Tuesday, 17 September 2013


This is another one not to read if you're a family member or a professional contact who's clicked through from twitter expecting content about accounting. It's here because I've been all over the internet in recent weeks looking for company on this, and I think those of us in a position to write about it should do. Bits of it have been coming into my head for a few days, but I've not edited it, instead giving in to the urge just to get it down, and out there. Perhaps more thoughtful posts will follow, or perhaps I'll get something up soon about the Booker shortlist so this isn't lingering on the front page being miserable.

So, loss.
A little while ago I found out I was pregnant.
A couple of weeks ago the pregnancy ended, I miscarried, I lost the baby. That's a range of ways of putting it, with a variety of baggage attached.
1 in 4 is the statistic you see quoted, but we've all read it, and we all know it doesn't mean us. I reasoned it away because "loads" of those are pregnancies that are never even detected, just few-days-late periods. And the others, well, they're for others.
Then suddenly it was for me. I'll be talking about me in this, not us, because it's my story, and I'm telling it how I want to. I don't think it would be my place to attribute words or thoughts to H, so I won't.

Mainly at the moment, still, it is a bigness. It's something in the corner of your eye, you can only observe it sideways, but it glowers and menaces. Most of the days, most of the time, I'm pottering along, working, doing toddler-things, keeping stuff going, but occasionally, maybe a couple of times a day, it's just walloping me from nowhere.

I was going to be a mother again. Now I'm not.
I was going to spare Isaac from being an only child. Now I'm not.
I was a healthy, fertile woman doing what women are built to do. Now I'm not.
I was going to have a wonderful birth, even better than last time. Now I'm not.
I was going to be able to use all the lessons I'd learned first time round. Now I'm not. 
I was going to be a matriarch, presiding over a chaotic but love-filled household. Now I'm not.

I'm not packed full of glorious life and promise. I'm a flawed vessel, I didn't look after the goods I was entrusted with, my body failed me, I failed my baby.

My baby, that's key, the fact I was only 7 weeks along is irrelevant. I don't care about where it was on the embryo-foetus-baby scale, the whole future and all my hope was packed in there and came out over the course of one painful, sad weekend. This was supposed to be my baby. He or she would have been nearly 3 years after Isaac, a completion to our family, a fruition. For the three and a bit weeks that I was pregnant, I kept having these moments of melancholy about not yet being pregnant, not having the family the shape I wanted, then realising oh yes! I am pregnant! I no longer have to be sad!

And now, once more, I'm not pregnant, and I'm struggling to see colours in the world. I just can't imagine recreating that kind of optimism. My boy is so precious and dear, and I am holding on to him particularly tightly, but I'm miserable about the idea of his growing up alone, and miserable that it will be my fault: a mother is meant to make a family, a whole family, not one attempt and then a flunk.

This was meant to be an elegant, well-crafted and moving piece, and it turns out I can't write that yet: perhaps I'm not yet ready yet, and perhaps I won't be. It just turns out there isn't elegant melancholy to be had here, there's jarring pain and grief.

Perhaps I'll search-engine optimise by including some of my own recent popular phrases:
"miscarriage emotional wreck"
"miscarriage caffeine"
"miscarriage pineapple"
"miscarriage breastfeeding"
"miscarriage maternal age"
"miscarriage likelihood of recurrence"
"miscarriage overwhelming sadness"
"miscarriage can't concentrate"
"miscarriage feel desperately alone"
"miscarriage coping with toddler"
"miscarriage dental work"
"miscarriage paracetamol"
and no, none of them gave me a neat, parcelled, thing to pin it on.
I know people move on, go on to have children after miscarriage. I know this intellectually. But, what if I don't, and anyway, I wanted this one. This was my baby. I was already spinning dreams for it. This is probably the biggest thing for me, and the reason I think these ugly clumsy kind of posts need to be out there on the internet for sobbing midnight googlers to find: until it happens to you, you don't get this. You don't actually know it's the loss of a baby. It's happening all over the place, and no one speaks about it until someone else mentions it - I've hardly told anyone, and yet of those I have, have heard several "when I had my miscarriage" stories. They hurt to hear, but they're also such a comfort.

I suppose as time passes I will find it easier to say "when I had my miscarriage", and I want to, because since I'm part of this lousy team, at least I want my badge.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Kindness, identity and personal projects

This one's another sort of placeholder, because I'm still not quite in a position to write about the sad thing, but I do want to keep going, and give myself some momentum, even though I'm writing into the void. (Except "vampirestat" - it loves my posts).
Just more on what I was saying the other day. I notice kindness in others, particularly when it seems to come naturally to them. I seem to find it sadly effortful. But today I was feeling bleak at a toddler group (is there anyone who doesn't feel slightly bleak at toddler groups?) and J, who I barely know really, noticed and came and spoke to me, and let me rant a bit about the peculiar social anxieties I have on behalf of bonz, which you can read all about in  this post if you don't remember. I just about managed not to cry because of her sympathy, but after getting past that, I felt uplifted by her generosity in noticing, in interrupting other, more fun, conversations to speak to me, and in telling me afterwards she was glad if she'd helped. Then C came over with her girl this afternoon and as always floored me with her warmth and bigness of spirit, and brought chocolate because she knew I needed to be cheered up. It doesn't seem that at the moment I'm doing much reciprocal kindness, or much paying it forward - too meshed in my own stuff - but perhaps noticing it is a good start.
Oh, wrestling with this, I'm just about to read a book which I hope will help me shape some thoughts. I feel glad and confident in my new self-as-mother and there's not all that much I regret leaving behind. But, it's not quite there, and I shudder when I see people describe themselves as entirely changed. How to capture the desire for (and experience of) deepening and enrichment, and the pleasure in finding new facets, but also the melancholy at the sound of other doors softly closing? I don't know, and I want to explain it from the point of view of a formerly intelligent interesting professional, but I've not quite got my arms round it yet. I'll report back.
I do moan and groan about the time commitments of mothering, but in truth I have more time now than I did. The beautiful rainbow crochet blanket of delight is coming on beautifully, and no, the use of two beautifuls there is not excessive. I'll add a picture if I can work out how. Knitting's parked at the moment, since the two needles seem just too enticing for mr grabber. But I'm reading again, a bit, sometimes, and have developed a zeal only today for getting the booker shortlist this year and seeing if I can at least get through a couple of the short ones before the announcement. It's ambitious, but bonz does now sleep in his own bed for the first part of the night, so I can read in bed again, and I'm not overwhelmed with work at the moment, so sometimes I stop at 10, and occasionally he gets absorbed with lego in the day time, so I can sneak a few pages in then...it's not like my luxurious, book-drenched, time-rich other life, but you work with what you've got.
Long post, no pictures, really must dig out the blanket one else (ha!) I'll go losing readers.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Partial role models

