Thursday, May 20, 2010
Today is the 20th of May. It's my daughter's birthday. My first daughter. Who would be, should be, 10 years old today. Her name, chosen years before she came into the world, was Morgan Grace. Morgan for the Celtic goddess, Grace for my beloved grandmother. She was born perfect, full-term...and still. I won't go into the details of why and how, the things that perhaps should have been done that weren't, that I should have been told but wasn't. I went into labour not knowing I carried Group B Streptococcus. I had none of the 'risk factors' whatsoever, so no-one suspected it could be a problem. But it proved fatal for my little girl. I ended up having an emergency caesarean to no avail. I can remember the exact moment as if it was yesterday, that my world tipped sideways and nothing could ever be the same again. Lying on the operating table, wondering why I couldn't hear her crying, the Anaesthetist came up to me and said "I'm sorry, your little girl is very sick". "Will she be OK?" I asked. "No. I'm so very sorry."
That moment began a journey that I'm still on. I will probably be on it for the rest of my life. That isn't to say I'm still grief stricken all the time, or that my life is grey and sad. I'm not, and my life is mostly pretty good, and terribly normal. And I have two beautiful little girls here with me to bring me all the joys and frustrations of being a mother! But when you're a bereaved parent, there's always a gap, the awareness that your family isn't quite complete, the feeling of missing something important. There are the days, like today, when you mourn again for all that you, and your child, have missed.
I have told people that I know what Hell is like, I spent 6 months there. Everyone is different and grief is a very individual path. For me, it took about 6 months before I started to feel human again, before the colour that seemed to have been bled from everything began to feel its way back in, and the flavours that had gone leaving all food tasting like cardboard began to return. The pain subsided, I began to live rather than just exist. But you don't forget. You can't forget. And I was quite simply not the same person anymore.
I discovered too, that grief affects others in vastly different ways. And the death of a baby sometimes brings out peculiar notions in people. The old idea (thankfully mostly forgotten these days) that you should 'try not to think about it' surfaced in an unlikely quarter, friends who seemed to have trouble understanding the depth and profound nature of my grief. My simple need to talk about my baby, to acknowledge that I really was a mother, that she was real. And kindnesses too from unlikely quarters. The uni friend of my brother's whom I'd never met, who turned up on his bike to their class clutching a bunch of flowers, and pressed them into my brother's hand saying "For your little niece."
I have learnt so much in these years. I understand profoundly that death is part of life, not something you can push aside or pretend doesn't exist, as we often seem to do in this modern world. And it is not morbid, or perverse to acknowledge it and talk about it. Or laugh about it sometimes too. It will come to us all, and it is sad, and tragic too when it comes to the young. But it is part of the cycle of life, and we must accept that. If there is any advice I can give to someone going through this, or who knows someone who is, it is this. Grief is a journey. You must go through it (and we all will, at various times in our lives), you cannot block it out, or deny it, try to circumvent it or ignore it. It is a long, hard journey, and something that no-one ever tells you, it is SOOO tiring. You feel as if you cannot do one more day. But you can, you have the strength, you will come through. And, most importantly, it is YOUR journey. There is no right way to grieve, don't let anyone tell you you're doing it wrong, or you should be 'over it by now'...it takes as long as it takes. And if you are watching helplessly as someone you love is walking this road, remember that you CANNOT take their minds off it, you cannot make them forget, you cannot drag them away from the edge of the abyss, you cannot carry the burden for them. But you can walk with them. Stand on the edge of the abyss and hold their hand until they are ready to step back themselves. Let them talk, cry, scream, laugh. Be there. And if your friend has lost a baby...please, speak their name. There is no sound more beautiful in all the world to a grieving parent, than the sound of their child's name.
We will celebrate Morgan's birthday as a family, my girls know and understand they have a big sister, a guardian angel, in Heaven (or however you wish to think of it). We will make her a cake and sing happy birthday, because she is part of this family and always will be. And I will leave you with a portrait my mum drew of our beautiful girl, and a poem written by my friend Rita, who has herself known great loss and pain, and found that life goes on, and joy returns.
Tangi for Morgan
Small voyager, swim well. The eternal
ocean will, for you, surge and swell
gently, for the waves
on the shore of our memory.
You are safe.
Seabourne, seamaid, navigate straight for
the horizon, let the tides carry you,
on your way.
We will sit awhile here on the shore.
You are warm
It's a little dark now, and cold here.
It will pass. Days will come
when the breeze is your touch
on our face
and your breath
in our hair. We sing you on
Go, small Morgan Grace,
wrapped safe, bright
within our love,
journey for the light.
Posted by A mermaid in the attic at 5:26 PM