Holding ghosts

This is always a hard week for Rose, with anniversaries of miscarriages and other losses. In the past she’s grieved alone, with no grave to mourn by and no recognition of her loss. So today I took her to a cemetery.

I had permission from a friend – the mother of a lovely girl who died far too young, to sit under her memorial tree and remember Rose’s little ones and our Tamlorn. We sat in the shade her beautiful tree with Tam’s ashes, shared a birthday cake for the 7 children not with us, and cried.

It hurt. It was hard to do, many kinds of pain are shrouded in shame and a trick of the heart that says don’t look, don’t go, don’t feel it, it’s too big and dark and will destroy you.

It hurt but it was not unbearable darkness.

It eased the loneliness of loss but it was not epiphany or resolution.

It did not cure, but it had meaning.

We left roses beneath the tree. I made an ink painting to remember the day. Then we left to pick up Poppy from daycare, and held her tight, all the rest of the night.

Art with Love 

I’m still happily painting most evenings, given a chance. Last night I finished 6 ink paintings, as part of a larger project. These will illustrate a podcast I’ve recorded and be posted  online as a video slideshow. It feels wonderful to be creating. ❤

I’m also thrilled to be selling prints. My Etsy shop continues to reach people I haven’t heard of before, which is really wonderful. Recently I received a message over Etsy that truly astonished me.

I learned that people have been buying my print Waiting for You as a gift when a friend experiences a miscarriage. A woman contacted me to buy another print – a friend of hers had been gifted one, and that friend had given her a print, and she now has a friend who has  also miscarried, and she wanted to continue the chain of gifts. It’s so heartbreaking that miscarriage is so common, but to be a part of a spontaneous community response like this – it’s the most wonderful thing I could have hoped for. What an amazing development!  

It means that people are telling their friends when they are grieving, breaking the awful taboo of silence about miscarriage. It means that friends are finding tender ways to respond and connect to each other in grief. People are hurting in connection with their communities, not in isolation. They can hear about resources, they can offer compassion to the next person. It’s a very small thing, next to the loss of a child. Yet it’s also a very powerful thing. Learning that my art has become part of a spontaneous response to such a painful event makes me feel deeply honoured. This is the heart of my art, my peer work, what I love to do in the world. Thankyou all of you who read and share my world in some way, you are part of my tribe and you make this kind of connection possible. ❤

30 weeks pregnant – Poem

I’ve been taking ‘mindfulness and meditation’ classes for pregnant people lately, and it’s been interesting. A few weeks ago we were doing a breathing exercise when we were given the instruction to “notice our baby”.

Immediately, I wept. Tears streaming silently down my face. I felt a deep sense of longing, and a door inside me briefly opened, then closed again.

I wrote this:

It’s not safe to be aware of you.
That’s what killed Tamlorn.
I sang about them, like a bird with an egg
And a predator found my nest and ate the egg
My little love gone.

This time, I’m silent.
You, my love, are nested
In the rushes down by the river
While all the babies are killed
As I try to sneak you past Death.

I do not sing
I do not even speak to you
I do not look to you, though my heart
Longs for you like a compass pointing north
You are not here, little one
Please, let them not notice you are here.

Following up Waiting for You

I’ve been working on filling the art orders from the opening night of my exhibition Waiting for You. The exhibition is only open for another 7 viewing days (Mon – Fri 4-6pm), so if you haven’t made it in yet you’d best get your skates on!

I delivered this beautiful notebook today to a lovely person who was at the opening and particularly fell in love with this artwork. I ordered it in especially and was really happy with how it turned out on this blank notebook, just beautiful. 🙂

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Of the prints I’ve had ordered for embellishment – in this case the customer asked for a print to be made much larger than the original so they could see the tiny details better. This is about 1 and a half times larger and it’s stunning. If I’m able to hold this exhibition again I think I will display this artwork at this size instead. I’m planning to do all my embellishing of prints tomorrow so that I can send the prints that need it in for framing next. Everything is on track to be ready by the close of the exhibition on May 20th.

