Today came around very fast this year. It frightens me how much time has past. You’d be older than I was when I carried you now. That feels incomprehensible. All those missed years. A grown man’s worth of memories. I can picture you at every age. Yet, I still call you baby.
We’re trapped together in this restless limbo. I hope it’s easier on your side. I dream of you kicking. Always the same sensation. Never the same place. We’ve travelled my emotional map together. You have been everywhere that ever really mattered. I wish I could give you more than words & dreams. I’m sorry I couldn’t save you.
Several weeks ago I came across a word I’d never previously encountered. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. It encapsulates a feeling that lives with me, but has eluded succinct definition. The word is Hiraeth.
It’s Welsh and doesn’t directly translate to English, but it means a homesicknesses for a home to which you cannot return or perhaps never was. It was in an article and I didn’t understand. I had to look it up. When I read that definition it felt like I breathed it in and it found a spot inside me where it fitted perfectly. It explained something I already knew.
It is exactly what I feel in those moments that I’m not sure what I am doing or who I am. The thing caught in my throat when I hear children shout for their Mummy. It’s the longing for a world that only ever comes to life in my head. Except I can feel it. I know the intricacies. I have plans for every eventuality (& even strategies for the inevitable unknowables). Pet names, values & handed down treasures thump in my chest. The sensation of heavy sleeping breath and hot ‘it’s not fair’ tears. The music I play, the books I read them. Dancing in the living room for no reason just like I did with my Mum. I close my eyes and conjure how crushing the responsibility can be. Losing my patience, the swamp of guilt that follows. The days I am certain I said absolutely the right thing. The pain of knowing I missed the mark. I’m not imagining it; I can recall the emotions. They’re fizzing under my skin. The flick of hair from a face or a tut of exasperation are as decernable as memories. I long to go home.
Homesick for the home I couldn’t build. That’s the feeling that perpetually lurks. Now I know it’s name.
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I’ve been fairly quiet on the blog front. Clearly we’re all under some pressure, but I’ve also been dealing with some bonus pain. I’ve had episodes of awful symptoms which signal that my pancreas may be acting up again. It’s been a while since I’ve had to deal with pancreatitis and I am scared of a comeback.
The pain triggered some really desperate memories. It also gave me lots of time to ruminate on how PTSD never stops giving me unpleasant surprises. The nature, frequency & severity of my reaction to trauma stimuli is forever changing. In my (also unending) quest to de stigmatise mental illness I thought some recent triggers might be worth sharing.
Waking up in the middle of the night to pee is not a thing that I do except during pregnancy. I’m a hold ‘til morning girl. The frustrating sensation of leaving a comfy bed & stumbling to the toilet in the dark is one I associate with pregnancy. Sitting on the toilet half awake looking at my painted toes I had the trauma version of de javu. My body remembers this. The exact emotion. The precise thoughts. I’m ok, but I know I won’t be getting anymore sleep. I’ll be distracting my head from going back there. Lying still in the dark would be asking to feel things I don’t want to feel.
Sometimes to occupy my mind through those sleepless hours I watch crap tv. Ideally something I don’t have to concentrate on. Mildly entertaining 90’s sitcoms work a treat. That is until the wife in King of Queens is unexpectedly pregnant & then just as they’re getting happy about it, not pregnant anymore. Numb viewing to uncontrollable sobbing in 20mins or less.
A fun park adventure with the rascal is momentarily derailed when someone calls me his Mummy. I smile, correct them & return to my role of bad octopus pirate. I feel the impact, but I look steady. Until much later when the memory of all the babies who’ll never call me Mummy knocks me flat.
I wake up bloody because my period has started in the night. I’m not inconvenienced I’m terrified. Those cramps ripping through my pelvic region signal disaster. It takes a bit of time to centre myself in the now. Repeat, ‘I’m ok’ over and over as I drag myself through a shower. Tampon, comfy clothes, paracetamol. I’m almost calm by the time I return to tackle the bedding. I’m genuinely shocked when the sight of blood on sheets sets me trembling. I was devoting all my attention to not getting sucked into one trauma hole that I forgot about another. I have to sit on the floor but I’m still watching an old iteration of myself. Younger, sicker me is ripping bloody sheets from an entirely different bed. More than the sheets are stained. My body is raw & dripping. I feel as exhausted now, in my healed, safe body as I did then in that recklessly butchered one.
