Posted by: Louise | June 3, 2013

right where I am: 4 years 3 weeks & 2 days

There is an imprint of a bird on our bedroom window. His wings are spread. There is clearly something in his beak.

But there is no bird.

And there is no bird body. The only evidence of the bird’s existence is an imprint that I can see right through. I have tried to photograph it, but the camera focuses on the trees beyond and the imprint is rendered entirely invisible.

I didn’t hear the bird as it hit the glass. It must have made a noise. I wonder where the bird is now.

If I had to be an animal, I would be a bird. I can fly in my dreams…

I would watch out for windows though.

***

We were holding interviews in work last week, for a course I run. I had scanned the application forms. I was prepared (braced) when the woman who works for an organisation supporting parents bereaved through stillbirth came through the door. She was lighthearted – made her ‘work talk’ easy to listen to.

Of course ideas around grief and still birth are changing considerably, she said. People used to say that a woman still grieving after a year was experiencing a complicated grief. Current research suggests that, after a year, a woman who has experienced still birth is probably still suffering post traumatic stress from the trauma of giving birth to a dead child.

Braced, but not enough.

So many, many layers to daughter death.

My baby died. I wanted her to stay, to live, to be a living, breathing part of our family. Her broken heart took her. My heart broke.

My baby died. The world changed. It didn’t understand how physical mother love is. I still protect it from my pain.

My baby died. I couldn’t talk about my labour. No one asked. It wasn’t horrible. It was peaceful and natural and beautiful and unbearably sad. But no one asked.

And when this lady talked of the trauma of delivering a dead child, I choked deep down. A knot of emotion suddenly released itself deep down in my gut. My mother love is physical. The sadness and loss and longing that engulfed me after Laura died are physical feelings – emotions, but held and carried in my body.

No one talked of trauma. Mostly no one talked…

***

Where am I right now?

I want to feel that saying I have four children is not making a statement. It is just the truth.

I am dancing (even though the Giraffe Princess is mortified by the shapes I throw) because in dancing I feel alive. I feel like I can fly. I have moved through and with my grief more than in anything else. I have played with my missing daughter. I have played with my grief.

These days I laugh and joke again. These days I hold it together then let the tears flow after the interviewee has left the room.

These days I cry unapoligetically. My daughter died. Life is sad.

…but beautiful and joyful and humourous and a million other things, right in the middle of the sad.

I still struggle with the longing and everyone’s living babies in the school yard.

I don’t play ‘what if’, but there is someone missing in my life. There always will be.

***

There is an imprint of a baby in our lives.

But there is no baby.

The only evidence of our child’s existence is an imprint that I can see right through. I try to capture my daughter’s imprint in words and images, but people mostly focus on the world beyond and her imprint is rendered entirely invisible.

There is an imprint of a baby in our lives.

Her name is Laura.

***

This post was writen in response to Angie – Still Life with Circles “Right Where I am” project. It is the third year she has run this project. Angie’s honesty and creativity and generosity of spirit have been a huge inspiration to me on this journey. Thank you, Angie, again…

Last year I was here.
Two years ago I was here.

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Posted by: Louise | May 11, 2013

four

K and the Giraffe Princess are downstairs cooking up a storm.

I came home from work mid afternoon to a cloud of flour and the smell of roasting chicken. I had left earlier with half a mind to make a butterfly birthday cake on my return, but I love their attention to this day too much to interfere.

And so I have lurked upstairs, tidying my desk,

feeling the silence,

making

something

delicate and small

because somehow that feels just right.

Happy Birthday little one.

 four today

Posted by: Louise | April 14, 2013

still

Our youngest child was stillborn.

The words catch me off guard…still.

There is a restlessness about me…still. I am busying myself with life – giving it socks. I’m going for it, whatever ‘it’ is, and it is filling up my time. But at night when I climb into bed, the other ‘it’ is there…still…like dye, drifting through my unconscious conscious…and I find it hard to be…still.

I look at the stack of books, books that say I love to read, but the trained eye, or the return visitor to our bedroom, would tell you they are untouched for over seven months now. It feels like a crime, a whole new guilty secret – my youngest child was stillborn and now I do not/cannot read.

I can lose hours staring at pictures on the great vast interweb, but I cannot read. Skipping over pictures idly accommodates my drifting restlessness. To read I must be still, give focus, stay with…what?

