Friday, 27 January 2012

Joining in

It has been 3 years, 4 months and 29 days since the 29th of August 2008, the date of Georgina's death. Since Angie's Right Where I Am project, I tend to check more often. Who knew there was even a handy site to help you do just that. I never could bring myself to install one of those tickers, so I could see her fading off into the distance.

I don't know who I am. I used to be a person. Now I feel like a conduit. Just an empty tube for pouring feelings through. Love seeps out of my fingers on to skin, hurts drip slowly through, saturating to collect in a pool. I long to feel . . . nothing. Just nothing at all. Because I don't want to feel and reflect and ponder any more.

Pondering is nice, thinking is nice, melancholia can even be pleasant. But the price was too high. I don't want insight, I don't want to understand, I don't want any of this.

I have to join in again. Worse and more impossible still, I have to want to join in again. With the world as I used to know it. To play nicely with others. For the sake of the two children I have with me, if not for myself.

I go into the post office, bearing my bead to join a birthing necklace in one hand and Reuben tucked up under my other arm.
The lady behind the counter wants to know why I am sending a single bead all that distance.
"For a friend of mine who is having a baby, it's to make a necklace with. Many people across the world will be sending one and she will string them together to wear when she gives birth."
"Ooo must be an American thing."
It's quite common amongst women who have lost a baby at, or shortly after, birth actually.
"When is the baby due?"
"February I think. She's having a planned section so I should really know the date."
"Ooo, I've only ever had sections." Wistful sigh.
"Well, I'm sure that every way of giving birth has its good and bad points."
I don't like the way this conversation is heading and I need to get out of here. Panic is starting.
At this point the older lady behind me starts asking to see the baby. So I'm turning around to let her see Reuben's face and trying to maintain two conversations, one with the lady behind me in the queue and one with the lady behind the counter. My blood is throbbing around my brain.
"I had two babies you see."
If you think I'm responding to that you've got another thing coming lady. You with your wistfulness over your section births that presumably resulted in babies that lived and now I know exactly what you are going to tell me next. You're really pushing my buttons here.
Slightly raising her voice, "Twins you see."
Whoop-de-doo, how very nice for you.
"Yes, I've heard you often have to have sections with twins as they are slightly more risky aren't they. Thanks for your help. Bye now."
Smile until I get to the doorway.
Crumple the moment I get outside.
So did I. I had twins too. But it all went wrong and I'm now I'm broken and I can't talk about normal things anymore. Sometimes I think I shouldn't go outside of my own house anymore. I don't want to join in, I don't want to play. 

Surely it shouldn't still hurt so very much. How can I stop this happening? This crumpling. How will Jessica feel when she is older and I cry every time that somebody mentions twins? That isn't fair, I have to do better than this.

But sometimes I feel that is all I am now. A hurt. I hurt and I hurt other people by still being hurt. A flinching anticipation of being hurt. Exposed. Scrabbling around trying to tie something around myself. Every morning I try anew, to be braver, to smile, to be sociable. Then the world scrapes on my skin and I only want to get back in my car and turn the heater up and cry.

So I get back into the car and switch the radio on.
It's Woman's Hour. They are talking about when you should announce your pregnancy. To avoid raising the hopes of others. I'm thinking . . . ummm, after the baby is born. Possibly not even then.

Then they are interviewing a group of pregnant women on this issue, when to choose names, when to tell people. One says, laughing, "When we were choosing names we went round the cemetery. Because, well, they're not using that name anymore." Giggles.
And I can only think of her calling her baby Georgina Jane. Even though Georgina doesn't even have a grave, let alone a stone with her name on it.

And I sit. And I think to myself, I can't join in. Not with this.

My not joining in feels like defeat. But equally, joining in would also feel like defeat.
So I sit. Ready to fight. Wanting victory. But very uncertain as to how to achieve it.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012


A shadowy clot of people emerge from the fog. Hunched. Bunched.
They cross the road together as the traffic lights turn against me. Red in the dusk.
They seem overwhelming in number, although there cannot be more than twenty.
But so many.
Grown. So tall.
I am looking. For my daughter.
But the profiles are shadowy. They are too close together. Indistinguishable.
I might not even recognise my own kin at twenty paces.
My eyes strain.
And I am still waiting for my heart to leap.

They are each unique, their very difference, their heterogeneity, makes the lurching mass unbearable to watch. Somebody's son, daughter, husband, wife, lover.
Web upon web spinning out from each shadowy, curved head.
Squirming into the night air.
Sickening fragility.
Not a new thought.
And not one I have enough tenderness to contain.
I have just enough for myself and mine.

I teeter in my heavy, hurtling metal. Poised on one heel.

I look.
Amongst the grown.
But that place.
It is not for her.