My stupid period tracker with its stupid unwanted alerts. High chance of pregnancy. Such a simple sentence triggers such complex crazy. The stress and hope of trying. The heartbreak of failing. The unwanted reminder of how few of these high chance days may be left. Fleeting recollections of disappointing perfunctory sex and an even more disappointing man. Wearily buying tests. Angrily buying tampons. Wanting the monthly reminder to be over and fearing that end. Wrap it all up in a hollow ache in my middle that never leaves, but echoes as I read those words and you have my condition.
My ridiculous cat managed to injure his paw and now I must try to keep dressings on until it is healed. If you know anything about cats, you’ll know what a challenge this is. I have experimented with various ideas none of which preserved his dressings for long. I started thinking he needs a sock & then remembered I had some baby socks. They must have belonged to one of my nieces or nephews. Baby bits and pieces will end up in your hand bag/pocket after a day of auntying. I seized upon the long lost sock as the solution. I didn’t feel sad or even link the tiny item to anything painful until I started trying to put it on my cat. Then from nowhere I was flooded with too many feelings. I love my boy, he’s wonderful. Still, I couldn’t avoid the fact that he’s the sole recipient of my mothering.
A character in the book I’m reading is trying, with difficulty, to explain why she feels guilty for various past events. I feel as though I have taken a deep breath & inhaled fictional strife. My own twisted guilt is equally hard to comprehend. For me, self reproach is as essential as oxygen. The chord of perplexing guilt could catapult me into a multitude of memories. This time I land flailing in the aftermath of standing up for myself. I can feel the certainty that so recently fizzed go flat. That overwhelming sense of this must somehow be my fault returns. I feel angry about all the shit I put up with, but I still can’t fully convince myself I’m not to blame. Now I’m full of guilt for events long passed. Today is ruined as I attempt to untangle things that never made sense to begin with.
Triggers lurk. Sometimes entirely unexpected things stir up pain. It can be fleeting or set off a chain reaction. I have adapted to a life with booby traps. I often appear untouched, but only because I work so incredibly hard at hiding the mess.
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Lately I’ve been having regular checks for the heart rate thing. The nurse who took my blood & vitals last week was really familiar. I had that strange I’ve definitely met you feeling, but also knew I didn’t know her, know her. I couldn’t place her at all until a loud clatter startled her. Her sharp intake of breathe shot me back in time.
She was the nurse I stunned with my self destruction in this same hospital many years ago. She either didn’t recognise me or correctly judged it best not to indicate that she had. She was friendly & kind, but the sound of that inhale shook me. I was back there, covered in blood & guilt.
I can so clearly remember walking into that triage room. Concisely explaining why I was there & seeing the doubt in her eyes. I could tell she thought the large towel on my arm was overkill. I knew she was weighing up how to nicely dismiss me. I was too tired to do anything other than unwrap the makeshift dressing & expose the truth.
The inner layers were blood soaked & the final one stuck to the wound. When I yanked it off with same the lack of self care that had led me to that room, she gasped. An entirely involuntary expression of what; shock? disgust? fear? I couldn’t discern, but I knew it wasn’t good.
The speed that she whipped through the triage routine was more about her discomfort than mine. I had long lost my objectivity. I sought treatment as a means of calling a halt to that cut. I had given up seeking enough. I knew that enough was a lie. When I looked at my arm I really couldn’t tell anymore if it was any worse than anything else I had done to myself. It was just another failed attempt to carve out some peace.
Peace that I knew was never coming. I already felt stupid & ashamed & so horribly guilty. For all the usual reasons and now also because it was obvious I had ruined this women’s night. She hadn’t bargained for my level of determined self loathing; I’d upset her. I felt selfish for not being more clear. I shouldn’t have allowed anyone to be caught off guard.
