Monday, 31 December 2012


Another year passes.

Passes my daughter by.

Twelve turns to thirteen.
Fourth turns to fifth.

I go to the supermarket. On my own. A strange and momentous occasion. I feel light headed, half drunk already in a prefiguring of champagne.

And my eyes fall on the girls, always the girls.

The girls that my daughter will never be. Here five, here nine, here thirteen. Maybe. I've never been good at discerning ages. So much variation. But not here.

Her particular brand of dissimilarity is extinct.

The years accumulate on my skin. A patina. Layer upon layer of experiences. Good and bad. Mottle my skin as surely as the age spots and wrinkles. I thicken. Accumulate. Greedily. Helplessly. Hoarding days and months and years. Unwillingly.

That which I would have given away. Given half a chance.

Another year. Another layer.

How I wish I could grant it to my daughter.

But she slipped free. No layers. No experiences. No burnishing required.


It may pass her by.

But, somehow, I doubt that she cares. Or even notices.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas wishes

Our fifth without you, my sweetheart.

That first Christmas I thought your sister might come home to us. There was a flurry of paperwork and phone calls on Christmas Eve.

A stupid, slow part of me thought that, once she came home, you would too.
That it was all a test.
Or a dream.

But it wasn't.

She spent her first Christmas in hospital. The phone calls and paperwork didn't go through quickly enough. That anticipation had to be swallowed down as it had so many times before. It didn't stick in my throat so much. I was used to it by then and told myself that Christmas was just another day.

Your Dad and I carried her presents up to the hospital. Nearly filling up the narrow room. Swamping the plastic hospital chairs. The nurses laughed at us. The Christmas tree twinkled. A thin veneer of cheer stretched over the hospital. Just enough for a day. And, even then, not in every room. Cheer is too easily punctured by illness and death and pain.

The nurse looking after Jessica that day was young, barely twenty. I told her that I was sorry that she had to work on Christmas Day. She told me that she didn't mind, she didn't like Christmas since her brother died.

I didn't realise then, that first year, that I also wouldn't like Christmas as much as I once did.
That it would lose its charm and seem tawdry.

Because you didn't come back home. Not that Christmas Eve. Not even when your sister did.
I was so hopeful.
But as every fairy tale tells you, even if you are granted three wishes or powers untold, there are generally some limitations.
You can't bring back the dead.

Our hands reach and stretch.

We long. Burn. Ache. Yearn. Despair. Pretend indifference in the hope that death will fall for reverse psychology. Forget. Remember. Hurt. Exult. Love. Hope in vain. Hope.

We wish.

And wish.

And wish.

And are refused.


This is Christmas number five. I've wrapped presents, I've sung carols, I've set out a Christmas plate for Santa and Rudolph, I've held my living children tight, tight, tight in my arms. I've told them how I love the very bones of them. Just as my father in law taught me to. I've made hot chocolate. I've watched Christmas Eve specials. And it all feels exactly how I hoped it might, how I wanted it too. When I dreamed of a child in March 2008.

And I'm so happy but it bubbles up into my brain until I feel . . . . . too much. Because I feel so lucky and excited. And so terribly unlucky and sad. I have to run upstair and cry. On my own. Because nobody else can see this. Not my children. Not my husband.

Now I dream in twos. I have one arm around your sister and my hand in your Daddy's but my other arm aches and longs and wishes. Twitches. Hopelessly, exhausted, yearning, stretching, reaching, wishing. For you. Always for you.

The same arm that once held you. It remembers.


I thought about buying you a Christmas card. I saw a card in the supermarket opposite work. For a dear daughter. And I thought of you.

But then I thought of your box. Your box in the wardrobe. Your ashes. Your clothes. The hat that you wore. The sats probe that went around your foot. Christmas cards. Birthday cards. Toys.

The physical manifestations of my wishes. And that box is overflowing now. A stock take of my wishing for your flesh, your lungs, your bones, your brains, your nerves.

I didn't buy the card.


I find a poem. Elsewhere.

In other languages,
you are beautiful—mort, muerto—I wish
I spoke moon, I wish the bottom of the ocean
were sitting in that chair playing cards
and noticing how famous you are
on my cell phone—picture of your eyes
guarding your nose and the fire
you set by walking, picture of dawn
getting up early to enthrall your skin—what I hate
about stars is they’re not those candles
that make a joke of cake, that you blow on
and they die and come back, and you
you’re not those candles either, how often I realize
I’m not breathing, to be like you
or just afraid to move at all, a lung
or finger, is it time already
for inventory, a mountain, I have three
of those, a bag of hair, box of ashes, if you
were a cigarette I’d be cancer, if you
were a leaf, you were a leaf, every leaf, as far
as this tree can say.

—Bob Hicok

Every leaf, my darling dear. Every leaf.  As far as your mother can say.

I wish you were here. 

I can't help myself.

Thursday, 20 December 2012


I'm a little lost.

Instead of blogging  . . . 

I sit in my car.
In a traffic jam.
Bon Jovi plays.

The song?

Now I can't sing a love song 
Like the way it's meant to be 
Well, I guess I'm not that good anymore 
But baby, that's just me 

And I will love you, baby - Always 
And I'll be there forever and a day - Always 
I'll be there till the stars don't shine 
Till the heavens burst and 
The words don't rhyme 
And I know when I die, you'll be on my mind 
And I'll love you - Always 

A song that I've always kinda despised.

Until now.

Now I howl along to it.
Out of tune and hoarse.

Sometimes there is nothing magical.
Or kindly.

Nothing consoling.
Nothing comforting.

I try to write and all I can summon up is regurgitated Bon Jovi lyrics.
Which is probably no bad thing. 

It's just bloody lonely.

Sometimes all that is left is a tiny dead body.
Cold and purple. 
And a woman who can't sing.
Howling along to an outdated power ballad.
Tears falling onto mottled, purple hands.
An echo of death.
In the cold, dark English December night.

Mourning for a little body. A little frame. A little heart.
Dear blue eyes.
Short hair that never grew.
A body that stopped so long ago.
Nobody remembers why she is crying.


"Georgina isn't in our family," she says.
Head shaking.

"She is. We can't see her. We can't speak to her. But we can still love her." I insist.
"No mummy," she sighs.

She wants no part of this dead twin complication.
No part of this sister that isn't.
Not right now.


But I'm thrilled.
And buying, buying, buying.
Wrapping, wrapping, wrapping.
Planning, planning, planning.
Working, working, working.
Talking, talking, talking.

Talking myself sick.

Until I stop.

Then . . . 

I'm alone.

Just me and Jon. 

Until I get a better soundtrack.

Thank you Clementine's mama.

All our dear children . . . so very missed. Always.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Living In Public

Once there was a woman with no secrets.

Her life was as translucent as the sunshine, honest as the day.
Her heart was as pure as
She had no dark corners or hidden thoughts.

She had no secrets.

She made a book. That told everybody, from everywhere, what had become of her.

She mailed a copy to . . .
old school friends,
friend of her mother's,
kids she went to playgroup with,
boys she kissed once then thought better of,
old work colleagues,
current work colleagues,
her husband,
her sister,
her distant cousins on another continent,
people who only knew her through her words.

Typed, black upon white.

She asked a few of them to look. 
A very, very few.

Most asked her.
To look.
At her book.
That she thought so unique.

But her book was, oddly, very similar to everybody else's.

Apart from the photographs of candles.
And her dead child listed in a corner. The lower right hand corner of page 59. Not prominently.

You'll find her if you look hard enough. Her first daughter. Georgina.

Some people do find her.

Other don't.

You think of all of those people. How they remember you. How you probably aren't that person anymore. They see you, the you in the book, walking towards them through dust, the dust from the rubble from a collapsing building.

Sometimes I'm surprised that all of these books are so crystal clear. The photographs and copied jokes so pristine.