I am tired. Tired of daughter death – Wake up, butterfly.

Tired of living with it…still.

Tired of being busy being. Tired of not being…still.

Tired of climbing into bed restless.

Wake up, butterfly –
it’s late, we’ve miles
to go together.

Basho

Be still and know…

Posted by: Louise | March 18, 2013

angry

The Boy Racer has been angry for some time now.

He was born with sunshine radiating from him. He loved people. People loved him. He thrived on people. I love people, but I am cautious. He just loved them and his openness drew out the best in everyone. It fascinated me.

But he started getting frustrated. I thought he needed more academic challenge at first. We had sent him to a kindergarten when he was four rather than straight to school. His frustrations grew. Anger, in time, became his first port of call.

I put him sitting behind the passenger seat in the car. If something frustrated him in the car he would kick and thrash and it wasn’t safe to have him behind me or K when we were driving. He saved the anger for us. Everyone else saw the Boy Racer we always knew. He was the kid who was there for his friends, in the middle of everything. I watched him stop a game in the school yard once and invite the kid on the side lines to join in. How I love this boy.

But he wasn’t happy.

I talked to a colleague, a therapist. She recommended cranio sacral work. It works wonders with kids.

Some kids maybe, but not this one. He loved it, but there was no dramatic change.

We had a parent/teacher meeting in school. You know what I want to talk to you about, his teacher began. We didn’t. She recommended we have him assessed by an Occupational Therapist. She didn’t see his anger. She saw something else.

The OT report didn’t enlighten us hugely. We were thinking of play therapy at the time. They recommended we pursue this route and have him assessed by a Physiotherapist.

It is a slow process. There are suggestions people  make. There is the time taken to act on these suggestions, the waiting time for appointments. There are holidays. There is humming and hawing. The Boy Racer is now seven. He started getting angry when he was four. Laura died just before his fourth birthday.

Image

I was talking to a friend a while back. She wanted to know how the Boy Racer was doing. She is an Occupational Therapist and knew the journey we were on. We chatted and I recounted a recent incident.

Our little man has developed a new obsession – Lego – embracing it with the same passion as his (until now) exclusive obsession with Hot Wheels. He had spent some days making a lego vehicle and Astro Boy and I were in the room with him when we heard the tell tale mutterings of his rising anger.

Can I help you with something? I queried.

Astro Boy echoed my query as the grumblings became more agitated.

We both tried again… and again, but the Boy Racer’s frustration grew and grew until his anger erupted and his creation was flung across the room smashing into pieces.

And how was he then? my friend asked. Was he upset?

No. I replied. He left the room calmly and went to clean his teeth.

It sounds like the outburst was a release.

I had mentioned the Boy Racer’s empathy to her before and his constant watching for my tears if something sad comes on the telly.

It sounds like he has taken responsibility for making it all alright for you. That is such a big responsibility for a little kid. Every so often he must need to release the pressure.

That was a couple of months ago.

We had a review with his play therapist a couple of weeks ago. The Boy Racer hasn’t said much during his time with her. He shuts down if you tip toe anywhere near the stuff that matters. He had, however, mentioned to her that he wanted to help Mum and Dad with their worries.

K cried.

I don’t know if this is the answer. I am inclined to think it is one answer. I suspect there will be more. We are feeling our way through this, parenting our living children as best we can. Picking up the pieces as best we can. Loving as best we can. Living as best we can.

My children have a sister and she isn’t here and her parting hurt us all in different ways. And in different ways we are living with that, together in this family.

I can understand anger…

… and the need for release.

Posted by: Louise | March 11, 2013

journey

I am on a journey.

There are no cliches on this journey and yet “to journey through life” sounds like such a cliche. Upwards of six people ( I haven’t done an official tally) in the past four days have told me I should write a book. It doesn’t scare me.

I was referred to as a writer a few days ago, in public, in front of a crowd of people, when I was being introduced. It didn’t scare me. It sat beside me comfortably like an old friend.

I am saying it here, out loud, kind of… and it doesn’t scare me that I am doing that either.

I am on a journey.

I am not anticipating the end of the journey, just acknowledging where I am right now.

It is ridiculously busy, crawl into bed at midnight busy, where has the weekend gone to (again) busy. But it feels ok, this place.

K has just graduated with an MA in Art History and Philosophy and now talks of PhDs with an air of inevitability.

