You just know that any day you can begin with the words “Happy not-being-a-parent-day” is going to be a struggle.
After crying my way through writing my letter to Jesse and sharing it not only to help my own process of healing, but to begin to combat the silence on the subject of miscarriage (unless you let slip you’ve had one, and then suddenly women who turn out to be kin are all over the place) and break down the barriers which render it taboo (not least part of which is the wider recognition and acknowledgement of my poor, one-month gestation child as an actual human being, which happens less often than is comfortable (not here, of course) and certainly with less frequency amongst certain tracts of society than I am prepared to take lying down), I went to bed at 3am.
At half 3, having flooded my own face and Husby’s with more and more tears, I padded glumly to the kitchen to seek solace on the top shelf of the larder.
Bitterly ironic, as gin’s other name is ‘Mother’s ruin’.
I swigged half a glass, silently toasting my missing children, and hoped that the thoughts would slow their dizzy whirl through my brain:
I should have been wondering if everything was packed in my hospital bag – I should have been feeling too fat, too hot, too uncomfortable – I wouldn’t have been able to see my toes – I would have been scared and excited and desperate to meet him or her (or just desperate to have him or her OUT of me) – Husby and I should have been checking that we had all the right baby equipment – I should have been worrying about labour – we should have been preparing to meet our newborn – I should have been wondering if everything was packed in my hospital bag.
On and on and on they went, and I fretted about what we’d do if we were never able to have a child. Or never allowed to adopt. Or got pregnant and had another miscarriage. And sweet, patient Husby held me and soothed me and told me not to think about those things ’til they happened and held my hand until the gin made the edges of my mind start to go blurry, tingled through my limbs and tipped me over the edge of consciousness into a thankfully dreamless sleep.
This morning I awoke feeling detached and unhappy. I was vulnerable and brittle all at the same time, like a cream-filled brandy snap if the cream was pain and the wafer was jadedness.
And then my morning book, No Greater Love’, changed everything (oh how I do love a morning book – not a whole one, but an ongoing one to indulge in at least once a day). Written about the life of Joy Bath, a nurse, midwife and pentecostal missionary to hospitals in Rhodesia (which turned into Zimbabwe in between her visits) it documents the trials she experienced (including mopping up after hospital or school trucks from the mission ran over landmines, the massacre of most of her team by ‘freedom fighters’) and her tragic (but seemingly so minor) brush with a contaminated needle which led to the development of AIDS, and ultimately, her death.
Her writing, in spite of documenting such horror, was not self-pitying, and two sections struck me very strongly over my cereal.
I hate the idea of pain being experienced by any living thing. But for human beings it can come in many forms; physical, mental and emotional; persecution and rejection. It can act as a purifying process. It can be a benefit, remoulding a person and giving new strengths. (p100)
Fairly recently, while reading part of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6: 31-34), I was struck by the words of Jesus, ‘Do not worry about your life.’ I am sure he did not mean we should not plan and prepare for the future as best we can. He did mean that we should not be full of anxiety. He goes on to say, ‘Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own’ (v34)
What really impressed me about this teaching of Jesus was the air of authority with which it was delivered. He was not giving out advice, but commands. And how right he was to place emphasis on this matter. It is pointless to waste our lives sitting around fretting about things which may never happen. On the other hand, if we knew the trials we had to face in life beforehand, we would probably give up on every aspect before reaching adulthood. (p109)
Then I decided to check online before going to meet a friend for a ‘crisis’ chat (her life, not mine) and was overwhelmed by the positive responses the letter to Jesse had received.
Messages of encouragement, care, appreciation, support, kinship.
They were all there.
Some from women who’d been in my position. Some from women who knew women who’d been in my position. Some from women with children living. Some from women who’d never had children. Some from women who’d just stopped by and had their hearts touched. And one from a very special friend who told me he’d cried when he read it because he felt he’d failed his child and missed him/her, and hoped that he/she was with Jesse and Sam and that we’d meet them all one day.
All this from an effort to crystallise my feelings about this time and use them to shine a small light into an area of life so often shrouded in mystery and darkness. And in the time I had to think about that, I nearly cried again*.
And through the day, those wonderful, affirming voices kept coming, adding to one another with a huge message for me – “I understand”
Gradually, over the course of the day, my jaded, brittle shell has strengthened into one of determination and resolve. I will continue to demystify this. I will continue to make my story known. Because this kinship, this uniting of people who’ve hurt or who understand this hurt, this solidarity, is something we need.
When in that position, a measure of peace is so vital – a feeling of being understood, acknowledged and cared for. A quietening of the incessant monologue which recites what should have been. A knowledge that this pain can be used for good. A light, shining into the dark hollows in my heart.
It’s something I needed nine months ago.
It’s something I’ve had in dribs and drabs since then.
And now in a flood. Thank you.
May I leave you with the most peaceful thing I’ve seen in a while – it’s called ‘Floating Garden’. Enjoy.
*I ‘nearly cried again’ lots through the day. Like when I drove past a car. When I saw a puppy. When I held out my hand to a little, toddling girl and helped her down a step. When I didn’t want to say out loud in a meeting what was wrong.When I read my wonderful friend’s companion letter to Jesse. When I realised (with help) that I can take this forward into something much more meaningful.