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I’ve also created a keepsake for the exhibition, this little booklet. It’s free, on display at the exhibition (or I can send you one). It contains a short biography, description of the origin of the exhibition, price lists of the art, information about the artbook Mourning the Unborn, and links to Sands and other online resources.

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I’ve also placed free brochures for Sands on display by the exhibition for guests. There’s also a little visitors book for people to leave thoughts and messages.

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Guest Post for Sands on Mother’s Day

This year I was invited to write a guest post for Sands Australia for Mothers Day, which I was delighted to do. I decided to share some experiences and photos that I haven’t put on this blog before. It’s been a day that Rose and I have struggled to navigate for many years, so I wanted to talk a little about that journey and how we’ve changed our approach over time. You can find it here; Untold stories of Mother’s Day.

This year, Rose, Star, myself and other friends are away camping for the Medieval Fair, which is very tiring but very lovely.

For all those of us for whom this day hurts or brings up complex memories or feelings, I wish you kindness and gentleness. I hope you find places where it is okay to hurt, people who treat you with understanding, and some compassion towards yourself. It’s okay to grieve, okay to be angry, okay to be confused, okay to ignore it completely. Do what you need to do to find some kind of grace, or peace, or way through. With much love xx

Beautiful Review of Waiting for You Exhibition

The most lovely article about my exhibition has been written up by artist Julia Wakefield for the Weekend Notes. She attended the opening night and has snapped lovely photos of me and guests and the embellished prints. I look very pregnant and fairly exhausted but the art is glowing. 🙂 She describes it as “a courageous, beautiful exhibition about a taboo subject” and writes about the history of how it all came about as well as her impressions. It’s gorgeous to read and so good to see some photos of the night! I brought my good camera but left my SD card home, so I don’t have a lot of pictures to remember it by. I very much appreciate an article like this! ❤

www.weekendnotes.com/waiting-for-you-art-exhibition-about-pregnancy-loss-and-motherhood-at-the-box-factory/

Sarah K Reece, miscarriage, pregnancy, art, art exhibition, mental health, SANDS, loss, grief, mourning

More positive feedback is coming in from people who couldn’t make the opening night but have attended the exhibition, which is very heart warming. Some people from further away or interstate have expressed interest in an exhibition local to them, which I shall look into the logistics of. The embellished prints I currently have on display are continuing to sell too, which is very exciting! If you’re planning to attend do sing out, if I can I’m happy to meet you there. 🙂

Wonderful Arty Things

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My lovely exhibition Waiting for You is still on display at the Box Factory in Adelaide until May 19. (details here) As I can’t attend every day, I’ve been working on setting up materials that will be helpful to those who couldn’t attend the opening night. Today I finished the final draft of my brochure about the exhibition and had a collection printed, it contains information about me, how the exhibition came about, the artbook Mourning the Unborn, and prices. I bought these stands today, and they are now on display alongside brochures from Sands, all free for anyone. There’s also a display copy of the artbook for people to have a look at.

If you’d like a brochure yourself, Sands have theirs on their website, and I can pop one of mine in the post for you – those of you with orders will get one with your art as a keepsake. 🙂

I’ve also been to the printer this week and placed the opening night orders for art and frames, and the printer there loves my work and has offered to display some framed on his wall, for sale to his customers. How wonderful!

Tomorrow I will be working on a guest post for the Sands blog for Mother’s Day, which I’m very pleased to have been invited to write.

There’s also a review of the exhibition by artist and writer Julia Wakefield, which I feel very fortunate about and will share with you very soon. 🙂

It’s wonderful to see this exhibition/community event continue to grow in various ways beyond the opening night.

Tonight I attended the Healing Voices film and was once again struck by how tremendously important artists of all kinds can be in creating community and bringing issues to light. While many other people did the hard work of organising the screening, artsy people wrote and directed and edited and created the beautiful content that spoke to people. I still lament that there has been no real home for me in mental health locally, but I am feeling great hope and strength in standing on the platform of arts to be part of change in the world. A friend from down south was lamenting the difficult hours that Waiting for You is being exhibited currently, and asked me if I might be interested in finding a hanging space for it in her area sometime. I think that would be a fantastic idea and I am keen to explore other opportunities for the exhibition beyond May.

