Saturday, 30 October 2010

Thirty posts by January

I'm now aiming to have my thirty posts written by January as progress around here is pitifully slow! Despite my good intentions, my posts are always far too long.

I haven't managed to sort out the situation with Jessica's nursery yet and this is filling me with gloom. I have asked for a meeting with her key worker and I'm hoping to get to the bottom of the issues (his issues and Jessica's) but I'll have to wait until next week. Thank you for much for all your lovely comments, every single one really, really helped. By the time I sat down to write that post last week, I felt utterly hopeless but I felt better and better with every single word of advice. Thank you. 

I left that nursery feeling like the worst mother in the world. Not only had I let Jessica down by having her too early, causing her to go through all that pain and (possibly) to have some of these developmental problems in the first place, causing her sister to die and well . . . many things related to her early life fill me with guilt BUT I was also raising her to be a brat and a bully. This sent me into a spiral of doom, pondering whether I should even be attempting to have another baby when I obviously can't bring the one that I do have up properly. And then, in one of those horrible coincidences that life hands us every once in a while, I came home to find I was bleeding and possibly wouldn't have to worry about having another baby much longer.

I'm still not entirely sure if I do or don't have to worry on that score. I'm more hopeful than last week but I will just have to wait until my first 'official' scan at around 12 weeks. Hopefully next week.

Day 10 - a photo taken over 10 years ago of you and how it makes you feel seeing it now

This photograph was taken in  . . . . ummm, 2002? Which makes it not quite ten years old but I wanted to use it because it was taken at a Halloween party which make this photograph nearly exactly eight years old today. 

I've had to crop it as I've obviously got people sitting on either side of me and I don't know that they would like to feature on my blog so excuse the skinniness. Although perhaps it will make me look thinner? The me of eight years ago would have approved of that.

It makes me feel grateful. That I lived a long life, a whole life really, of twenty nine years without a crushing blow. Not a single one. Damn lucky. And in this photograph, I've still got a good six or seven years to go. 
If I could have given, somehow, the rest of my life to Georgina, I would have done it in a heartbeat. Because I'd really had enough already, a fair crack of the whip. She could have had nearly the same, assuming that I'll make sixty. Half and half, mother and daughter, seems fair to me. If only life could be so simple and I could go about donating hours and weeks of my life to others. 

I was happy in this photograph. The slight blur of grey shoulder to my left belongs to a man I thought I loved dearly. Sadly, he was not quite so impressed by me. But I hadn't figured that out yet, eight years ago.  I think you can see in that in my smile.

The arm to my left belongs to my beautiful friend M. We are still friends now, eight years later, although when this photograph was taken we had only just met. She has certainly been a good friend and I'm lucky to know her. 

And it makes me feel wistful. For the girl I was and for my beautiful girl. She won't ever breathe in that cold English night air, burning her lungs. She won’t walk to a party with friends and a man she thinks she loves. Or feel beautiful even if she is just a plain girl, beautiful for a couple of hours and boosted by a few beers. 

Oh I just wish . . .I could give her a little of what I had and accepted so lightly, so ungratefully and ungraciously.

It's such a beautiful world
You're such a beautiful girl
So much that you want to try
The world wants to sleep with you tonight
But Minnie
Minnie if I could I would give you the rest of my life

Friday, 22 October 2010

Straw poll

Just to warn you that this post is about (a) my pregnancy going slightly awry, although hopefully not completely off the rails. Just call me the girl who cried pregnant. Also (b) Jessica. So you may want to skip if either of these are likely to upset you.

I've had a rotten day today. First, a rather unexpected encounter at Jessica's nursery and then an alarming bleed which sent me scurrying up to the hospital. Everything looked ok on the scan but as ever, they don't want to give me any false hope. Sigh.

Anyway, I just want to conduct a little bit of a straw poll as I need the collective wisdom of the interwebz.

