Tuesday, 9 December 2014


Taken from here

If I should die before you do 

you wake up
from death,
you will find yourself
in my arms,
I will be
kissing you,
will be crying.

–Richard Brautigan

I didn't die before you did.
That is the problem.

But when I wake up from death.

If I should wake.
I hope to find you.
I hope to hold you in my arms and kiss you.

Should such a thing be at all possible?

I will be crying.
That much I am certain of.

If I still have arms, a mouth and eyes.
Or any vague semblance of them.
If you are there.

I will hold, kiss and cry.
Look and look.
As best I may.

If I should wake.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Small comfort

'The thing is - nature is so exact, it hurts exactly as much as it is worth, so in a way one relishes the pain, I think.  If it didn't matter, it wouldn't matter.'

from Levels of Life, Julian Barnes

Thursday, 16 October 2014


Overheard conversation.

'Don't worry Alice,' she consoles. 'Maybe we can get you a new mummy.'



'I wish that Reuben would turn into a pumpkin turnip. A SMALL pumpkin turnip.'


Office chat. On moving to a larger home.

'I was only ever going to have one child.'

'But you fell at the first hurdle there!'

Oh thank you. Random work colleague. For remembering. That there were two babies, all these years later.

I didn't say anything. I think you felt awkward. But I smiled.

Monday, 25 August 2014


I was busy extracting your sister's birthday presents from the depth of the wardrobe when I saw your box. Its deep pink ribbon caught my eye. I haven't opened it for years. It sits perched on top of two boxes of various baby clothes that I cannot bring myself to part with. All three of these sit on top of a box containing my wedding dress which has never been opened since I wore it.

Quite why I'm devoting all this storage space to boxes I never open I couldn't say.

I took out the presents. There didn't seem to be much. But there never seems to be enough. 

Your sister's main present this year was a bicycle and it seemed silly to save that until the end of August, the end of summer and the warm weather. 
So she had that. Spokies. A bell. A Hello Kitty helmet. Streamers for the handle bars. Because that sales lady knew a sucker when she saw one coming.

So I'm left with a few boxes of plastic stuff to wrap for tomorrow. A couple of books. 

We went out today. With your brother and your sister. Your uncle, your cousins. Your sister sulked over toys and not being able to make herself understood. She said to me, 'everything is harder than it looks.' I said, 'you're not wrong. Lots of things are harder than they look.' 'Go away,' she snapped. My advice was obviously useless to her. But she pretty much had it right. I wasn't going to lie and tell her that everything is a cakewalk.

Anyway I saw your box and opened it up. The bright yellow cloth bag with its cheery teddy bear print. It hadn't changed. The small woollen blanket wrapping the zip lock bag of ashes. Urn never bought. The ashes seemed fewer and finer than I remembered. I held them for a moment, hoping that I might somehow persuade you back to life. 

I looked at the few photographs I have of you. So tiny. Your blue eyes. Your tiny strands of hair. My own stupid eager face whilst you were alive. That was the photograph that shocked me the most. A full face portrait of me. I'm not wearing the same clothes I was on the day that you died so I guess it must have been taken before. I look so hopeful. Smudgy hopeful black and white me, developed in a hospital lab as the photographs were deemed too grim to send in to a conventional place. 

And looking at the photographs I have of you I see what a slim chance it was. An outside bet. I'd forgotten how many there were. Those photographs.

I also have the stabbing realisation of how very much you look like your sisters. Both of them. Not just your twin. So certainly one of us. A W. baby. I see that in your looks now I have had two of your siblings. For a brief moment Jessica and Alice share your fate as I lose focus. 

When I look at those photographs I hope that you got away. That you simply slipped out of this life and were set free. There isn't much to be gained. Mulling over the unknowable after all these years have passed but it is all I have left. I'm still concerned. I still love you. I miss you more than I could ever say.

And I still do not know. After all this time. If it is relief or grief that I feel for you.  