Giraffe Princess is a radiant, cantankerous beauty on the cusp of teendom. The child in her is all but gone.

Astro Boy has just hit double digits and is abandoning dreams of being a lego designer to work instead for NASA as an engineer. He has some new ideas they could be working on.

The Boy Racer gave up racing for an extended period from November – January and focused instead on hauling a full leg cast around with him. Or was that me doing the hauling? Or both of us? He is building up speed again now, in a lopsided, hop-skip-and-jump kind of way. It is quite the silliest broken leg story ever.

I have begun an artist residency one day a week, making art for the first time in years. It doesn’t scare me. I don’t know where it will lead.

There is movement in this place. That much I know.

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.

~ Mary Oliver ~

A friend sent me the following poem the other day. She had recited it days earlier, not knowing my story. She recited it in french and then translated. I cried and told her about Laura…

Demain, dès l’aube…

Demain, dès l’aube, à l’heure où blanchit la campagne,
Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m’attends.
J’irai par la forêt, j’irai par la montagne.
Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.

Tomorrow, at dawn, at the very time the countryside whitens
I will leave. You see, I know you are waiting for me.
I will go by the forest, I will go by the mountain
I cannot remain far from you any longer.

Je marcherai les yeux fixés sur mes pensées,
Sans rien voir au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,
Seul, inconnu, le dos courbé, les mains croisées,
Triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit.

With eyes fixed on my thoughts, I will walk
Without anything to see outside, without hearing any noise
Alone, unknown, bent, hands crossed,
Sad, and the day to me will look like the night.

Je ne regarderai ni l’or du soir qui tombe,
Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur,
Et quand j’arriverai, je mettrai sur ta tombe
Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.

Neither will I see the gilding of nightfall
Nor the mist lowering itself over Harfleur
And when I will arrive, I will leave on your grave
A bouquet of green holly and heather in bloom

Victor HUGO

Four days ago I was at an exhibition opening for some art work produced by an artist, Marie Brett, in collaboration with bereaved parents. The exhibition is called “Anamnesis”. It is a kind of cultural memorial to infant loss. I was one of the parents she collaborated with. I was one of the speakers at the opening…

I invited a friend of mine to come along this evening (I invited a lot of friends, including this particular friend) and when I explained the exhibition to her, she said – Why would I want to go to that? It’ll just be full of sad parents…

I need to stress that this friend was a wonderful support to us in the months following Laura’s death and has never shied from the topic of baby death, but her words speak, quite probably for a great majority of people out there. It is too sad. Let’s avoid it. Let’s not talk of it. Let’s stay away.

And in their determination to stay away from such sadness, to protect themselves and others (and possibly even us) from such sadness, we as parents are left. Our babies have died. That secure ground of birth and the cycle of life and death has been whipped away from under our feet. Our hearts have been wrenched open. We are staggering around in a world that looks the same as it always did, but none of it makes sense any more.

And mostly people don’t know what to say or just don’t say and the abyss that has opened up in our lives echoes with too many silences –
the silence of our missing children,
the silence of our missing children’s stories…

I met Marie for coffee a few weeks ago and she tentatively asked me if I would say a few words at the opening (after being advised not to ask a parent to speak)– I suspect Marie knew me well enough to know that I would either (a) be very clear about my reasons for not wanting to speak or more likely (b) jump at the chance to put voice into that silence.

I had no idea what I would say but knew whatever it was I would write it down so when I inevitably get teary and my voice breaks, at least I don’t need to stress about what I am going to say next. (I didn’t even make it to here. I had already broken down several paragraphs back!) I have written many many talks in my head since the day we met. Every one of those talks fell out the back of my head when I finally sat down to put pen to paper.

I am a sad parent. I always will be. We have four beautiful children, but one of them will never be here with us and that is tragically sad. I am a sad parent, but in my sadness, I am not a miserable parent, nor am I a weak parent, nor an unstable parent. In fact, in my sadness I am quite often joyful. I am more filled with wonder. I am strong. I am brave. I am sensitive. I cry at one stop short of the drop of a hat, but that is a privilege I allow myself because my daughter died and that is sad.

Absence is a strange thing.

In some ways it is very clear – Here/Present. Gone/ Absent.

What could be strange about that? But absence is so much more than ‘gone’. There is so much presence in absence. These days I view the world through ‘Laura Absent’ glasses. Her absence echoes all around. Everything about her absence shouts, whispers, vibrates – “She was here. She was here. She is here.”

