Monday, 20 June 2011

Father's Day

This time last year, I deleted an entire blog post that never saw the light of day. In it I described how much I hated Father's day, which I did then. I had a pop at the fact that it was not a traditional celebration, just something that was made up in the 20th century to counteract Mother's day. I even pissed and moaned about the placement of the apostrophe, and why it's incorrect on every feckin' Father's Day card ever printed, (not to mention every place I mention Father's Day in this post). But my hatred really just came from how awful I felt. And the worst part of it was that I never saw it coming. I dreaded the onset of Christmas 2009. I knew the first Christmas without Emma would be indescribably painful. Same went for her birthday. But Father's Day was never on my radar. It'd never been a big deal for me growing up. My dad got his card every year, and very grateful he was for it, but we're not a big card giving family and it just was never seen as much of a big deal. For many years now I've had cards and gifts from my step-daughter Laura, and most likely because I give next to no thought to the Father's Day, it's always a lovely welcome surprise. Last year though, Father's Day just seemed to be a 24 hour reminder of everything I had missed out on since Emma had died and as far as painful days went, it overshadowed the likes of Christmas by a long way.

Hence the bitter blog post.

I did however make a decision not to post it. To be honest I'm not really sure why. We hadn't found out that Rach was expecting Aoife until a couple of weeks later so it wasn't that. Maybe I thought it was just too anger fuelled, but that's never stopped me in the past. I think, I just didn't want to attack something that is just there  to make people feel good, even if it made me feel crap. I'd have hated to think of my own father, or Laura reading me rubbish something that involves me and has a positive influence on them.

So Father's Day 2010 wasn't completely useless. My Father's Day present to myself was learning for the first time that maybe I shouldn't vent every bad feeling that comes out of not having Emma around, not even here. I'm glad I didn't attack Father's Day now, because this year, with Aoife, it was significantly better.

As a Father's Day present to myself this year I'm treating myself to another first. This is picture of Emma that I always have with me, and the first time that I have ever published it or any other picture of her for the world to see. You lot can now see how beautiful she was.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

I'm Still Here

Well its been a while. And for good reason,  June last year we found out that Rach was pregnant and in February, our little girl Aoife was born. Somehow it didn't seem right that I use this blog, that I started to talk about loosing a child, to talk about a new baby. But recently I've been thinking that perhaps I'm wrong.

First of all I'd like to say that Aoife is absolutely fine. She has been examined by consultant after consultant both before and after she was born. There is no sign whatsoever of the heart condition that Emma had. *BIG SIGH OF RELIEF*. But the worry that the same thing might happen to her has been crippling. About 11 weeks into the pregnancy we had a massive scare and it looked like we were going to have a miscarriage. It was a false alarm but frightened the living piss out of us and resulted in Rach being signed off work for the remainder of the pregnancy. And thus the tone was set for the pregnancy, and the tone was shared shitless. We would be asked things like - "what are you hoping for?" The honest answer to that question is "a child that will survive".

Aoife getting born did not eliminate all that fear, not helped by the fact that a couple of days after she was born she was hospitalised for weight loss. She was discharged the next day. A couple of days a spot on her back was another cause of concern. Back to the hospital.

Because Emma's condition was not picked up until after she was born and because we as parents had a history of neo-natal death all the health care professionals dealing with us have been extra cautious. Grateful as we have been for this caution, it has lead to a policy of "lets get her looked at in hospital, better safe than sorry" a policy that has nearly had Rach and I at our wits end.

But time has gone on and Aoife is fine. Better than fine really, she is really starting to respond to what's going on around her, she's smiling and she's babbling to us, and it's amazing. And now everything that happens with Aoife serves as a reminder of what we missed out on with Emma. Aoife is only 11 weeks old and already she has changed so much, Emma would have been 18 months old tomorrow, I can hardly imagine how she would have been now.