That the photographs aren't clouded with dust. From all those buildings that must have fallen down in the midst of their construction. Making those clear statements fuzzy around the edges.

No . . no baby photographs here. Please move away. This is a demolition zone.

Family pictures missing a husband.
Missing a father.

Books maintained in the name of the dead.
Or books left to lie still in the name of the dead.
A disconcerting reminder.
Because one day yours will join them.
Flutter, flutter, flop.
Well maintained prettiness finally given up.
For lost.

But sometimes you'll find that the friend who was yours when you were thirteen.
Whom you became too dull for.
You'll find that friend and they'll know what to say to you.

They'll send you a folded up piece of paper. You'll be thirty something. But you won't have forgotten her handwriting.  Like a message passed in the class room. Like you used to. In those days before over burdensome books like this became the fashion. Can't pass those around. You're bound to get caught.

The piece of paper will say, 'I wanted to acknowledge Georgina. I know that there is nothing that I could ever say to make it better.'

And the teacher will ask, "What's so important in that letter Catherine W.? What's so important that you are not paying attention to me?"

And you'll swallow it. Smiling.

Because you don't have many secrets left.
Perhaps that isn't entirely a bad thing.

Undignified but hey? Nobody ever said that dignity was the aim.

And would she be adding this to her book? The woman. Who tried to have no secrets. Who was tired of having secrets.

Umm . . . . . . . . . let me see . . . . . . nope.

 Now I feel ok but every night before I sleep. I wish I had kept it to myself for me to keep.


Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Parallels and collapse

A reflection triggered by a post about parallel solitudes written by Kate at Sweet Salty here.

Another post written by Bon at about living in public here.

A huge thank you to Cathy in Missouri for making me think about these two posts rather than simply running away, clutching my over stimulated and electrified brain, screaming 'ARGH thoughts and  . . . um, stuff and . .  unintelligible, but excited, gibbering'! 

And . . . . listening to the radio . . . .ha! You never saw that one coming did ya now?

Catherine W?  Listening to the radio? Unheard of!

Still. All pulled together by listening to Matthew Parris speak about the death of his father on the Today programme this morning.


I listened to Kate's TEDxHalifax talk.

And then I sat. I sat for quite some time. As the little boy pottered around my feet, banging a pot.
Jessica was out. Swimming with her Daddy.
I sat. Bang. Bang. Clang. Tea going slowly cold. Jaw a-flapping in the breeze.
It's a habit.
I thought about all of those who had underwritten my own solitary journey.

Then I wrote a comment.
It's another habit.

I meant to write something about how lovely Kate's parents are. Because there is something in that earnest reflection through her parents' faces, of her (now fulfilled) ambition to be an author, back into Kate's six year old eyes? I hope I can do that for my own children. Even a little. To have that faith and encouragement.

About how I had bought The Dread Crew for Jessica and how I won't break the spine without her, not without my first-born, second-born daughter. And she isn't quite ready yet.

But, being the self-centred little being that I am, I was whisked back.
To a cold, dark January 2009.
To a spare room with a whirring computer fan.
To a house that was never quiet.
The pump, hiss of an oxygen concentrator mumbling away. Competing with the fan.
Plastic tubing draped everywhere. Metres and metres of it.
So that I could take my baby attached to the end, like a pendant, like her twin, all around the house.

A baby that hardly cried.
A mother that peered and sat. Shell shocked.
Long into the dark night.

In the NICU, babies work to a schedule. Feed on schedule. Nappy change on schedule. And Jessica and I had been there so long that we didn't know any different, I used to sit and wait. Whether she was awake or not. With a bottle ready. We would sit and wait. Looking at one another. Waiting for 4am to click round. When I would pick her up for a feed.

I used to tick off all her medications on a chart. My own, poor, home-made replica of patient notes.
A shell of a nurse of a mother.

And one night I think I typed, 'my baby died and I don't know what to do' into google. Because, I suppose, I was unhinged?

I don't know why I thought that a search engine might hold the solution but . . . . . there you were.

Those of you that arrived prior to the winter of 2009.
Although you didn't know that I had arrived.
I was there. Silently.

Sputtering and going under.
Glugging water into my lungs as I paddled along.
Through this strange life that I didn't anticipate and had managed no preparation for.

And you were there. Parallel.
And you were swimming.
In impossible, oil-choked waters.

Swimming gracefully or clumsily.

But you were swimming.
You were breathing.

Although sometimes you raised your fists to the sky and cursed that very fact.
And sometimes you revelled in your beauty and strength.
That is the right word.

And I could see you.
Out of the corner of my eye.
That kept me afloat.

And here I am. Still.


I turn on the radio after I've dropped Jessica off at school (and there's another LENGTHY rant that I won't post here!)

And Matthew Parris is speaking about the death of his father, eight years ago.

"I'm not obsessed by grief but I was surprised that, after dad died . . .

people said, for a while you won't quite come to terms with it, and then you'll suddenly find you have a period of intensely missing him, and then, gradually, you'll move on. They used phrases like move on or get over it, you'll come to terms with it, achieve closure.

Well  . . .  That didn't happen to me.

I missed him terribly. And I carried on missing him.

And I still miss him and I don't feel that there is anything wrong with missing someone who has been very important to you, they ought to leave a gap. People talk about grief as though it were some kind of temporary mental imbalance, some sort of disease that needs to be dealt with, cured by counselling. 

Grief is a natural reaction. And it's right, if they really loved that person, that there should be a permanent gap left and that they should miss them terribly forever. And there is nothing wrong with that.

There will be a period of intense grief when you can think of almost nothing else. You can't go off for a month and come to terms with it."

Typed whilst listening to a podcast so please forgive me for any typos or errors and know that they are not Mr. Parris's.

And there he was. Splosh. Swimming along in parallel. Matthew Parris. Columnist at the Spectator.
Hey there.

Because it didn't happen to me either. Getting over it.

And I don't agree with him. Because I don't think that missing somebody terribly, forever, is a function of how important they were to you or of how much you loved them. It doesn't work that way.

I don't think that there is anything wrong with 'moving on.'
I don't think that there is anything wrong with 'staying put.'

Because . . . as I swim along.

As I get older.

Those swimming alongside me. Become far smaller in number.
An ever decreasing sequence of pools.

Because there is no right way to grieve, no right way to parent, no right way to believe.
We are all muddling along, diverging.
And that's right.

When I was young, I thought that everybody was like me, felt like me.
When I turned my music up, I thought that I was doing them a favour.

So when I was at preschool . . . oh hello, humanoid being? Hey, let's go along in parallel. We can flick sand at each other.

At senior school . . . oh hello, fellow fan of Smashing Pumpkins? Hey, let's go along in parallel. Still going along in parallel with one of these in the form of my husband.

At university . . oh hello, you've read Hesse or Nietzsche or Chomsky? Or you are interested in researching x, y or z? Or you'd rather go out and get drunk than read and research? Oh the latter, well . . . HAI, let's go along in parallel. Just for a bit.

Then you get older.

Oh . . . .HEY there? You actually like statistics? Hey! Let's mooch about in parallel.

Oh . . . oh . . . . oh you have twins? Let's move forward together but not too far, don't lets get too attached, because I'll be leaving you shortly, sister-in-law and best-friend. Love ya. MWAH!

Hmmm. Premature twins. Very premature. One dies.


Until the night of my crazy search engine typing.


But . . .

the pool

Is shrinking.

That is the nature of parallelism. Maybe?

Other people are not there to swim alongside me. That is not their purpose. To provide a parallel from which to go, 'ahoy there Catherine W. I see you?' Because we are all immersed in slightly different waters.

Eventually your own experiences. Your own skin. Divide you from everybody. And I don't know if I really believed it, until I heard Kate say it.

The law of diminishing returns, taken to its natural conclusion.

Because the exit line is single file. As I've written before.

There is no hand holding there.

All the more reason to glory, to exult, to wonder, at those parallels whilst they do exist. To seize the hands whilst they are outstretched. Until we are inevitably forced to let go.

