People don’t mean to be cruel. They don’t mean to hurt me, or us. What they want is to save us pain. It’s easy to be accidentally tactless of course, because what was like a barrel of boiled oil poured on ready flayed skin to me, is to every one else just ordinary every day thing. The word baby. The colour blue. The sound of crying. All the toys in the unit where we run our business. Almost every advert that uses a cute naked baby on a daddy’s chest to sell life insurance. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. How many children do you have? Happy ever after stories.
People don’t really like to know about bad things happening, I know that. Far fewer people are happy to sit on my sofa now than were 2 years ago. That’s partly my fault of course. No one likes an honest answer to ‘how are you?’ and for a while I was too broken to be polite. No one likes to know it can go wrong – and no one likes to be faced with how it looks when it does. Babies don’t die. Even the people who care for them and try to make them better don’t really want to acknowledge they can’t always make it okay. Looking back, I know the nurse who was brisk with me on the phone the day after Freddie died was just mortified to be speaking to me. ‘What I do is not always enough’ was, I suppose, what she thought. Easier to look away. Easier to get me off the phone.
I don’t mind so much now. Heaven knows I’m guilty of airbrushing too. I paddled a canoe of tears through a year of grief and tried to fix it by getting pregnant again. I’ve no idea how much of the pain of that year was Freddie’s loss and how much of it was the fury and frustration of not being able to conceive. I know an awful lot of the pain dissipated with the appearance of a thin blue line. I’m not comfortable with that. I don’t like to think that I’m replacing, or getting over it, or moving on. It doesn’t seem right.
I mind that sometimes I don’t cry for a week now. I mind that looking forward and being positive and optimistic is easier than being full of despair. I mind that I can live with it. I don’t really want to have to live with it. I think it is just human nature to repair though and get better. It seems that if we truly hit a real bottom, not just one we think we can see, climbing back up becomes a default reaction. I wish I’d known that before.
Sometimes people say “Sorry, I didn’t want to remind you. I’m sure you prefer not to think about it”. They aren’t right, I do prefer to think about ‘it’ – him – but I understand why they say it. My real friends are the ones who don’t turn their face away, the ones who give me an opportunity to say his name. Perhaps it’s why I’ve spent a year hanging out with my girls and people who were hurt nearly the same by him never coming home with us. They mention him. They talk about him. They remember him. I won’t forget a single one of those opportunities. Ever.
What does make me angry though, are people who make decisions on my behalf. A few months ago I sent an update into my old school newsletter. This is what I wrote:-
“I think when I last contacted the newsletter and when I judged house drama, I had 2 daughters; we now have 4 girls, Frances, Maddy, Amelie and Josie who range from 13 to 6 years old. None of them have ever been to school and are home educated, which they love and has been an amazing experience for us as a family and opened many doors and brought amazing friendships. When they were very little, I set up an online craft and toy business and it flourished. We now have 3 online shops, one of which is playmerrilytoys.co.uk and my husband left work 2 years ago to take over running them so I could get back to being a full time mother.
Our daughters are amazing, not at all like me and very sporty, confident, outgoing and interested little people. One is already running her own small business and I have two gymnasts, a dancer and a rugby player in the house!
Last year we decided to have one more baby, and had a little boy, Freddie. Sadly he failed to breathe at birth and although he clung on in SCBU for a while, he died when he was 11 days old. Losing him has been devastating, of course, but we’ve managed to keep life going on, as you have to when there are other children to consider. We miss him very much but we’re very proud of how we’ve all coped.
I’m still in regular touch with a few friends from school….Thank goodness for Facebook!”
Now, no newsletter publishes all of an email of course, but this is what they did publish.
I can’t help noticing that while they included elements of every paragraph and event in my life generally, they skipped neatly over all mention of Freddie. Just deleted him. Too sad. Probably would upset people to read that. Not important maybe. Maybe kinder to me not to mention it.
Or just dead. And as a book I read this week so succinctly and neatly put it, “Dead children don’t count anywhere”.
I left a fairly angry message on their Facebook page and got a polite and very apologetic message from the director of something or other who as it happened, sort of understood. She forwarded my feelings on to the editors. I’ve never heard from them. That makes me very angry.
There is an oft repeated quote from Ronald Reagan about how there is a word for a child who loses a parent and a word for a spouse who finds themselves without their love – but no word for a parent who has to manage. forever. when their child dies.
“Do not judge the bereaved mother. She comes in many forms.
She is breathing, but she is dying.
She may look young, but inside she has become ancient.
She smiles, but her heart sobs.
She walks, she talks, she cooks, she cleans, she works, she IS,
but she IS NOT, all at once.
She is here, but part of her is elsewhere for eternity.”
There is so little anyone can do, really, to help.
But for gods sake, don’t make it worse.