When I went to go and pick up Jessica her key worker (a young man) came marching up to me and told me, in front of several other parents, that she had been an absolute monster (straight face, presumably not a cute monster or a funny monster).
That she didn't listen.
That she had hit another child and, when told not to, had apparently hit the same child again.
That she kept sitting under the table even though he had told her not to.
That putting her in 'time out' didn't have any impact.
That if things didn't improve we should have a meeting with the special educational needs co-ordinator.

I left completely shocked and horrified.

Jessica doesn't always listen to me.
I haven't used 'time out' because I don't think she's old enough to understand the concept yet.
I have never, ever, ever seen her hit or push another child in all the time I've spent with her and other children (lots). Not to say that she isn't capable of it (I'm under no illusions on this front) but it surprised me. I've always taught her to be gentle. Mainly consisting of grabbing her hand mid smack and pulling gently down the side of my own face and saying 'gently, gently.' To randomly attack another child, to the extent of this young man needing to inform me of it, seems . . a little out of character?
She is allowed to sit under the table at home. Perhaps I shouldn't let her?

I just don't know how I can improve the situation. She is two years and two months which makes her twenty two months biologically but I've been told to knock off a bit more given her shaky start so I'll go for a nice round twenty months biological age. But she is tall and sturdy and perhaps they expect more of her because of that?
She has perhaps five reliable words still, absolute tops.
She quite often knows I'm talking to her, or telling her off, and chooses to laugh it off.
I take her hands, crouch down to her level, look her dead in the eye and say 'no' firmly. I don't laugh or smile. But she laughs.
If I raise my voice, she cries.
I'm not about to start smacking her wrist or anything.
I just don't think she has any 'sense' yet as such. I can't argue with her, rationalize with her, debate with her. All I can think of to do is try and get her attention and say 'no'.

I don't know.

I think that she is only little and I simply wouldn't expect her to listen consistently or to sit in a 'time out' chair for any length of time.

Lovely people out there, am I expecting too little of her? Or are they expecting too much?
Should she be able to do these things and I've sent her off to nursery ill-equipped?

I'm certainly appalled that she hit another child. I would have come down on her like a ton of bricks if I'd been there because that sort of thing really makes me mad.

I just feel awful. I know I'm super sensitive anyway so, when pregnant and particularly in a' this pregnancy is possibly going quite badly wrong' situation, I've become super super super sensitive and I'm taking all this to heart more than I should.

I'm so worried I've let Jessica down and let her become a bully and a spoilt brat.
I don't think any parent wants that for their child. But I don't know what to do to help her.

Any tips? Or am I already a day late and a dollar short?

In an aside, when I told my Dad this story, he reminded me about the time that Brown Owl threatened to evict me from Brownies. Perhaps she gets it from me?


A photograph that makes me happy and a photograph that makes me angry or sad.

Turns out that I can tick all of these boxes by looking at the same photograph.

I have quite a few photographs of Georgina.
Some were taken whilst she was still alive, her eyes are open in a few.
Some were taken whilst she was dying, I am holding her or my husband is holding her. I have no idea at all who took these photographs. I have no recollection of anyone taking them, although in a rather surreal one I am smiling at the camera with my dying daughter on my lap.
Some were taken after her death, I think. Some I'm not sure if she is living or dead or changing between the two. Caught in transition.
I wish I'd asked them not to photograph us. I wish I'd asked some of the people that were there to leave.
There are even a few where it has been a process of elimination to work out which twin the photograph is actually of, Georgina or Jessica.

None of these images are 'good' photographs.
Some are computer print outs with cute cartoon borders. Incongruous to frame such a beautiful and painful image with little cartoon rattles.
Some are black and white, processed by the hospital laboratory. They are very fuzzy. Her blood appears black and the definition of her mouth has been lost. It looks strangely large and smeared.

I don't look at Georgina's photographs often.
I don't have any photographs of Georgina out on display around the house.
I don't show them to anyone.
Even those where she is alive.