I wanted to be better. Do better. I wished I could give this nurse & everyone else the explanation they needed. I yearned to be somewhere else. I didn’t even want to do this anymore. My blades had long since lost efficacy. I could never cut deep enough. Never shed enough blood. The quiet I needed was evermore elusive. I was desperate and so fucking tired. Yet, I still couldn’t stop.
As I waited for her to finish with my blood pressure I was stuck in the past. Mired in the dread. Reliving the experience of having my arm stapled shut whilst already planning the next assault. Knowing I couldn’t escape the nagging voice in my head that insisted I must cut. I must earn any rest. I had to atone for sins I wasn’t able to articulate. I had to release all the fetid emotion with my blood.
When I left I felt blessed. And cursed. Blessed that I was wrong. I did escape. I have hushed that internal need for penance. Cursed because I still haven’t silenced it. There will always be triggers pulling me back. Days when my scars itch to be opened. You can’t play with fire & not get burned. The magic is remembering I know how to make it stop. I just have to wake up every day and choose this new, better life. Easy, right?
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This month’s insomnia has been sponsored by infertility. My inability to reproduce occupies far to much space in my head & life. A big problem with healing from pregnancy loss is how taboo the topic remains. Things have improved a little, but on the whole I still feel like most people do not want to hear about it. Some have very valid reasons to shy away from those conversations. Others merely feel uncomfortable. Rightly or wrongly that leads me (& others) to feel we must keep it to ourselves.
Obviously I have attempted to combat the silence both in my writing & my life. I know it helps those who have lost & those around us to be more open. My own attempts to get on with it quietly were incredibly harmful to me. Still, there is so much that I have not shared. There are important people in my life that I’ve never spoken about my miscarriages or infertility with. It’s not a secret, but many things have prevented me from feeling able to discuss how I have felt.
Beyond emotion there are so many details that aren’t revealed. Common place aspects of miscarriage that are only ever referred to in hushed tones by those who have been there. There are various behaviours that I kept to myself because I feared they veered towards crazy. I’ve subsequently discovered they’re common rituals. Humans find comfort where they can, it would have been less frightening to know I was normal.
Most of all, the secrets are weighty. I feel laden with the obligation to keep the unmentionables shrouded. I don’t want to feel this way anymore. I definitely don’t want others strapping on this load. I need to let some of it go.
I say some, because, there are people & realities I cannot change. Crashing against solid stone will bring me no comfort. Thus, I want to reveal the parts that I can with this kind & ultimately faceless audience. Hopefully it can help others who feel burdened by conventional decorum. At the very least I may finally feel lighter.
I fear you’ll judge the box I’ve kept for 20 years. Adding items that others have hinted should not have been saved. Very few know it exists, the suggestion that it shouldn’t have has always hurt. I don’t think the positive tests from each pregnancy are gross. I’ve still felt the needed to hide them. Saving hospital bands & paperwork makes sense to me. I don’t understand why wanting to hold onto something (anything) connected to my children is morbid. I’ve been assured it is.
I’m embarrassed of the few new born pieces I dared to purchase. So often I’ve seen childless women with tiny socks stashed in a drawer portrayed as lunatics. Dangerous, even. The type who might steal your baby. I hide the pregnancy, early years & baby names book. They’re packed away with the baby grow I saved from my niece’s early days. I thought one day I could frame pictures of them both babies identically clothed. Yes, the frame that would have housed those photos remains box fresh alongside. I have no need for this paraphernalia, I just can’t bear to throw them away. I worry this will be viewed as pathetic. Another crazy lady whose biological clock went bang. They were logical purchases when I made them. I was pregnant. When those pregnancies failed I was certain the next one wouldn’t.
I’ve never shared the pictures I took when my stomach started to change shape during my last pregnancy. I wanted to show off that development, but I didn’t think I was allowed. At the time it would have been tempting fate. Afterwards, there is instant unease if the subject is approached.
Then there are the memories that will never leave and are never uttered. Unpleasant shards of the mess no one wants to witness. The exact tone a nurse used when she told me it was for the best because I was so young. Or the ice cold that runs through me everytime I see an examination table with stirrups. The fact that a miscarriage is more than blood and that more must be dealt with. I don’t talk about sitting alone in my bathroom trying to decide what to do with the bloody fragments of the child that will never be. Or the torture of bleeding a little & then having to wait. Clinging to hope through blood tests and scans. Only to be told you’re technically still pregnant, but it’s no longer viable.