Thank you to all of you bloggers out there.

I'm here. I'm still swimming. Because of you.


And this is already too long. So I'm going to have to write about Bon's post next time I get a chance to write something!

Friday, 2 November 2012

That face

I don't listen to a great deal of music these days.


But. I was driving to work earlier this week. And I wasn't, for once, listening to talk radio which has inspired many a blog post around these parts.

But. Instead listening to an album that I haven't heard for many years.

'After The Fall' by Mary Coughlan. Which came out in 1997. Bought by myself. For my mother.  When I was . . . 18? And my own mother was 47?

Interesting re-listen. Equidistant between 18 and 47 at 33.

There's a lot of revelation about womanhood in her voice, in that album.
It's a four bottles of vodka and a slug of Ribena album.
It's a desperate album.

I saw her sing live just last week. I was tired. I thought I might fall asleep. I didn't want to leave the children with my husband.

Until Mary Coughlan sang. Then my breath was stolen from me, just for a moment. Because her voice. No matter how well reproduced. Is a thousand and one times better in person.

She asked the audience to call out songs they wanted her to sing. And I wish I had been bold enough to ask for this one.

'That Face'

'That Face,' is what I would have called out. Had I been cut from bolder cloth.

But the woman seated next to me called out for another song and I couldn't bring myself to compete.

Because I would have asked her. To sing it for us. Us here.


I often wake up and feel that I can't do this again. I used to feel that the defining word for Georgina's death was 'sorrow' but now, four years later, it is 'exhaustion.'

The morning holds no mystery. And the night. Well, as the song says, it holds only dread for me. That I am simply dragging myself through hour and hour and day and night. On and on.

Children who live. They keep you up at night. Children who die. They keep you at night too. Until you are ready to stroll downtown to the drowning places yourself.


But I hear this song and I think of the faces that I've seen here. The photographs that I've seen here. The words that I've read here.

Photographs of a particular child. Their child.
So very, very different. From every other photograph I've seen. Or will ever see. A glimpse into something that I can't really understand. It makes me want to bless them. Or genuflect. Bow my head. Cross myself. Gather the remnants of the only holy that I have left, to myself.

Although I've been a member of that ensemble myself.

I will never publish a photograph of my husband and I looking at Georgina. It's been too long. But I do have those photographs.

Of myself. Of my husband.

With that face.

That face.

That face that restores all my faith in the mystery of the morning. That takes away the dread. That means I can keep walking.

That is like a tiny silvery thread of light and hope in a place that often seems unbearable.

Because in a world that holds such gentleness. Such tenderness. Such love.

Such a world. Could it be totally awry? All wrong? Utterly hopeless and cruel? Surely not.

Even though they are dead.
Even though that makes no sense.

The love. Brings the light.

Look at the love upon that face.
Look at the light she throws around this darkened place.
Look at the world that bore her.
Look at the hands before her.
Look at the love upon that face.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Spoken Word Blog Round Up Take Two

I can't believe it has been a whole year since the first spoken word blog round up. This project is being hosted for the second time by the lovely Angie at Still Life with Circles.

I actually enjoyed doing the first one so much that I wanted to try reading a few more posts out loud. But I see that I haven't managed even a single one over the past year so perhaps it is supposed to be only an annual thing for me.

Just to let you know that it has been over four years since my daughter, Georgina, died. She was one of non-identical twin girls and this post is a reflection about my experiences raising her surviving sister, Jessica, and her younger brother, Reuben. Just thought that I should say that up front in case living children are not who you may want to hear about at this point in time.

So here goes . . . .and yes, I am as tired as I look.
I swear my eyes are slowly disappearing into my head.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Weak, encore

"Your problem is . . ."

She pauses, looking at me reflectively, assessing.
Weighing up all of my thirty three years and finding them wanting.
Alas and alack, my daughter.

"Your problem is that you have never faced any real adversity. And, as a result, you never developed any emotional resilience. No bounce in you. You just crumple at the slightest thing."

This hurts. More than it should. The truth does have a tendency to do that.

I wonder why I am weak.
Why I am one of life's leaners.
Why I am one of life's 'walks-with-a-crutch'-ers.
Overindulged. Not loved enough. Loved too much.
Saw too much. Didn't see enough.
And I'm far too old to keep blaming my parents and their dear caring hearts.
The buck stops here.
With me.

Why, when things go wrong, do I stand with my arms reaching outwards?
Like a trusting, foolish child?
Eternally optimistic, expecting the very earth to have an interest in assisting me.
An enormous great cuckoo in the nest.

And, don't get me wrong, I do believe that being able to ask for help is a good thing.
Just not taken to this extreme.

I wish I could remember who I was before. Was I always so pathetic?
I want to plead my case. To say, "No, you have forgotten. You have forgotten that I wasn't always like this. That it was the adversity that punched everything out of me. THE Adversity. That one time that beat me up and stabbed me in the gut and fried my brain and took everything, including my first daughter. Leaving me flat and shrivelled with no reserves for anything else."

Broken down cars. Schools that insist your child attend them and then won't let her attend as she throws up every morning. Slow moving traffic. Office politics. Money worries. Marital problems.

Those little things that everyone else seems to cope with. Because they don't know any better?

Weak. Weak. Weak. Still like kindling.
But I don't want to start a fire.
Because if I burn away my mother, my husband. What is left?
So I leave those neatly tied bundles of tinder unlit.


Reuben fell off his ride on this weekend. He fell forward and bumped his forehead on the floor. A huge bruise ensued. I took him to nursery and he cried and screamed and didn't want to be put down. They waved an enormous 'pre existing injuries' form at me. And I panicked. Because I'm scared.

Deep within me, I'm scared that they will be taken from me. Because I'm weak and pathetic.

So I smiled and said, "oh perhaps I'll just take him home."

Because it's safer there. I can lock the doors.


I stood in the playground with Jessica.

"It's Jessica!" scream the boys, wailing with delight. "It's Jessica."

She chases them, she keep going. In 'attack mode.' Or so I'm told by the boys.

Cough. Cough. Cough.

I touch her on the arm. I say, "Jessica, do you want to stop?"
And she stops and I cuddle her. She coughs until she is sick.

I ask the teacher if I may please have some wipes from her bag to clean it up. She says, "We can't take her now you know?"

I know. I know.

"Why are we leaving mummy?"

"Because you were sick my darling. I'm sorry."


And I need to get some strength. From where, I don't know.

Because there must come a time. There must come an age.
For putting away childish things.
To stop cooing 'cuckoo.'

A time for being strong.

When I was little, my parents were like totem poles holding up the sky.
I was certain of them.

But my children have seen me weeping.
As I whisper, "I'm sorry." into their necks.

But that doesn't cut it.
I need more. I owe them.
But it is a fight. It doesn't come easily to me. Calm. Stability.
Something bovine.
Not very much like me.


Doesn't mean I won't try.

Because I will try.
I'll try harder.
To grow those additional stiffening bones around the spine.
More vertebrae.
Because some of us were born without a sufficiency.
Doesn't mean we can't grow them.

And I want it.
I want strength.
Rings around the trunk.
Thick bark.
A ready smile.
Play dates. Friends.

Not yet.

But I do have.
I have something.
I hope that this is what they remember.
That and the fact that I am fighting.
Not against their sister.
But with her.

And it's something that is easily confused for something else.
It's hard to come by.
But it's all I've got.

Any tips?

Friday, 12 October 2012

Reminiscence Bump

'The reminiscence bump is the tendency for older adults to have increased recollection for events that occurred during their adolescence and early adulthood. Individuals can generally recall a disproportionate number of autobiographical memories from this period.

The reminiscence bump occurs between the ages of 10 and 30 years old where memory storage increases during times of change in self and in life goals.'

Taken from the great and glorious, occasionally dubious (hopefully not in this instance) Wiki P.