The word ‘recollection’ has been used around this exhibition and ‘Anamnesis’ (the title for the exhibition) is associated with the process of recollecting. Recollection is an idea I have difficulty with when it comes to still birth. When your baby dies before they are born, there isn’t an awful lot in the way of memories for you to hang onto. It is a pretty shallow puddle of memories to draw on for the rest of your life.

And yet there is a weight to the loss that belies this pathetic stockpile of accumulated memories.

Laura is, in too many ways, all too still in our lives. As her mother, I do not want to recollect her, to think back to a time when she was here. I want her to be allowed to move through our lives with us. In her own way I want her to be allowed to continue her journey with us in this world.

I really struggled when Marie asked me to identify an object, an amulet, for this project. I struggled as a mother, whose daughter’s feet never touched the ground. I didn’t want her narrowed down even further. Reduced to an object.

As I write, I haven’t seen the final works. Marie has described her treatment of the photographs and the sound that accompanies them.

If I had a choice I would have my daughter back with us in a heartbeat. But life didn’t give us that choice. Laura left us, and in her passing threw into painfully exquisite focus the bond and love between a parent and a child. My husband, K, has said, more than once, in our struggle to put words on how we feel – It is not a specific emotion. It is an intensity of emotion.

Sad is not bad.

There is a richness and depth and wonder and love in sad that we never imagined…
and in that place Laura lives on with us.

Marie described to me how she had echoed the photographs of the amulets with light drawings, piercing the surface to allow the light to shine through. If the photographs are a recollection of our babies lives, to me these light drawings are more evocative of our journeys onward – tentative, less clear than a time before our babies died, but offering glimpses of exquisite wonder and love – and all around is the echo of our loss.

Will I be a writer? Is that the journey?

Will I write a book? Is that my bouquet for Laura?

Je marcherai les yeux fixés sur mes pensées…

Posted by: Louise | November 7, 2012

spoken word blog round up: take two

I nearly missed this, but only nearly. Over a year since the first spoken word. Time keeps racing forward…

Thank you Angie (Still Life with Circles) for organising this again. I’m very happy to see you weathered the storm.

I have chosen to read my most recent post. It took three attempts. Giraffe Princess wouldn’t let me use the second attempt because I looked so tired. I was very relieved to hear that I didn’t look like the camera suggested all the time.

I got a bit creative at the end of the clip. It was too hard to just talk my experience and not try and bring you just a tiny bit more into it. Not sure if YouTube will let me put it up though so, fingers crossed…

Posted by: Louise | October 18, 2012

playing with Laura

…Agony goes
I was born to adore you
As a baby in the blind
I was born to represent you
To carry your head into the sun…

The Crying Light
Antony and the Johnsons

My head is an Antony and the Johnsons mush, a beautiful lyrical haunting mush, but a mush. My own words are floating around in the mush, difficult to catch and order and cohere. I want to catch them. I want to…

…lyrical, haunting mush…

The “when I was in my egg” conversation bubbled to the surface again the other day with the boys. Little of it remains with me now save for the realisation that I was born with all my eggs, a part of me. Therefore I was born with what were to become my children nestled within me. I was born with the cells that would grow to become Giraffe Princess, Astro Boy, the Boy Racer and Laura. Laura was physically with me all my life until she wasn’t anymore.

And I thought – that is why it hurts so much. It wasn’t just a few months and then gone when Laura died. It was all my life and then gone. A physical part of me all my life and then gone.

I was born to adore you.

…lyrical, haunting mush…

The sun shone on us today. We were a gathering of women, clad in vintage, creamy, floaty lacy layers and wellies at the side of the river in the early morning sunshine. Antony drifted above the call of the birds as we warmed up in unison in the park at the side of the river.

Now I cry for daylight
Daylight and the sun
Now I cry for daylight
Daylight everyone

We followed our directions. The moves had been rehearsed for weeks. For weeks now we had flown like gulls, swooping and diving as day turned to night, as summer turned to autumn in the sports complex on top of the hill.

For weeks we had imagined the trees, our shelter and our support as we keened, yearned, dreamed and played in our imagined special places. We had laughed and cried. I had laughed and cried. Those moments as we walked purposefully across the dance floor, conjuring scenarios of delight, those were my moments. I was playing with Laura, lifting her high in the air, feeling her weight in my arms. Oh, to find words to capture the poignancy and delight of those moments?

