Being tired and wearing hats.

Sometimes, even the things which seem to be ‘easy’, take so much from you that you’re left barely awake.  Perhaps it’s because I woke up at 5.40 this morning, or perhaps it’s because I’ve been doing different things recently, but I’m very, very tired again.

Friday was actually a lovely day overall.  We went to the grave and placed some flowers, and now that I know that the ground has settled we can go back and plant the bulbs and seeds I have.

At first I was confused, as I was looking for the end plot, but then I realised that four more babies had been buried since we buried Freddie, and that made me feel even more sad.   If you don’t know, in the grave yard there is a separate plot for small babies – most of whom are stillborn.  So it added to the sadness to imagine the four other babies who had died in the last 3-4 months, and their families who had buried them.

It poured with rain, and as we stood in a stooped embrace, the rain pelted the back of my legs, and I remembered vividly the day we buried Freddie; it seemed as if the rain would never stop, and as if it were as angry as we were, as it snapped at our skin and soaked interminably through our clothes.

Later that day, we saw a whole rainbow, which neither of us had ever seen before.  We’re not in the least bit religious, but there was something about that broad, dazzling bow of colour which moved us both a little, and made us smile.

I’ve done a couple of days back at school, which has actually been really nice, as I’ve mostly been sorting and chatting to people; the teaching comes next week.  It was nice to see colleagues and what surprised me most was that so few people wore the face that I expected to see; I expected to see faces full of pity and concern and whilst some people expressed those things briefly, the majority of people just seemed genuinely happy to see me back with them.  Which was nice.

When I talk to other people who don’t know what I’ve been through though, I have a voice in my head which is completely different to the normal one that comes out of my mouth.  It says things like, ‘you have no idea what I’ve been through’, and ‘I had a baby boy 3 and a half months ago (or however long ago it was when said conversation takes place), well, I had a stillborn baby’, or ‘I’m actually feeling really awful right now, because of the baby boy that I lost’ and ‘I don’t really care what you’re talking about’.  It’s so confusing because at the same time as I don’t want people to look at me with pity, I want people to know what I’m going through and I want them to acknowledge it.

It’s probably clear by now that me being really tired does not help my writing – I can’t seem to focus on one thought long enough to write about it so I end up with lots of paragraphs about different things…

Grief makes the littlest things more difficult to deal with.  Things that before I would have thought nothing of, now send me to the floor.  I get my head around something and then it changes and I find myself obsessing about it. I’m so conscious of not getting stressed out about things, like I did last time, and I’m so concerned with looking after myself, that I’m probably causing myself more stress than if I just got on with things – I’m causing myself stress by worrying about getting stressed…

I think that when the time comes, I’ll manage to put my work hat on and keep it there.  I just hope that I can find my ‘being at home/wife’ hat when I need to as well, and that it isn’t lost through the effort of keeping the other hat on.

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Today.

Today I should be in the hospital with my bag packed full of maternity briefs and nappies and all the things that you and I would need.

Today your daddy and I should have been able to welcome you into our arms.

Today we should have been able to hear you cry, as your tiny lungs took in the dry air for the first time.

Today we should have been able to tickle your tiny feet, and stroke your beautiful, soft golden hair.

Today I should have been able to hold you close to my chest, on my skin, and feel the warmth of your little body against mine.

Today we should have been kissing your tiny lips and soft cheeks.

Today should have been the day that you brought more happiness and joy to your daddy and I than we ever thought was possible.

Today we should have been able to pour out all of the love that we have in our hearts for you, which are so full and yet so empty, like jars clamped full of air.

Today should have been the day that you would have made us three, instead of two.

Perhaps you might have arrived a little before, or a little after – I’m always early.  But this is the day.

Today is the day you should have arrived.

Instead you came too soon, and we held you in our arms, and stroked your tiny feet.

But we did not hear you cry, and we did not feel your warmth.

And we still have all of our love.

Today is the day you should have arrived.

 

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Time, flux and vegetables.

I think sometimes about the timing of everything; how quickly things can change, and how sometimes a few days can seem like months.