Risk of infection, prolonged bleeding, the extent of the pain are all things I only become aware of through experience or via other women in private groups. We’re all so squeamish about the reality of pregnancy loss. I think it’s entwined with the patriarchal disgust of ‘female’ bodily functions. The same whiff of shame hangs over the process. I have felt I must not reveal anything too corporeal. Almost as though declaring the facts of my physical condition is gratuitous. Likewise, I have restrained aspects of emotional responses for the comfort others. It simply isn’t sensible to treat such a traumatic event with polite moderation. The inhibition has damaged me.
The older I get the more I seek clarity. Much of the pressure that society brings to bear obscures my view. I don’t want to submit to it anymore.
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Today would be your 20th birthday. I’ve had the time it would have taken for you to become a man & still the wound is raw. It seems that a certain amount of pain will always be part of being an invisible Mum. I miss you and all your siblings. Even though I never got to make real memories, I hold our phantom family in my imagination.
My life will always be less for your absence, but I’d never forgo the time that I carried you. You will forever be the very best part of me.
Too much time in my head is distinctly bad for me. Not getting stuck amongst all the crap i’ve crammed up there is an ongoing project. It is not an endeavour that is aided by inaction.
Staying home alone all day, everyday is not ideal. I require distraction. I need people who make me feel swell and to do things that help me feel worthy. I like knowing that I could jump in a taxi and go anywhere. Having a sense of control is massively important.
Being entirely reliant on others for almost everything makes my insides jitter. I feel more of a burden than ever. Which activates my guilt & anxiety. I’m obviously also worried about myself or someone I love getting ill. Plus the horror of all the people who are suffering & dying every day. I’m basically a big ball of negative emotions.
I’m struggling with pain. I miss my little ones. I miss all my people. I can hardly sleep. There’s very little work. There’s too much time to think. All this on my own time thinking about what I miss inevitably highlights the major omission.
When left to its own devices my is brain predictable. It clings to trauma. If not occupied with the business of living, I regress. Slip back into dreams of the births I’ll never labour through. Flashbacks of the blood & pain I did. Haunted by the over used phrase that always signaled it was over.
There are so many what ifs. Too many of my own actions to question. Huge & tiny alterations that could have changed the outcome. Things I never said. Words others can never unsay. Blame to place. Regret to carry. Penance to complete.
I feel trapped with all I’ve lost and every little thing I can’t share. The good memories are as painful as the bad. The selfies I took when my belly began to change shape. That magical second line on the test. Marking midwife appointments on my calendar. Blood tests with the right numbers. Making lists. Checking what ridiculous object the app tells me my baby is now the size of. Plans & scans & the bam bam of heartbeats.
My body remembers it all in such intricate detail. I recall the fractionally altered taste of mint tea. Sex felt different and the smell of everything intensified. I was heavy with fear. Dulled by fatigue. Yet still floating on hope and entirely delighted to experience whatever this new life threw at me.
It never goes away. I can never take my foot off the pedal. I’m always close to skidding off the road. Lockdown is like a battle not to drift to sleep at the wheel. Spending too long contemplating my past or the what might have been is dangerous. Finding ways to keep my eyes open is getting harder.
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Rediscovering old tunes. It started with Hall & Oates; my sister mentioned she had recently realised how good they were, so I had another listen. She was correct & it spiralled from there. I have since found myself in voyage of musical rediscovery & I am loving it.
Since they kicked off this forgotten tune trip, Hall & Oates are the perfect place to start. My mum used to play them in the car all the time when I was a kid. I didn’t dislike the songs then, but I think they just kind of washed over me. I was busy thinking about important 13 year old things & fighting with my siblings. Who has time to pay attention to some old dudes their mum likes? Turns out mum’s old dudes were pretty cool. In particular Rich Girl & Maneater have made my frequently played list. I love that they sound simultaneously upbeat & chilled out. I’ve known plenty of rich kids who could ‘rely on the old man’s money’ & I can totally relate to the song’s portrayal of that type. However, I think what I like best is that I can close my eyes & be transported to another time. I can picture mum’s big hair & remember how safe it felt to drive around with the music up loud.