I just find those images too. . . .overwhelming.
They make me feel happy, angry and sad. They make me feel everything that I can feel.
Every nerve is stretched, reaching for something, although heaven alone knows what.

They make me feel so tender.

Tender for my little girl. I push my finger down the computer print outs of her limbs and press my lips on to that after impression of her face. It is hard to believe that she was ever real, with a beating heart, with a brain that fizzled and thought.

I miss you. I love you. You tried so hard and I am so proud of you. My girl. My tiny Georgie girl.

Sometimes I feel as though the love I feel is not for my Georgina but for another child, one that I have imagined. But I look at these photographs and I know that it isn't. Not really. I love her. In that tiny, bruised body, that corporeal presence that I miss so dearly not just some imagined spirit, the little frame that I wanted to nuture, that I wanted to see grow, although every organ was collapsing on her from the moment she was born. I loved all of her, the bits that worked, the parts that didn't. I wish my love could have held her together.

And I feel tender for myself. When I look at these photographs I feel like one giant bruise. I don't want anyone to touch me. I don't want anyone to speak. I don't want anyone to look at them and feel sorry for us, or to think that she isn't a person, or that she wasn't beautiful.

I feel tender for my dear Jessica. When I look at the photographs of her and Georgina side by side, I can see how physically similar they were.

This is an old song, from long before any of this ever happened, back when I didn't really know what tender meant.

Sorry I haven't been around much lately. I just feel so tired and sad and I seem to need more sleep recently.  Edited to say that I am also happy and grateful and many, many over things. I'm making it sound worse than it is. 

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Falling even further behind

One thing that I have learned from my attempt to write 30 posts in 30 days. 
I am not designed to blog every day. 
My attempt has been very feeble and I feel slightly ashamed but I don't want to give up. 
It might just be 30 posts spread over 130 days.

Day 4 - Your favourite book and has it changed since your loss?

I seem to have a strong affection for Canadian authors, most of favourites hail from that part of the world. Robertson Davies, Margaret Atwood, Carol Shields. My favourite books by these authors would have to be Fifth Business, The Robber Bride (with The Blind Assassin hot on its heels) and Various Miracles. I've read all of these books multiple times and they pop up in my inner world frequently. 

Since Georgina died, I feel a greater need for books to be 'resolved', like a perfect chord. 
I want to see the bad and evil get their comeuppances, I want to see the good rewarded. I don't like fates left dangling, threads loose. Too much like real life. 

My favourite book is Vanity Fair by William Thackeray and it hasn't changed. I started re-reading it whilst, unbeknowst to me, I was in labour with the girls. It came with me to the hospital. It sat with me in the NICU waiting room. I think I probably read it, or tried to read it, the evening of the day Georgina died. When it was finished, I started toting about The Way We Live Now by Trollope, another fail-safe favourite of mine.

I stopped my studies in literature when I was sixteen so please forgive me if I talk nonsense. What I like about these books is the echo in them, that humanity doesn't really change, people are foolish, greedy, loyal, clever, dishonest, kind, unkind. We have always been this way, we will always be this way. Nothing really changes except the participants.

As Jessica's NICU stay lengthened, I read all the Twilight books (except the final one, been told that it is slightly stinky so I might avoid), re-read all the Harry Potter books and read every single word ever written by Jilly Cooper. Now there's resolved for you, all is right with the world in Jilly Cooper land. Or it will be. And I don't care if that means I have to carry a book entitled 'The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous' with a half naked man on the front, whatevs, as Jess-Carter Morley would say.

I see it has also made a list of book entitled 'Awful Books I Would Rather Burn Than Recommend' on Amazon. Well, I would never burn a book on principle and, if you ever find yourself immersed in grief or the strange world of intensive care or a chemotherapy ward, I can't think of anyone I'd rather have holding my hand. 

I have also been immersed in the world of Outlander in recent times. The guy who sits next to me at work asked me what I was reading and I had to explain to him that it was a romance / time travel / fantasy set partially in Scotland in the 1700s. He looked at me as though I had just dropped down from another planet. Still, I can now use the word Sassenach with confidence.