On the day I went into hospital, it was Comic Relief.  The dog had escaped in the morning before school, and Sam and I had spent 20 minutes or so catching him.  Then I went to work, and Sam had to drive to school afterwards because I’d forgotten to take the cakes I’d made which we were selling to raise money.  Sam was poorly and was working from home. I had a great day, and my tutor group raised about £80.

Later on, I felt some pain and thought it was probably my bowels, which have always caused problems.  Shortly though, I realised that it was not my gut, as the pain rapidly increased, and my abdomen began to contract and was also very painful.  We both quickly put on trainers, got in the car and drove to the hospital.  Every time we went over one of the many speed bumps, the pain struck through me.

Within 15 minutes of arriving, my waters broke and I, and all my clothes, the bed and the floor, were sodden.

I stayed in hospital after that for 5 more days, growing more and more confident that things were actually going to be ok.  Every time we listened to Freddie his heartbeat was strong and clear.  We were all pretty relaxed and my mum sat by my bed and knitted tiny blue hats, in different sizes to accommodate for Freddie arriving at every stage from immediately, to in weeks’ time.  We had visitors, I read books, I showered carefully.  Everything seemed to be going well.

And then, just like that, it wasn’t.

Even then though, on the Wednesday night, when the pain began again and I discovered meconium, things settled down, at least the doctors thought they had, and we were hopeful once more.

But then, in the early hours of Friday morning, the midwife came to listen in to Freddie’s heartbeat, and she could not find it.

I think about how things can change so quickly.  I think about how things might have been different if any factor in the situation had been changed somehow.  I think about time on a big scale and a small one.  Small scale is things like how in one day, you can go from being happy, expectant parents, to unhappy, worried people who do not know whether their baby will be born alive.  Big scale is things like, right now I would have a 9 month old baby girl, or I would be massively pregnant with Freddie, and Sam and I would be making sure we had his room ready, and his wardrobe and drawers full of clothes and nappies and baby wipes.  I think back 18 months ago, to before I ever got pregnant, when I ambled along in ignorant bliss, unaware of the skirmish to come.

Today is a strange day.  It’s strange to be back home after a week away, it’s strange to be without Sam after being with him for 8 days straight, it’s strange because I’ve arranged a few ‘KIT’ days to do at school, before doing the final week of term and I can’t stop thinking about it and how I can most easily sneak, surreptitiously into and out of the building without being noticed,  it’s strange because I think I’m ovulating but the silly stick things are hard to read and to decide whether the line is AS dark as or DARKER than the other line (I have dreams where I’m weeing on sticks which then morph into Etchasketch sort of things with lines all over the place…) it’s strange because Friday is the due date and I keep imagining myself 40 weeks pregnant, and we haven’t yet decided what to do all day.  All in all, I’m a bit fuddled. I feel as if my brain is trying to stretch my mind out and peg it down in lots of places, but just as one bit gets pegged down, it pulls the end off another part, a bit like trying to get a bendy lid on a Tupperware tub.

Sometimes I feel as if I’m looking at myself from somewhere else.  I see myself at the keyboard, calmly tapping the little black and white squares.  Or when I’m doing the grocery shopping, placidly pushing the trolley, taking things off shelves and putting them in the space in front of me. I’m shocked by the tranquillity.  Inside it’s much less calm.  Inside is a tangled clutter of loss and Freddie and confusion, and really nothing else matters.  In the middle of everything that makes up my life, is what I’ve lost and what I want.  I want to do other things too; my job is important to me and there are so many things that I want to do and achieve, I want to lose weight and get back to my old self.  It’s a strange, sad journey that I’m on.  I know deep in my heart, that eventually, the journey will take a positive turn, and things will be better.  But it seems that it’s been so, so long already, and it’s been a long time since something good happened.

The only good thing that’s happened today is that I discovered that I have some tomatoes that look almost ready to eat, and my carrots and spinach are coming through.  But, whilst I’m pleased with my green-fingered handiwork, I feel sad that I can’t grow babies as easily as I can vegetables.

 

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The real world…

For various reasons, I’ve decided that I’m going to go back to work before summer.  I had hoped to start back the week before school breaks up, and spend the week mostly catching up on everything.  It doesn’t look like that will happen, but it should be a light week for teaching anyway, and I’ll go in before then to get what I need to plan my lessons.