Next up was a song I heard a snippet of on a tv show & immediately needed back in my life. Novocaine for the soul by The Eels is another little time machine. It takes me back to the end of high school & navigating my first forays into adulthood. It is a turn it up loud & dance away your problems kind of song. It has to be said that my problems back then were laughably light; I definitely didn’t need any novocaine. The whole Beautiful Freak album has worn well. My problems may have gotten heavier, but blasting The Eels can still help lighten the load.
The wonder of shuffle dug up the gem that is 212. Azealia Banks has since revealed herself as problematic af, but I can’t stop loving this song. This is so not my usual kind of jam, but I can still remember the first time I heard this song. It blew me away. I love everything about it; strong sassy women taking no shit, killer beat & that feel good factor. For some reason this will always be a sunny day song for me. It’s perfect crank it up & get ready to go out music. So glad to have this foul mouthed banger back in my life.
I first remember hearing Bright Eyes First Day of my Life around the time my Godson was born. The lyrics really hit me because when I looked at this tiny new person I felt like I was getting a fresh start too. I wasn’t in a great place back then & that precious new baby to focus on was a real life line. I’ve thought about this song again when special little people have entered my life & the words still hold true. When I hold a new baby who is dear to me I feel flooded with love & renewed. The arrival of my tiniest nephew brought this one back to me & I’ve been playing it a lot lately. Life is so much richer when you have little ones to cherish.
Regular readers will probably be aware that I’m not much of a new year’s resolution type. However, recently there have been a bunch of things that I have wanted to tackle, but for one reason or another keep telling myself I’ll get to it after Xmas & Hogmanay. So, I thought, what the hell, I’ll share them with the world & then maybe I’ll actually get cracking. Thus, I present my ‘2018, for the love of god, just do it’ list.
I’ll kick things off with a biggie. Re decorating. My house needs a bit of a revamp. I was supposed to get it done this year, but there was just always an impediment. I know exactly what I want & need in every room. I have bought umpteen accessories, selected paint colours & even gotten quotes for the work. Still my rooms remain unzhoosed. Next year, I will bring my interior ideas to fruition. The art work the Toyboy got me & my vintage flamingo throw pillows are going on display, even if it kills me.
On the subject of the Toyboy, he is number 2 on my list of challenges. I love to swim. I was part of a team when I was younger & it’s the only sporty thing I’ve ever enjoyed. Now a days, it is the only cardio I can safely & comfortable do. Plus being in the water really helps my pain. Basically if there is a pool in my vicinity I’m in it. The TB on the other hand, is less keen. His swimming technique is, shall we say, not quite Olympic standard. To be frank, he struggles not drown. I intend to rectify this. I’m going to teach that man to swim (wether he likes it or not). He shouldn’t be surprised if swimming trunks turn up under his Xmas tree.
I take thousands of pictures. Like everyone else, I tend to share them mostly online. I have lots of framed pictures around the house, but there are only so many that I can display. Earlier this year I decided I really wanted to make proper photo albums to organise & keep my pictures in. I duly ordered hundreds of prints & then life decided get troublesome. Project photo album got sidelined & all I actually achieved was adding to the clutter that lives in the spare room. Well, this week I found these beautiful albums made with Liberty fabrics. It’s time to get all my special memories organised & pasted in. Well, nearly time, 2018 will be the year I collate my snaps for posterity.
This beloved blog is also on the list. The home of my writing needs an overhaul just as much as my actual home does. Again, I have lots of ideas, both creative & practical. Again, those ideas have failed to materialise into a solid plan. The main problem here is I am useless at all of the things involved in giving a website a face lift. I have spent torturous nights trying to add buttons or create small clickable adds. Try as I might, I mess it up. It’s such a headache, that I have consistently applied the Scarlett O’ Hara theory of life to the issue; tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow is finally coming. Any tips or referrals for such services would be greatly appreciated.