Not for her.
The breath.
The mediocre bewilderment bedazzlement of her mother, that fool with the jangling bell.
The inconsolable wail of her brother when denied his feed.
The soft slurp slump sleep contentment of after.
The sturm und drang of her sister, blotchy and thwarted.
The rhythmic kicking of the feet on the back of the car seat, the thrash of the skull against the head rest.
The red light reflecting backwards through our eyes, the dark procession passing in front.
The breath.
Not for her.

Saturday, 14 January 2012


Well, if anyone remembers my grand un-slumpification project, it is still (ahem) on-going. Long after everyone else has packed up and left. Yes, admittedly, that is rather slow progress. It's a relapsing, iterative process. I can be walking along, nonchalantly, jauntily even. Possibly whistling. Then SLURP with a suck and a twist and here I am. Back in the slump. And the slump isn't even much like grief. It's just  . . . . kinda slumpy. Like grief's boring, miserable second cousin once removed.

And I feel so guilty. Horribly guilty. A great deal of the time. When Jessica cries because she's tripped or when she gets frustrated because she can't communicate, I see her eyes fill with tears and I hear the echoes of alarms beeping and the slap of feet running down hospital corridors. Her skin changing colour, becoming bluer. I feel as though I'm falling and I can't breathe. 

When she smiles, I feel another hand tugging at my clothing. A very small hand. Cold. And I wonder how long I can keep this up? Trying to make her happy. Ignoring that small cold pressure at the periphery. It just feels so very desperate and heavy, the love, the sadness, pressing down on me. And I need to feel less. Because this feeling stuff is all very well but it isn't productive. It is getting in the way of practical things like sewing name labels in clothes and batch cooking. Stuff I actually need to do. Stuff I should be doing right now as a matter of fact.

Guilt. Guilt that I'm sure would have come to rest on my shoulder regardless. I've always been one for self recrimination and I'm sure that motherhood just on its own will do a number on you if you are inclined that way to start off with. For me, Death and motherhood came along at once. Bony hand on one shoulder, plump, ring knuckled hand on the other. Pressing downwards. 

Sit. Back. Down. 

I feel as though the world is leaning to one side, as though the externals are listing because of a leak or an unbalanced cargo. I'm not sure what the leak is, where the imbalance lies. Death? That time in hospital? The threat of further death or illness, now that my cover is blown and I know that they can come a-calling any time they like? 

Sometimes, I feel I am just waiting for them, reduced to a trembling pile of jelly, pressing myself against the earth and hoping not to catch their eyes. At other times, I feel that I am defiantly dancing about, daring them to come and get us. Flipping the bird at Death and his cronies. 

Either way, at this point in time, we are out of joint, the world and I. Nobody else I know in real life is either quivering on the blasted heath or dancing around giving unfathomable semi-deities the finger. Well, not as I far as I know anyways. 

Even states that were once comfortable, peace, happiness. There is often no contentment to be found in them now. They are too, too sharp, with hooks that stick in my flesh. Frenetic. Manic. Because I know what it is like when they vanish . . . . poof. And you are left wondering if you will ever come across them again. 

Everything seems laden with significance. Portentous. But I don't know what the significance is. I'm just baffled, bewildered. Someone signalling, miles away, through overheard conversations and encounters with strangers. And I'm either high above the clouds or sitting at the bottom of a well. When I just want to stand with my feet on the ground.

I know it won't last. I'll un-slump and be fine. For a time. I'm just slumping because my maternity leave is about to finish and I have to leave Reuben. That's probably the truth of the matter. But everything, everything always seems to come back to the girls for me.

Constant monitoring of feet to check that they are on the floor. Constant monitoring of hands to check that they are doing something useful instead of falling to my sides, instead of covering my face, drifting off to the computer keyboard, balancing to stop this listing, to fake the stability so necessary for spending the majority of one's time with small children. Or anybody at all. Not many people want to spend time with someone who sits on the floor, head tilted to one side, trying to correct the world back to the way she thought it was. Or the way that she feels that it should be. 

And I suspect that this angled world, that upsets me so is the way the world truly is. Probably. That whole humankind cannot bear too much reality schtick. It's true. But I need to see some vision of the external that is compatible with ploughing forward, be that outer world imagined or forced or otherwise, just one that will accompany me whilst I am making sandwiches, smiling, with friendship, with posting photographs of four of us on facebook with a jaunty "all of us!" caption and not feeling haunted by that possible fifth. Or the two who flicker in and out of focus. 
Of looking at other people and not looking for a tell tale motion in the corner of their eye, for signs of their own muscles straining to tilt the world to a respectable angle. To be able to hide that motion in my own eye. 
To be square with the world. Standing in my proper place.
To look squarely at the world. Eyes up. No flinching. No looking away.
To be the bow that is stable. 
Any tips?

Let your bending in the Archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.