Max and I had a weekend away.
Well, before that, I had a trip to the hospital – again. I got an opportunity to talk over things with a fresh pair of eyes, from long before Freddie to the here and now. What might have gone wrong, what might be wrong now. Could we have changed anything.
It’s difficult, because I’m afraid to ask the questions. And difficult because I suspect they all know that perhaps I don’t want to hear the answers. But a fresh pair of eyes is always good – someone who can’t be to blame and who can’t feel too sorry for me because they weren’t there and they don’t know me and however sympathetic and kind they are, they only know the dead baby mum and not the expectant mum or the person who needed that baby more than anything else. They don’t even know the mother who shed tears for 11 days over a cot, knowing all the time what was going to happen and wondering why it was taking so long to filter through to other people.
I had to go back to the same corridor, that was the only room available. And perhaps that wasn’t a good thing to do, but I’m glad it happened. It’s just a corridor, one I walked up and down for 11 days, now bizarrely painted purple. A postnatal ward I lived on, a delivery ward I went to and gave birth in, a SCBU unit he lived in. A room at the end, which was bizarrely invisible to me even though in full view, for 10 days – where I held him as he died. I think that room was like the room of requirement, I knew it was there but I swear I didn’t see it till we needed it.
The rooms where a child was born, lived and died should not be so close together. There should be more to life than that.
But anyway, the meeting was meaningful enough. More than previous people, this one seemed to feel that there was nothing missed, no courses of action that could have been taken that might have altered things. More than before, my impression was that they all felt that something was amiss before his birth and, well, who knows?
When I said to Max that I was worried that lying on my left caused his distress, I think I was right. I’ve gone over and over it. Was it when I fell on the bus? Was it that flu that made me feel so poorly? Was it the antibiotics I took at New Year? When I had a sudden compulsion to book a section a couple of weeks before, was it because I knew he was in his last chance? I don’t know. But I do know that I feared for him and when I think back to those movements that worried me so much, enough to voice anxiety to Max, I know I must have been right. Those movements must have been fitting. I think they were always followed by violent hiccups, which reassured me, but perhaps shouldn’t have.
That ought to reassure me. It hasn’t happened to the others. But dear God, I have nearly lost and probably lost, two children to cord accidents before they were even close to birth. If I can’t even protect them then, what can I do?
There were only two really bad moments; one was the picture of a pregnant woman on the wall of the room we were in and another was seeing the doctor walk out of SCBU who persuaded me to give Freddie the set of drugs that knocked him out and, I fear, meant he moved so little that the chest infection set in. Luckily she didn’t come near me, because if she had, I think I might have started screaming at her in a way that would have had me physically removed from the premises.
Having no answers is even harder than being without him. There is no natural resolution to no answers. It takes a sheer effort of will to move past it. And it is bloody exhausting.
So anyway – we had a weekend away.
The girls were looked after for us at the house, which was great as it meant they didn’t have to uproot, something they still struggle with a bit. Slightly less great was that i noticed (while at the hospital again!) that Josie appeared to suddenly have a pox on her the edge of her iris. I was slightly surprised as I hadn’t seen it there before, but she’s been very busy playing all week. I showed it to my mum, who kept an eye on it (!), got worried it was a viral ulcer and spent bits of time at a & e over the weekend getting it looked out. Turned out to be an immune reaction called limbitis (?) which is white blood cells collecting on the rim of the iris to protect the eye, perhaps because of the very big pox below her eye.
It is improving now, but it did worry us a lot – we weren’t far away so were poised to come home if needed.
We had a lovely time but i think in lots of ways, it just completely undid me. It brought home to me that there is no escape from dead baby. I have to take the absence of him everywhere with me. I made it through the first evening okay until a couple walked into the bar with a baby and then I realised that if Freddie was alive, we wouldn’t be there. And there were babies in the hotel and I was going to have to see them.
The bigger shock was realising that once away from home, my subconscious just went into over-drive. I dreamt, madly and frantically, all night – about Freddie, about babies, about labour and birth, about caring for other women with dead babies. I dreamt I was standing somewhere knowing the baby inside me was dead and knowing that it was pointless to even bother telling any one. I woke up every night in a panic about work, the children, Freddie.
Once away from the people I’m putting a front on for, once out of my comfort zone, I realised I am not even started on the path of healing. That nothing is better.
I excelled myself the next day by running out of the lobby in tears when someone walked in with a sleeping boy baby. I scattered tea, phones and newspapers as I ran, leaving a very startled Max behind me. And then it was all over really. We went out and the place was being visited by a group of low learning ability children, there were babies and little boys everywhere and I just went into some form of flat panic.
I find myself unable to stop mothering the boy who might have been. I see children with disabilities and I wonder if he might have been like them, I find myself thinking “we can do that today because we don’t have Freddie but if we did have, what would I need to do/take/prepare for/avoid?” I’m fighting all the time against a shadow of a disability that is only a might have been. And I can’t yet stop. It is a fight, a bloody, grinding fight, not to be haunted by him. A fight that comes with the grief of wanting to be haunted by him and knowing that is the wrong thing to do.
Which makes it sound like it wasn’t a nice time. It was, we did some good things; a lovely castle, a trip to the beach, a lovely meal, a long tree filled walk. I’ll blog the photos separately; this doesn’t seem the place now somehow. But it as a bloody, fighting, grim effort to be happy and it takes up so much sodding energy. The poem below, such as it is, I woke up with in my head in the early hours of the 13th, the first time in all these months I’ve been overwhelmed with the reality that there is also an anniversary of his death.
I just want my happy ending. We worked so hard and now we have a birth and a death, something not even worth celebrating, that colours every flicker of our eyeballs. Every happy has a sad, every laugh has the knowledge that I AM LAUGHING. That I WILL laugh, godammit.
Conversations when we got home, one that really broke me. I’m just not who I was. I have no patience or ability to forgive the people who hurt me when I was most vulnerable. I’ve been freed of the obligation and I can’t find my way back to having it. I’m not made more noble by this realisation. I’m simply shattered and the pieces I put back together are not the sum of what was there. And I don’t really care who knows it.
I said that I was setting my teeth and my will to being fixed, to not going down, to not wallowing and feeling sorry for myself. I will not grieve emptily and wastefully again. I cannot do it. I owe it to whatever is left of me, for Freddie, for Max, in order to be an example and an inspiration to my children. Mostly not to be a drain on them. But it leaves nothing else. I cannot make myself acknowledge pain which can be recovered from. I can’t. All I can bring myself to do is say “Yep. It’s bad. Whatever. Move on.” Because that is all I can do.
I’m so bloody tired. I’m just exhausted. I can’t escape from anything – I can’t escape from little boys, or babies or children, or the photos I can’t bear out or bear to put away, the cupboard full of things for a maybe that probably won’t happen and a might have been that wasn’t. I can’t stop seeing his face in my children’s faces, I can’t stop hearing crying or babbling. I can’t fail to wake up and know he isn’t there. I can’t keep crying and I can’t stop. I can’t stop the year or the seasons marching on. I can’t remember and I can’t forget.
I’m just bloody exhausted, trying to keep going so I don’t bring everyone else I love down too. And held in parallel with not giving a fuck either, that’s a bit of a tightrope to walk.