birth. She had blue eyes. I don't know whether they would have stayed blue. She had a tiny wisp of fair hair. When I was pregnant, I called her 'my shy baby' as I very rarely felt her move. Maybe because she was so ill but I didn't know that at the time.

Georgina was a name that my husband and I picked out years ago. When we were first dating. We had both always known we wanted children and used to talk about (and occasionally to) our two imaginary future children. They were going to be a boy and a girl and called Georgina and Lewis. We were so stupidly naive, I don't think that we ever contemplated that our children might not live. We would call our baby girl Georgie for short and Daddy would sing her the song 'Georgie Girl'. Sometimes I miss the people that we used to be.

I wonder if we jinxed her by giving the name of our imaginary little girl. Perhaps she was destined to stay imaginary as, God knows, I imagine her all the time now.

I gave her my grandmother's name as a middle name. It is also my middle name. Sometimes I wonder if that just added to the jinx. That labelling of her as 'my twin'. Even though I don't believe in jinxes. Not really but it's hard not to be superstitious.

If anyone is reading this who has lost a baby, did you stick with the name you originally picked and dreamt over? Or did you change it, when you first saw your baby or when you realised that your child would not survive?

My surviving twin is named Jessica Clair. She was the smaller twin, at 1lb 7oz, and the younger twin. Sad to say her name was chosen on the basis that it 'went' with Georgina. Clair after my husband's mother.

Because she had such a difficult and dramatic start in life, a lot of people take an interest in her. Everyone asks after her. Even people who I don't really know that well. Sometimes even people who don't know me, know the story and know of Jessica. I must say her name at least a hundred times a day.

Sometimes it makes me want to hide in a darkened room and whisper 'Georgina, Georgina, Georgina' over and over to myself. Just to even things up a bit. I love them both so much but only one of my children is fit for public consumption. The other one is a bit of a conversation killer. I don't say that with any bitterness. I don't really know what to say about the whole sad experience either, if I'm honest.

Maybe that is why I'm writing this blog.
Georgina, Georgina, Georgina, Georgina.
Mummy loves you. Mummy misses you. I imagine you every single day.

Sunday, 14 June 2009


Only a month ago, I left this comment on Jess's amazing blog 'After Iris' about the loss of her beautiful second daughter, Iris.

'I don’t blog myself because I feel like I couldn’t possibly do my daughters justice. I don’t have the eloquence to untangle this clot of words that sits in my throat. Amazingly generous others here in internet land do that for me so I don’t choke and die.

I had twins extremely prematurely, one died and one survived. They were my first pregnancy. I don’t think I could describe the internal conflict that rages inside me and I don’t have the grace to handle the situation with the care I feel it needs. And like you say, I feel others do it so beautifully. I would hate to hurt anyone by seeming ungrateful for a child who is, in medical terms, all other terms and especially in her mother’s eyes, a true miracle. A fluke. And I wanted two miracles. Greedy mama that I am. And due to some on-going medical issues with my surviving baby and my own state of mind, I hardly left the house or saw anyone for the first four months of 2009. Believe me, I NEEDED the blogs.

I totally understand the whole ‘over sharing’ thing as well. Sometimes I wish I could get into every blog I’ve ever commented on and delete all my comments. And I’m so scared of accidentally hurting people who have been hurt so much already. There’s been some discussion recently about people congratulating the baby lost on subsequent pregnancies and how much they hate it. I think to myself, pants I did that. Big old clumsy mouth.'

Yet here I am. Tentatively starting a blog myself. I'm not really too sure what my motivation is. I think it might be because I've stopped seeing the counselling service and, nearly ten months out, nobody actually wants to talk about it anymore. It's old news.

I've been extremely lucky in having a wonderful mother and sister who have listened to me ramble on for hours about the events of last year. But it is selfish of me to keep dragging them back to that awful time. My mother lost her first grandchild, who she loved and wanted so very dearly. My sister lost her first niece. They went through the traumatic experience of suddenly being thrust into the world of the very premature baby with its attendant crushing blows, fits and starts of wild optimism and sadly, in our case, the death of a much loved and cherished baby. The threat of a second death. And they both had the double agony of watching me fall to bits in front of them. I think they need (and deserve) a break.

And it is so very boring. It is so very boring for everyone who knows me. But I don't actually think about anything else. I don't really have any interest in talking about anything else. I'm trapped, going round and round in those four days of August last year. An endless rendition of the same sorry sequence of events. Even I'm sick of it but I can't stop going over and over and over it. Wishing it was different. Trying to identify the point at which everything fell apart.

I noticed that I was reading more and more blogs. That I was leaving longer comments (which worried me, fretting that people might want to tell me to push off and get my own blog)

I obviously had some kind of need to write about it all. So here I am.

I don't know how much I have to say. I'm sure that none of it will be particularly original or eloquent. I miss my little girl. I miss her so much. Perhaps writing it all down will help me get rid of some of that frustrated love that jangles around inside me.

It is so very lonely and isolating. Such a strange type of grief. For such a short little life.

Friday, 12 June 2009


Yesterday evening I went back to the NICU where my girls stayed. One of them for four days, the other for a little over three months. It was good to see the doctors and the nurses. They were amazed by how big my girl has grown. From 1lb 7oz to 15lb 8oz. Quite a change.

