Poem for my daughter on her birthday

Seven

I take a stiff bristled brush
to scrub the green
from the gold letters of your name,

take the miniature fence down,
cut the grass back to an acceptable length.
I remove the bird bath,

the terracotta dish of daffodils,
the tiny Buddha statue.
The tall, plastic plant holder I lift out,

from where it’s half buried to keep it upright
and look down into the hole it leaves.
Something has laid white pearl eggs

in the dark. I would reach my hand
down into the earth and fish further,
worm it right down through the clay

until I’m up to the shoulder
and feathering a fingertip touch
to the corner of your coffin,

feeling for the smooth round
of the edge. It would be like holding your hand,
reassuringly. I’m still here, I’d say,

don’t worry, I love you,
you are not forgotten.

3am

Tomorrow would have been my daughter’s seventh birthday, if she’d lived. In many ways I do still think of it as her actual birthday, not an anniversary. She did, after all, actually live, it was only in the moment of being delivered that her heart stopped. She was a part of myself in a way that I don’t think I will ever quiet get right in a poem. After the resuscitation attempt had failed, and I was brought round from the anaesthetic, they lifted her onto me, wrapped in a blanket. Seven years later I can’t remember what colour the blanket was without looking at the photos. I do remember her weight, and how much bigger, though still tiny, she was than I had expected. I remember being surprised that she was an actual, real baby, she was an actual real child and she was so strangely different from Chris and I, a whole entire person of her own, but you could literally see both of us in her and it felt, still feels like, the most incredible miracle. I remember her warmth, she stayed warm for a long time. When I held her, and I felt her warm body through the blanket, I could not accept that she was dead. She didn’t look dead, she looked very peaceful, sleeping, not traumatized at all. I think I once told someone who she’d looked angry when she was born. I don’t know why I did that, because she didn’t. I think I’d been angry, inside, about everything that had happened, and not able to express that. Anyway, she didn’t. She was pale, red-headed, (so much red hair!) long of limb, and incredibly perfect.

Seven years must seem like a long time to people who aren’t grieving. When I look at photos of myself from seven years ago I’m so fresh-faced, so young. I think about how far technology, politics, the world has moved on and it must be, from the outside, a long time. It’s not. not really, except when it is.

This is the first year that Chris and I haven’t been able to get the day off work together for her birthday. I don’t exactly feel guilty, but it does feel like things are changing and every change is difficult to assimilate. Each time we move a step further away from being defined by our grief it is hard. I’m part of a some online baby loss support groups, but I’ve never felt I can properly connect to them. Partly because our story is a whole mess of different traumas (infertility, IVF, recurrent losses, clinical negligence and now childlessness) it’s difficult to find people in similar boats, and partly because the people who have just lost their children are in a different place. They are looking at me and wondering how long they will feel like they do, like I did. I once asked one of my therapists how long grief was supposed to last and was incredulous that I would be crippled by grief for at least two years! It actually took six to feel human again. I had to change almost everything in my life to get away from the, I hesitate to use the word trigger because it feels over used, but that’s exactly what they were, triggers. I left my job working at the hospital where we had problems with our maternity care, I couldn’t walk past the room where we had been treated, I couldn’t do that every day, I couldn’t talk on the phone to the maternity units as if nothing had happened. I was constantly anxious. I had already lost some friendships and felt I needed to distance myself from others, a lot of people I knew couldn’t cope with it all and avoided me or struggled to talk about it with me. Some friends couldn’t cope with the fact that it took over my life and for a long time I couldn’t connect with anyone on anything, they got empathy fatigue. It happens.

This all sounds like a story of woe, which it is, of course. But walking away from that job allowed me to be stronger, allowed me the freedom to breathe and think and allowed me to move forward in a direction that I probably never would have had the guts to go in, before. My marriage is still strong, I have a good life, I love my life and it’s hard to imagine seven years along, it’s hard to remember just how utterly destroyed we were by what happened. Except sometimes it’s not. It’s seven years tomorrow and for the last two weeks I have been waking up at 3am, unable to get back to sleep. My anxiety levels have bubbled up so that I am worrying about my pet rabbits all the time, i am worried my elderly cat is about to die, I am worried about exposing myself and making myself vulnerable on facebook. Through the day I have been absently clock watching, ghost Wendy, heavily pregnant and still unaware of what was coming, has been wandering in and out of my day, doing the things she was then: moaning, gleefully, about how hard it was to get up the stairs with her whale like preportions, she has been setting up the Moses basket, snoozing in the afternoons, sitting in the garden. Present Wendy wants to warn her. But can’t. Nothing can ever change this.