Day Five - my favourite quote 

Hold your ground and take it as it comes, there's no other way.

from Philip Roth's Everyman

For a long time after Georgina died, I expected rescue. I thought that, somehow, somebody, would save her, would save me, would save her sister, would save my family. My own parents, the doctors, the psychiatrist, my husband. I looked to them all to restore her to me.  I almost reverted to being a child, expecting someone to come, swoop down on me, pick me up and tell me that everything would be okay. That we could fix this, that we could fix her. 

But slowly, it dawned on me that was not a possibility, it wasn't going to happen. I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed sometimes. I think part of my mind came unhinged when Georgina died and flapped around for a while in the breeze. 

I knew I had to just put my head down and keep going. Just take it as it comes. Life, death and all the bits in between. Because there is no other way, no rescue. Just this plodding onwards. And, come the time, I knew I would be able to look up again. And it came. And I did.


Today my mum told me that one of her friends has prayed for me every day since Georgina died. She has been praying that I will fall pregnant with twins again. I'm not sure how that makes me feel, grateful and sad.

I find myself, unexpectedly but most welcomely, pregnant. It is not a twin pregnancy despite my mother's friend's kindly prayers. I went for a scan today and saw the tiniest baby, the tiniest heart. A flicker. A glimmer. An echo of another.
Elated and heartbroken. 

I want to do something, to protect, to ensure. 
I wish I could somehow transfer this pregnancy to another, less treacherous body. 
But all I can do is stand by, take it as it comes. And wait.

'Cracking asphalt under foot
Coming up through the cracks,
Pale green things
Pale green things."

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Falling behind

Oh dear. I haven't done too well at the thirty posts in thirty days meme.

I find that days in the office tend to result in getting little else done, apart from basic feeding and watering of my little family. By the time I do get to the computer, I get caught up in reading blogs until my eyes start to close and my husband is shouting "Stop reading blogs!" from our bedroom.

I'm going to try and catch up . . .

Day 2 - a movie that helped you get through the hard times, or one that jumps out at you after your loss.
Not so much an entire movie as much as a scene.
Quite appropriate really given that my attention span is now zip.

The scene is from Three Colours - Blue. It is the story of Julie who loses her husband and her daughter in a car accident. In this scene, Julie scraps her hand along a stone wall. It is a famous scene as the actress playing Julie, Juliette Binoche, did not wear protective covering over her hand and drew real blood. You can see the scene here starting at about 1:40 in.

I saw this film before Georgina died but now I find that I recognise myself in that scene.

Day 3 - a television program that helped you either get through hard times or that moves you.
Because I have problems with my attention span when it comes to watching movies, DVD boxsets could have been made for me. I could not have got through the initial weeks and months after the birth of the girls without them.

Whilst Jessica was in hospital I had to express milk every three to four hours. This was no problem during the day as the hospital had pumps and a room to sit and express in. But, although I appreciate that I was so incredibly lucky to be doing it, I struggled at night time. The house was so quiet, nothing had changed and yet everything had. Our daughters, who we'd been so excited about meeting, weren't home. One of them was never going to come home.
I'd shuffle downstairs and stick my hands in the cold water sterilizer to get the pump and the bottles out. I used to look out of the window and see my neighbour's lights on. I'd wonder what was keeping them up at this hour.
Then I'd fill the pockets of my dressing gown with biscuits and make a cup of tea, switch the TV on, switch the pump and settle in.

Believe me, it makes it a whole lot easier to get out of bed in the middle of the night to go and spend time with a machine, if you have a good episode of something to look forward to. And biscuits.

During the four months Jessica was in hospital I watched. . .
House M.D.
Gossip Girl
Mad Men
The Wire
The West Wing
Dead Like Me
The 4400
Prison Break

A TV show that I absolutely love is Six Feet Under. I have the complete box set on DVD and I've been meaning to watch it again for a while. But I just can't face it quite yet.