I seemed to experience the downward slope of this bump in my early twenties. I can remember sitting in a university kitchen, during the cold, clear light of the early hours of an English morning, birds calling through the crisp grey, discussing earnestly (and, admittedly, drunkenly) that I didn't feel things as keenly these days. That my emotions were muted, that my memories of more recent times were blurry, that my heart no longer felt as though it would split my ribs apart when the music played. I bemoaned my progress over the reminiscence bump and wailed that everything from this point forward would be lost in a fog of ageing and meaninglessness. And yes, yes . . . I was (am) fairly insufferable.

My voice caught a little as I quoted Antoine de Saint-Exupery. In a replica of the wobbly voice I used to listen to on a stretched cassette tape of the 1980s.

'So I fumble along as best I can, now good, now bad, and I hope generally fair-to-middling.
In certain more important details I shall make mistakes, also. But that is something that will not be my fault. . . . . Perhaps I am a little like the grown-ups. I have had to grow old.'

Because I thought I was a grown up.
Bwah ha ha ha.
Oh dear.
Poor, drunken, stupid, young me.


I've been thinking a great deal about Merry's recent post here. The legacy.

I think that the door that links my life in the here and now of 2012 to my life in August to December 2008 is permanently ajar. It is never entirely shut. But it is never fully open either. I peer around. I take a quick look and then I run away. But I keep going back. To take another peep. Just in case something pops back in, another memory of her perhaps?

The recollections of my own, brief and brutal reminiscence bump are full of holes where some sort of peculiar shut down occurred, things that I probably don't actually want to remember have been replaced by an absolute blank. And those months have been revisited so very often that I know I have decorated them, that I undoubtedly hidden bits from myself, that I have embellished and embroidered and lied and deceived. Unintentionally. The delusions of the defeated.

I could tell you a few things for sure.

The pattern of the mural on the wall on the back corridor of an infrequently used exit from the NICU, the handwriting on the call button for Jessica's ward, the curl of the hook of the coat stand, the smell of the parents' shower room, the tone of the voices of the women who worked next door, the skin of the consultant doctor.

And so I am haunted by randomness, by these disconnected images that ping about in my brain, when nothing else occupies it. This is why I try so desperately to cram it full of . . . anything going. I'm on season four of nineteen of America's Next Top Model. Oh yes.

But when Tyra and the girls are gone.
They sneak back in.
These small certainties, the pattern on the incubator cover, the scent of the hospital canteen.
I know this much is true.
And the rest?
It's anybody's guess.


The birth of my daughters seemed to rip all my memories away and cast them adrift. The past and the future. And I find myself marooned on a small stretch of time. Where I can't seem to connect with my own past and everything since seems a little like a dream.

I look back to the young woman that I once was. The woman who wanted her ribs to split open with music. Little did she know it would take more than that. And that you can walk around with your ribs splayed and nobody will even notice. Melodramatic sigh.

And those memories. Those treasured memories of the reminiscence bump that the majority find so accessible and vivid. Mine? They don't feel as though they are anything to do with me. Bump schump.

I know that I decided this and that. Read this book. Loved that man. Thought I had this friend for the rest of my life. Believed I stood for this or for that. Learnt these facts. Indubitably I did. I have some pieces of paper that state that I must have known something, at some point. Someone who looks a lot like me, sounds a lot like me, DID do those things and reach those conclusions.

But that person who I had so carefully spent twenty nine years constructing looks like a ghost. I look at her and think, 'hmmm facile much? Think about things much? Idiot much?'

And now I am almost scared to attempt to make a start on another persona. Because it just seems like an utter waste of time when I'll be tearing her down, burning her to the ground in another thirty years or so. And then I may only have one more shot left. If I'm lucky. So I'm scared to even try.

Wary of being faced down by sixty year old me. Sneering 'Idiot much?'

But, like it or not, wanting to or not, a new person is emerging from the ruins of me aged twenty nine and one quarter.

Perhaps Jill A. overestimated me when we talked about returning to a second adolescence? Perhaps I overestimated myself?

I guess that I am now, effectively, four years old. Having being reborn at roughly the same time as my daughters. On either the 26th, or the 29th, of August. I'm never sure if we all arrived together or if I re-struggled into the world as Georgina left it.

No wonder Jessica and get along so well and disagree so violently at times. We both want to play on the iPad, we both want to be feed and comforted and warmed. We are both learning, or re-learning, the laws of social interaction. Don't bite. Don't shout. Don't say what you really think.

We both don't quite know what we are doing.  Not yet.

Sorry Jessica. You didn't get a twin but, hey, here's your mother. The secret toddler. Trying to coax herself into some kind of coherent adult format. Filling in for Georgina.

Who seems to have got it right first time.


And memories of afterwards seem strange too.

Perhaps it because I am older?
Perhaps it is because I am a mother?

It all seems to rush past and I'm still baffled. The children sprout and stretch, like a fast motion film of plant growth in a nature documentary. I seem to stagnate but I know that can't really be the case. It's just a terribly slow kind of growth, even in fast motion. Achingly slow.

The years slither past and I'm still by the doorway, peering back to that place that seems to have changed everything.

The book I've just finished reading had a recurring theme.
"You just don't get it do you Tony?"
In this instance, I'm with Tony.

Because I just don't get it. The book. Or anything else much.
Perhaps that is the point?
That there isn't anything too get.
Because life isn't like a novel.
It's messy and incomplete and inane.
Full of things like eating breakfast and long, long stretches of boredom.
And mysterious things like babies who die and accidental injuries and relationships that disappear.
Events whose echoes seem to hang in the ether long after the breakfasts and boredom have gone.
Those things that lurk behind doors that never quite seem to be entirely shut.

I open up the hard drive of my old computer. And there's this photograph. Of my mother, me and Jessica. This time that seems to have shaken up everything and everyone and every single fact that I so foolishly thought that I understood. Sent me spinning backwards.

Through the permanently ajar door.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012


I'm not sure where this strange little thing comes from? Just a sequence of images that keep popping into my mind. Partly inspired by Angie's post about crutches.

Once there was a woman.

Once there was a woman who had a child. Once.

A child who slipped and twisted out of time.
She left no mark.
Needed no crutch.
Needed nothing.
Except for death.

A child so brief, it was as though she had never been.
Except to the woman. The woman who once was.

She clutched. But there was nothing, only an empty space.
So her hands clutched the air where the child had been.

A second rate crutch.
And yet she clutched.
Because heaven knows she needed one.
Couldn't manage without one.
The woman who once was.

She clutched so hard that her hands twisted.
Around the crutch that was only a substitute.

Her hands.
That longed to cradle the head, the skull, the brain.
That they had cradled.

But now they cradled nothing.
Because her gentleness had left her.

Her hands.
They had lost the trick of joint, of synovial fluid, of flexion, of release.
Even in the ease of sleep, they remained.
Watchful, clawed, waiting.
Just in case.
Because you never know.
When things that seemed lost may be returned to you.
If they ever are.

Years passed.

The woman raised her hands to the sky.
As if to examine them.
She shook them.
There was something defiant in the rattle of her claws.
But whether they were lifted in triumph or despair?

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Plucked from the brain of the sleep deprived

"Hey love," he shouts.

I look around the empty car park, attempting to ascertain if I'm the addressee of his 'Hey . .'

I don't see anyone else in this godforsaken supermarket car park.

I raise my eyebrows at him. He looks cheerful.

"Hey love. Are you as tired as you look?" he enquires.

"Yes. Yes I am," I smile. "I've got two little ones."

He nods. "Yes, I know how that goes. If I wasn't finishing work now, I'd drive you home. You look so tired."

"Oh thank you," I say. "That is such a kind thing to say."

He's a cabbie. I suppose when it comes to consolation and solace, we all turn to what we do best. He drives. He sees a tired looking woman and thinks about driving her home. I wonder, briefly, what I could do to return the favour. Any data you need analysing mate?