While I was in the wonderful bereavement suite in Leeds,  I woke at 3am and watched my daughter illuminated by lamp light. It was unseasonably warm and we had a fan in the room. I remember that. I remember the sound of it. I can hear it now as if it happened yesterday. That isn’t seven years ago. All those people on the support sites that have just lost their children are in the crater of a huge explosion. I am not, but I fall into these debris holes, these pot holes every now and again. I wake at three and I cry quietly for a while, and then I usually write a poem or two. This year I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to write a poem for her, but it’s there, it’s on its way. I miss her. That’s all.

x

 

An update: News on the new book, news on the crowdfunding for baby clothes, and the feeling of fresh starts and future writings

It’s been a while. Apologies for my tardiness, I’ve been getting my ducks in a row. They are now aligned with military precision and I can get back to updating regularly. First things first, I wanted to say how absolutely delighted and humbled I was by the response to the Crowdfunding page I set up just before Christmas. My intention was to raise enough money to buy twenty baby outfits for the bereavement suite in Leeds. I’d originally wanted to get them there for Christmas, so that if someone ended up using the suite on Christmas day, when everyone else was enjoying their Christmas, that person would know that they were thought of, that their family mattered too. However, life got  in the way, some of the clothes took longer to arrive than anticipated and I did not get organised in time. I’m utterly delighted to say that it is done, we surpassed our goal and all of the baby clothes have arrived. The picture at the top of the page shows them in all their glory. They will be winging their way to Leeds tomorrow. We managed to raise £290 thanks to your generosity, and this is what it bought:

Four fleecy, soft baby blankets and teddies

Three knitted cardigans

THIRTY SIX individual baby outfits

THIRTY SIX!!!! I couldn’t believe it. That is a huge haul and will make an enormous difference to the suite, which runs on charitable donations. I’d worried that I would struggle to choose and buy the clothes, I thought it might be too painful. Some of them were Matilda sized, and picking them out of their wrappers, holding them up, looking at their tiny cuteness was very hard. It brought back memories of buying the clothes for her, the excitement of planning. The utter grief of having drawers and drawers of beautiful outfits that she’d never wear. But I think I have reached a point in my life where it is no longer rubbing the wound raw to do this sort of thing. In fact it felt wonderful. It felt like breathing again, of being able to be close to the source of the pain, and to know that i won’t die from it. A lot of the outfits were super tiny preemie size, as many of the babies that die are premature, like my little girl was, so it’s important to have clothes for them.

prem clothes 2

And it was important to me that the clothes were the sort of clothes that I might buy, or any new mother might buy. Not just ‘make do in an emergency’ clothes but pretty, bright, cute clothes.

prem clothes 3

I avoided anything with slogans such as ‘mummy’s little miracle’ on them because, obviously, the person holding their tiny little baby will feel both blessed and completely robbed of any sort of miracle. I think we did a good job. And it’s a weight off my mind to know it’s done. So THANK YOU.

The next piece of news is that my MA is now completed, my manuscript went off and was received. I wrote 68 poems in total for it, and they’re good. In fact they will form my next, next collection, but I want to take a year to really work over them properly. These poems are all about body image, acceptance of body, without wanting to sound too cliched, they are about learning to love yourself and your body, about accepting that you are beautiful whether your face fits expectations or not. The IVF and miscarriage and still birth are large in this collection, it is a story of survival. I hated my body and myself for a long, long time, right from childhood. There’s a lot of childhood stuff in there and a lot of love poems to my body, my poor old body, which did its best. It’s a very personal collection of poems, very honest and it was a fiery collection to write. I feel like I have gone through something with it, and again it feels like a weight off  knowing it’s done and ready to work on. And now I can throw myself fully into the PhD which is super, super exciting.