I’m also quietly giving some thought to World Hearing Voices day coming up later this year and what I might be able to do as an artist to raise awareness and be part of that. There’s a place for me somewhere.

The Opening Night was incredible

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I’m home in bed, tucked up under an electric blanket to ease the very bad pain I’m in, reflecting on a whirlwind evening. It was an amazing success, whichever way you cut it. The most amazing group of people attended. I sold a lot of art. My talk and poetry were very well received. And the food – and cake especially – were incredible! (thankyou M!) Friends and family pulled together around me, efficiently sorting out the background work. I was stunned by how busy I was, I thought I’d have much more time to talk to everyone. My sales paperwork wasn’t as helpful as I’d hoped it would be, and I was the only one who could work the card reader for most of the night so I was doing a lot more admin and less connecting than I’d hoped… But a self hosted exhibition is a steep learning curve and I have learned so much for next time.

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To everyone who came – thankyou! Thankyou for being there, for crying with me, for buying art, for your gifts and hugs and stories and connection. You have moved me deeply. I sincerely hope that everyone who wept felt safe and accepted, that the pain we touched tonight was healing rather than traumatising. I think we did something special together. I know it was very hard for some of you, very risky, that it took courage and trust in me. I honor that. It was very hard for me too, but very beautiful, very precious. Thankyou for doing it with me.

I know a lot of people couldn’t make it – the exhibition itself is still on for another 4 weeks until May 19th. I’m also going to be getting the rest of the prints up in my online store over the next few days, my artbook is already available and I’m more than happy to sign a copy for you and pop it in the post.

With love xxx

Freedom & safety for a charged topic

My Waiting for You exhibition opening night is just around the corner and I want to speak briefly about creating safety when dealing with such a painful theme.

For many of us, this is a really charged topic. It’s painful, intense, deeply personal, and may not be something we’ve ever really had a chance to process – much less to engage in a public setting. Breaking taboos can be liberating but also triggering and incredibly distressing. I’m deeply aware of this, because Rose and I are in this place in a very real way, right now. I want to share publicly the same conversations I’m having with her, because I suspect she’s not the only one feeling conflicted. I want to speak into the heart of that conflict because it’s what hurts so badly and makes it so hard for us to talk about these things and know what we need. We often feel pulled in contradictory directions – needing to talk about it/see it in public/bring it to light, and also needing to hide away from it and deal with it in privacy. It can be really hard.

I have taken a number of steps to help the opening night to be a safer space. You can help me with this in how you treat the other guests and yourself. Here are some guidelines and values I’ve set for the evening:

Freedom

  • You are free not to come! I won’t be upset with you if I know you personally. You are not under pressure to attend to support me.
  • You are free to be ambivalent and unsure. It’s okay to decide at the last minute if it feels like a good idea to come. It’s okay to change your mind. Please don’t force yourself to do anything that doesn’t feel like it’s right for you.
  • Free to leave any time you need to. It won’t be ‘rude’ to step out or leave early. No judgement. You’re also welcome to step out for a bit then come back.
  • Free to decide you’d rather attend privately instead of for an open night with other people around.
  • Free to buy something that speaks to you to take home, and free to find the art confronting or disconnected from your experience, and support me in other ways if you want to.

Feelings are okay

  • It will be okay to feel things. It’s okay to cry, to be moved, to remember, to talk about things.
  • It will be okay to feel good, or sad, or mixed up, or lots of things at the same time.
  • It will be okay not to feel things, to be numb, or not in that space, or not public about it.

Resources on the Night

  • Sands Australia will have a representative at the evening who is more than happy to talk to anyone looking for information or support. Sands provides a helpline and other resources around miscarriage, stillbirth, and newborn death. She will also have brochures and information you can take home and look at later.
  • Tissues and friendly people around (my tribe is full of good people) who can give you space or a hug. Some of my friends are champion huggers, so just sing out if you need one.
  • A place to be involved. Rose and I have created a small installation We Love – providing a space for you to participate and recognise your own losses. You can write names or something meaningful to you on papers provided and have a time to reflect.