I am so very, very grateful.

That they saved a baby who should have died.

Yet it was hard to go back there. Where we nearly lost both our children and where one of our daughters slipped away from us. Into that strange, twilight world of monitors and alarms.

If you have ever seen a very premature baby, you will know how unprepared they are for life in the outside world. How tiny they are. How frail they are. Those wizened limbs. Those wise faces. My girls. I can't imagine that I will ever summon up the same desperate, aching love that I felt for you both. Not ever again. So vulnerable, surrounded by your machines. Those machines that could do so much for you than I could.

I am so grateful that your daddy persuaded me to go to the hospital. I did not want to hear that I had lost you. I thought that if I just stayed at home, everything would be alright.
Of course, if I had stayed at home you would both have died very quickly.

I am so grateful that the neonatologists on duty that awful morning took the decision to work on babies who were not yet 24 weeks gestation. In the early hours of morning. I am so grateful that they took that chance.

I am so grateful that they had the skill to stabilise you both, against the odds.

I am so grateful that there was somewhere to stay in the hospital so we didn't have to leave you when the situation was so unstable. So that when the doctors thought that they were losing you, we could simply run up stairs and be there. Useless but there.

I am so grateful that I had those few days when I had both my girls with me. I am so glad that I got to see both my children open their eyes.

I am so grateful that you passed away in your daddy's arms and not during those panic stricken moments in the middle of the night.

I am so grateful that your sister was only a few metres away when you died. She was with you when you died, just as she was with you when you were born and for nearly all the entire span of your short life.

I am so grateful for the compassion of the medical staff in the room with us that day.

I have so very, very, very much to be grateful for. I am so very lucky.

But I don't always feel lucky. Not all the time.

I am greedy. I wanted both my girls.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap

I have often felt that this experience was a punishment. For what, I am not entirely sure. The feeling that I deserved to lose my daughter was incredibly strong and it was very difficult to shake.

Perhaps because phrases like these tend to echo around my brain.

You reap what you sow.

What goes around, comes around.

You get what you pay for.

Sow the wind. Reap the whirlwind.

I don't really believe in signs, or punishments, or miracles, or enormous invisible bean counters who sit up in the sky keeping a tally of every mistake we ever make in our lives so that they can be held against us at a later date. That just seems nonsensical to me, if not a little cruel.

But it is a tempting idea. When something bad happens, we could all think to ourselves, well they must have done something to deserve it. It won't happen to me because I will never do anything so appalling as what Ms X must have done to deserve this event.

I wonder if anyone thinks that about me. I wonder if they all think I must have been necking bottles of gin on the sly.

I know that my daughter died because she was born extremely prematurely, probably as the result of an infection. She was too small and too sick to survive. The medical professionals managed to keep her alive for a short period but it was a struggle. For her and for them. I saw the doctors battling for her. I saw her trying desperately to live. Believe me, neither party gave up without a fight.

But what I know and what I feel are two completely different things and becoming increasingly so. What I feel at four in the morning when the house is quiet and I am suddenly jolted into wakefulness is that it was all my fault. Somehow. Maybe I want to have someone to blame and I can't identify anyone else so I go for the only option left open to me. Myself.

Maybe it happened because I would have been an awful mother. Because I couldn't handle looking after twins. Because I was so damned smug about being pregnant. Because I wasn't happy enough before this happened. Because I carried on working such long hours.

Because I was so very certain that it was meant to be.

I can't help the feeling that life, or God, or whatever, turned around to me and said that phrase beloved of parents around the world, "I'll give you something to cry about".

Things that I hope . .

I hope that you weren't in pain. I hope the drugs did their job.

I hope that I shouldn't have told them to stop sooner.

I hope you know that your mummy and daddy were with you as you died.

I hope you know how much love there was for you in that room as you struggled to take your last breath.

I hope you know that I thought you were perfect.

I hope you know that the reason I didn't spend every moment of your life right by your side is that I never truly believed that you would die. Until you did.

I hope you know that I will never forget the first time I saw you. When the doctor held you up for me wearing a pink woollen ventilator bonnet and I saw your determined little profile. My girl.

I hope you know how much I wanted to nurse you when I was allowed to hold you. Even though I knew you were dying, I still wanted to give you life. So much.

I hope you could hear me singing your little song to you. I hope you didn't mind that I am not a good singer.

I hope you heard me telling you how very much I loved you, how very proud I was of you.

I hope you know that everytime I tell your sister how beautiful she is, how clever she is, how much I love her, I am telling you exactly the same thing. I hope she never realises this.

I hope you felt my heart bursting with love for you.

I hope you never felt my heart break.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Between The Snow And The Huge Roses

'Between the snow and the huge roses' is a line taken from Snow, a Louis MacNeice poem.

It has been one of my favourite poems ever since I first read it in my early teens.

The opening lines are

'The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible"

That is how I feel. Incompatible. Part of me sits indoors, in a room made suddenly rich with pink roses. They are the most glorious flowers I have ever seen, the perfect colour, the perfect scent.

Part of me sits outside in the snow. Waiting for my other daughter to come home. I'm waiting in the very spot where we said goodbye. It's going to be a long wait.

To hear the entire poem read aloud by the wonderful Jess, of After Iris, click here.