Next news, and here is the biggie…I have a new book coming out with Valley Press ! I am so excited. It’s my second full collection, my fourth collection in all and it’s called Gifts the Mole Gave Me. It’s about searching for roots, about being inside of nature, about discovery. I think there are grief poems in there, but it’s not about grief. I’ll be talking more about it as we get closer to the launch date. I recently had some photos taken for the publicity stuff, and that was a big thing. It is rare that I would allow someone to take my photo. I am the selfie queen, I can make myself look good in a selfie with filters and angles and just the right lighting. To give myself up to someone else and trust them to see me not as hideous, not as something to be hidden and changed to fit in or to look good, but to just take photos because here, this is what you look like: not a monster…that is a big thing for me. I don’t think I realised quite how big until I did it, and got the photos back. They are wonderful, natural, lovely. taking the photo

The photographer is Phil Rudland who is so good, I love how he uses textures and colour. He was very patient with me in my ‘Minnie mouse’ heels. I can’t walk in them, they are strictly for standing about in. I sank in the sand when we went on the beach. When I felt self conscious he just let me get on with it. he just kept clicking away.  He’s done such a good job. I don’t have them on my computer just yet, but when I do I’ll post one or two here.

After the MA was handed in I decided to take a week off study and poetry and do all the de-cluttering that I have been yearning to do while I have been too busy. And I did. It feels like a fresh new start, a step forward to where I want to be. I feel quite, quite happy right now.

I’ll be setting up a blog specifically to track my PhD and to share the poems I come across, I think a lot of creative writing PhDs happen behind the closed doors of the university, I’d like to share the exciting journey, and the incredible poetry I’ve been discovering. I hope you’ll follow it when it’s up and running.

I think that’s me caught up. It will now be a weekly blog, see you next week.

x

The Much More Positive New Year’s Post

I survived another Christmas. Actually, I should change that, I enjoyed another Christmas. Though I drank too much. To counteract the fact that I am now probably 90% proof, I have cut out all alcohol for January so I can reset my liver and my mind and remind myself how to relax and how to enjoy myself without a drink in my hand. It had become a habit, quickly, and I want it to be a treat.

Last year my New Year’s resolution was something about feeling more confident in my writing, not calling my books small or little, not undoing my career by referring to myself as a space filler at readings or saying that a book sale is only a book sale because of pity etc etc etc. This year, I guess more of the same. Except more. This year I draw myself up to my full height and start putting myself out there in ways that are challenging, frightening. Last year I felt I was growing my wings, this year I fully intend on using them.

This is also the year that I complete my MA in creative writing. I am planning on completing a few months early,  in March. I want to get it done so that I can fully involve myself in the PhD. I don’t think I am going to get the distinction that I wanted, but I am alright with that. I took a huge amount on by doing two post grad degrees at once and probably sacrificed some of the higher marks I might have obtained. Though my marks have never been low, I don’t think I have quite scooped that elusive distinction.

One of my resolutions this year is to unpack my life a little. I packed that childlessness wound so deeply and so fully with work and study and charity stuff that I do not have any time to stop. I think that was probably why I did it, subconsciously, a fear of stopping, a fear of accepting. You can’t see that the world is still if you’re running everywhere. I have been metaphorically running for a long time, but now, I don’t feel I need to. I am climbing, still, but I don’t need to run. An amazing poet and friend told me, recently, ‘there’s no shame in a couple of years between collections’ and it made me step back and look at my work. And I decided that the next collection, the one whose kernel is the MA manuscript, this one I am taking my time over. I am talking at least a year over it, I am growing it and pruning it and not hot housing it. And that goes for my life too.

Acceptance seems to be the umbrella word for the new year for me, accepting that I took a lot on, accepting that we will not have a family, accepting my flaws. But I also want it to be a year of celebration, celebrating myself and the fact that I took a lot on and I did a good job, celebrating my life in small ways, celebrating the force of good in the world. Enjoying the world, enjoying poetry, not being so career driven, choosing projects that I will enjoy.

My first submission of the year went off this week, a ‘play for voices’. My first play submission, so I already feel like I am forging forward with new directions. And one of my resolutions is to write a stage play, again, I’m going myself a year or to to do it.