Art can be powerful. It can bring the private into a public space. It can help us to speak about things its difficult to find words for. It can help people not to forget that behind silence and cultural taboo are real people who need and deserve safety and connection. It can express and share our unbearable experiences in ways that help make them bearable to look at. This kind of art can be a speaking back to silence, a way of documenting things that were erased from our lives and never allowed into our histories and family stories. These things happened. We felt many things about them. They changed us. They are important. We deserve space to share our stories, mourn our losses, and rebuild our lives – without secrecy, without shame. In community; with connection, privacy, and love.

Waiting for You Exhibition is Open

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It’s up and beautiful and ready for viewing! The theme of pregnancy, loss, & motherhood is so special to me. The works are joyful, heartbreaking, raw, and tender. For those who missed my heartfelt radio interview about my experiences of miscarriage and this exhibition, it is now available as a podcast through Radio Adelaide here.

The Exhibition

Open between April 19th – May 19th, Monday to Fridays, 4-6pm.

It’s at the Box Factory, 56 Regent Street South, Adelaide. (map) This is a wheelchair accessible venue. All works are available for purchase.

If you are on Facebook the event details are here.

The Opening Night

Was a wonderful success. 🙂

There were prints and cake because this was my birthday celebration this year. I launched my beautiful artbook Mourning the Unborn. As I was dealing with a charged topic, I took care to create a safer space – read about the values and resources.

Last minute questions about food and kids etc.

My Online Store

Especially for those further afield, I have just opened my Etsy Art Store and begun stocking it with prints from this exhibition, and my artbook Mourning the Unborn. It won’t be quite as lovely as seeing these beautiful gold embellished prints framed and displayed, but you will still be able to see the artworks and buy a regular print yourself.

I’ve turned 33 this year, and I’m glad to use this moment to put my work out into the world, and honored to include everyone it speaks to in some way. ❤

Listen to me talk about miscarriage and art on Radio

I was interviewed recently about my experience of miscarriage, my upcoming exhibition Waiting for You, and the launch of my artbook Mourning the Unborn. It’s a very personal interview and lasts about half an hour, with the lovely Jennie hosting on Arts Breakfast. If you’re local you can tune into Radio Adelaide at 101.5 FM, Saturday the 16th April at 10am.

It’s now available as a podcast online here.

I gave the interview yesterday, which was an incredibly hard day for me. I had a fall the night before going out to a date night with lovely Rose. Walking in the dark I turned my ankle in a pot hole and went down a bit hard. Yesterday baby didn’t do the usual morning kicking, and by 3pm they still hadn’t woken up despite me walking, resting, drinking cold water, and eating something sweet. I got a bit worried.

So, following this interview Rose picked up Star and I and we spent a long evening in the hospital waiting to make sure everything was okay. We’ve just got the last test result back this evening, and everything is looking fine. But needless to say I was feeling a bit raw and don’t actually remember much of the interview itself.

I feel it was very good, true to my experiences and work. It’s also exposing and personal and I feel a bit daunted by being so public. I hope it’s valuable and I’m looking forward to meeting people on the opening night and getting some feedback about this whole idea in person.

Poem – Terror

I am terrified.
I try very hard not to be.

Everything I build is a bright island
In a black sea
One day
There will be a storm
The water will rise
Or the land will sink
the sun will go out of my world again
not dead, or lost, or drowned
still shining somewhere else
but whatever blessing I was living on
will be withdrawn.

There will be no sense to it.
There will be nothing I did, or did not do.
It will follow no pattern.
All that is bright in the world
will be a memory
everyone I love will die
everything I care about will drown
beneath that black water
life will be unbearable pain.

Over and over again.

1 in 135 births is still born.

Even if the light shines on me
someone else goes home drowning
the simple arithmetic of loss
someone will get their heart broken.
I’m 23 weeks pregnant
and drowning in survivors guilt.
Terrified of the future
And I still can’t talk to the baby.
Oh Job, did it work for you?
Can you really give back children after taking them?
Or did you howl in the bitter hours of the better days too?
Like all of us who love from brokenness.

The sun is shining
and the sun is shining
and I’m not afraid
and there’s no darkness coming

The sun is shining
and it shines for me
because I’ve done the right things
and I’ve figured life out

Nothing bad is going to happen
Night will never fall again
Everything is under control now
Life gives us what we deserve.

