Together alone

When Georgina died, I felt like the only person on the planet who had ever lost a daughter of three days old. The only person who had expected twins but was only able to bring one home. The only person who had watched her baby take her last breath and been unable to make her take another.

I remember sitting in that bland hospital waiting room and thinking to myself,  ‘But surely this sort of thing doesn’t happen these days? Perhaps my grandmother’s generation might have lost babies in infancy or shortly after birth. But not in England. Not in 2008. I did everything that they told me to do. Perhaps it was that cup of coffee, that hair dye? Or perhaps it’s just because I am a rotten person? Perhaps I didn’t deserve her?”

I sat, I thought. I questioned myself, I pleaded. I felt extremely lonely. In that ugly room with its formica floor and scent of disinfectant.

I think that we all grieve the loss of potential here, a child that might have been. And it’s hard to explain to others what we mourn for. A baby, a child, a teenager, a young woman or man, an adult, their children, their old age, their grandchildren. Worlds upon worlds of loss.

Why did it have to be me? Nobody I knew had ever lost a baby. None of my friend’s children had ever died before birth, or shortly after, or at a few weeks old. Just me. Alone.

Or so I thought.

Slowly, slowly, the stories edged out from their hiding places.  From under hearts.

My baby died. My baby died. My baby died.

I’ve heard it so many times now. But it still sounds wrong. As though those words should never be forced together.

Others I only have a suspicion of. A certain kindness, a sympathetic leaning towards. That angle means so much when the rest of the world seems determined to tilt away from you as fast as it can. Acute.

I can never bring myself to confirm it, to ask, “How did you know what to say?’ But there is something in their gentleness that makes me wonder who they miss, who they yearn for.

 

Mourning for a baby can be such a lonely grief.

Grieving for a person that you had such a close connection to. Perhaps you were their mother? Their father? Their grandparent? Their aunt? Their sister? Their brother? A person who you dreamt of. Hoped for. Were so proud of.

But that nobody else ever got to meet.

It is lonely. I can’t deny it. Four years on, I sometimes suspect that hardly anybody grieves for Georgina as I still do. The child who I once held safe inside my body, enclosed and protected.

I think that we all grieve the loss of potential here, a child that might have been. And it’s hard to explain to others what we mourn for. A baby, a child, a teenager, a young woman or man, an adult, their children, their old age, their grandchildren. Worlds upon worlds of loss.

Because if your baby does not survive birth, or infancy, or is never to be at all. That is what vanishes. A world in its entirety.

But, whilst it may be lonely, I’m never alone. I take my place in the shuffling procession of mourning parents, that move through history, red-eyed and bereft. Those of us towards the back anyway. I’m here. Class of 2008 is where you will find me.

I reached out. I reached and a hand grasped mine. A voice said, “I know. I know. I didn’t know her. But I know.”

I looked up. I looked at my companions. And I knew that it wasn’t my fault. Because if it were. It would have been theirs too. And that could never be.

When I can, I put my own hand out. To repeat those same words. Because here we are. I didn’t know your son or your daughter. But I know. As far as I can. Because nobody else can fully know the grief of another. But. Just a little? Perhaps? We are all so alone. Yet we are together.

Those parents up in front. I see their clear eyes, some reddened, some searching for the horizon. I see their limbs, some crumpling, some standing so straight and muscular that I can scarcely believe it. I wonder if  those muscles may be mine someday. I see their faces, as they move forward. And I see the love. Sometimes I think that is all this place is about, this magazine, our photographs, our flags, our words. It’s love.

In this procession that nobody wants to be a part of.

But I can’t regret the company.

And I’ll never regret the love.

Do you feel lonely or accompanied? Did you find companionship and understanding where you did not expect any? Have you been lucky enough to have a hand reach out to grasp yours? 


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    Catherine

    Catherine

    My name is Catherine and I am honoured to have been asked to contribute to this amazing project. In 2008, I was thrilled to find myself pregnant with twin girls, a wonderful surprise. Sadly, my daughters arrived extremely prematurely at 23 weeks gestation. Despite the heroic efforts of many medical professionals, my eldest twin, Georgina, did not survive her early birth and passed away in the arms of her parents at three days old. We miss her terribly. Her younger sister, Jessica, spent three months in intensive care and a further month in a special care nursery before coming home to us at last. I write about my experiences of neonatal loss, premature birth, the NICU and raising a surviving twin at my blog, Between The Snow and The Huge Roses. I am also a regular contributor to the online community Glow in the Woods. I am endlessly grateful for the support and comfort I have received from the online community and I hope that I can help other parents, walking along this difficult path.

    August 18, 2016
    August 18, 2016

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