My final task is the least glamorous & most ridiculous. It is also the bloody hardest problem to solve. What massive struggle do I speak of? Keeping my bloody washing basket empty for more than 5 seconds. Why do I always have so much dirty laundry? I am only one person! Granted the TB scatters pants & socks everywhere he goes, but bar a few outfits, that’s it. It’s all mine & it never ends. Every single time I get to the bottom of the basket I want to throw a party, but blink & it’s full again. Nothing destroys the calming sanctuary of a bedroom more than the overflowing washing basket in the corner. I no longer want to be terrorised by my own discarded clothing. Next year I will take charge & keep that washing basket empty (ish). I just don’t know how yet.
I also have an ongoing semi- secret pet project. Those of you know me well can probably guess what it is. The rest of you will just have to keep reading.
So, there it is. These are my mountains to climb in 2018. Which epic quests await you?
Horny. My stupid sore body has curtailed my sex life somewhat. So, yes I am confined to Jammies, heat packs & elevating swollen feet right now. I can still I’d hark back to the days when my legs were in the air for more enjoyable reasons & the music that calls them to mind.
Madonna’s Music album is blasting in our kitchen. I’m making tea wearing just knickers & a vest when he comes up behind me. His neck kisses are more sexy than sweet; before I know it I am pinned against the wall & he’s pulling a breast from my vest. We are right in front of a large sash window & the folk in the tenement opposite can look right in if they want to. My protestations that someone might see melt away as his mouth drifts from my nipple & heads south. By the time he’s pulling my knickers down I couldn’t care less if the whole street is watching. As Madonna provocatively demands the dj plays a song I’m having my first ever standing up orgasm. His tongue seemed to move to the irrististable beat, I definitely ‘danced with my baby’. Thus, from the electro popish intro to the classic Madge lyrics, Music spells sex to me.
Sometimes you meet someone & you just know something significant is going to happen. That feeling was instant with this man. At first we talked. We liked talking. Those conversations stretched from hours to months. So, when we finally crossed the line into more than words there was a certain amount of anticipation. We needn’t have worried the moment our bodies slammed against each other everything worked. He knew exactly what I wanted without a hint of direction. He dominated me to exactly the right degree. As he flung my legs over his shoulders I had Dave Matthews Band playing in head. I loved that he knew I could handle it rough. Crash Into Me was that night set to music. It was hot & kinky, but also tender. As the bite marks faded in the days after this was the song I had on repeat.
When an ex was left with the keys to lock up his workplace I ceized the opportunity to indulge in some gross misconduct. I turned up wearing not very much & offered to perform a strip tease in his boss’ office. The song I chose to shed my lingerie to was Touch Me. Dj Rui De Silva created one of the very few dance tunes that does it for me. I loved how it felt to dance to its seductive vibe in a heaving club & it translated to one on one. The lyrics were in synch with where I was at; intense, intimate sex was my thing. I liked that this club anthem was about more than just random fucking. The sultry tones & insistent dance track still makes me feel like a siren.
I hadn’t been with a women in a long time when I felt a connection with a chick I had thought would be just a friend. Our feminist politics got us sparking, but her curves & penchant for spikes pushed us into bed. 212 was the song that got us on the dance floor that summer & it was the theme to our fling. The pounding drum that never quit felt like how she made she cum again and again. And again. Azelia’s fierce words mirrored our ferocious feminism. When the music takes on a rolling composition like waves breaking on sand I’m drawn right back to the sensation of breasts meeting soft stomach ripples. The song is forever a metaphor for the joy to be found in female flesh & intellect.
When a fairly new boyfriend stumbled upon some of my sex toys whilst looking for condoms his reaction spoke volumes. Next time he stayed at mine I gave him a treat. To the triply strains of Goldfrapp’s Black Cherry, I cuffed & blindfolded him. Once I’d stripped to nothing but a corset I uncovered his eyes. I processed to straddle him & drive him a little crazy by demonstrating a shiny pink vibrator. The power of having him completely enraptured was so hot. His eventual begging to be freed & allowed to touch me came during the seriously seductive Strict Machine. As a result the 70’s/electro mash up never fails to make fails to make me feel like a sexual goddess.