How do we live without our lies and illusions?
How do we face the sun when we know it’s dying?
I crawl from my broken place, over to you love
touch your face, and it’s wet with tears too,
kiss your wet face with tears in my mouth
the sun on our faces shining
The sun shining on your glorious face
The glorious sun shining on your tears.

20 weeks pregnant and date night

Half way there! Woooooo! Rose and I are out on our first date night in several months (I’m waiting for her to come back with food, and taking the opportunity to blog), our teen is hanging out with friends, and all is briefly right with our world.

There’s been so much going on this week and a lot of it hard or sad. Rose has had a death in her family which was quite sudden and very sad. Friends and family have supported us with some other tough situations and difficult admin, which has been so appreciated.

But for tonight we’re at a Bowie evening with ice cream and taking some time out to hold hands and not problem solve anything. ❤
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Our bub is growing well – we had our important morphology scan this week and everything was looking good. Rose was thrilled but I went into a weird headspace with the words from every stillbirth or late term loss I’ve read about ringing in my ears ‘everything was fine, we don’t know why they died’. Sometimes you just don’t react the way you think you’re going to, and it’s a jangly, confusing place to be in. But bubs is healthy and big and moving around every day. We have a ritual every morning and night where Rose feels the bub moving and talks or sings to them. Whatever else has happened, it’s a good way to bookend the nights and days.

Precious growing family. ❤

Anniversaries of loss

Today is the one year anniversary of our first scan with Tamlorn, the one where we found out they were not okay and we would most likely lose them, which we did. I wrote here on this blog on March 13th in 2015; Some days are just sad. This week, Rose and I celebrated 3 & 1/2 years together. Rose has had a couple of anniversaries of miscarriages recently. Later this week we will have our morphology scan to check the health of our little froggie. Today I learned that another of my lovely friends on the other side of the world has recently suffered a miscarriage too. So much. Everything overlaps like currents in a sea.

I am creating my first self hosted solo exhibition and some days the doubts overwhelm me. I’ve learned to stop working on any artwork for a day or two at the point where I’ve come to hate it. Putting together a whole exhibition on a theme is new territory – exciting but also new. Mortifyingly exposing and personal. An exhibition about grief and loss feels like the strangest birthday party I could possibly arrange. And yet… it also feels right.  There’s so much grief in the background of my life at the moment, under the surface, forming the soil from which my new family is growing. I’m working on new artworks to balance the exhibition and they are a fitting way to mark these painful anniversaries that come towards me like trains, and slip past me like leaves in a river. There’s not enough time in the world to weep all the tears, instead they flow quietly from my brush in a corner of my lounge room late at night.

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A sample of an ink painting I’m working on for the exhibition

And the strings of heartbreaking stories like strands of pearls that unfurl in the threads following declarations of loss call to me. Some days I struggle with feeling my exhibition is silly and pointless. Then I’m reminded so many people have suffered this way, without acknowledgement, without funerals, silent and nameless and secret and broken.

So, it’s a little thing I can do in a big world full of hurt. Make a place where we can remember, where the grief is shared and public and accepted. It’s not much in the big scheme of things, but it’s something I can do, and maybe those who need it will find it.

Waiting for You Exhibition & Artbook Launch

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Everyone is invited to come and celebrate my birthday this year with an exhibition of my art and the launch of my little artbook Mourning the Unborn! The theme is pregnancy, loss & motherhood, so come and meet the artist and view beautiful, sad, and joyous artworks. I will share the unique experiences behind the creation of my artbook Mourning the Unborn.

Click here to listen to a beautiful interview on Radio Adelaide about my experiences and this exhibition.

There will be books and prints available to buy and cake to share.

The Opening Night (ie when cake is being served) is on
Friday the 22nd of April,
The Box Factory, 59 Regent St S, Adelaide – this is a wheelchair accessible venue
(map)
starting at 6pm

If you are on Facebook the event details are here. This is a public event, open to all.

The art exhibition is available to view between April 19th – May 19th on Mondays to Fridays between 4-6pm.