Part of me is terrified, and part of me is feeling eager to get back to things. I’m worried mostly that if I’m not pregnant again soon, if there isn’t something to give us hope, then I’ll struggle back at work. Although I’ve felt a little more positive yesterday and today, than I have for about the last fortnight, I’m worried that I’m on my way down the coarse road I took the last time, where after the first few months, I started to get less and less hopeful, and more and more angry.  It’s like my emotional scales start to swing irrevocably downward on the negative side, leaving the little brass cups for my happiness, pretty much empty.  I’m worried that I’ll end up exhausting all of my positive energy in one place, either at home or at work, and then have none left for the other; so either Sam gets a raw deal and he gets to spend time with an unsmiling, irritable wife, or my colleagues and students get a cantankerous, prickly teacher.  And no one likes those.  Maybe I’ll be lucky, but already, my hope is beginning to dwindle: ‘lucky’ isn’t how I would describe myself recently.

Tomorrow I have the school prom.  I’ve found something to wear, (thank you so much to my friend Helen, who posted me two dresses to try) though it isn’t very ‘prommy’.  I won’t be staying too late anyway as Sam and I are heading off to the Outer Hebrides to see some of my family very early on Saturday morning.

I’m looking forward to seeing some of my colleagues and I hope that it’ll help with my return to work that I’ve seen some of them already.  I only wish I wasn’t driving – attending social events sober is something I’ve never been good at, especially not in the position I’m in, where a little (or a lot of) Dutch courage would help.

Hopefully, time away at my parents’ house will help me to relax before going back to work; my mum is brilliant, and I’m sure that my beautiful, hilarious, edible niece, Matilda, will put a smile on my face, if nothing else works.

 

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Rage.

I’m trying very hard this time not to be so angry.  But sometimes I can’t help it.  I become consumed by the gut-wrenching, blood-boiling fury that this has happened to us.  That this is now the path of our lives.  That even in years to come, this sadness will always be here, that we will always remember our children who did not survive. I want to scream at the people around me who laugh and joke and go along jauntily with their lives, as if everything is ok.  And then I am angry at myself and I become deflated and feel sheepish – what do I expect them to do? Wouldn’t I feel uncomfortable if the whole world tiptoed around me?  But then I see parents picking their little ones up from school, fathers slinging babies up onto their shoulders, mothers pushing pushchairs, looking as if they couldn’t care less about the amazing, beautiful, priceless thing they have right in front of them. And then the rage is back and I feel as if I could snap and scream and snarl at almost everyone I know. Sometimes, I feel as if the world is moving around me and I’m stuck on the wrong trail, as if two train tracks are set up near each other and sometimes they overlap, but mostly the trains follow their courses at different speeds, turning at different times, and there’s always the risk that at some point, they’ll crash into each other.  I can see the other train, with all of the normal people riding it, but I can’t get on.

Last night I cried a lot.  Today I’m cross.  I’m cross because my eyes are puffy and sore from the crying.  I’m cross that I’ve been paid a lot less than my normal, already small amount for the pleasure of being off work because of losing my baby. I’m really cross that there was nowhere to park at the gym so I had to come home.  I probably could have tried to find a space in the ‘park and ride’ which would have meant a 5-10 minute walk, but I was too angry to contemplate it.  And now I’m angry that I won’t have been to the gym today, and we go away to my parents’ at the weekend, so I won’t be going to the gym for a whole week.  I’m cross that I said I would go to the school prom but really I don’t have anything suitable to wear and certainly can’t afford to buy anything.  I’m cross that we can’t afford to get the air conditioning fixed in the car and I’m worried that it will be too hot on our 10 hour journey to Ullapool.  I’m cross that I couldn’t find the things that my mum asked me to get to bring up for her; all she wanted was a garden netting tube and a bloody clematis.

I want to be the old me again, or at least a me who isn’t sad all the time and who whinges about being fat and lumpy, a me who isn’t broken, or faulty.  I want to be the me who was happy and laughed and who people wanted to be around. In some ways I think I’ve changed for the better (not aesthetically though, that’s for sure).  When you go through something like this, it’s like going on some sort of profound journey, and when you return, your whole outlook has been changed.  It certainly takes the edge off any feelings of egotism that you might have, any feelings of invulnerability.  You come back from your journey a different person – I know that I think more carefully before making judgments about other people and their behaviour, I know that I appreciate my husband more than ever before, I know that I feel like a very tiny, insignificant element of something much bigger;  I am not important, I am not special.

