It recently came to my attention that Joni Mitchell’s masterpiece, Blue is 50 years old. I find it incredible that words written half a century ago still cut right to the heart of me. I discovered Joni when I was around 12 and 28 years later I still love slipping into the blue. This week I have found myself listening to one song in particular on repeat. It’s Baby Loss Awareness week, as I see others share their own losses I find comfort in Little Green.
Little Green is perhaps the most perfect song ever written. I didn’t know precisely what it was about on first listen but I still got it. It still wrapped me in it’s magical sadness & hope. Green immediately struck me as a beautiful name for a girl. I decided there & then that should I birth a girl, I would indeed call her Green.
I’ve been listening to that song since my teens. Dreaming of the tiny bud who would be my Green. In the passing years I have learned the true meaning of the song, talked to the Green nestled inside me & discovered the reality of loss. Joni was writing about a different, but similar grief. Her words remain entwined with my experiences.
When I dream of a daughter she is a gypsy dancer. All tangled red hair & high spirits. She likes the scent of pine trees & bracing herself against a strong, cold wind. She’s quieter than me, but chatters when excited. I read her everything I loved as a child. Take her to the places that made me feel big things. Her childhood is filled with standing stones & patterned tights & Joan Lingard books & seaside air & empowering women & red liquorice. She is exhausting, exhilarating & exquisite.
When I wake she is a girl in a song. A fantasy my mind summoned; fuelled by 70’s folk poetry and my deepest longing. Listening now is a sweet agony. Pressing my sorest spot because I can’t resist the beauty of it all. The intro wrapping me in the blanket my babies never had. The lyrics bringing the sketches in my head to life.
I’m glad we’re beginning to open up about pregnancy & baby loss. I hope others won’t have to spend so much time alone in their heads with their babies. It helps to talk about losses. To give solidity to those tiny unlived lives. It is such an enormous relief to have the world acknowledge our children.
It’s been another insane blur of year. The pandemic has given me lots of time & motivation to do big picture thinking. There’s been so much talk of the impact on parents & kids. The decisions to be made about keeping children safe, healthy & happy get trickier in times like this. You’re not here. Neither are your siblings. Being forced to stay home alone for extended periods really rams that fact home. I still think about what I would do. How I would make sure my children would be ok. I don’t think that will ever stop. I’ve thought through how I’d handle every stage of your lives; agonised over choices that are entirely theoretical. I can’t help it. I’m always going to be your Mum on the inside.
This year I will be spending your day doing something joyful. It came about purely by chance. Pandemic rescheduling dropped an activity unexpectedly. It feels strange. It’s not a thing I would have planned, but I think it is good. I’m trying to see it as a celebration of you. Of the tiny amount of time we had & all the wonderful that could have been. I know you would have given me so much to rejoice in.
I’m lost. I’ve spent this year trying to reposition my future & navigate the present. I have tried new things, met new people, considered a million & one possible permutations of the next 30 years. I remain astray.
I’ve always had an ultimate goal to strive for. I had one non negotiable role. Motherhood was at the centre of all my plans. It was a reason to do better and the motivation to persevere. I worked so hard on building a safe, comfortable nest. I fixed all the parts of me that could be corrected. Found a way to accept the parts that couldn’t. I believed I had a purpose. I wanted children powerfully enough to force myself into viability.
When it became clear that it wasn’t going to happen I was destroyed. I knew I’d have to fight hard to create some other life. I was aware it would be painful, but I really did believe I could lay a new path. Life’s been a fucking journey so far, but I somehow eventually arrive at ok. I thought I could do it again. I told myself I needed time to grieve, to heal, to process. Then I decided I must push a little. Or a lot. Get to the next step professionally. Say yes to things that scare me. Date fun people, keep an open mind, pay attention to what makes me feel good. If I keep moving I’ll stumble upon my new direction, right? Wrong.
11 months of forcing myself to breath. Smiling, rascalling, writing, resting, networking, researching, grabbing hold of anything that sparks any kind of anything. Honestly, it is getting harder. There is no deeper meaning to my efforts. I’m proud of work success. I am grateful for all my gorgeous people. I have love and opportunity. My life is mostly in colour. It’s just very hard to keep the grey from seeping in. Even harder to convince myself it adds up to a reason for being.
