The month of Samhain 2022

Witches’ New Year approaches. With that, I’m Autumn cleaning, creatively speaking, at least. Washing away the dust of the summer fires, sweeping this germ-ridden circle clogged with ash. I say this with every positive intention, which in the current climate of my sick house, it’s not so simple. Some things are outwith control, but I try flow with, around, through it. (I may have recited ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ a few too many times).
Starting with the writing. I’ve taken part in only a few invite-only opportunities. This year, it has been difficult to say no, but something I’ve had to learn to do fast. It’s been challenging; each opportunity offered has been for a great project, and I am profoundly grateful to be asked. Short fiction writing has been on the back burner, which was always this year’s plan to invest in my degree studies and researching/writing longer works. Moving on, a quick recap of my own books released and scheduled to tie up 2023:

Asylum Daughter
Novella
5th May 2022

Incesticide: Collected Horror
Short Fiction Collection
14th December 2022

Clan Witch: Found Shadows
Poetry and Drabble Collection
31st December 2022

There has been lots of work going on in Brazen Folk Horror, which I launched with Ruthann Jagge this year. Here we share regular updates on ‘The Making of Delevan House’. We have many plans to execute, so it’s a great space to follow. You are cordially invited! We expect you to put in some effort—get tight-lacing, break out the good cloak, your best finery, and you better buy an extravagant hat while you’re at it. It’ll be one hell of a ride! You will want to be watching for that pre-order date as soon as we announce it. In the meantime, come enjoy the brazen tease and seduction.

Well, it’s been tumultuous and stable on the homestead with no middle ground— a seesaw over starving shark-infested waters more than a rollercoaster. The pendulum never stops. My kids and I have been struggling with fresh ongoing health issues since the start of the year when we contracted that virus. It then came in for a second hit in July, which haven’t recovered from. Between chronic coughs requiring prescription medications, chronic fatigue and opportunistic germs that keep jumping on board because of compromised immune systems, it’s been a royal shitshow. With medical support services (the NHS) being abysmal. My family (I) also suffered another pregnancy loss. During the second bout of that virus, my baby’s heart stopped beating, and I gave birth four weeks later. We were (are) devastated.

Grief so intimate is a profound journey we carry with us throughout our time on the rock. Lives that were given a second chance coincided with the loss of my last baby, Averey. My family adopted a small flock of ex-commercial layers (Hens) from The British Hen Welfare Trust. I have shared little updates on their settling-in and shenanigans on social media. The ladies (our little Queens, as we call them. On account of naming them after Drag Queens: Jinkx Monsoon, Bimini bon boulash, Raja and Ginger Minj) are so very full of stories and have settled in as though they’ve always been part of the family. They are part of the clan. Some things are meant to be, and these Queens were never meant for slaughter.

Something about coming from 2021 into 2022 held promise and a thirst for change. More than a thirst, it was a drouth of dry agony. So many I know felt it—a need for rewiring, redirection, reinvention, or simply getting back on track. The year hasn’t quite lived up to the promise. Instead, it’s been more like treading water. Trying to stay afloat, and more, fighting to survive. I guess that’s life for the most part. An ongoing battle, with Jack-in-the-box obstacles springing forth at any given moment. Damn clowns. Tomorrow will be better.

The veil is thinning as the gears continue to cycle. There’s much reflection as we dare to lift the veil and step through the shadows, opening locked doors to visit with ghosts. This season welcomes the shadows, where the light and dark dance. It’s almost Samhain. Listen… whose voice can you hear calling from the ether?

Sweep the circle, burn the candles, lay out the feast, and set out coveted photographs and letters from the dead. They’ll be here soon. )O(

Expectant Miscarriage: Waiting for Averey

Personal blog post

My first was in 2004, a spontaneous natural miscarriage.

My second was in 2013, a missed miscarriage that required medical management.

My subsequent pregnancy ended with extreme preterm natural birth in 2014.

Number four was in 2016, another preterm birth, delivered by emergency caesarean.

2022, another missed miscarriage. I’m currently in the limbo phase of knowing my baby is dead inside my womb. I am waiting for contractions and birth, referred to medically as ‘expectant miscarriage’.

Does that make you uncomfortable? Me using the term ‘birth’ instead of ‘miscarriage’? Does it jar to read ‘contractions’ instead of ‘cramp’?