At the moment I think I’m too far over the side of feeling completely worthless, but I’m hoping to reach a balance between feeling deficient, and realising that I’m just as much a part of the world as everyone else, and that I do deserve good things to happen to me.

I also want to stop being so cross.

 

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Due date looming.

Due date.

As recently as 20 years ago, some doctors wouldn’t permit a mother to see her stillborn baby for fear that it would make her go crazy.  Many people (particularly the older generation, I’ve found) still don’t understand all the ‘fuss’ when a baby is lost before it even lived outside the womb.

But I do.  I’ve been thinking a lot about Freddie’s due date recently.  It’s sort of looming up ahead, like some sort of strange creature in the mist; I know it’s there, and I can see the square with the date in it on the calendar, but it seems sort of… shrouded.  I feel that we ought to do something, but I don’t know what.  What’s the normal thing to do on the day that your baby should have been born?  Last time I tried to let it slide past and I ended up sobbing in the bath for a long time, trying to explain to Sam that I’d been so sure that I would be pregnant again by then, that it might have helped me cope if I had been.  But I wasn’t, and I don’t know if it would have helped much anyway – new pregnancies don’t replace lost ones, they just give you something to hope for.

I’ve thought about going to Freddie’s grave, which I think that we will do.  I’m worried that the earth won’t have settled yet though (there were graves that had been there months which still had a mound of dirt on top, all red and gritty and trickling grimy rivers in the rain down onto the grass below), and that it might be more upsetting.  Then I think, ‘how ridiculous – how can a mound of dirt make visiting the grave of your dead baby boy more upsetting?’ I have some seeds and bulbs to plant which I’ll do if the ground has sunk down.

Then I think about what we could do for the rest of the day – what do you eat on the day that your baby should be born? Where do you go? What is the best activity? To do something ‘normal’, like shopping or going to the gym, seems impertinent.  But what would make us feel any better? I wonder about going out for a meal – celebrate the day – but where is the right place to eat? What if it’s terrible food, or bad service?  If we get a takeaway I know we’re safe, if we stick with the one we normally use, but then that seems sort of… lazy, as if I can’t be bothered making the effort for my baby boy. But could I bear to cook?  Even the thought of chopping vegetables or preparing meat on that day, makes me feel uneasy, as if it’s the wrong thing to do, as if I’ll suddenly realise it’s the wrong thing to do just as I’m about to quarter a chicken and I’ll end up smashing it to bits or throwing it to the dog.

I bought some jewellery made with Freddie’s birthstone (Carnelian for July), which is really beautiful. I also already bought some jewellery in Norfolk, just after I’d come out of hospital, so I’m looking forward to wearing it and appreciating its special meaning.  But it doesn’t seem quite enough.

I thought about getting tattoos done together, but Sam has already got the names, dates weights and a short piece of writing dedicated to each baby.  I wanted to have Freddie’s foot tattooed on my own, to suggest that he will always walk with me, but the guy said that he’d have to make it lots bigger, and I want it actual size.

I thought about going somewhere special for the day.  But I can’t think of anywhere that seems ‘special’ enough.

I feel like I need to put a ‘programme’ together so that I don’t end up just sitting about crying and feeling ineffectual and miserable.  At least I’ll feel as if we’ve honoured Freddie if we make the effort to do something, even if I do end up crying all day.

 

 

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(un)Happy Father’s Day.

Not much to say really.

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Names.

12 weeks ago, Freddie was born.

Sometimes it catches me strangley when someone else says my baby’s name; ‘Freddie’.  I’m not sure why.  There’s a millisecond where it’s as if I am caught in an impalpable web of that name; it catches me all over in gauzy, gluey wisps.  And then it’s gone.  I don’t know why.  Maybe it’s because the name denotes a person who is not here – and not as in ‘left the room’, but not here – never will be here in this world.  Will never wear nappies or the beautiful, soft cotton sleep suits that we have heaps of in a drawer upstairs, will never win awards at school, or talk to his own children about the birds, the bees and everything else that daddies talk to their children about.

