7 weeks. Really? Only 7?
I can hardly believe there was ever a part of our life that didn’t have Freddie as part of it. I was going to say in it, but that isn’t true. He’s not been in it for so much more time than he was. Already. That isn’t true either of course because there was a whole (long enough for the novelty to wear off) conception process and 9 months of us all learning to love a bump with promise of joy in it. We invested a whole marriage, a whole recovery, a whole future for a family in a baby. He was the culmination of so much fixing that we had worked hard on; not a baby to fix things but a baby to celebrate that we had fixed things. A baby to celebrate the beautiful foundations of a new emotional house we’d thought we’d built for ourselves and our family. And then he died and we had no choice but to test whether we’d poured cement in the cracks of the old house, which might get damaged by a hard frost, or built ourselves a new house with solid foundations that not even an earthquake would shatter.
I think it is the latter. I’m fairly sure it is. We started testing for earthquake damage even before he died, in an awful, dreadful night where the reality of what was happening hit us both in 2 very different ways. I realised that the best thing for all of us might not be for Freddie to make it home, the best thing for the six of us and the one of him. And Max realised that he had to tell me, brutally and bluntly, that he couldn’t manage it if i came apart at the seams and blamed myself for everything that was going wrong. I put charges in the fault lines and brought on the earthquake, he engineered some frost and showed me where the lines in the old house were that might shatter if we didn’t make sure we moved on.
Yesterday someone gave me a photo of one of us taken just after that conversation, one of us holding Freddie, cradling him and loving him, with more pain and hope mingled with a desperate joy that was still lingering written on the face than i’ve ever seen anywhere. That was after we promised each other, practically in blood, that we would get through. It was a sobering moment. Probably the toughest moment of the entire 11 days.
We both made a conscious acknowledgement that we were living on the new foundations, not the old. The new house is good. It is strong. It is the product of talking and acknowledging and being open. It is knowing when to speak and when not to. Knowing that unspoken words that need to be said grow into elephants in the room if you don’t make them heard but words which don’t need to be said, even if you want to, need to be said elsewhere and to someone they won’t hurt. That it is pointless to stew and rant inside yourself but that words to wound, just because you are hurting, help nothing.
We’re making time to speak to each other. We’re communicating to our children that we need that time. I’m making the time, Max is making us have the conversations. I organise the childcare, he says “we need to discuss this…” and we do it. I’ve learned not to resent his need to move on and not look back. He’s learned to put out his hand and pull me very gently along behind him, stopping to hold me close when i need it. It’s amazing how hard you have to work at not resenting people just being people, difference being different but okay. It is amazing how long it took us both to learn it. Perhaps other people learn it quicker, perhaps we both came to each other from places we hadn’t seen it ever happen.
I don’t think we could be managing this if we hadn’t gone through what we did before. That we wouldn’t be here now without that is an irrelevance i can overlook.
I don’t think i can draw many beautiful positives from the all too short life and death of Freddie, but i can draw this. We have a truly grown up marriage. We’ve learned from our mistakes. We’re not the original couple; we’re something much better.
I imagine, in honour of the sentiment of the post, we’ll probably manage to have a bitter and screaming row later on. But i no longer fear that we won’t know how to make it up afterwards.