Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Angel in our midst...

This is a post I wasn't sure I should write.  A very difficult one to write too.  But I was encouraged, by someone who has known hard times too, to share because there are people out there who might be going though this right now, or know someone who is.  And perhaps my story might help someone else see that, though the journey is hard, they will come through.

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' 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
only tumble 
and crash
on the shore of our memory.
You are safe.

Seabourne, seamaid, navigate straight for 
the horizon, let the tides carry you,
small seasprite
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 
your way.

Go, small Morgan Grace,
wrapped safe, bright
within our love,
journey for the light.


Crafts @ Home said...

This has brought tears to my eyes, no not just to my eyes, there rolling down my cheeks as well. I hope it has brought some comfort to you to write about it and perhaps to others to read about it.The drawing is so beautiful. Much love. Enjoy the cake as she would have done.

rRob said...

Chrissy, my lovely extraordinarily talented daughter. I find it hard to take in all that you have done, in the artistic sense, and I thank God that you have made the most of your obvious artistic creativity. I have read your blog, dropped a few tears with Mum over Morgan but, I tell you what, what a gift for words you have also. Your piece for Morgan was so well written, so clear and concise, and so encouraging to others. Well done, and I claim you as my princess also. Hope Richard doesn't mind. All my love. Dad.

KeLLy aNN said...

the flowers.....


Valerianna said...

I am crying here as I read... thank you for such authenticity. I've gone through doorways of grief and climbed back out, deeper and wiser for the journey. I recently found this quote:

The death of a beloved is an event that rings and rings through a life:
bearing it is not a problem to be solved, but a long,
slow piece of music to listen to.
And mourning, like music,
is best listened to with others.

~ Sarah Miles ~

Thank you for your deep sharing.

Emerald Window said...

What a thoughtful, wonderous post. I hope all mothers of angel- children have a chance to read it.
My cousin had a still born little boy. I called her that night and cried with her over the phone. A few days later I called to talk to her again and she told me that many of her friends were avoiding her. I explained that it was most likely because they didn't know what to say. Her response was "They don't have to say anything, but it would be so great if they could come to listen". I listened to her for over an hour as she shared her pain and sorrow and raw nerves with me. I made sure to call often after that and many years later she told me that having someone to share her story with was the best healing she could ask for.
So I hope that the friends of mothers who will go through this in the future will not feel awkward around grieving mothers. Be there for them.
Also, I made it through your post semi dry-eyed, but when I read your Daddy's comment, I blubbered like a baby. You have a special Father.

Danielle Barlow said...


Róisín said...

This is the most beautiful and touching blog post I have ever read. I challenge anyone to read it and not shed at least one tear. My mother lost a little boy when I was a child and at the time I was too young to really understand what she was going through. I now realise that maybe we don't talk about him enough with her.

I don't have any children yet myself but we're hoping to start a family in the next couple of years. It's something I can't wait for but at the same time terrifies me. It may seem like a strange thing to say but your words have actually helped ease my fears, for if I can do it with even a quarter of the courage you so obviously have then I know whatever happens I'll be ok.

Thank you for your inspiration. I don't even know you but after this you'll be forever in my thoughts. All the best to you and your family.

Roisin xx

Marie said...

I read your blog regularly but never seem to comment much, even now words fail me but I just wanted to acknowledge that I have read, wept, thought and been inspired by your braveness, and now as I write this I JUST got a message from a dear friend who is now pregnant after many moons of trying. Angels are all around us x

Ruthie Redden said...

dear christina, sending you the biggest of hugs x

oonagh said...

Sorry to drop by , but I couldn't leave without a word after I read your so beautiful and so loving expression.

My Kindest wishes to you and Nines waves of peace upon little Morgan and all of you celebrating her.


Unknown said...

Christina, I send love to the place where Morgan lives in your heart, Ren x

Raven Moon Magic said...

beautiful birthday to Morgan Grace, twirling and playing in her magic place

well done sweets, you wrote it better than I had ever imagined


Donna B. said...

