Friday, 26 March 2010

The Things That Set You Off

When I wrote the last post I was feeling lower than whale shit and I'm sure it came across that way. I spoke about how God-awful things were and how they don't get better. That is all true. Here's the thing though, what makes carrying on with your life possible at all is the fact that in between feeling that bad, there are periods of normality. Initially not many, but they do get more frequent and they do get longer. It is nice to know that during these periods I can work, function, laugh, shout at the television during rugby matches and quiz programs, get drunk, read books, play video games, cook, shop, get pissed off at the budget speech, etc. etc. etc. All of the stuff that means that despite the loss, the trauma, the pain, the grief I can still function as a member of the human race. Just. There is one snag though. All the bad stuff is still under the surface. In much the same way that Jaws was just under the surface. And between normality and getting your head bitten off are what I refer to as "The Things That Set You Off"

We have a pet rabbit called Buttercup (that's what you get when you leave the naming of a pet up to a seven year old girl). Buttercup has some personal hygiene issues, which mean that every so often we need to give her a soak in some warm water. I am going some where with this, trust me. This weekened we gave her one such soak. We needed something mild to put in the water so I got some Johnsons Baby Bath that we had in the wardrobe of what was to be Emma's room. I opened the bottle and got a waft of the smell....

....we never had a chance to use that baby bath on Emma, but I'm sure J&J have gone to a hell of a lot effort to ensure that their products have that new born baby smell, just like every other baby clensing product. Just like what we used on Emma to clean her and dress her after she had died. One sniff of the baby bath and I was straight back in that little private room in Alder Hey, cleaning and changing her for the first and last time.

Smells can be a big "Thing That Sets You Off". Music can do it as well. For Rach it's that Rihanna song "Russian Roulette". It's the hook; "You can see my heart beating, you can see it through my chest". The song was out around the time Emma was born. The words remind her off Emma on the respirator, her little chest going up and down. For me it's Elbow's entire "Seldom Seen Kid" album. When Rach was recovering from the caesarian in Wrexham and Emma was in the ICU in Alder Hey I had to make a few trips between hospitals on my own. Elbow was the CD in the machine. It's one of my foavourite records and for months after it killed me to listen to it. I had to force myself to listen to it.

I find new "Things To Set You Off" almost daily. Sometimes it's writing this blog, sometimes it's just standing in the shower. Sometimes they have me in bits, sometimes they make me furious at what I have had to endure. But sometimes, just sometimes they give me a smile. It's nice to know that, like the periods of normality, these smiles are something that happen more regularly.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Nothing is the same...

It is now more than four months since Emma died, but things really don't really seem to be getting much easier. I've lost people I've been close to before. My gran died about ten years ago. I was very close to my aunt Kate, my mothers sister who died after fighting cancer for 3 years. I've lost friends, I've lost relatives, some close, some not so much. The big difference between anyone I've lost before and losing Emma, is that losing Emma is not getting easier to deal with as time passes. 

Perhaps if Rach or I had suffered a total emotional or mental breakdown and were now back on our feet, improvements no matter how slight would have been more noticeable, but we didn't. We had another little girl to look after so taking to the bed for 6 months or pouring ourselves into the bottom of a whiskey bottle, tempting as they were, were not options for us. The only descernable change in our behavior since Emma died is that we have both returned to work, and frankly we both feel worse as a result.

A couple of years ago a woman worked at the same company as me. I'm not certain at what stage her pregnancy was at, but she had either a stillbirth or a miscarriage. She was off work for a while, then when it was time to think about returning she resigned. I didn't get why at the time. I do now. It's not what I spoke about in previous posts about how people react to you, either by ignoring or acknowledging what happened, or just looking at you like you're a thing from another planet. It's that they stop doing that. It's that after a brief period of mutual discomfort, they go back to how they were before. But you don't. I'm not the same person I was before Emma died. I look a lot like him, I sound like him, but I'm not him. In a way he died when Emma did and I'm the guy left to fill in for him. He had a lot more energy than me. He could afford the luxury of letting his mind wander, because when it did, it didn't dwell on this god-awful loss. He could also cope with large groups of people. That's not to say that he was a better person, I don't think he was. For a start he wasn't so clear about how important time with his family was, above all else. He also didn't have that absolute certainty that if the worst was to happen (whatever that may be) he could carry on. I do, I know I can carry on if the worst happens because it has and I did. So why does this make work so difficult? Because every day at work I spend all of my time and energy pretending to be that guy that they knew before Emma died. That is why on days before I have to go to the office I can't sleep, that is why when I have been in the office for a couple of days in a row I'm a wreck, and that is why if I had another option, I wouldn't be in the office at all. And that is why I get why the lady I spoke of earlier didn't come back.

I called this post "Nothing is the same" because I wanted to talk about how I had changed, but I also wanted to talk about how loosing a child is so different from loosing anyone else. My father lost his mother when he was 16 years old, but he told me that Emma dying was far worse. He said to me that when some one older dies you bury the past, but when a child dies you bury the future. All the unconditional, instinctive love that you have for family is there, so you feel that loss. You also feel the loss of what you've been cheated out of. When a parent or sibling or any other adult dies you can hold onto the good times, the happy memories. I have one happy memory of Emma after she was born. One, that's it, and even that memory is tainted by what was to come.

 If you are a parent, you will have that first incredibly memory of holding your son or daughter for the first time after they were born. Emma was beautiful. She was a couple of weeks early so she was small but not worryingly so. She had her Rachel's nose and mouth, my cheeks, chin and hair. I didn't want to let go of her even to pass her back to her mum. In those first few seconds she became my whole world. That's how it was for me, think about how it was for you. If you are parent you know exactly what I'm talking about, if you are not, words can't express how overwhelming it is. Hold on to that it?...okay. Now imagine that was the last time you got to hold your child while they were alive.

People say to me that they can't imagine what we've been through. I don't think it's because they can't, it's because they don't want to try. To try to imagine this would be just to horrible, so they don't. I can't say I blame them.