Other resolutions are to ‘live a more sustainable life’ I’ve been looking into recycling and toxins in plastics, which is terrifying, and I have finally cut fish out of my diet, so no more calling myself a vegetarian and feeling guilty because I still eat fish. I am experimenting more with new recipes, and I am back to actual physical non metaphorical running! I had a cartilage tear last year, which prevented me from running the Great North Run. I’m due to have some physio, but I have managed to run without any problems this week, after about three months of not running at all, so my training has now commenced and I will be running the GNR in September. I also plan to lose more weight, I lost a stone and a half last year, It would be great to do the same this year, but I’m certainly more focused on health, and treating my body like I care about it, which I do, now. I take great pleasure in seeing what it can do.

And that’s me. Thank you for all the contributions to the JustGiving page for the baby clothes for the bereavement suite, I couldn’t get them ordered and sent before Christmas, but am on it now and will post photos when I do. We surpassed our target and came in at £310 with our contribution! It feels brilliant, amazing, to be able to give this little thing back and make a small difference, so thank you. Once I know my knee is fully recovered I shall be collecting again for the GNR, but I have a while to go yet.

Happy New Year!

 

**photo is of my new journal in which only magnificent writings are allowed

The Depressing Christmas Blog Post

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:

Crowd fund

Thank you to those that have shared this journey with me.

x

Featured photo is by me, Wendy Pratt. a view of Filey bay.

 

A Higher Frequency

I have been down to the sea a few times since my last blog post. Not to walk on the beach, but just to experience it near by. I realised I haven’t been around the sea at high tide as much as I have at low tide, so I deliberately set out one day last week to go and watch the sunrise. I took coffee. There were very few people about: the occasional dog walker and a couple of joggers. I sat on a bench facing the sea directly, and watched the sun come up like a piece of machinery, a silent, gigantic universe of movement, and beneath it, within my immediate visual space: the sea, a constant movement. Not the slow, steady movement of tide coming in and out, the rhythmic breathing of water, but the choppy, chipped waves and the white froth. It was exhausting to watch. The water was rippling off the slabs of the sea wall, rolling off the rocks and where one small wave went in one direction, another met it in a tiny collision being repeated hundreds of thousands of times, over and over, all the waves heading in different directions, clashing, moving away and clashing again. It was exhausting.

This is how life is, the constant of the sun is the bigger picture, we don’t even notice it’s moving until we mark it against something, we don’t even know that are lives are moving forward until we see a picture of ourselves, younger, thinner, different, but the same. And the sea is life, the background, the whole thing, it is that constant, busy, exhausting movement, the constant calming of things, dealing with things, the constant bad news, personal, national, world, news, the finding a way to be happy in it, the happy news and the feeling of needing to be grateful, the constant movement of life. I’m making a big deal out of this sea metaphor because it’s why art, poetry, literature is important. Poetry works on a different frequency. It works on a higher frequency which speaks to a different part of us. When we strip back all that busyness, the poetry is speaking to our emotional core, the thing that drives us, it is part of the emotional language of our lives, as is art, as is literature.

I’m not going to get all political, but when governments cut back on art subjects in schools, when governments cut arts funding, close libraries, take away funding for galleries, they are cutting off a vital communication method that we don’t even fully understand. Art, poetry, it’s not just entertainment, and even ‘just’ entertainment speaks to something else, it cuts through, it is a higher frequency. When we don’t teach our children art, when we don’t teach them art history, when we relegate the arts to ‘lesser’ we are preventing them from communicating on an emotional level. We are preventing them from accessing that part of their brains that is so, so necessary to being human, something so integral to ourselves that it has been around for hundreds of thousands of years, since cave paintings of lions communicated more than what a lion looked like, since they communicated the beauty of a lion, the strength of a lion, the importance of a lion. Our need to communicate on this level is as old as we are, and as important as language itself. When we take language away, when we take the means to communicate emotionally away, we get angry, frustrated individuals who look to express strong feelings in other ways.