What an incredible post. Words fail me. What a beautiful name, Morgan Grace. What a beautiful tribute and such a demonstration of the loving person you are to share this raw, private grief...

I have a brother, named Grant Roberts, who died shortly after a brutal forcept delivery. My Mom was not even allowed to hold him. My Great Aunt, who was a nurse, took him and my Mother never saw him or knew what was done with him. There was no service. They never spoke of him. My Great Aunt thought she was saving my Mother pain and grief...

One weekend when we were at the beach together, Mom told me the entire story. Vivid to her after all these 60 plus years. We cried and sobbed together. It is the closest I have ever felt to her. I just cannot imagine how you both survived such an event.

Bless you and thank you so much for your heart wrenching, yet tender introduction to one of the brighter lights of love, an Angel in Heaven, named Morgan Grace.

jude said...

she is here. in you.

Patricia Ariel said...

i have no words, Chris. seriously. don't know how to describe what i feel now, after reading your post. i almost lost my little one last year in an accident and every single day i hug and kiss her and give thanks for her physical presence next to me. you are absolutely right: death is part of life and we cannot live pretending it does not exist, or that will never happen to us. my understanding is that death is just the next stage, just in a different material condition. and I am sure that little Morgan loved her birthday cake. many Blessings to you and your beautiful family.

india flint said...

blessings on you all

S said...

in my professional career I have held a space for grieving parents and asked why so many times. I have stood by helplessless when the death of a baby has shattered a collegues career - not through fault but grief. More recently I have tried desperately to keep open communications with friends who's children have died ~ they are numb with pain and I am at a loss to say anything helpful because you are right; there is nothing helpful to say. Thank you, I will send each of them a message now - just checking in and sending love.
My sister's name is Morgan.

Unknown said...

Hello. I am truly sorry for your loss, but I do believe you are doing the right thing in celebrating Morgan Grace's birthday. An article written by a friend of mine helped me more than anything anyone could have said, and maybe it will offer some comfort to you as well:

" It is difficult to know what to say to someone who has suffered a similar loss. But one day, someone told me something so beautiful: “There are some souls, who have a very difficult journey. Their past lives have been filled with suffering of the worst kind, and they have more ahead. Sometimes, it becomes too much, and they need to be held for a while; warm, nourished and loved; before they can move on. Your baby knew no pain, no anger, no fear, no sadness, no hunger, no cold. You were chosen for this job… that baby chose you, and you chose him, because you could give love to a possibility, a dream, under any conditions. We special women who are chosen this way have been blessed, and those little souls thank us as they leave us.” "

Lunar Hine said...

I came through too.
My boy is called Daniel. Almost nobody knows that.
I have a living joy of a daughter too and I give thanks for both of them.
And I thank you.

Maery Rose said...

Thanks for sharing your story and your beautiful song. I think you're right that telling your story helps other parents who have lost a child and also helps the people standing awkwardly by not knowing what to say or do. It seems especially true when a child is lost in miscarriage or soon after birth, that parents are not seen as having the same profound loss as other parents. It makes the pain even worse. I'm so sorry for your loss.

caronbc said...

Thank you for sharing your pain and wisdom with us all.
I too have suffered great loss through death, but gratefully, never a child. I cannot imagine the intensity of your pain and I pray that everyone who has suffered such a loss can grow in strength and acceptance as you have.
You are a true inspiration and I thank you for sharing your healing wisdom with us all.
Blessings to you always, and to all who have lost.

Unknown said...

I read this post riveted until the end. I appreciate you writing and posting this so much. The poem you wrote for little Morgan is just beautiful, and especially poignant for me, since we conceived by the sea and 3 months later I miscarried by the sea. That was in July.

It helped me so much just to talk and talk and talk to people about it. I talked my way through it and discovered a warm community of women, women who knew, without even having to explain.

Thank you for sharing your story. x brooke

'Zann said...

Beautiful post that carries much wisdom and truth. I know the journey well. Thank you!

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