Last week I had the decorator in to do my hallway, landing, stairs and living room. Carpets are coming next week. It’s done me good, being holed up in my office, I got an incredible amount of work done. I’m also off Facebook for most of the time now, I think the addiction is broken.
I mention the decorating, because it is significant. It is significant to me, anyway. Forgive me for talking so much about the loss of our daughter, the miscarriages, the IVF and coming to terms with being childless (I must try and think of a word that encompasses this entire thing, something other than ‘grief’ which it absolutely is, but somehow longer lasting and bloodier) but this is my life at the minute. It is a process. Last week I began de-cluttering in earnest, the kitchen, mainly, all this things I don’t use that are jamming up the drawers, bin bags full of tins and packets of out of date food. What did I notice? How many packets were from 2010. That’s the year our daughter died, it’s the year that everything stopped moving forward. It’s the year when the renovations on the house ground still, and the house itself lost its heart beat and became just a place to live. We’d not long been moved into this house when we found out, after four years of waiting, that we’d reached the top of the NHS waiting list. Then I became pregnant so all our energy was poured into getting things ready for the baby, and then, of course, she died. And then there was IVF, IVF, Miscarriage, IVF, Miscarriage, IVF. And suddenly we’d been trying for 13 years and in all that time all our money poured into IVF until our house was literally starting to come apart. The roof had holes in, the damp was creeping up from below. Last year we decided to put IVF on hold while we had a think, and we used some money to have a holiday in the sun and fix the damp and the roof. Then we decided that there would be no more IVF, that there would not now be a family. And I think I stopped again, everything stopped again because it is not just a decision, it is saying goodbye to yourself and your babies and everything is so different.
I feel like I had assumed the clothes and the mannerisms of a mother, waiting for someone to pass me my baby. But now I feel like I am undressing, and putting a different outfit on. And I feel vulnerable and unsure about it all. Naked. It’s difficult to explain. I find Christmas very, very hard. I LOVE Christmas, everything about coziness and love, I love, but it’s THE most child orientated celebration of year. It’s no fun, either, when your friends say ‘we’re not buying for adults, just the kids this year’. It feels a bit awkward, yeah, Christmas is all about the kids, isn’t it. Except when it isn’t. For us, Christmas has to be selfish, a time when we just do things that we enjoy. Once we decided to squirrel ourselves away with wine and books at Christmas, it became a lot easier. And, money wise, We set a cap on what we were going to spend on everyone’s children. Because, without wanting to sound like scrooge but when you end up buying for all your family’s children and your friend’s children it gets really expensive, and even worse is when people are ‘not buying for adults, just for kids this year’ because then we’re like..well, aren’t we on the outside of life in general. Oh dear, that all sounded a bit bitter, sorry. I loved christmas as a child, I love that my friends DO get to do that. I’m just sad. And my loyalty to Matilda won’t let me enjoy other people’s children, somehow. It’s like, because she’s going to miss out, I don’t want her to feel bad that I’m enjoying it with other children, which is utterly crazy, I know. But there it is. I’m tired of trying to fix how I feel about everything. So I avoid Facebook, try and focus on what Christmas is for us, otherwise it is like being slapped in the face, constantly. So I have to distance myself, from social media in particular, it’s hard to watch families coming together because my family is never coming home, because on christmas day I give flowers and gifts to a white headstone, and because it hurts so much that it makes it difficult to breathe. I have been walking around with a broken heart this week, proper heavy, chest pain broken. My stomach a constant knot. I haven’t summoned the courage to buy the gifts for other people’s children. I can’t get myself together enough to do it, somehow. And I think it’s because it’s not just the loss this year, it is the lack of hope. There is no hope of a family, now, ever. we decided against it, and I think hope has fuelled me for a long time. I’ve run out of fuel. I think probably 60% of people find Christmas hard, I think we all dare not say that we do too, in fear of spoiling other people’s celebrations and afraid that other people have it worse than us, as if it’s a competition. I do it myself (who would understand, she died nearly seven years ago…) but I think the more it’s talked about, the more those people who feel so incredibly lonely with their own pain will know that there are others out there, and it’s OK to be angry and sad and not want to do Christmas.
Anyway, the decorating. Overtly olive in the living room, Norwegian sky and beach walk in the hallway. We changed the furniture round. I got a giant bookcase for my books, I put my vintage bits and pieces out, my ornaments came out of their dust wrappers. I put them in places where a small child might pick them up and break them, because there will never be any small children here. It is a small act of rebellion against the sadness. And without wanting to sound too hippyish, I owned the room, I have started to own the house: it feels like somewhere I might feel cozy and comfortable. I feel like I have been tensed like a hare on my haunches ready to run or fight for all these years and I just want to lie down, now and not think about any of this. This all could come from Christmas because it’s such a trigger, or my best friend being pregnant, because that’s a trigger (mainly it’s anxiety, I am so fucking worried that this will go wrong, it stops me sleeping and thinking) it could be the realisation dawning that this is it now, there is no other forward step, it could be because I am now working in earnest on the childless poems that make up, initially, the MA manuscript, but will make up my next collection. It will be about a year’s work. I am thinking and writing about my body, which is excruciating and freeing at the same time.
This Christmas will be cozy throws, good wine, books, books books. Time off. And I will cry as much as I want.
If you would like to help with my just giving collection to buy premature baby clothes for the bereavement suite at Leeds, there’s still time. I’m ordering the first load today, but the account closes on Christmas day.
Here’s the link:
Thank you to those that have shared this journey with me.
Featured photo is by me, Wendy Pratt. a view of Filey bay.