I wrote a poem this week about how poetry works, it’s an old idea about poetry being a receptacle that is filled with the readers own images, a poem is really a scaffolding that you hang your own interpretation on. It’s important to recognise that, because even though all the images created inside our own heads, when we hear a poem, are different, the poem is the thing that connects us. The art is the thing that connects us, even though we can be different, we are also the same, the same skeleton, different skin.

 

 

 

*photo property of myself, Wendy Pratt, please contact me if you’d like to use it *

Writing it Out

It is Baby Loss Awareness Week, a week where all the different charities and organisations that are involved with miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death do their best to draw attention to it, to get people to talk about it. Last year I posted a poem a day to mark the week, but in all honesty I found it draining. It’s very important to me to raise awareness and I use my own experiences and talk openly about it, because I know that when miscarriage, infertility and the death of my little girl happened to me, I was comforted to know that other people had felt like I had. It is a lonely place to be, grief. Life moves on around you and you are left sagging, emptied out and unable to continue. To see people surviving and coming out of the other side was something to hang on to. When someone who had lost their baby son told me ‘you don’t get over it, but you do learn to live with it and I promise it gets better’ I was able to believe them.

Similarly, writing poetry, reading the poetry of others helped me to, not deal with it, as such, I don’t think it’s a cathartic process, but it helped to acknowledge it, it helped me to ‘own it’. The creative process of writing, especially writing poetry, is complex and beautiful. At its core, poetry is a form of communication, but like other art forms it is an emotional communication. I read a quote somewhere this week that said that ‘art has the conversations that we can’t’ and that really struck a chord. That’s how it is for me, with any subject but in particular the poems I have written about my daughter and the experience of her death, and infertility. I take the subject and place it a safe distance away, like a bomb, and then I make it safe, I walk around it and examine it and find the connection and find the things in the background of my mind that are connected to it. Often there is a period of procrastination before the poem is written,  I used to get very cross with myself about my tendency to procrastinate, but now I realise that actually, while I am doing the ironing or cleaning the kitchen cupboards, my brain is working away examining the thing I want to write about.

I attended a brilliant Jo Bell poetry workshop a few weeks ago, I don’t get a lot of time to go to workshops, but I inevitably come away with the sparks of poems when I do. The thing about workshops is that they don’t give you a poem, the exercises just bring out the poem that was already there, it gives it an exit out of your head. In this particular workshop one of the exercises was to write honestly about an intense physical experience. I initially wrote about sex. But when I took the workshop home in my head and tried it again I ended up writing about the intensely physical experience of holding my daughter, but more than that, about the smaller things:  of having my c-section scar touched, of how the sheets got sweaty and uncomfortable but it hurt too much to move, and about the IVF, the ‘dildo cam’ the egg collections, the probes. Jo encouraged honesty, there was no reading the poems out, unless we wanted to at the end, so it was very freeing and I found that brutal honesty of writing hard, physical poems about sex and sexual experience, and then later about the other intense experiences very cleansing. The poems were already there, they just needed letting out.

The work I am doing on my PhD is around a similar theme. My PhD uses the sea as a model to explore something like honesty in the writing process, it’s about containing and naming and in it I am looking at aquariums in particular, and how language is like a tank in which we examine and make safe the things that frighten us. I am loving grazing through poetry, looking for the connection, looking at art and artists and seeing the language that connects us. I’ve had to change how I write, to a certain extent, to be able to write poems that are so specific to the theme, but the poems are still arriving in a similar fashion, it’s just that I am guiding them more deliberately. I seem to write three poems on the same theme before it finally arrives where it is supposed to be. That’s no bad thing, they turn up eventually.