But I’m glad that people say his name.  I’m touched when people refer to a person they never met, and know that they will never meet, by his beautiful name, that we chose so carefully, and which belonged to his grandfather first.  I’m glad because every time someone says his name, it acknowledges the fact that he was a real baby.  I’m glad because his name will not be used on school registers or signed in cards, it will not appear on a driver’s license or magazine subscriptions.  So I’m glad for it be used in whatever way comes, because he was our baby, and he had a name.

 

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Energy.

I’m tired today.  I’ve slept badly the last few nights, probably because I’m hormonal.  And now my eyes are sore – my contact lenses end up feeling like they’re full of sand by the end of the day – I have a pretty bad headache, and my tummy isn’t happy at all.

Everything seems to take so much energy.  Never before have I had to pat myself on the back for achieving the simplest of things.  But everything just takes so much energy.  Walking the dog through the park full of babies and children and pushchairs takes energy.  Making dinner takes energy.  Doing the cleaning takes energy. Getting dressed takes energy.  Washing my hair takes so much energy.  Even driving the car takes energy, particularly when I have to sit and watch people walking past with their pushchairs and prams, and when I see the big round shades stuck to the inside of car windows, sometimes with some sort of cartoon figure emblazoned on it – ‘that’s there to protect the baby inside the car from the sun’, I think to myself – ‘I don’t need those’, I think, ‘because I don’t have a baby in my car’.

I’m still going to go to the gym today.  I’ll do cardio, and then my class, even though I really don’t feel like it, because I know I’d only end up regretting not going, and regret is a tiring emotion.

It’s all so tiring.

 

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Administration problems and orderliness.

I just had a memory of when the midwife phoned me a few days after I’d got out of hospital.  I’d already spoken to one lady for her to arrange a time to come over, but we were busy with things like registering Freddie’s stillbirth (it sounds like the strangest thing to say – like registering birth and death all in one super-fast swoop.. I guess that is precisely what it does) and arranging the funeral, that she said that she would get someone to phone the next day.  So the next day, someone phoned and asked me when exactly I’d had my baby and how he was doing.  I told her coldly that she obviously did not have her notes in front of her because my baby was born on Friday and he was not alive.  She went silent for a few seconds, obviously collecting her jaw from the floor, and trying to think of what she could possibly say to excuse her extremely grim mistake, and then apologised profusely. I tried to be kind but I felt so angry that I’m not sure I was convincing.  It made me think that there must not be many women in my situation if the midwife thought it was okay just to phone around without checking her notes first.

I’m feeling a bit more troubled than I have over the last few weeks.  I think it’s because I’m expecting for my ‘Ovarian Operating System’ to ‘reboot’ (please see post ‘Trolling for Vampires’ for an explanation of that euphemism…). So I’m probably experiencing the normal sort of hormonal fluctuations, combined with the pressure of waiting for something that brings more bad news, if it comes.  It’s also difficult to know when exactly to start getting hopeful – over the 4 ‘reboots’ I had in the months between losing my baby girl and getting pregnant with Freddie, they came later and later every month.  And of course, each time I got hopeful, only to be deeply disenchanted when my reboot occurred a day or two later than it had the previous month.

I’m feeling the urge to ‘sort’ things quite a lot at the moment – drawers, wardrobes, cupboards – particularly my wardrobes as they’re full of a strange mish-mash of different sized clothes which I’ve accumulated over the last 18 months or so, there’s even some maternity items which have escaped my previous attempts at clothes-based crackdowns.  I feel a bit sort of ‘cheated’ though, having to stuff all my size 8/10 apparel into bin bags, as well as the maternity clothes, again.  Removing all your pre-pregnancy clothes when you’re actually pregnant is quite exciting – it emphasises the reality of your experience as your body grows.  But when you’re not pregnant, and you’re having to tidy away your smaller, pre-pregnancy clothes AND the maternity stuff, it’s just sad.  But, it helps to feel a bit more orderly, I suppose it’s another control thing.

Anyway, I’m off to bag up some small clothes – the attic’s getting pretty full.

 

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