'I do not know' is the only true statement that the mind can make.
Nisargdatta Maharaj

Friday, 25 July 2014

Happy Endings

'The only authentic ending is the one provided here. 
John and Mary die. John and Mary die. John and Mary die.
So much for endings. Beginnings are always more fun.
True connoisseurs, however, are known to favour the stretch in between, since it's the hardest to do anything with.'

Taken from 'Happy Endings' by Margaret Atwood


This is what I am left with. Six years on.
I know the ending. The only ending.

What to do in the meantime? Attempt to become the true connoisseur, to favour the stretch in between those two inevitable, single file gateways?
That strange, bewildering gap.
It is, indeed, the hardest to do anything with.

My gratitude, my sadness, my happiness. My very self.
Always seem a little lacking.
When set against that small, dying body.
Perspective makes me cower.

I can't really make her death into something pretty or acceptable.
No matter how I squint or twist.
Looking at it too directly is still like. . . . well, like being stabbed in my observing eye.
And so I tend to look elsewhere.

I promised her I would never look away.
And yet.
Here I am.

Eyes right.


Next month, it will be six years since Georgina died.

I still think about her, and about what happened to her, a great deal.

Sometimes I feel disappointed that this is the case. That I didn't forge a happier ending for myself.
For my living children.

I load the dishwasher as the children sit, glazed, in front of yet another rendition of 'The Gruffalo' on DVD. She looks at me, annoyed. One eyebrow raised into her scarcely-there blonde hair,  'Really mother? Is this the best that you could do? With your life? With their lives?'

I shuffle around the kitchen guilty. Half heartedly stirring up craft drawers and homework folders. A flurry of pinterest induced shame and loathing.

Sometimes it is great fun. And sometimes it isn't. Three children and a mother.
None of us perfect.

In my more forgiving moods, I give myself a pat on the shoulder and say, 'Understandable Catherine W. old bean. You aren't really ever coming back from this are you? But that's ok. It's really ok. You knew that you never would. Even as it was happening.'

Three children and a fourth that flickers around, a faulty light.
One that I can't bear to look at as she'll bring on a headache.
But I can't let her go either.

And, if you are still here . . . .

Are you alright?

I wonder about people I met along the way.

How is the stretch in between working out for you?

Sunday, 8 June 2014

The Stabbing Machine

"Where is it?" he shouts. An angry three year old boy with skinny legs, indignant upon the sand.
"Where is what?" I ask.
"My stabbing machine," he replies.

A thin slice of stone. To make long, deep matching dents in the sand.

Stab, stab, stab. Driven by something endlessly mysterious to me.
And yet familiar.

The stabbing machine.


I think about his big sister so often. My first baby.

Yet I could not, if questioned, articulate what it is that I am thinking about.
That poor little body, that tiny baby that existed so very fleeting-ly?
Not especially. Not often.

The hypothetical teenager? The Georgina that I see in every-girl.
Every self consciously turned head that matches my stare.


"Why are you staring at me middle-aged woman?"

"Well, my love. I had a baby who died. She'd only be five now but I seem to imagine her most frequently as a teenager.
I don't mean to look at you so. But I wonder.
Would she have been like you?"

The way that you and your boyfriend stroll across the road.
Your laugh, the way that your chin protrudes reminds me of her.
Your curly hair, so like her sister's.
Arms wrapped around one another.
I am looking for her arms you see.
The arms of my first baby who never really was.

It isn't half as sinister as you might imagine.
I am not mourning the me that was you. My own slim, shiny self.
I'm growing foetus arms to length. Strength.
Her arms.
To wrap around some skinny young boy.
Whom she might have loved.


This blog often feels like an admission of failure.
Every post, a defeat.
A stabbing machine.
Constructed and manned entirely by me.

Through the haze of blessed, sleep-less nights.
Of children that stir and wake.
Who ask for milk and comfort and endless stories of pretend.
Mr McGregor. Princess Celestia. Asterix. Cat in the Hat.
I will be them all. Reluctantly I admit. But I will try.
I will wake and hug and be grateful.

I miss her.
And I don't know where else to go.

In the real world. Even here.
Everybody's kindness is  . . . . worn out.
But I still miss my tiny first daughter.
My Georgina.