Some pregnancy and loss terminology has raised personal discomfort since my first. Since I was able to directly relate through lived experience what these words mean, and while much has changed in the professional medical approach to supporting parents through these situations, there are still these underplayed words that almost mute and downplay the experience that a body and mind go through with pregnancy loss (the death of a baby). From my personal experience (and every one is different), ‘mild to severe cramping’ (when the physical process takes hold) is not cramp; these are contractions. Miscarriage is labour. Miscarriage is birth. Miscarriage is still birth. Except, the pain is extended beyond the physical.

Even now, in 2022, it feels like we’re not supposed to talk about these things. Not in any depth anyway. It’s all hushed and quietly ushered into another room. Door closed. Keep it for a support group (at most). I use the term ‘talk’ loosely, as I’m not particularly a talker. I process better quietly, introspectively, creatively and practically than with my mouth or too much external involvement.

A couple of weeks ago, I witnessed my baby actively bouncing around inside my uterus. The flutter of his tiny heartbeat, a symphony of life in black and white. This week, he lay still. There was no flutter, no activity, no life. Cradled inside my uterus, my baby is dead. Baby? Does that make you uncomfortable? Would foetus be better? After all, that’s just a bundle of cells. What about ‘pregnancy tissue’ or ‘products of conception’? Then we can forget about the fully formed central nervous system, circulatory systems, the (recently) rapidly growing brain, organs, heart… it’s just a foetus…

No. He’s my baby. And I can’t stand the disrespect of him being regarded as anything else. My daughters have given him his name, Averey. 🖤

One for Sorrow

One for Sorrow © Natasha Sinclair

I’ve been seeing them for months in fours

Fanned feathers

Celestial blues, flanked with obsidian rainbows—

Four for a boy.

Three days ago,

Three didn’t show.

One flew solo—

One for sorrow.

Yesterday and today, the same—

One for sorrow.

Another silent death inside the chalice of life.

Mother of death—another passes beatless.

At least he will, soon.

It could be hours, days, weeks away.

One for sorrow.

He has no clock,

Only mine ticks on.

Until then, I wait.

Holding the silence within—

The growing void

Of his deathbed.

His roof collapsing from

The haematoma down.

I select a tree, a burial site,

A square I knitted nine years ago,

His teddy.

I consider the name that will be whispered when he slips from my body into my palms,

And my eyes drink his flesh in for the first and final time.

One for Sorrow.

I’m birthing death—

Not for the first time.

The Child is Gone

Natasha Sinclair

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

The child is gone.

World Prematurity Day

A personal post

November 17th is World Prematurity Awareness Day.

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.💜

Hand in hand, always.

No Good Grief

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.

Reluctant Reaper

Rolling rumbling tumbling of the muscle
Steadfast working out the dead

Waiting through waves
Expulsion from womb to world; inner-outer dimension switch

Existence given visibility
Life unviable; dead tangible

The ticking clock veiled agony; pulse-quickening within the neck
Swimming through minutes in viscous shards; stark, exposed in wait

A sudden burst to cemetery-serene-silence
Shock of expectations met, tension swells and pops within the void

Her body expelled, revealed
Limp, still, disturbingly perfect

Few eyes lay upon her — none with such desperate thirst as the child-loss-mother
Tattooing details to memory
Cerebral and uterine imprints
Memories outlived instantaneously

Tiny fingers, toes, torso, fused eyes, jaw, ears…
All except the beating of the heart
Virgin lungs void of air in this, her death hours stare

My pathetic heart beats so hard it chokes the throat
The muscle has pried itself from within its cage, making way up to swell in the gullet

Don’t take her away…
Emotion sickness swells drowning from the inside
Even dead, she’s still the baby; even dead, she’s my baby, still

Must give her honour of life…somehow
Gemini mother; creator, reluctant reaper

Now her death feeds life
Entangled in root tendrils within the earth
Forever reaching within and upward

The true heart of something that doesn’t have to beat
Her cycles visibly viable

Bleary eyes can’t always see their praise of stars
Despair wracked the heart for a time

Peace isn’t only for the dead…

She sways in the wind now; dancing grace
Energy shared, scattered through leaves and bellies of beasts
She worms and she soars through them

Not the life imagined; energy shifted, realigned
Heart-wrenching, gut-punching beautiful

Death Born Still — Lives

© Natasha Sinclair 2020

Written on reflection during ‘The Wave of Light’ 15th October 2020.