And I am tired. I am as tired as I look. With my two little ones. With my three little ones.

But I don't mention her anymore. It's too complicated and awkward. Today I've told three strangers that I have two children.

I am tired. So tired that my bones ache.

Crumbly, chalky little frame trying to hold up the weight of baggy flesh that is me.
And the weight of a child that never was.

He is only trying to be kind, sympathetic.

Two children provokes a wry smile and a wink.

Three children?

Oh that would be one too many.
She's always one too many.

I get into my car. I smile. I drive off.

With my tiredness on my back.


Reuben starts nursery. He sets off with no backward glance. I push home an empty buggy. Ready to collect him in an hours time.

I sit in the silent house. Alone. It's odd. I'm hardly ever alone. I make a cup of tea. It goes cold. I sit.

I go to collect him. He squints at me from across the room. Registers. Then looks away.

I speak to the lady at the nursery. She says that it is as though he has been there for months. He has been trying to hug the girls. Snarfing breadsticks. Refusing cheese. Throwing grapes.

And my heart swells. I float up to the ceiling. At the vision of this boy. So unlike his mother. His independence and his charm.

His solid flesh. His life. His life that unfurls in front of my disbelieving face. All of this? For him? For me?

Yes. Yes. The sun winks. That kindly God. That smiles. Then looks serious.

But not because of anything you did. Don't flatter yourself love.


I am in the wardrobe. Putting something away, a cushion, a blanket. Folded up.

I glance up. There she is. Her ashes anyway. Not her.

In a plastic bag, in a box, under a giant badminton racket that I bought my husband for a present before she was even thought of, next to her twin sister's china mug put up in the wardrobe for safe keeping.

The ashes of the child that was Georgina.

I keep thinking about an urn. But, somehow, I never buy one.


I wonder what to do about this writing.

I seem to need to do it. Sometimes I wish that I didn't.

I'm writing here. Tap, peck, search, tap. 'X Factor' and 'Red and Black' blare in the background. Because nearly every house on this estate will be watching them and it would be strange not to.

My husband is in the kitchen fixing his Play Station.

And I know which endeavour I consider more admirable. I wish that I were fixing something.

Perhaps some things . . . just can't be fixed?


When I started this blog, I believed it would end at Reuben's birth?

Although I didn't know he was Reuben back then.

But it doesn't seem to be ending?

Is that a bad thing?

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Towards Silence

I was driving the children to the farm park. I flicked on the radio and heard a snatch of the documentary 'Hearing Ragas' which featured a piece of music, written by the composer John Tavener, about near death experiences called 'Towards Silence.' This documentary was so compelling that I may have, accidentally, taken a wrong turning so that I could finish listening. Ahem. I'm not a good mother at times.

Strangely, shortly after discussing his new composition with the violinist, Professor Paul Robertson, who he hoped would perform his new piece, the composer suffered a serious heart attack and was hospitalised. Shortly afterwards, Paul Robertson's aorta burst and he spent six weeks in a coma.

These two, composer and performer, who planned to write and play the near death experience out on stage, found themselves, noses pressed unwillingly, right up against their subject matter. Death.

Paul Robertson spoke about the visions that haunted him during his coma, about his fears of resurfacing to meet the consequences of his catastrophic health problems and the music that comforted him as he as hung, suspended, in that strange limbo. A place that I have never been but that I have a vested interest in. As both my daughters were there. Georgina for a few days, Jessica for a couple of months.

Two older men. Two tiny babies. Cast adrift. Cut loose from their mooring, joined to their physical bodies by mere skeins. Three come back as the ropes tighten, one snaps free.

But these men are speaking, they can articulate the experience. They are speaking from a place that I am desperate to know more about.

Paul Robertson said that he heard a comforting voice, singing to him. He heard Indian ragas. Which were, unbeknowst to him, the very basis of John Tavener's piece. About this very experience that he was himself going through. Close to death. Towards silence. How marvellous and strange.

He also experienced terrifying visions, in which he described hellish scenes, like something from Hieronymous Bosch.

And I wonder.

I hope she wasn't frightened. I hope that an adult brain, crammed with experiences, is the only type that can conjure up complex scenes that disturb and upset.

Did she hear my voice? Did her sister hear my voice?
Did it cut through all the drugs? All the invasive treatment of her tiny body? The alarms? The hiss and pump of the ventilator that took her breaths for her? What did it mean to those tiny brains who had not yet experienced anything except a warm and tilting sea. Inside me.


Years and year ago. I read a poem about awaking in heaven. Sadly, I can't remember who wrote it but it has stayed with me.

That you awaken. That you hear your parents talking downstairs. The clink of the dishes as they prepare the breakfast. The soft murmur and then, the voice calling up. To you. To come downstairs.

I hope it was a little like that. That she heard our voices, the only voices she might possibly, possibly have recognised. If I'm generous to the development of her auditory system.  I hope we called to her. That it was time to leave. To get up. To walk away from this. That she didn't have to come back.

Paul Robertson described slipping to a velvet darkness. I hope it was like that for her. That she wasn't afraid. But that she was surrounded by softness and comfort.

I hope she heard me. I hope she heard me tell her how very much I love her. Some things don't change. Some questions always keep me up at night. No matter how the years pass. I still miss her so very much. I ache with it.

Sometimes, I do wonder that other people cannot see it. That I don't have a growth over my heart or another arm sprouting out of my back. Some visible mark. Sometimes I feel that, surely, I must be deformed with it.

This tiny frail baby who I clutch at so fiercely. And I have been holding onto her so tightly, that she has grown weighty and dense, like a stone. I feel as though I have grown back around her, to restore her to where she once was. As though I could gift her with life for a second time. But I can't. I'm only holding a stone in my belly.


John Tavener and Paul Robertson both recovered. Slowly and painfully. Their piece was performed.

John Tavener's wife said that she was reluctant to let 'Towards Silence' be performed whilst her husband was in a coma. Traditionally, he would draw a double line. To signify in musical notation 'here is the end of the piece.'

He had not yet made this mark on 'Towards Silence' when he collapsed with a heart attack.

Subsequently she discovered that he did this because there is no end. Not to that silence to which the composition is addressed. That we all creep closer toward.

My sweet girl. My dear daughter who lives in that silence. That strange, echoing place without an end. I may well never know where you are, if you are anywhere at all, or what you might have experienced during that brief time that you were my daughter.

But I know a little of what it is like to live somewhere with no conclusion, incomplete and unfinished, with no double bar line to signify the end. And that, I hope, may bring us closer together somehow?

Sometimes I feel that not even my own death will stop a strange little echo of me persisting? Of a mother who is reaching out for a child that will never be returned. A piece of me, a piece of her, things that one were and cannot quite reach an ending. And so we linger.

I miss you terribly, my girl. I hope that whatever may be left of us at the end, whatever thin and fragile impressions remain of me, remain of you. That they will, inevitably, be drawn back together. And be left at peace. Silent.

Friday, 14 September 2012

How to disappear completely

I'm writing about my daughter and how I disappeared her from my life over at Still Standing Magazine today.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

I Always Stay Too Long

It's been unseasonably warm here. I take the children out to the front of our house, to the pavilion where I once imagined twin girls running, where I once watched my little ghost jump up and down.

Jessica find the remnants of a puddle and splashes in it. Reuben tries to join her but is gently rebuked and directed to a 'baby' puddle. Not even a puddle. Just a darker, damp patch on the tarmac. An echo of moisture. He stamps hopefully but no spray comes up.

I sit in the shelter of the pavilion. It's been ruined now. As most things left outside and unattended in suburban England inevitably are. The glass smashed, the wood splintered. I won't draw the parallels because you don't need me to do so. But it was, once, quite nice. Green and glossy. Back in 2007.

I find a snail. I like snails. With their one large foot and their cautious peering eyes. I pick him up. Thinking to move him away as it is getting hot and he would probably be better off away from the path and under a bush. As I lift him, I notice he is dead. That his soft, slow body has slowed off to a permanent halt.

