The hand strikes A forgettable second Within a minute of infinities A single beat The heart stops Unknowing, silence befell within Maybe yesterday
A bustling room, waiting A bed on a register Ice-cold gel Smiles convert to frowns Twin mask I already know Before the backup arrives The child is gone
Dead inside the fluid of life Everything stops The hand keeps ticking More minutes Other rooms Happier stories
Floating deceased In my belly remained Bodies reluctant to depart Tear apart
Keep her in Maybe life will begin again It was a pause A monitor fault A technical blip Chest tightens Throat clams shut Tears won't cease Beneath the duvet Fort of solitude Alone Grief spreading from belly to bone
One last weekend Of motherhood pretend Viscous connection Umbilical short circuit My belly her deathbed
Many strikes later The hours had fallen away Empty cotton cave Just us No heartbeat still No rush to move I could've held her there forever
Chemical help swallowed Washing away The static infinity
Another day Another dose Grief and planning ahead Terms aired before taking the bed Alter of birth
In that other room Hidden from coos Expectant cries Life to life Mine was the room Of quietus For the mother of death Me As I always knew As I had been before In another place Another time Another father
Here I was now Mother of death again My terms they'd meet Another pain for later Pacification for the morning shift My mourning moon
The contractions Too soon Too late Pregnancy infraction This labour of death Babe's birth unto death Ultimate labour of love Combusting a broken star
Then she was there Stillborn silent The hand struck A mallet to a gong The child is gone
Another moment Rooting time Nothing and everything I know where I was then As is this day
With every score She was no more And evermore My sweet tiny girl Embossed in flesh How I held her after Within my clammy palms Tattooing her existence From one bleary orb to the other weary
Sinking into dark silence The void sucking me in
One night of her Held in mother's hands Eyes burned Taking her in Her translucent skin The curves of her mouth Fine fingers ten My jelly baby star
I now try to let such days pass by. There’s a day for everything, isn’t there? It’s impossible to acknowledge them all, thoughtfully, every year.
This year though, I’m dipping my toes in to share a little on the messy, sticky web.
For the lifetime of my first premature baby, I have struggled to acknowledge Prematurity Awareness without also acknowledging baby (and infant) loss.
I lost two before my two survivors.
Every birth affected me profoundly. Even the first, which I readily admit was a pregnancy I didn’t want. Yes. I admit that. I wasn’t ready to be a mother. I wasn’t in a supportive relationship. I was in an awful state of depression. Even with that, I still grieve for the life that formed inside my womb, those rapidly multiplying cells that suddenly stopped. I remember the pains ripping through my abdomen. I recall the loss as intimately as the babies I actively (desperately) tried to conceive years later.
The second pregnancy (baby) was very much wanted; every moment her heart beat, and every moment after — when it fell silent — is preciously held in my soul. My womb remembers her place there. Those horrendous words at the ultrasound, “I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat,” still haunt me. Days of her silence within my body, knowing she was dead and willing her heart to (miraculously) start beating again, wishing for a mistake, they missed her fluttering. There was no mistake — her labour and birth in that silent hospital room and everything after is etched in my bones. The love is agony.
I didn’t trust my body. I felt betrayed by the perceived failure to protect and nurture the life within it.
My third pregnancy was riddled with anxiety. Words are frivolous when even professionals can’t give the answers. There’s no reassurance anyone can offer, just a wish for their life. Their existence. Hope through the torment and desperation.
My third child was born alive just 25 weeks into the pregnancy. The Neonatal Intensive Care journey that followed was another world entirely as was finally bringing her home. Writing about those initial four months was cathartic and not something I really planned on doing — it just happened and became something that I hoped may help other families thrown into that world feel a little less alone. It can be a deeply isolating experience — having a very premature / sick child — and the ongoing battles, fighting their corner and protecting them, making arduous decisions. All this carries on after they’ve been discharged from the unit — at least those fortunate enough to survive.
My last pregnancy ended when my baby was born at 28 weeks gestation. That Neonatal Intensive Care Journey was another experience altogether. Medically it was smoother, and the surroundings, staff, routines and procedures were familiar, comforting (in ways). It was no less difficult — additionally so with another young child to care for — a toddler who was still at risk of things such as RSV, and this birth like the one before was also bang-smack in the middle of winter. My soul was ripped down the middle — and I mean utterly eviscerated. I was a walking, talking, gaping wound that appeared on autopilot. And I don’t think there’s a way for those cracks ever to be restored.
I’ve accepted it all, each of those journeys, the losses, the trauma and the toll it took on our family.
I have let go of the crippling guilt of events I had no control over — advice for life. Learn and let them go.
So, November 17th is World Prematurity Awareness Day. It means something a little different to those who are aware through their own experiences.
I published my first book on my first prematurity survivor’s NICU journey. Having my children gave me more than I can ever put into words. They are my reason to not wilt quietly in a corner, my reason to speak up. They are my inspiration, my pain. They taught me a love that I never knew and so much more. They are my reason to keep going and try to set a positive example of self-worth even when I feel entirely worthless. My children are worth so much more. (All our children are.) They continue to do this every single minute of each day because they exist — against the odds (which were very beak at points).
I’m not going to spiral into talking about the impacts of the pandemic on all of this. It’s hard to refrain because it has had an impact. And knowing how tough those journeys in NICU were for families prior to all of this, let alone now. For those (medical staff and preemie families) having to manage those additional risks and contend with vaccine refusers and conspiracy theorists….
Anyway, it matters. Our actions have consequences that we cannot imagine.
I’m babbling now and trying to stem the flow so, here I sign off my (public) acknowledgement of World Prematurity Day 17/11/2021.💜
Gnashing and gnawing at my innards Viscera shredded; trauma tombs embedded Stitch in bells, weigh down the nauseating flapping Jangle a euphonious jingle Steady placement of chinked shield Conceal agonies.
U-bend blocked There my guilt brims Shame for wishing away rapid cell division Liquor and voluntary scalding Natures way away Life folding poured out Out of Order; terror of disorder
For two, a freshly dug hole The morning after Mourning follows Nipping at heals with the snow A hollow in another garden There, a piece of my heart lays A depression for my first’s succession
She wants to see my torment on display To harvest in morbid grief games Pretend she’s just the same Catfish loss-mother Conspiring tiring Yearning to reap from the suffering leaks of my soul Observe my lamentations trapped in a fishbowl To don a cape, be in control Prodding my wounds, infecting
Imitation empath storing stories Catalogued, indexed, held hostage Latching of grief vampires Sucking ephemeral life’s marrow Chipping stones off my bones
An archaeologist scraping the shovel No delicate brushing of bristles Attention desperation Desecrating my pain Self-appointed steward on my cradle’s grave.