Sunday, 18 May 2014


'You just don't get it at all, do you?'

Taken from 'The Sense of an Ending' by Julian Barnes


Nearly six years later, as spring turns to summer.
I'm trying to pinpoint what, precisely, it is that still hurts.
What prevents my limbs from moving loosely.
A hurt at once so brain stabbing-ly sharp and so thudding-ly dull.
Fitting every description.  Every metaphor.
Yet none at all.

A childhood spent lost in one too many novels expects a resolution.

That Georgina's death will yield something for me to 'get.'
At which point, I will ditch that tiny body by the side of the road, click my heels and waltz off into the sunset.

But I just don't get it at all.
I don't even get that there is, in all probability, nothing to get.


It's one of those mornings. Mornings where nothing goes according to plan.
Where every act is a conflict of wills. Eating. Dressing. Brushing teeth. Getting into the car.
Where every negotiation, every bribe and plea ends up escalating into a stand off.
I'm tired. Too tired to fight. A lazy parent.

I huff and puff into the car. Then I sigh.
As tears crowd into my eyes. Frustrated by images of death, tiny broken children and promises that I cannot keep. The song on the radio. Trite and sickly, pulling at my tear ducts.

Jessica reaches out her hand.
'Do you need a hug Mummy? I think you should go slow and steady. Only one argument at a time'

And I wonder how she became so wise whilst I remained so foolish.
But I just don't get it at all, do I?


I wake up. She wakes up.

She smiles. The baby with the dimpled wrists and the blue eyes.
The little sister.

She pats my face. Pat. Pat. Pat. Pat. In tentative Morse code.

She falls asleep once again.

Consolation. My eye pressed against her closed eye.
My mouth pressed into the space behind her ear.
Soured milk and baby skin.

And where I had thought there could be nothing, spaces barren or undetected.
Extra corridors and rooms open up. Doors flapping.
In the wake of that patting hand.

Consolation floods.
A furious saturation.
Then dries up again.

But I just don't get it at all.


I don't write here often.
But it isn't because I don't think about her.
Like many blogs, it is a furious flurry of posts.
That tends to silence.

But she settles into my bones.
As her name dangles around my heart and lungs.
Years pass.
She is there. In my marrow. My alveoli.
The little cavity. In me.
Neurons, synapses and valves.
Whatever it is that causes a thought. Or a breath.
Autonomic. Conscious.

I still linger here. A stupid fool, jaw flapping. Speechless. That she left me.
I'm still so sad that she left.

I just don't get it at all. Treading my own strange circular path of unmet expectations.

I have been here before and I know the way.
I have been here before though I know I am lost.

Both equally true.
I know how this goes. An unresolvable cycle. A little better, a little worse.
But, in the greater scheme of things, I am utterly, utterly lost.

Six years. Quite a long time. But not long enough.
Because I just don't get it at all. Still.

Saturday, 8 February 2014


"You make me sad Mummy," he wails. "Sadder and sadder and sadder. That is how you make me."

"You sad Mummy? You sad? Wanna hug?"

"Your fault. My fault. Our faults."

Because this child is not silly. He has identified my weak spots and is honing his aim. My attempts at discipline falter and fail amongst sadness and fault and blame and 'positive parenting' and 'aha! parenting' and all the other things I read. In the interests of damage limitation. Trying to do the right thing and ending up paralysed. Frozen with indecision.


'You can't see me,' she boldly claims. Lurking around the corner with a stolen slice of birthday cake. At breakfast time. Heavily coloured icing stains the edges of her mouth.

'Oh yes, I can. I can see you," I reply. "You know that cake isn't a breakfast food."


It is the best I can hope for. Because your big sister died and I . . . . . well, I lost my confidence. And, really, that is what you want from me. Confidence. To show you the way.

Because mothers aren't supposed to stand empty handed. Bemused. Amused. Confused.
Mothers aren't supposed to get lost.
Mothers aren't supposed to be sad.

