Right at the beginning, I promised myself I would not stray down the path of marking moments and counting days. Not again. Not for Freddie. I wanted him to be more than dates and more than grief. So I can’t tell you, won’t tell you, how many days it is since he was born, or since he died. It is 1 year, 2 months. Give or take what you count as life, or death.
Back in the beginning I said that one day even the posts on here about him would fade. Recently I’ve baulked at categorising the things I write as being him, his name. I started a new one. Grief. I might go back and replace them. I have started to wish that he is not always written about as pain and despair and loss and grief. I want his name to be what he was and is. There can’t be much of is, it’s true, I’ll never write about a first lost tooth or first steps or write his words, or watch him read. My fifth child will never learn to read. Where I am right now might be described as that, this overwhelming, overbearing sense of loss for what he should have been, could have been, should have been. But where I am not, now, is still seeing all my grief as being what Freddie is.
One year, 2 months; I can’t remember how he felt, or what he looked like. I have video that I never watch because the sound of longing in my voice for him to be a miracle is too unbearable to hear and turning off the sound and not hearing his little voice is unthinkable. I have photos that I mostly do not look at. I touch his little nose on one picture less often. I say his name a little less and I can navigate conversations about how many children I have without mentioning him. I just scream his loss in my head instead. I can do it silently. I’ve learned. People don’t want to hear about dead babies. It just makes them run away, querying the weirdness that you are not over it in an aghast fashion.
The ache in my arms has gone and the utter wrench of the love I had for him, that hung like tar and feathers around me, that has dimmed too. I know it. I can say it. “I had a little boy. He died.” I’ve got a phrase and a turn of speech. “He didn’t breathe when he was born and although he got better for a while, he died when he was 11 days old.” They slide off my tongue like lines I learned in a play. I can say them. I don’t believe them, they are not really me. Just lines.
It’s a strange compliment, but you are a true love of my life indeed if I cry before you. If I tell you how I really feel, knowing you will hate it, knowing it will make you uncomfortable, knowing you will cry and feel bad too and not know what to say or do, that’s because I love you. That’s because I trust you. If I trust you in person with the gaping and horrific wound that is this place on my chest without my son, that’s something. Most people get the lines and the blankness. Most people get “I’m okay. I’m fine. You know, okay.” I don’t speak, I don’t ask for help or ask for comfort until I am so low that I can barely lift myself from the carpet. I never understood why people end up on the floor when they cry. It seemed unnecessarily dramatic. Now I know. Gravity changes when you lose a child; every step is like having feet that weigh a thousand stone, and the Great Pyramids and Colossus and Everest heaped at the nape of your neck. If you have children already, looking, always watching, you have to do every day with head up and feet moving briskly.
I don’t like people to look at me now, just now, caught in the depths of depression that infertility after loss has brought on me. I find it hard to look people in the eye. I don’t like knowing that people are beginning to lose patience, beginning to be tired of my grief. And here is the horrible thing. In the shocking aftermath, you don’t really need the flowers and visits and ears and sympathy. It can’t help. You need it now, when the world has yawed and stretched around you and nothing makes sense and no one can hear and even if they shouted for you, you can’t hear anyway.
If there is a literary analogy, I am Frodo on the slopes of Mount Doom.
The best way I can describe myself right now is like a landscape. I’m stood on a plain, rocky, barren and empty. There is white noise, but no birds and my eyes are full of grit and my clothing and footwear inadequate. I know where I need to get to, it’s on the other side of a range of mountains that look impossibly high, even from this great distance. Between me and them, before I can even begin to climb, are rivers and dust and rocks and bog and marsh and unknown horrible stench and cloying dirt. But I know I’ll die here, so I know I have to move. And there isn’t a soul anywhere, no one to help, no one to lead, no one to tell me where to go or how to get over the obstacles.
The most horrible truth is I know that it is only that I see it that way. I know it is green, with water and beauty and I know the people are there but I can’t see them. No one left me, I just sealed a glass cloche of infinite proportions above my head and brought down the filters of depression and grief. I know people haven’t walked away, I know I’ve pushed them.
But I haven’t a fucking clue what to do about that.
And still, nestled in my heart and taunting my arms is this beautiful boy. Beyond the grief of barrenness and other babies and time and emptiness and loneliness, there is just this beautiful boy. For whom I am charged with living life.
Written for Angie’s Right Where I Am project. Go and look at it, the links. Dear gods… all those mothers.