And now on this day we had our trees to hold, to support us, to hide us as we swayed and pleaded and lost ourselves to the movement, the moment, the company… All of us together, bonded, but lost in our own blissful moment, and a camera rolled.

Daylight in my heart
Daylight in the trees
Daylight kissing everything
She can see

Imagine you are in a nest. This is your space, yours alone. What are you doing in this space?

My arms move. I am cradling my baby, holding her close, cradling her head in my two hands and looking at the length of her, resting weighty on my fore arms. Imagining her there, feeling my heart swell with mother love and pride. I am lifting her gently under her shoulders and swooping her up, flying. My hands widen a little to accommodate my growing child and simultaneously, unstoppably the tears begin to roll down my cheeks. I sink down in my nest, curl up on the floor of the sports complex on top of the hill. My empty arms curled in around my chest.

So much grief carried in my body, my keening, yearning body that has found a way to keep on keeping on until a simple physical action…

…lyrical haunting mush…

Ooh your dream
Here on the water
Warm the sand
The seagulls calling
Kissed by kindness

On this day, as we completed filming, our dance teacher held a few of us back and we walked further along the path by the river until we came to a spot that looked through a gap in some trees across the river to a small town. We wandered through the gap as the camera rolled and following her instructions, we each found ourselves a nest in amongst the trees. The music played. Antony’s voice rose again over the trees and the call of the gulls, and I imagined Laura.

Together in amongst the trees we played, Laura and I, now held in my arms, now swooping and smiling and the camera found us and we played on.

You gave me this
Your fire becomes a kiss

The filming ended and we gathered ourselves (my arms empty once again), preparing to head back along the path. I turned to my teacher (who knew exactly what I was doing in my nest) and said – Do you know where Laura is buried?

She could have chosen anywhere in Ireland to locate her film. I had no say in this. She shook her head. I looked back over my shoulder and pointed through the gap in the trees to the small town on the other side of the river, a small town with an old, old church and a victorian graveyard and a beautiful baby who doesn’t grow.

I was born to adore you…
I was born to represent you
To carry your head into the sun…

Lyrical haunting mush

Posted by: Louise | August 29, 2012

edges

There is a place I come to that makes my soul soar. I wonder if I lived here would my soul soar every day?

K is four weeks away from completing his MA thesis. We moved back in to our house three and a half weeks ago after moving out for major renovations. Our house is a sea of cardboard boxes, an endless tide of them. I was beginning to see this tide ebb when K reminded me that half our belongings are still in a lock up unit untouched.

So the kids and I have come down west with some friends for a fortnight to regroup and give K some space to write before school starts and work starts and everything begins all over again.

I have always felt alive in this place. We came here every summer for years. Time bends and loops here with the wind that blows in off the sea. I am nine, twelve, sixteen, twenty-two. I am a mother watching my children exhilarate in the same landscape with its small coves and beaches and rock pools and heathy coastal walks that make my childhood memories. I am ancient. I am a child.

This year we have travelled here with another family so have travelled further out the coast. We are staying on a road that only a few kilometres further on brings you to the most south westerly point in Ireland and then… the sea.

We are on the brink – the very edge of Ireland.

The beach here isn’t small and enclosed. It is an open expanse of shifting sand dunes, unstable cliffs and crashing waves. Rip currents hide beneath the waves and lifeguards standing alert and watchful now run vigilantly up and down the sands, making me wonder, “what do they know about these waters?” instilling chilling mother fear deep down in my bones. The kids delight in the ever-crashing waves.

I feel an edginess here that I struggle to put my finger on.

We’ve had a bad summer this year. I have determined not to complain about the weather, not to give in to its incessant let down. We have dropped everything on more than one occasion to seize a moment of elusive sunshine and go to the beach. But the weather is bad. It is cold and it is wet, really really wet. And now it is three days to the end of the summer holidays and autumn is coming and I haven’t felt held by the comforting warmth of summer. And I want to complain.

Is it the weather?

The Giraffe Princess is eleven going on fifteen. Hormones overwhelm her, pull her down into their current and return her to me unrecognisable. She is my child. We fight. Word wars over nothing. She is my beautiful child, sullen and lethargic pulling us all down in her wake.

Can I sit on your knee, Mum? She is my child, my beautiful child.

