Monday, 28 March 2011


We stand in the hospital car park, collapsing into one another.
I sag, my belly pulling me forward, my head bowed.

A thin voice from somewhere very far away says, "I just want my little girls back. I just want my girls."
The thin voice is mine.
I think.

The sunshine is frail, the air is cold and it burns the mixture of salt and phlegm in my throat and around my eyes.

He looks at me, confused.
He says, "It's still like yesterday to you, isn't it?"

Perhaps it is the proximity to the building. My daughters were born there. This baby will be born there. I'm worried I'll have to go back into that same room on the tour of the delivery ward to be held after this break is over.

It is not a pretty building. Squatting squarely on the horizon in grey concrete.
Sometime I can walk past and not even notice that it is there.
Sometimes I walk past and remark cheerily to Jessica, "Do you remember that building? You used to live there on your own when you were a baby. There's your room, behind that window. Mummy and Daddy used to come and visit you everyday? You and your sister were born there my darling. Do you remember?"
Sometimes it is just a place, just a building, tuned out alongside the rest of the surroundings.

But sometimes I feel like I can reach back through concertinaed folds of time and tap my former self on the shoulder. I trudge down the stairs. I once jumped down these same stairs, trying to persuade twin 1 to turn around for an ultrasound. Another spring. Tantalisingly close, just out of reach.
It's only been a year,
two years,
three years.

It isn't far away.
Perhaps not quite yesterday but . . . close.
I feel as though I've failed. Because I don't know how to fix myself, how to stop myself returning to this same worn out spot. To a memory that is so fuzzy that it is probably now half a fiction.

Perhaps it is because I'm still hoping to find a few more memories of that little girl.
Another image, another glimpse.
Perhaps I don't, in truth, want to stop going back.
I want to hang out in August 2008 forever, that month that held out so much happiness, that held my little girl's entire life. Why would I want to leave it?

Except for the fact that trying to stay there is ruining me.
And everyone else seems to be under the impression that it is 2011.

We go on the tour. We correctly identify forceps, ventouse, hospital gown, drip. We discuss the merits of TENS machines and epidurals. We count up the number of people who will be present if you have an emergency C section. Doctor, health care assistant, anaesthetist, midwife. One of the men is told to lie on the floor and he is then surrounded by people to illustrate how intimidating we might find this.

We are the only couple in the class with an older child. Nobody seems to think this odd. The beautiful young girl next to me is worried. I smile and say, "I wouldn't be doing it again if it were that bad would I now? Please don't worry."

I could never begin to explain the complex tangle of reasons, some of them surely dubious, that have brought me back to this building. I could certainly never tell her that I was also expecting a baby girl, born in this hospital, who died.

I feel so sure I could fix this, if only I knew how.
That I could leave it alone, pretend it never happened, that I could put it in one of those mental 'boxes' so beloved of my husband, so easy for him to open and shut at will. Never grasped that trick myself.
Or that I could just remember my dear little girl's short life and how much I loved her. Leave the rest to dust.

Walking up the stairs of the multi-storey car park after work, I catch myself thinking idly how pleasant it will be this summer.
When Georgina comes home.

Sometimes I wonder if I am now irreparably screwed up.

Sunday, 6 March 2011


I dreamt about Georgina last night. I don't dream about her very often so it was a little unsettling but nice, all at once.

The Georgina of my dreams is generally herself, as she was in life, an extremely premature baby. Red, thin and bruised. Either that or a strange near-facsimile of her twin sister.

In the dream, Georgina was wading in a stream. It didn't seem unusual to the 'me of the dream' that Georgina could walk, let alone wade. The stream must have been extremely shallow as she was very small. I was concerned that she would slip and fall down in the water. There was a sinister looking fish lurking off to one side and I was worried that he might try to eat her or inadvertently knock her down.

But I didn't pick her out of the water. She seemed to be enjoying herself with the paddling.  So I just leant down and looked her in the face. Her face was so familiar. I thought, I'll just keep an eye on her to check that no good fish doesn't approach her and to make sure that the water stays under her chin.

A thought crossed my dream mind,  'Well Georgina, here you are happily wading in the stream. I thought you were dead all this time.'

Then I woke up.
And I realised that she is dead.
Still takes me by surprise some mornings.


30 weeks pregnant. A gestation in double figures that starts with a 3. Unknown and unexpected territory although still, as I don't need to tell you, no guarantee of anything.

It makes me feel so tender and protective of this little one inside and of his big sisters. They never really stood a chance, they were so under prepared. I never wanted my daughters to be born into an ethical and economic shit storm where so many seem to have an opinion on those little lives, on the validity of those bodies, those people.
On how much they cost.
On whether their chances of disability rendered them a poor investment.
On whether I am one of the selfish parents that pushes medical technology further into the outer realms than is appropriate.
I know there is only so much to go around but . . . it is hard to hear people speak about your own children in that way. Particularly when you consider the resources expended on patching up drunks every weekend of the year.

As a healthy 29 year old, I decided to start a family.
I didn't smoke, drink or take drugs during my pregnancy.
I took my vitamins and attended all my antenatal appointments.
I didn't expect anything to go awry.
In fact, I thought that my twin pregnancy was auspicious. A sign that my body could manage two babies. (Laughs heartily at former stupidity)
I thought my body was a fortress, that I could monitor what went in and what was going on inside.
That nothing could harm my children, that I could protect them.
As it turned out, once they were born, I could do absolutely nothing.
Not even make the decision as to whether they would receive treatment or not.

I wish I could blow myself up like some giant inflatable and throw myself around the whole damn situation. Puff up like a bull frog and absorb the impact of all the blows that land on my family as a result of a something that we didn't ask for. Become an ever expanding roll of human bubble wrap and spin myself out around my family. Protect Jessica from the consequences of her prematurity and the judgements that others will make about her worth and her prospects, protect Georgina from myself and perhaps even from the doctors. Wrap myself around her and just let her die in peace. But it's too late.

I always liked this song. But I always wondered why the singer sounded so sad. I thought it was a triumphant song, about a person standing in front of someone that they loved, taking the force of the blow for that person.

But now I think I understand. You can't protect anyone.
I've never felt as protective of anybody as I did over my daughters. Those two tiny, fragile beings.
But you can't fight biology.
Love can't defeat broken kidneys.
Caring can't cure sepsis.
I couldn't overrule those tiny broken bodies simply because I wanted to or felt as though I could.
But those bodies belonged to my children and I loved them. Those people, those bodies.
Not merely collections of disabilities or expense. Not to me.

Love, luck, prayer or hope. None of these things can guarantee a future for their brother either.
It's all a horrible, horrible game of chance.
One in which most people will never even know that they have been a participant.

But the standing in front of them regardless, perhaps that is the trick of it all?
The brave, foolhardy, crazy and futile attempt. Just to say that I tried to protect them.
So I stand here. In front of Jessica and this baby and Georgina's memory.
I stand here uselessly. Watching.
But not running away.