As I lift him higher, I notice that somebody has put a cigarette out in him. I suspect that this is probably why he is dead.

I pick him up and put him under the bushes anyway. Poor little soul, I think to myself. There is fellow feeling here. I see you. Mr. Snail. There you were, swooshing along, minding your own business. When somebody picked you up and decided to put out a cigarette on you. I'm so sorry. I don't know why that would happen. Life is so very odd and cruel. And I sigh and I find that I'm crying.

'It's ok,' he replies. From beyond this vale of tears. 'Sometimes life just works out this way. I had fun swooshing along in my snail-y way. It was a good life here. There were green plants and rain and other snails. But now I'm dead. And it's ok. Don't cry.'

I wonder how it came to this. That I am having internal conversations with a dead snail. And that I have a strange sense of camaraderie with my new, presumably murdered, friend. That I feel closer to a snail, with a cigarette end embedded in his body, than to my neighbours walking over just there. Who wave and say hello.

"Hello, lovely day isn't it?" I reply.

I wonder how they can possibly fail to notice that I am speaking to them from the bottom of a well. Inhabited only by me and a dead snail, curled around an extinguished cigarette butt.


I take Reuben for a walk in his buggy this morning. The sun is so warm. Every cell, every atom, every space between the atoms that compose the blob that is me seem to lean towards it. To the extent that I'm vaguely astonished to find that I'm still walking along upright. Not leaning at some unlikely angle to the pavement.

What a strange, strange chance. To be alive. To have a skin to feel the sun upon.

What a mystery. The mystery. Why me? Why not her?
Behold, I tell you a mystery.
Or maybe I won't. Who knows. It's all smoke and mirrors from here on in.

'It's ok child,' the sun winks at me. 'It's ok little ant-child. You aren't built to understand all this with your small pathetic brain. Don't worry. Just feel the warmth on your skin. It's only going to last so long anyway.'


So I'm here. Years on. Feeling that I have stayed too long. Even here. In this place where everyone is sad and battling to understand.

Years on, where I am talking to snails and to the sun. Feeling out of kilter with it all. Perhaps that is just where I am meant to remain. Out of season. With no response.

That I will endure until I no longer have to. But I'm tired. Tired of missing her and tired of trying to make some sort of sense of afterwards.

Sometimes I miss the sort of life this song is about. Although it's not of my generation. I've certainly never danced to it anyway. Too old. But nights out, perhaps especially English nights out, don't change that much over the decades. Although it's been a long time since I was in attendance. In those strange little social clubs and odd places you end up in. If you're in the habit of staying too long. As I certainly was.

But I'd just like to care less, to drink myself into oblivion, to just stop feeling and analysing and trying to make everything make some kind of sense. And this song reminds me of when I lived in London and was eighteen and wasn't friends with a dead snail.

Please take me back there. Just for a night. Please.

Warning - Like an English night out this song contains a lot of alcohol and offensive language. And it has one of those annoying advert things at the beginning. 

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Between a rock and a hard place

So . . . . . in order to get Jessica's school entry delayed (so for her to rejoin the academic year that she should have been born into had she not been born so ridiculously early) I have to prove that she has severe special educational needs and get a statement for her.

In order for Jessica to start school as the system says she should (tomorrow) I have to prove that she has NO need for any additional assistance.

I can't prove either of those things.

I'm not an education specialist, I don't even know many three or four year olds. How I'm supposed to assess these things I haven't a clue. So now I'm just utterly at a loss.

Everywhere I go I keep getting referred back to the head teacher. Speak to the head teacher, speak to the head teacher, they all chant! The very same head teacher who has NEVER deigned to meet with me in person or even speak to me over the telephone.

Despite my first contact with this school being back in September LAST year.

So Jessica may or may not be starting school tomorrow / next week / ever? Who knows? Quite frankly who cares?

Perhaps we can just go entirely off radar and never send her at all? Which is looking like the best option by far at this point.

Or I could go and camp out in the reception of the school UNTIL the head teacher speaks to me.

I've ended up in the situation that I expressly stated that I DID NOT WANT. For Jessica to be treated differently to any other child and not allowed to start with the rest of her class, be in that in September 2012 or September 2013.

 Geesh, what an utter, utter mess.

Jessica - I'm so sorry my love. I did try my best for you and I tried to get what I thought was right for you. But transpires I can't get either my original plan, my fall back plan, or, it would appear, any formal education for you at all at this point.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Saturday, 25 August 2012


Tomorrow, Jessica will be four.

She has been too excited to sleep and has popped in and out of bed several times in the past hour.
She asks for a toy from the shelf and I can't understand which one it is that she wants.
So I lift her up and she makes the selection herself.

A tiny blue hippo with a hospital ID band tied around its middle. The ID band reads that 'this belongs to Jessica Walsh' and I've never had the heart to snip it off.

That hippo hung in her incubator from two days old. When my husband went back to retrieve some things from our home. We had come with no spare clothes, no toothbrushes, no towels, no cameras, no phones. Nothing.

He brought back a hippo and an elephant, dangling toys from the bouncy chairs we had purchased the previous week as a celebration for an 'all clear' scan.

And when I looked at the tiny babies I had produced, with their mighty toys dangling down upon them. I felt despairing. And a fool. To have been so complacent.

But Georgina's blood pressure was stabilising and I felt a stab of hope. Idiot that I was. I am.

Jessica grasps the hippo and curls around it. And I can scarcely stop my jaw dropping with wonder. With amazement. It still feels like fingers poking in my heart, blocking up the arteries and veins, fiddling with the valves.

That the tiny baby with a head the size of a tennis ball. With limbs like sticks. Is now four.
I find myself clutching her solidity. Terrified that she will vanish into the ether, like her sister. Because when you are that tiny, it's terribly easy to disappear entirely. To ash. One trapped here, another gone.

'You're my friend,' she says.
'Thank you,' I say. 'I might not always be your friend. But I will always, always be your mummy.'

She seems content and turns over to go to sleep. Until five minutes have passed when she appears on the landing once again. Looking for birthday presents.


We moved to our current house slightly less than a year before the twins were born. Our previous house had a nice garden. I used to enjoy planting and watering and pruning. The slow, slow growth of roots travelling downward, shoots unfurling upwards.

Our current garden has not been so successful. It feels blighted. It's overlooked and shadowy. No plants. We have a lawn and a trellis with a clematis growing up it. Or at least, we did. After a couple of years of beautiful blooms and growth, I fear that our clematis may not flower again next year. Although it does have a bit of a habit of merely resembling dead. All form and no substance.

I had a pink miniature rose bush that somebody bought me for Georgina on Jessica's first birthday. But I didn't bring it in soon enough and it was killed by last winter's frost. I felt terrible. So neglectful and careless. But, by the time I had moved it in to the carport, it was too late and Georgina's rose was dead.

This week I bought a small rosemary plant. Because it seemed right. I decanted compost and fed and watered. I cared. For the first time in a while. I hope it grows. I feel as though I like this plant, its wiriness, its determination, its smell, its utility and its beauty.

Let's hope I remember to bring it in this winter eh?

So a small wiry plant. A thin white candle. That burns this evening. For you and for another. This eve of the 26th of August.

That's all my darling. My dear Georgina.
I'm sorry it's not more. But, in comparison to what I wanted to offer you, it could never be enough.

I miss you. I love you. I'm proud of you.

There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray,
love, remember: and there is pansies, that's for thoughts.

There's fennel for you, and columbines: there's rue
for you; and here's some for me: we may call it
herb-grace o'Sundays: O you must wear your rue with
a difference. There's a daisy: I would give you 
some violets, but they withered all when my father

Here your mother stands. 
With rosemary. 
Rue enough for two. 
No violets. 
Perhaps a daisy? For your sister?