I’m hollow with zero ideas of what I should be full of. I’m still at the reminding myself of reality stage. Checking myself daily. I don’t need to remember that gorgeous Swedish name because I won’t be naming anyone. Reading that piece on delayed cord cutting is futile. I should get rid of the paint for the spare room. Forget all my child rearing dreams & schemes. Thinking of this stuff only causes pain, but I have nothing to replace it with.
I don’t know what to do. I’m not entirely sure I even know who I am anymore. One day at a time is good and well temporarily. It does not hold up as a long term protocol. When everyone else takes their children home there has to be something that makes my life feel significant. I need a reason. I need more.
It’s International Women’s Day again and we’re all applauding the amazing women who are soaring in all manner of ways. Whilst I am very much here for that, I also want to give a standing ovation to the women who are just about holding it together. I really want to shine a light on a different kind achievement. So often we overlook the strength it takes to just keep going on the face of adversity.
I want this IWD to be about the women living with chronic illness, mental illness, inequality in the workplace, trying to make ends meet, shitty relationships & everything else that weighs you down. Perhaps you’re not launching your own collection, pulling in 6 figures or living the insta glam life. That does not mean you aren’t striving and succeeding. Every day that you get out of bed despite being wracked with pain, you’re killing it. Every single mother who loves, feeds & inspires her child(ren) every day is changing the world. Forcing yourself out the door when you’d rather curl into a ball & cry, is winning. Steering your own course in a workplace that is designed for the comfort & advancement of men makes you a boss. All the women who have to fight stigma & danger to claim their womanhood, you are queens. Even if you were unable to wash your face or get dressed today the fact that you are still here, still living, still fighting is enough.
We all know smart, talented women who are doing the best with the hand they’ve been dealt. That may mean that their successes aren’t as big & shiny as those we’ve become accustomed to celebrating, but they count. Those hard won achievements deserve acclaim. This year let’s hear for the women who keep their worlds spinning every day in spite of universe’s attempts to thwart them.
I still write baby even though you’d be almost grown now. You’d be pretty much a man, which is very scary. I bet you’d be amazing, though. I picture you as tall & sensitive & just a tiny bit reckless. I know we’d have butted heads, but I’d love your fire.
I’m feeling pretty raw this year. You have another sibling who didn’t make it to life. I have another reason to cry. I have reasons to smile too. I’m doing ok.
I’d be better if I was buying cake & wrapping presents, but life had other plans for us. I had to learn to be strong & you were destined for somewhere more beautiful than this world.
I’m ready now. Love, loss, life, I can take it all in my stride. I am ready to to mother a child I can hold in my arms as well as my heart. I have wonderful new little people to cherish, I have hope & I will always carry you with me. That’s enough for now.
It’s been around 8 weeks since I miscarried. I think all things considered, I am doing ok. I mean, I’ve not completely fallen apart. I haven’t turned to scalpels for comfort or absented myself from the world. I’m getting up & painting my face & taking part in life. I wish I could say it was easy, but on days like today, it feels like drowning.
I am attending the recurrent miscarriage clinic to see if there are any issues I am not already aware of & the midwife I see has been wonderful. She had given me info on a ‘support group’, which I’m considering. I’m on some new meds to help with PCOS & tracking my periods etc to keep on eye on things from that side. I’m socialising & blogging & getting more politically active. I’m doing everything i can think of to keep moving forward. So why do I feel like I’m wedged in wet sand?
I think about what might have been every day. Not all day long, but it’s never far away. There are so many reminders. So many painful things that can’t be avoided. From appointments at the maternity hospital & other people’s babies to just the scent of something that made me nauseous when I was pregnant & doesn’t anymore. I don’t want the world to stop. I don’t want to rob anyone of their joyous moments; it’s just so hard. The happiness I feel for others comes with a stab of sorrow. It’s been this way for so long, but my recent loss has given that sadness renewed potency. I let all my hopes out of a place I kept tied up tight. Blueprints for a life that I hadn’t dared to examine sprang to life & folding up those plans is proving difficult.