I wonder what my own family's version of this finale will look like? Sadly, I already know how, and when, it ends for one of us. She's gone. And those of us left here hurtle onwards.

Until we don't.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Day One

I'm going to try and join the thirty posts in thirty days that Angie has put together at Still Life With Circles.

I don't know how many I will be able to find something to write about (and I think I'm already running a little behind schedule) but I'd like to have a go.

Firstly to get away from my oft-discussed 'same three damn posts' problem. Secondly because I'm a sucker for the first question. Anything for a song. I'll link any old post to a song, however tenuous, as you may have noticed if you've been kind enough to hang around here for a while.

So . . here goes.

Day 1 - a song that reminds you of your child, or one that you can't listen to anymore and why.

The song that reminds me most strongly of Georgina is Nick Cave's 'Into My Arms' because it was all I could hear after she died. Although I think that I have only played it perhaps five times since then, as I now find it unbearable, it was on a mental loop. Over and over. Into my arms.
The very first time I ever held a child of my own was to take her in my arms as she died. A tremendous privilege.

"I don't believe in an interventionist God
But I know, darling, that you do
But if I did I would kneel down and ask Him
Not to intervene when it came to you
Not to touch a hair on your head
To leave you as you are
And if He felt He had to direct you
Then direct you into my arms"

Because that was how I felt about her. Despite the fact that she was so tiny and so ill, I didn't want to change anything about her. I loved her precisely as she was, every tiny hair on her tiny little head. I wish that I could hold her in my arms again. I miss her so much.

A song that reminds very strongly of that time in my life, August to December 2008, leading up to Jessica's final release from hospital is a song called 'This Year' by The Mountain Goats. The refrain is 'I am going to make it through this year, if it kills me.' Now I've seen the video it seems even more apt. The band get bundled up, kidnapped and forced to perform under what seems to be some threat of violence. That did feel a little bit like the end of August 2008 for me.

There is a feel of physical menace to this song, of being about to battle something knowing that you might come off the worse. Until that time in my life, I'd never really had to be brave. I'd never been in a fight or even in very much physical pain. I have always been a weak person,  in body and otherwise, quick to expect others to save me or leap to my defence.

But during those months, it was fight or go under.

I had to go back into that same room where Georgina died.
And keep on going back in there.
Day after day after day.
I sat beside that box and I felt angry, useless, hopeless, hopeful, stupid, superfluous to requirements, overjoyed, overwhelmed, sick to my stomach, desperate, devastated.
But I. had. to. sit. by. that. box.
Opposite an empty space.
Sometimes I just wanted to run away, at others I just wanted to die.
My heart, my life, my every desire were in that body weighing less than two pounds, in a plastic box.
So frail.

It was time to man up, ante up, shape up or ship out, grow a pair, walk like a man, talk like a man.
Except the female version.
Make it through this day and the next day and the day after that.
Take the news of brain bleeds, kidney failure, retinopathy, laser surgery, cyst removal, sepsis, infection, death.
Take it and don't you dare start to fall down.
Even if it does start to feel like it's killing you.
Four months can feel like a very long time.

Towards the end of December it was snowing, Jessica had moved to a hospital within walking distance and I remember wading in through the snow, listening to this on my iPod. It felt as though my whole life would consist of this, snow, freezing wind in my face, going to visit Jessica in hospital, wondering where Georgina was and more bad news.

I'm glad this song was there. It got me through those freezing walks to the hospital.

That combined with X Gon' Give It To Ya.
Thank you Mountain Goats and DMX. Although I doubt you wrote your songs with a situation like mine in mind. I could feel you straightening my spine and squaring my shoulders. Bulking them up so I could carry this. Helping me kick the snow out of the way. Helping me feel that I could kick anyone and anything else out of my way that cared to stand in it.
I think my feet would have failed me on that walk to the hospital more than once without you.