Wednesday, 22 August 2012


He said that his novel is a mutant, displaced autobiography.

And his words brought this place to mind. Although it would not bear even a passing comparison to his novel.

Because I'm here, displaced.
Mutated into somebody that I'm not supposed to be.
Transposed to somewhere I'm not supposed to be.
Reversed and mirrored.
Without her.

Surely I'm not supposed to be without her?

Supposed, supposed, supposed.
So often repeated that I see it for the nonsense that it is.

Except in my heart. Where it makes perfect sense.

Sunday, 19 August 2012


So . . . end of August. Here you are again. Pulling at the edges of my heart. With your talk of endings, summers and pregnancies, with your small gentle hands. Baby's hands. Not the kind with dimpled knuckles though.

Summer is fading. It's very close today. Humid and sticky.

We have had a typical end of summer weekend.

On Saturday we went to Frensham Ponds. A tiny inland sea, Frensham Great Pond. Packed with boats and screaming children. Surrounded by sand heated up to nearly unbearable temperatures. Everybody, ever, appears to be there. Balanced on towels spread out on the sand. Eating ice-cream.

Today, we went to a pick-your-own fruit farm and picked blackberries and blueberries. Too late for the more conventional strawberry and too early and too late, both at once, for raspberries.

I find the physical sensations associated with these trips overwhelming.

The hot sand, gritty on the soles of my feet.
The cool, cool water of the pond, dappled with sunlight.

I take Reuben to the pond. His soft, fat feet walking across the sand next to my adult bony ones. Which look like a horrible caricature contrasted against the perfection of his one year old version of the same.

His cautious first dip in the water. Gently easing one toe into the shallow channel. Then, with a crow of delight, we plunge in and he is pulling me by the hand. Babbling excitedly in that language that is not yet language but does not preclude understanding. Fun, fun, curiosity, joining-in-with, come, come, come and see.

I look at Jessica's mouth, smudged with blackberries. "Look mummy, SO juicy," she gloats. I offer to carry her hoard of blackberries and she eyes me suspiciously. "NO, I will carry them," she says, brooking no arguments and clutching them close to her chest.

And I feel these things, the sand, the water, the blackberries in my mouth. And I seem to feel them more than once. More than I did before the twins were born. Before August 2008.

Because, although I cannot know what my children feel, what my children think, what my children know, I can imagine. I am lost in the imagining of it. Sometimes they seem to be conspiring with me, as they look me right in the eye and beam. Look at this, look at me, look at me. The cries oft repeated by young children. Witness me, imagine me. I'm here, I'm here and I'm being. Look, look.

When the hot grains of sand burn my feet, I feel them over again. Enlarged, hotter. Against a smoother foot, without callosities.

The water seems cooler, thinner. As Reuben smiles up into my face, the sensation undergoes a peculiar doubling. The joy, another joy.

The tart blackberry in my mouth, turned up by Jessica's purple stained smile. Amplified.

To very nearly unbearable.

To such a pitch of joy and such an awful sorrow.

I am so very grateful that they know what these things feel like, that they have experienced, as far as I can know, something similar to things that I myself have experienced. That we share these things, that smile, the looking into one another's eyes as we do something particularly fun.

But one of my children will only know a hospital and pain and a desperate kind of trying. A protracted death. Which I could only observe. No sand, no pond, no blackberries. And I'm so very grieved by that and I can make no sense of it.

I know this. I've known it for a long, long time.

And I've wondered, over the years, whether she is lucky. Luckier than all of us. In a place where sand and water and blackberries might not even exist. Or they might. How would I know after all.

So far removed from all of this, these bags of meat and chemicals and bone, that flicker and experience and collapse.

But today, I'm just so sad. That I can't really share any experiences with Georgina. Apart from holding her in my arms as she died. And sometimes I wonder if I were merely an annoyance to her. With my anxious hovering and protestations of love.

And I wish I could gift her with something. With hot sand against her feet or cool water on her skin or a blackberry pressed against her lips. Anything. Anything from the world that I know. To bind us together.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Fluorescent Adolescent

August appears to have me in a strangle hold. It's not fun being flat on your back, on the mat, when you've been standing up for a while. When you thought that you just might be winning.

The sky is grey and I stomp up and down the stairs to my new desk on the fourth floor of the building. Mornings. Lunch break. Afternoon. Going home. Stomp, stomp, stompity, stomp.
Or, in my Rumpelstiltskin-like incarnation, stamp, stamp, stampity, stamp.
Let me stamp right through the stair case, through the floor and deep into the earth.
Bye bye. Bye work colleagues. Bye computer. Bye shops and sandwiches and cans of Diet Coke.
Be seeing ya.
I'm off on a journey to the centre of the earth. Accompanied only by anger.

Mad as a cut snake. Mad as a jar full of wasps.

I take my iPod out and jam my earbuds into my ears. Old music.

I stare out of the window. I scowl at the screen.

Why don't they see me?
Nobody understands me. Sob. Glare.
I don't know what I'm doing here.
Why am I still living in this stupid town being boring, boring boring?
Why am I so FAT all of a sudden?
Why is my HAIR so lame?
Why do I have a massive SPOT developing right in the middle of my eyebrow?

And I thought I'd stopped caring about all that junk.

WHY is she DEAD? WHY did she have to die?
Because I still can't figure it out.

Although I have long ago accepted that there is no reason and, therefore, nothing for me to figure out.

Picture Window plays and I start to cry.
I was crying over the Olympics Closing Ceremony.
Tears are just lurking around. Ready to stream down in teenage self pity.

My friends have started to announce third pregnancies.
And I am senselessly jealous and stupidly cross.
That it won't be me soon. Or ever.
We can't afford it. Our house isn't big enough.
Surprise twins was the only way we were ever going to have three children.

Oh? Oh right? That already happened didn't it?

And they seem so placid and certain and sure. These expectants of a few months hence.
Whereas I am still, at thirty-three, all at sea.
Living out a strange protracted second adolescence.

With thanks to Jill A. from Glow for pointing this out because I had wondered what that flicker of recognition was as I jammed the ear buds into my ears this morning. Hey adolescence. Long time no see. How you doing old chum? Though I was done with you but . . . apparently . . . not. 

Wondering who I am.
Wondering who the hell they are? My peers. These people who are me in another universe, where she doesn't die. They seem so knowledgeable and settled.

I've been here before.
So long ago that I was listening to a Walkman.
Aeons ago. Lifetimes ago. Especially if you measure in the lifespan of my eldest child.

See, second adolesence. That is my only excuse for that last line. Melodrama and angst.

Thanks a bunch life. Way to set a girl back. There I was, strolling along, being 29 and pretty much comfortable in my own skin. Then BLAM! Hey you get to be 12 again! Ummm . . . yay! Except you get to be 12 years old whilst housed in the body of a thirty something. Ummm . . .less yay?!

You're thinking you've got it all figured out. You've got it made.

And then you are cut adrift. Pushed away from your thirties and back to being fourteen.

Because I really wanted to revisit that particular coastline (insert snark) Except the cool kids are probably calling snark something else by now.

See I even like this song again. My dear Billy. Sing it for me. As I mash the buttons for the escape route.

August. Leave me alone. I'm too old and I'm too tired to be a teenager again.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

A small, bitter and wrinkled heart


Why I go there? I just don't know.
Probably because I am certifiable.

My uncle is collecting a list of the dates of birth of the youngest generation for his family tree project. The generation that includes Jessica, Georgina and Reuben.

I add my three.

And I am going to add three because Georgina isn't just going to disappear from our family tree. I had a bit of a struggle getting her on there in the first instance and I'm not letting her wander off at this stage in the game. You can erase her when I'm no longer around to care about it. Or when I leave facebook. You may be off the hook sooner than you think at this rate. Then you can lop her off like a dead branch if you so choose. Except you wouldn't even do that. You'd take that tiny twig and stuff it right back into the trunk, as though it had never even been there. 