I have my period again & I know that impacts on my mood. All of the sensations of menstruating mirror miscarriage symptoms. The cramps & sensitive nipples are reminders I don’t want. The blood remains wrapped up in my trauma. Forever a trigger. And yet, I’m glad to have the period. Not so long ago I had practically none. It’s a relief to have this increasingly reliable sign that my ovaries are doing something. Like so many other things the positive is marred.
I think from the outside I probably look fine. I want to look well. No, I want to BE well. I’m really fighting not to let my life slide. The truth is I’m struggling. My creative output is vastly decreased. I lack the motivation & clarity to write. Not writing is not good for me. I process my experiences through words on the paper. The less I write the more anxious I become. Of course the more I stress about it, the less I am able to curate my thoughts. It’s a predictable cycle. There are obviously more practical concerns; my words keep a roof over my head.
My physical health hasn’t been good. My sleep is appalling. I know that takes it’s toll. I attempt to rationalise myself out of days like this. My exhausted, pained, grieving & traumatised self will obviously have lows. I know this is to be expected. That knowledge doesn’t change the dread. It does nothing to chase away the fear when I awake to a complete inability to function. When nothing shifts the weight crushing me or the desire to disappear. 24 hours isn’t a long time except when your swamped in depression. I can get through the bad days. I’m just terrified of the days multiplying.
That’s the crux of it. Mental illness feels a bit like being an alcoholic. I will never completely recover. The lows will always come. Life will always have ways to trip me up. The fear of everything unravelling sits quietly on my shoulder. It’s a bad day. I’m still grieving. I hope for better.
It’s Father’s Day & what better way to celebrate my lovely Dad than to take a trip down memory lane.
My dad worked shifts when I was a kid. He’d do a twelve hour night shift & arrive home just as we (I have three siblings) were getting up for school. Instead of retiring directly to his bed he would make us breakfast. Cereal with bananas hidden in it. Mountains of toast or boiled eggs made three different ways to suit out picky tastes. The really special thing about it was he always did it with pleasure. He didn’t rush us or shirk our requests. He kept making that toast until we were satisfied & he made sure every banana slice was hidden in those rice crispies. Making your kids breakfast is a simple everyday occurance, but when I look back at my childhood these small acts of love really matter.
My sister & I sometimes call our father Daddy Cool. I think it started on a holiday in Mallorca & it stuck. It sums up so many aspects of him. From his little air guitar dance when he hears a tune he likes (which are often by edgy new bands) to his random fancies for designer clothing. The now famous ‘ porno’ moustache he sported my entire childhood also played into the nickname. Wether he’s sporting some Armani or hitting some cool new restuarant he is totally our Daddy Cool.
My childhood is bursting with good memories of Dad. He used to pick us up from primary school & let us walk home through the park. While we galloped along he would be cheerfully carrying all our super girly school bags & paraphanelia. He frequently took us walks in pollok country park, allowing us to carry on & explore. He introduced me to The Burrel Collection & highland cattle, both life long loves. Dad always had time for us to check out the Rangers station, or the ancient tree or a million other things.
In Glasgow there’s an old tradition of people singing at parties. Right into my teenage years I remember family & friends always calling for dad to sing. I loved it when he did, he usually choose rather meloncholy songs. He sang them so clearly & with real feeling. I fell in love with John Lennon & Janis Joplin after hearing dad’s renditions of Jealous Guy & Bobby McGhee.
My dad did all the things that storybook father’s are supposed to do. He taught me to ride a bike & to swim. He checked my homework, helped me fill out UCAS forms & grounded me when a boy gave me a nookie. Besides those things he has given me so much more. He gifted me the wonders of 60’s & 70’s music. Whilst my classmates were loving techno I was discovering Joni & Bob. Dad also played a big part in developing my political views. From asking him questions about the night’s news to talking over what I’d been learning in history. I’ve always respected his socialist values. Dad has been unceasingly present throughout my life; encouraging & advising. He has also been tolerant if bemused by some of things I’ve gotten up to.
Now that I’m grown & some of my siblings have had children I have the joy of watching my fantastic dad become a wonderful Granda. He will hide under tables, bite balloons & get down on his knees to become a horse who gives rides. He’s exactly the kind of Granda every child wants.
In conclusion, I love you dad. Thanks for raising me right.
Happy Father’s Day.