Astro Boy has been talking philosophy with his Dad. His Dad tells him you can never get half way to anywhere because as you approach half way it is no longer the half way point between where you are and where you are going.

You know Mum there is no centre to anything, because the centre is always moving around.

You know AB there is no definite edge to anything either. Everything is always moving at the edge.

And here we are at the edge of Ireland with the shifting sands and the heaving seas and the unstable cliffs and the wind.

I am drawn back in along the coast to my little coves and rock pools. There is comfort in those little places. Gentle landscape. Gentle, wild and rugged.

I love body boarding on the waves on the big beach, Little Boy Racer says. They make you go REALLY fast.

Waves lap in my little cove. Gentle lapping waves. There is no speed. This place is almost timeless. I am eight, splashing in rock pools with my frilly pink bikini, fifteen, jumping in the sea with my friends. I am twenty-two, returning to the beach with college friends. I am lying on the beach heavily pregnant with Laura. I am here now watching as my children excavate one corner of the beach into an elaborate fort.

Can a landscape hold you?

The word “nestled” keeps surfacing as I talk. I would love a house on this peninsula. That childhood dream has never gone away. The holiday house we stay in now landed in this place, high on a hill, raw ground around it. It isn’t nestled into the landscape. My house (my little dream) would be nestled. More than anything it would be nestled.

The land would hold it to itself.

Land can hold you to itself. I talk to my friend. She loves the raw wildness. I want to be held.

It has been a busy year. I graduated and work has taken on a new momentum. K took to the books with a passion and we have lost him temporarily to his philosophical landscape. Soon, hopefully, we will have him back. We moved out of home. The builders moved in. The builders moved out. We moved back in. The kids keep growing and changing and adding to their activities and needs. Our home is different in so very many ways.

Movement. Edges. Change.

In this place (this pause) I can see all that. The closing gap between summer and everything starting all over again – starting – continuing – and suddenly it is Hallowe’en/Christmas and was there ever summer?

And maybe that is it. The edginess is just that – the edge of change and the sand is shifting under my feet and really I just want to be held …for a moment …in this place.

In the background Astro Boy has begun singing a song he made up, in a booming operatic boy voice. He has been singing it on and off for weeks…

Gravitational forces.
Gravitational forces.
Gravitational forces.

Posted by: Louise | July 13, 2012

my brain is crying

Image
Do you get a say in what your grave will look like?

The boys and I are wandering around an old graveyard. It seems a fitting activity for a wet foggy day in a little old town with a castle by the sea and a church high on a hill behind it. Having spent most of the day in doors, we have ventured out late afternoon to get some air. It is dripping wet air with smells so intense that Astro Boy says it is like when you put your head under your duvet in bed and you can hardly breathe.

Because I have an idea what I would like my grave to look like, Astro Boy continues. (This seems to be a theme with him – opinions on how graves should look.) I shall write it in my will so everyone will know, he decides, to be on the safe side. I have an idea for Laura’s grave too.

I know, sweetheart. I know.

I miss Laura. It was inevitable really, wandering a graveyard in the rain. 

I miss Laura too, the Boy Racer interjects. Because it’s not fair, I really wanted a baby…. and now my brain is crying.

My brain is crying too, but I keep it well covered. I think.

We were away for one of my brothers’ weddings.

One of my many brothers was getting married as opposed to one brother was having yet another wedding. It was a quiet moment at the beginning of a week that built up to a crescendo of family and friends last weekend. I have another sister-in-law. How long I have waited for sisters and now they are coming thick and fast.

My brother asked me to lead the prayers at the wedding ceremony. It meant I had to go to the rehearsal. The service was in a church some distance from where we were staying. It was the church my Mum and Dad were married in and my grandparents went to all their lives. I spotted my grandparents’ grave and wandered over to pay my respects. I used to be a grave avoider. These days they give me comfort. Buried in the grave beside my grandparents (I had forgotten) was my cousin’s first born, a little girl who died as she was being born.

It happened in a time before motherhood had taken over my heart and long, long before I knew the pain of loss. I rushed to pick some wild flowers to put on her grave, to acknowledge her presence and her life. The people all around for the rehearsal were forgotten. As I tied up the flowers with a piece of grass, my niece asked me who the flowers were for. I crumpled. I couldn’t speak.

I told her I couldn’t speak without crumpling. I tried, but I crumpled.