Jessica born on the 26.08.2008
Georgina born on the 26.08.2008, died 29.08.2008
Reuben born on the 04.05.2011 (Star Wars Day!)

because let's not leave this post on a bum note eh? Let wrap the dead baby up with a exclamation point! Because I can't help myself! M'kay! No blow in life that an exclamation point can't soften!

Death! Cancer! Divorce! Suddenly you're looking all perky my friends!

And so everyone else adds their children and their dates of birth.
Including one who is, as yet, unborn. 
With a tilde preface, presumably to signify some degree of uncertainty.

Give or take a couple of days, quips somebody.

Or a couple of weeks, add another.

And it takes all the power left in my small, bitter and wrinkled heart not to add a poisonous comment of my own.

Or a couple of months eh? Or better still, try four fricking months. How'd you like them apples? Eh? EH?

And you've added this on a post where not only was one baby born extremely prematurely but another actually died as a result of prematurity? Nice. Real nice. Thanks for that, I love that reminder that babies don't always show up on time but, just maybe, up to a couple of weeks before or after their due dates. Due dates? Ha! Who needs those? Thanks a bunch.

Because it won't happen to you. Not you. Only to me, bitter, wrinkled-up, poisonous, old me. Who was too cautious to make any reference to due dates or babies, particularly on facebook. You're too healthy and too nice and too good. Well how absolutely delightful for you. Shame it sucks for me eh?

And I sigh. At myself. What has happened to me?

You go to bed one night in August 2008 imagining that you are Cinderella, or Sleeping Beauty, or The Fairy Godmother, or at the very least, one of the mouse footmen. A pumpkin coach even? Something either nice or, at least, something innocuous. A very minor bit player.

And you wake up and you find that, hey, you aren't one of the good guys. You're Rumpelstiltskin. All twisted, and mean, and threatening to steal away people's first borns. Because however inconsiderate a comment like that is, my own reaction is worse.

Really? Really Catherine? After all this time? You STILL have that reaction. It isn't as pronounced as it used to be. Those italics fly through my brain and out of my ear extremely rapidly these days.

I stamp my foot and utter my curse.
Then I take it back and put my slippers on. Good bye stamping toes.
I don't truly want to curse anybody. Of course not.

It makes me feel so horrible, like something stunted or something poisoned, something crippled.
That I can't be truly happy for others anymore.

Because I am still so bitterly jealous. With my wonky womb and my tiny, frail children.

Why couldn't it have been Georgina? 
Who was born just like everyone expected her to be. 
Who is alive now, just as everyone expected her to be. 
But she's dead. 
And her mother's turned into Rumpelstiltskin. 
Poor little girl. 
I'm so sorry love. 
I'm working on it. 
Trying not to be a spitting, stamp-y, angry thing.

I know I'm over reacting and that it's stupid. I wish I could just smile and mark the due date on my calendar. Planning which little gift to buy.

But instead, it hurts. Like an old bruise, pressed. Not quite faded. Not yet. And, heaven knows, it's been a while.

Probably it's just because Jessica is starting school next month when I'd tried my best to avoid that.
And I'm not ready to let her go.

Probably it's just because it's August and it's an unexpected birthday and then the anniversary of my daughter's death.

And, if only they had been born a couple of weeks before their due date, it is likely that none of the above would be troubling me.

Monday, 6 August 2012

You Will Always Be The Same

I spent the morning drinking coffee with old friends.

Women I've known ever since I can remember. I have photographs of us in short dresses in sand pits, clutching plastic spades in fat, toddler hands. Dressed up as fairy princesses with skinny knees. We were going to be in Starlight Express and sing and dance about on roller skates. We were going to save the whales, save the world - we organised a bake sale in my front garden and raised a total of seven pounds. Our contribution to the cause.

Three, thirteen, twenty three, thirty three.

And Starbucks fades out around us. I don't notice any of the other people. Just these two. Little girls and teenagers and young women. I remember their school bags and their childhood bedrooms. The way they looked at play school and at college and ten years ago. We talk about all sorts of things. And I'm laughing so hard I'm crying. Then I am, actually, crying. But I don't think that either of them notice.

Things change. They have changed. Relationships, jobs, houses. Stories.

But not me. The only major change in my life over the past three years has been Reuben's birth. And I became a mother of the rather confused number of children that so many of us have. Two? Three?

Since Georgina died, I seem to have become very indecisive. Often I will delegate the decision making process to Jessica, when it is something suitable for a three year old. Shall we stay here at the trampolines? Shall we go to the shops today? Shall we buy doughnuts or pancakes?

I seem to stay stuck, frozen.

Perhaps I'm frightened to leave 2008? And I'm still here, four years on, watching the Olympics again. A good night for the British track and field team.

Same house, same car, ever-so slightly different job. Actually, I do seem to have an entirely different husband, although he is the exact same person according to his paperwork. But that's another story altogether.

So many things change around me that are beyond my control. I am buying school uniforms for Jessica and my heart snaps at the small grey skirt in a size three and I feel that this entire world has simply run mad. Why am I doing this? Sending my children off to be looked after by other people to pay for a house that I'm not even that keen on. But the options seem to shut themselves down one by one. Until I'm left here. Not one to run off and join the circus.

I keep thinking that I should try to change  . . . something?

Because it's nice to have a plan. It's good to look forward. I always seemed to be scheming away at something when I was younger.

And because that I feel that I should have changed. That my first daughter should have left a mark on me. I don't have a tattoo or a scar. Nothing at all. Not even a stretch mark (bizarrely I only have stretch marks on my knees? perhaps I just have very fat knees?)

That I should be a hermit, or a drunk. A saint or a terrible sinner. I should still be wearing black. That I should be kind. Softly spoken. Or hard and fierce, itching for a fight. Because of her.

But, because of me, I'm exactly the same.
I match her, in her static-ness.

Older. Flabbier. Tired and looking for a way out. Reluctant to change anything. Scared to let go of anything. House, car, job, the way I do my hair, the same clothes purchased in a larger size now. Writing and re-writing the same old lines. That I miss her. That I love her. Still here, lurking about on the internet, muttering to myself.

I look at all the time that might be in front of me and sometimes I feel tired and frightened. That I don't have the energy to keep fighting to hold on to what I have, let alone try and make much needed improvements.

I desperately want another baby. I've never had to face Georgina's death without another baby. Sometimes with a desperately ill baby, sometimes with a baby that was just a hope. But always with a baby, or close to a baby. To hide behind, to fend off the memories of her death with, to hold close to me. Those babies, all three of them, that have so consumed me that I'm not entirely certain if there will be anyone left behind them. Just a pale ghost, a ghost of a mother. The mother who writes here. A mother who will never be, Georgina's mother.

And I think . . .

I should, I should . . . .

work harder,
try my hand at something else,
take a class,
make a friend,
go to bed earlier,
stop poot-ling around on the internet when I should be asleep,
stop using words like poot-ling and flim flam and toodle pip  - which century do I live in precisely?
drink less,
eat less,
exercise more,
read more books,
read fewer blogs,
talk to my husband more often,
talk to my friends more often,
talk to my family more often,
be kinder,
keep the house cleaner,
stay on top of the laundry,
wash my car,
weed the garden

And the list looks the same as it did before Georgina died (with the exception of internet and blogging related entries) and I find that I just don't have the heart for it. I don't have the heart for reinvention. I think that I will remain the person that I was when Georgina died, to some extent. The years pile up and it seems to be costing me all my effort just to stay still. I don't even seem to have the heart to cut my hair.

Maybe next month?

Oh Georgina. My poor little half-dead baby.
I keep meaning to look at your photographs but I'm frightened of them now.
To see your eyes looking at me, your dear blue eyes.
Your little legs.
I'm sorry that it went so wrong. That you will always be the same. Never change. And, as a result, I think part of me stays the same too. In sympathy with you perhaps?