Tuesday, 3 August 2010
Your sixth month approached and flew overhead like a peregrine circling before arching out over the water’s edge. It seems impossible that it was six months since you came and went. It seems impossible and yet is entirely true that it has been well nigh on a year since I first found out I was pregnant. I remember the day in August well. I remember where I was and what I was doing when the light bulb of awareness finally flickered on cartoon-like above my head. It involved a very smart pregnancy test and a very dim me.
Your father, Josephine and I went to the seaside on a Friday evening, driving out of London as though we were on shore leave. We spent two decadent days in Eastbourne, lounging at the Grand Hotel, a wedding cake of a building, and gazing out at the ever-changing ocean.
I love the ocean. I love, respect, envy and fear the ocean and its certainty, its sense of assured purpose. The tide comes in, the tide goes out and within the cool mysterious depths of the water, millions of other worlds are running parallel to this one. It is an awesome realization and I could stay for years at its edge, my feet just at the surface of this world, the tang of salt and sand on my skin.
The last month has been passed in a hurling whirlwind of activity. There is the overwhelming sense of being swept up into the winds tropical storm, only to be plunked down with an unceremonious ‘ooomph’ into yet another hospital bed. My grand statement of ‘No more hospitals here’ has gone the way of my resistance to doing genealogical work: resistance is futile.
I have felt increasingly ‘not right’ since I came home from Hospital. There has been the usual poking and prodding, always followed by a knowing and slightly condescending nod of ‘You’ve jus had a baby so that is why you feel rubbish.’ And yes, while there is truth there I think we can all agree that we now know that no, in fact, it wasn’t just because I’d given birth to a spectacular wonder of 5 pounds, 7 ounces of a little boy. In fact, it would appear that what ever caused amniotic fluid to rage through my body in unfriendly waves had made nest for itself in places it really shouldn’t be and bacteria had festered into a most unpleasant and agonizing infection. An infection so insidious that it was only when the low-grade fever I’ve been running off and on for the last 4 months began to rage and my stomach once again became agonizingly distended that I once again found myself at North Middlesex Accident and Emergency and then later in a hospital bed on yet another series of drips for 4 days. The diagnosis: Dearest Little One
ravaged stomach lining, an ulceratic state, and massively impacted colon as well as an unpleasantly enlarged spleen.
After 17 days of more antibiotics, nauseating dizzy spells, and a very kind doctor telling me ‘You have to rest. Really,’ I’m now faced with having to slow down, way and relearn how to simply stay put. Relearn to not drink 15cups of coffee and chain smoke Gaulouises and Lucky Strikes like I’m an extra in MADMEN.
Add to that what can only be described as consistently misplacing my basket and having what the French would call an existential crisis and what we Americans call a nervous breakdown, and that has led me to the quiet solitude of a country house in Suffolk.
Today I picked my breakfast: raspberries, gooseberries, and one just ripening plum.
My shrink – a lovely man of quiet reason – has been quick to point out that I’ve been fantastically unlucky. It is quite enough to lose a child. To then lose yet another spectacularly close and wise friend (your Great-Aunt) and to then try and resume the intense pace of a job I used to love and laugh about in the midst of the storm, well that’s enough to send anyone down the wayward path of madness.
I’ve spent the last two weeks wandering around the rather jumbled rooms of my mind resembling a jumble sale. I move from one activity to another in a haze, often collapsing on to the nearest sofa, chair, chaise, bench or bed in a heap of exhaustion and tilting dizziness. Sleep is not restful: my dreams are a chaotic – at times terrifying – tangle of chases, dark and forbidding shadow figures. I run and run or can’t run in equal measures and I awake often in a state of confusion often accompanied by a deep sense of fear. The fear gives way to anger and my attitude I am sad to say is that of a petulant teenager, hostile and overwrought with no notebook to hand to vent because I left it – carelessly abandoned – on the bus.
Professionally, these last months, I must have been a walking wraith, a nightmare to behold. When I returned to the still weekend quiet of my office to attempt to make sense of what I had left, I noted that the photo I had chosen to display my proud mark of motherhood was that of you in death – your tiny body clothed in a yellow sweater and matching trousers, your skin an eerily bruised blue. And do you know that I don’t even remember making what had to have been a conscious decision? I don’t even remember choosing to display that particular moment like a talisman of howling pain? My poor colleagues. . . the eggshells they must have tread on.
Which leads me to a crossroads and at a not to distant point in the future, I will have to make decisions. I will have to get back on the commuter train into to Town, walk back into the office I so carefully and lovingly put together and try to make my peace with the world that had started to become a trigger for my anger and frustration, and full of language I can’t quite remember I know how to speak.