If I can leave you with one thing it's this - For parents of a child that has died, having another child does not make it all better. New babies are time consuming and energy sapping, so it does distract from the pain. But it's still always there.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

On Eastenders...

Word of warning. This post is written by Angry Mark, and as such it'll contain language that may offend, you have been warned.

This is a bit of a weird post for me for a couple of reasons, first of all because this is the first (and likely to be only time) that I put the same post on both my blogs. The second reason that this is weird is that this is that generally I’m not the “Points of View”, Mail reading whinge-bag who moans about the BBC, I’m not that dude. But I for the probably the first time in my life feel compelled to add my two cents to the Eastenders cot-death/baby swap debate. Okay the reason I’m commenting on this is the same reason I am writing this on both blogs. First up, those of you who read “Living Without Emma” may not know, I am an amateur scriptwriter and film-maker. For those of you who read the “Little Things Movie” blog, my daughter Emma died from a rare heart condition when she was just two day old and it’s as a writer and as a father I feel like I want to comment.

First up I just need to say I don’t watch Eastenders, and I missed the whole media kerfuffle about this story. I just turned on the TV a couple of nights ago and saw the ongoing elements to the story. The five minutes I saw pissed me off but I thought I’d look into it before passing judgment. Right, I’ve looked into it and I’m gonna pass serious judgement.

For those of you that don’t watch or don’t know what the hell Eastenders is, the offending story goes like this. Two women called Ronnie and Kat give birth to boys on the same day. A week later, Ronnie’s baby dies. Due to some ridiculous set of circumstances Ronnie, swaps her dead baby for Kat’s live baby. So now Kat thinks her child has died and Ronnie has a baby that isn’t hers.

Okay, there are two main reasons why this is horseshit. Firstly and most obviously I can categorically tell you that any parent whose child dies has no interest whatsoever in a replacement child. They want THEIR child, the idea that the notion of taking another baby would enter the head of a bereaved parent is utter bollocks.

Secondly, Emma was with us less than two hours before she was taken to the Special Care Baby Unit. In that time she was so firmly imprinted on my mind that I could pick her out from a room full of dozens of babies even after she died. To portray parents who’ve had their baby home for a week as being unable to tell that the baby was theirs is ludicrous. You don’t have to be the parent of a dead child to know that, just a parent.

In the interest in symmetry there are two things about this storyline that piss me off. One is because I’m Emma’s father and Rach’s husband, the other is because I’m a writer.

As a father to a child who’s died, I’m pretty thick skinned. Yes certain films and things resonate with me and can upset me, “Wires” by Athlete and the opening montage of “Up” nearly bring me to tears every time, but I don’t get offended by stuff, I watched Lars Von Trier’s “Antichrist” and didn’t get offended for God’s sake. But Eastenders pissed me off and this is why. When you’re child dies people avoid you like the bloody plague, they look at you like you’ve got ten heads, and don’t have a clue what to say or do around you. That’s not everyone, but it is a lot of people. Neonatal death is not something often covered in the media and for a lot of people soaps are the only way that they are aware of issues, so to portray a mother of child who dies as a baby snatching lunatic, how the hell is that responsible? Yes you may say that people know that it’s not real, but people are not always that smart. I’ve heard so many instances of actors who play villains on soaps getting accosted and attacked by people who can’t separate them from their characters. Thanks Eastenders, you have made things potentially more difficult for people who are going through hell.

The other reason I’m pissed off is because I’m a writer. Little Things (my short film) is partially about someone with a magical ability to alter the course of destiny. That doesn’t really happen, therefore when including this in the story I can do whatever the hell I like. Babies really die, so do you’re goddamn research. Yes, I know it’s a soap, yes, I know it’s for dramatic effect, but this is something that really effects people. A hell of a lot of people. With viewing figures in and around 10 million it’s probably going to effect some of the people who actually watch your crap. Sticking websites and helpline numbers on the credits does not mitigate any of this. Do your research you fucking hack!

Angry Mark Out.