During the rehearsal, I sat down at the back of the church half watching, half lost in a world of last minute sewing for the wedding. It came to the prayers.The minister asked if I wanted to rehearse. I said I was grand, well used to public speaking. (Never say ‘grand’ Louise. Never) He asked me to come up to the front of the church anyway because my brother wanted to add some names to the prayers. I hadn’t read the prayers at all.

Up I went.

There in the midst of all the other prayers was a prayer for the departed, sadly missed. And up there at the front of the church my brother took out his pen and wrote down our grandparents’ names and Laura Grace.

I clutched the piece of paper.

Could I say her name out loud in front of a church full of people and not cry? I could feel the hastily sewn veil between my crying brain and my smiling face begin to tear.

I returned from the church and spent the evening sewing. I daren’t read the prayers.
The stitches held all night and into the wedding day, but only because I told no one what I was going to have to do.

The bride looked radiant. My veil tore.

It turns out I couldn’t say Laura’s name out loud without crying. I didn’t. I can’t. But I said her name out loud. And then we all sang “Amazing Grace” and I crumpled once more.

The sun shone on us all as we left the church. The wedding was beautiful and life continues on…

 

Posted by: Louise | May 24, 2012

Right where I am: 3 years 13 days

I have watched you transform in front of me.

Last September I started a dance class, contemporary dance, not salsa or ballet or step. There is an element of risk in that, an inability to hide behind a formula of steps, a little bit of all being vulnerable together. I love to dance and had been promising myself this class for years, but there was always something, college, pregnancy, K’s choir on the same night. This year the space was there and I grabbed it.

We are a flotsam and jetsam of women, some fit as fiddles, some battling the want of an evening in front of the telly, some graceful, many of us doing our damnedest not to crash into walls, all of us coming to dance, and leaving with soaring hearts and aching limbs.

I didn’t join this class to move, I told our dance teacher the other night, move in my body, yes, but not move in my life. But something has shifted.

She has watched the transformation, my leaden heart gradually lighten, my soul begin to open. She has heard my story, knows my loss. She saw my sad heart there on the dance floor in front of her before ever words were put on it. And I cannot say in words what has shifted, but I feel it in my body. I feel my daughter and her ever present absence everyday, but these days, some days, I feel Laura with a smile in my heart.

Is it three years? Already?

Where am I?

We moved to the suburbs over Easter while our house is being renovated. Three days after we moved to our little three-bedroomed semi I came home to find my kids had engaged all the local kids in ‘colouring in’ our house. In this place where all houses are the same, the wall around our house was meticulously coloured in with chalk and was a beautiful rainbow of colours.

It’s ok, our parents are artists. We are allowed to do this, they reassured the other kids, as the frenzy of chalking continued.

I don’t know myself in this house. My stuff, our stuff, is boxed and locked up in a garage somewhere. We had to pare ourselves down for the move. We brought Laura – her photo, her teddy, some butterflies and shells and a collection of heart shaped stones. Is this our daughter? We brought these things because we couldn’t pack her up and store her in a garage, but it is strange. At home, these pieces of our absent child are blended, mixed in amongst the rest of our life. Here they are everything and this house feels more like a shrine than our home ever felt. And I don’t know what to do with that, except wonder…

Where is Laura?

I was chatting to the Boy Racer (not so little any more) the other day. Our conversation turned to the letter “L” for a reason that is lost on me now. I said it is easy for me to remember because my name begins with “L” – Louise.

Louise he repeated….. and Laura….. and Love.

She is a part of us, our missing child. She is a part of how we love each other now.

Right where I am, my mind is filled with what tiles to choose for the bathroom and whether to plaster or wall paper and how to get from a to b and back again when our lives revolve around one corner of the city and our current home is on the opposite side. And in this suburban home there is no broadband and the wifi is a dongle and it doesn’t like my laptop and my connection to the world of baby lost mothers is weak and unpredictable so I am forced to find new bearings and it is strange….

But the past three years have been about finding new bearings, both within and around me, and I am still here and gradually learning how to move, and even dance, in this new place.

***

I hope you don’t ever feel you are alone in missing Laura.

That is all I want, really. I don’t want to feel alone in missing her. And those words were perhaps one of the most beautiful gifts I received this year. That and the fact that I do not feel alone in missing her.

I thank you all for that.

This post was written in response to Angie at Still Life with Circles “Right Where I Am” project. Last year I was here.

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