They are supposed to say that cake is a fantastic food to eat at breakfast time.
Or that it isn't.

But truly. I'm indifferent. Eat cake. Don't eat cake. There are larger things at stake here.

Just breathe. Please do continue to breathe.

I don't see my way clearly on the smaller issues.


But this be the verse. This be the way. Sigh.

Some things are easy, like, 'don't bite your sister, don't poke me in the eye, don't squash the baby.'

Others like cake for breakfast, requests for DVDs and help with putting on tights.
Well they are a bit more tricky.
Take it or leave it.

I'm probably not a very good parent. Despite all my avowals and wishes to be so.

And if I'm not a very good parent then I have let you all down horribly. Including the one who is dead.


I lie awake at night. When everyone else is asleep.
The pressure on my chest. Makes my lung crackle a little.

The pressure of a baby. Not a tiny baby. A baby that weighs 13 lbs. At least. A 3 month old. Fourth in my arms.

My mind slips. Back to five years ago. The click, hiss, click of the oxygen concentrator. The feel of plastic tubing against my skin. In the dark, time shifts and layers of memory pass over one another, transparencies containing feelings and smells. Acetates overlaid.

Time flexes. In my mind. I nurse you. I hold you. It seems unbelievable that I didn't. First.

The sweet curved head. The short blonde hairs. Tiny, dear girl.
I bury my nose into the tender neck, slightly sour with unwashed milk.

Because I can repeat and repeat. I can pretend. That she is you. Just for a moment.
But it is a lie. I never nursed you and I never held you. Well, just that one time but you were dying and it was so very far from this that it almost feels like a different action. Because surely that was something other than simple holding. Regret, regret, regret.

Terrible, terrible regret. Still stalks me. When the house is dark.

Alice will be my final baby. I don't have enough money, or enough house, or enough heart. or enough brain for another. Yet already I yearn. Because what will I do? When there are no more babies? I've always had a baby. To stave off the pain of the one that I will never hold.

The touch of tiny, tiny limbs. The clicking of hospital equipment.
Overlaid with broader limbs. Lighter breathing.
But always a baby. The one age that I seem to be confident in my abilities to care for.

And soon there will be no more.


"Five years ago," he says. "It is all so very long ago. How can you still think about it? So often? Surely that isn't right?"

I can't explain why. And so I say nothing.


So come the storms of winter and the birds in spring again
I have no fear of time
For who knows how my love grows?
And who knows where the time goes?

Friday, 31 January 2014

3/4 time

'Hey love,' he chirps. 'You're missing one - didn't you notice?'

I wheel the oft-coveted double buggy around the queue in the bank.

'Oh no, I haven't lost anyone,' I respond. 'There is usually another but he's at nursery this morning.'


'Ooooo,' the lady-in-the-lift coos. 'I was checking for twins!'

'No, no,' I say. 'No twins here. I know he is too old for a buggy really but he does tend to run off. Better safe than sorry.''


And there is pressure, a pressing. Against my skin. On atrophied tissue. Something wasted. Something that was once vital and passionate.

Bump, bump, bump. Against the shadow of a five year old bruise. Kind, well meaning chatter. Strangers bumping up against a sore spot. It aches momentarily. But is shrugged off. Because I haven't the time. And they mean well. Who would, or could, ever know?


Her earnest blue eyes search for mine. She talks and talks. She writes and explains. She shows me her sketch book, and her maths book, and her letter. I see myself as a child. I smile wryly. I sigh.

Because her mother isn't here. She's a childminder and has to work. I'm a poor substitute.

But I think that perhaps I am not completely rubbish with children?
Perhaps I am not an awful mother?
Perhaps I am not a terrible, horrible, ungrateful person?
Or maybe I am.

Who can call it?

Because I can connect with a child. Just not my own.
Not this one of the three, of the four, anyway.
But I will wait. I'm very patient.

I'm still waiting for her sister after all. And five years waiting for the dead is as nothing.

I can wait longer for the living.
I will out last you and I'll be here, waiting.
When you are ready.
To find me and for me to find you.
We will meet. Eventually.