I've written this in lieu of a much sadder, probably longer, post that does need to come out soon, but I've been off the blog so long it felt like I needed a bit of practice to get back in the swing. If you're in my family, then you don't have to read the next few posts, because they might get a bit personal in a weird kind of way, and somehow it's easier to put some things out in front of a virtual audience

I had something of an internal collapse this afternoon, self-pity crowding out most other things. It was so simple, all I wanted was to be able to take one fairly short phone call, one call, come on! We'd gone for a family wander to the park, bonzo was in the buggy, H pushing, all fine, then sure enough, once my call had got all technical, he kicked off: CUGGA MUMMY! CUGGA MUMMY! full on howling, tears spurting everywhere, abandoned by his mother, practically left in the desert to expire...I just had to end the call with no explanation and give him my full focus, there, then, immediately: his need won, it trumped mine, which of course is right and proper, but still. Still. We got him settled and carried on walking, but I sulked and fumed. All I'm trying to do is earn a living. All I am attempting with this is to do it without having to leave him, and I've sacrificed virtually all of my leisure time to do it. I work in his naps, I work in the evenings, I don't stop at the weekends. It's a push, and the people who employ me or throw freelance things my way are in general great about it - but I've helped them to be great, because I'm reliable, I get it done, even if it's a horrendous stretch, and late nights, and hugely interrupted sessions because he keeps waking, and whatever else - I do it. But, and this is the root of the sulk, every now and then I really do need to speak on the phone, and it has to be in office hours, and even, horror, sometimes at a broadly pre-agreed time. No-one, in this flight of woe today, understands my position. No-one has done it before, no-one's blazed a trail for me. Yes, plenty of women work and have families, so dealing with that kind of pull or conflict; plenty of women take time out of the workplace while their families are young, so dealing with all the loss-of-identity issues that I wrestle with, but no one else IN THE WHOLE WORLD is trying to earn a living with a highly attached two year old and no childcare. No-one!

Squealing brakes moment.
It's true that no-one I know is doing quite this. It's probably not true that no-one in the whole world is, though maybe there aren't many doing quite my kind of work (and certainly none with my kind of boy).
If I try to find myself a role model or a trailblazer doing exactly my thing, I'm doomed to failure, and it would be quite disconcerting if she did exist. So, I need to look across all my worlds and see what I can aspire to. It was an exercise I used to love doing in down time (say, hairdresser's chair, or a queue when I had no book) - think through everyone you know in some group (work colleagues, friendship groups) and for each one identify some quality that you really admire and respect and would like to take some of. It's particularly helpful when there are people you don't overall like in there, because it leaves you better disposed to them, but it also lets you see the enormous range of human qualities, which I love, because it makes me think I can always work on something, and probably there's always something I'm getting it right.

In my case, for work I know several great, motivated, bright, effective women (I'm on women here because it does feel that so many of my issues at the moment are meshed in with femaleness), several of whom I'm lucky to be working for in one form or another (I seem to work mainly for rather than with at the moment). I do know people who've had slightly indirect career paths - admittedly, not many in my field, but one or two spring to mind who are doing things in a way other than popping sprogs, getting straight back to work, and doing 70 hour weeks to climb as fast as possible up the ladder. Then, when I look at inspirations for my mothering, there are just so many. All my growing time with LLL keeps adding women to this list, women with patience and gentleness (I always notice these qualities, being so lacking in them), but also women with such a creative spark, such a fire, such individuality and self-ness shining out "despite" their identities as mothers (I don't mean despite, don't mean that at all, I could write forever on the subject of identity that is redefined rather than lost) . These people have so much that I want to harness, to emulate and make my own, and of course they're fitting in other things (including, in many cases, many more children than I have) so although it's not necessarily the same things, I should be able to look at what they do and see what I can bring in.

Of course there's also no point in self-pity about my situation. I've chosen it, and I'm proud of myself for (generally) managing it, and it's melodramatic to think I can never be a serious professional just because of the phone call problem (though realistically, there's plenty it's stopping me doing). Also I know, I know, I know, that this spell in Isaac's life, this season, is a short one, and will pass in a breath. I just want to call on all these spirits floating around me and summon in this one's strength, this one's bravery, this one's sense of humour, this one's resourcefulness, this one's organisation, this one's resilience, this one's stamina, this one's kindness, this one's generosity, this one's persistence...I think that might give me a pretty good composite role model.