There was an incident this week in which someone we know had a horrible scare in her pregnancy. It was spookily similar to what happened with us, except without the short falls and failings. The hospital staff had picked a problem up at the twenty week scan, within days she’d been given an in depth scan at the big specialised hospital, and before hand she was phoned several times to make sure she was alright and to offer her counselling. Thankfully things were fine and she was given the all clear. My immediate reaction was one of relief, I was pleased that it is so obvious that the protocols at the hospital have been changed, that the hospital is taking any suspicious pregnancy problems so seriously and I was so relieved for her. But at the same time this wave of sadness over took me, and I was suddenly reliving my daughter’s birth and death, in constant flashbacks:  the phone calls to the midwives, the checking in at EPAU, the GP appointments, the desperation of trying to get someone to listen to me. The 20 week scan, the strange spotting of a problem, but communications not being passed on, the two months of feeling things were not right, the slowed movements, the admission, the being sent home for no apparent reason, the days spent telling them she wasn’t moving, the confusion, the drive to the hospital in Leeds and then the sudden flurry of activity, the running through the corridors, the signing of consent forms, while hospital stockings were hastily put on, the anaesthetist, the heart monitor, and then the sudden drop of her heart rate, the general anaesthetic. Her death. This is my flashback. It is like a a movie being played, like a film being placed over my physical life so that while I am walking the dog, or driving the car or doing the shopping, all of the world dissolves to the repeated images of that time. Sometimes when this happens I might have walked a mile and have zero recollection of it. It’s like not being present in your own life. It’s like literally being off your feet, something like a dream, but not a dream, much more real, with sounds (the sound of the heart monitor, the sound of the drugs trolly, the sound of the nurses at the desk in the wee small hours, the sound of the fan turning in our room) and smells and sometimes those physical sensations. And disturbed sleep again, the dreams again of the baby in the bed where I can’t find her and the waking up to suddenly want to shout at Chris ‘The baby’s not moving’ because she isn’t, and the realisation, again that it’s all done, all gone. Nothing to do, nothing to say, this is just part of my life now.

I have repeated Jo’s workshop on physical experience over again, I have had a conversation with myself about it, through the  poems I’ve written through it.  One of the things I have found during this six and a half year grieving process (not just for my daughter but for the miscarriages and the failed IVFs and now to be childless forever)  has been that I have repeatedly retold our story, repeated it and repeated it and still now with an edge of panic and incredulity that this actually happened, but I haven’t really dealt fully with the pain, with the emotion, the thing that art has the conversation about. Recently I have been trying a meditation technique in which, once you have emptied your mind, you allow yourself to find the painful memory, but before your brain starts giving a monologue or playing the film, you reach for that pain, the physical pain that scrunches your stomach and hurts your chest and and you lean into it, you allow it a place in you. I visualise my chest, my ribs opening up like cabinet doors, and the pain is a sliver of red, very very hot like a newborn, and I visualise that sliver lying over the meat-red pulse of my own fleshy heart and merging into it, and it’s OK, because that’s my pain and it is a part of me and I don’t have to fight it anymore. It’s actually amazing how visualisation works in a meditative state.

All of this makes me sound, I am sure, like a hippy nutter, but I don’t feel mad. I felt insane with grief and serious crippling depression for a long, long time, but I don’t anymore. I am blissfully happy 95% of the time, but just sometimes my legs are taken out by a big trigger and the fear that I am going back to that dark, dark place threatens to drown me, but it never does. I have techniques and I have the knowledge that things do get better, and that I am allowed to be sad sometimes. The writing helps, but I still say it’s not really a cathartic process, more of a conversation with myself.

And on that note, here is a poem that I wrote. It is from my collection, Museum Pieces, which is available to buy at Prolebooks. I always feel a bit weird promoting my own poetry and this is the second time I have done this this week, the other poem I shared is on my Facebook Writer’s Page but I also think that if you have been lucky enough to be published, you owe a debt of gratitude to the publisher, you promote them, it’s a symbiotic relationship. And this is my blog and I can do what I like. *Cringe*. This is an oldish poem, which I have a desire to tinker with, but sometimes you have to just let them go. This one was written from a dark place, and boy, can you tell.

Outlaws

Back track your mind

undoing the red, the gristle-bound

biology that you’re sick with

 

and let them go-the Styx crossers –

let them pass from your keep

into the woods, ungainly,

 

in a clot of sticky deformities.

From here they can be seen clearly,

just an ooze of shame and a jumble

 

of body parts knitted together as kin.

Done to death with fighting –

and with a belly fat with blood

 

and bleeding and loss –

you’ve turned them out; each one

a tiny image of yourself getting smaller

 

in your sight. You long for the woodsman

to cut out their little hearts

so you may wear them round your neck

 

like teeth, Baby-killer, and know full well

that one day they will be back,

bearing your regret like a weapon.