For those who cannot attend in person, I have prints and the booklet for sale in my Etsy Art Store.

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Everyone’s invited to my birthday

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I’m not that great at birthdays, to be honest. I often get depressed and confused, and spent too much time wondering about the state of my life instead of arranging a lovely celebration. Choosing who to invite fills me with gnawing anxiety in case someone feels left out, and trying to word “please don’t bring gifts if you are broke/forgot it was on until an hour ago/would find that stressful BUT equally if gift gifting is something you love and part of your love language I will not be angry/set them on fire/refuse to speak to you again if you do” so that it fits on an invite gives me a headache. The event itself, which I find mildly terrifying but slightly less awful than not having an event, either falls to my long-suffering partner or friends to conjure, or in a last minute fit of bewilderment gets sprung on my nearest and dearest with anything up to 6 hours notice.

This year will be different! With encouragement from Rose, I am working on a project I have been thinking about for a while – I will be hosting an art exhibition for my birthday instead of a party. It will be exciting, give me something to focus on, justify the expense and time, give people things to look at that are not me, be open to everyone who wants to come, and there will still be cake! Win-win.

I’ve chosen the topic of pregnancy, loss & motherhood as that’s been a huge focus over the past few years and I would love to showcase the artworks. My artbook Mourning the Unborn will also be launched and available for sale, as will prints of the art. I am working hard on the second draft of the artbook at the moment, which will be my first ever publication! I have also put in a new order for 24 karat gold leaf and look forward to showing my beautiful hand gilded prints for the first time!

The Opening Night (ie when cake is being served) is on
Friday the 22nd of April,
The Box Factory, 59 Regent St S, Adelaide
(map)
starting at 6pm

If you are on Facebook the event details are here. This is a public event, open to all.

The art exhibition will be available to view between April 19th – May 19th on Mondays to Fridays between 4-6pm. The venue is wheelchair accessible.

My first book in print

I have just collected the prototype/artist’s proof of my first printed book and I am so excited! It looks even better than I expected. This is a printed version of the handmade art book I painted and embroidered last year. I have been working towards this for some time, hoping to create something that evoked the handmade, precious feel of my original, at least a little, but was a much cheaper option for people to purchase.

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There’s some small issues I’m going to sort out in editing before trying another print – particularly the loss of image in the centre as the booklet does not open flat. But I think in fairly short time I will be ready to put it up for sale here on my blog. The first!! Of many more lovely projects like this, I hope. 🙂 🙂 🙂

All is well

We had a scare recently, which has ended up fine. We took a little holiday; an overnight stay with friends out by the Murray River. It was a really good time but when we went to bed late and happy we found I’d had a small bleed. I’m glad Rose was with me because we were able to keep each other calm and get through the rigmarole of phone calls with not very good reception and issues with returning calls from doctors on helplines not reaching us and so on, without panicking. We wound up getting help from the local ER who reassured us they had supplies to help us if needed, and it was okay to get some sleep and see where things stood in the morning.

We were extra concerned because I have a negative blood type and our donor has a positive one, so anytime there’s a possibility of mine and bubs’ blood getting mingled I have to get checked for antibodies and given a shot of anti D to prevent me forming antibodies against the babies blood. We hadn’t known about this issue or we’d have made blood type part of our donor preferences because it does add a fair bit of stress! But, some things you learn along the way.

I talked softly to Rose and stroked her face until she fell asleep, then googled minor bleeds or small discharges of old blood and reassured myself they are common and usually hormones bothering the cervix rather than a miscarriage.

We were able to reach our own hospital the next morning who were wonderful and told us the window for administering anti D is quite generous, so have lunch with our friends as we’d planned and then come in. A couple of hours in hospital last night, and we were able to see our little one on the ultrasound screen and check their heartbeat which was good and strong. At first I was chilled by their stillness, but after a minute or so they woke up and have a little stretch and kick. There’s simply no better sight in the whole world than a wriggly baby.

We had to wait for the blood test results and there was a very stressed, teary woman in the waiting room with her guy giving her a hug. It was so strange and sad being on the other side this time – the last time we spent hours on that room it was when they’d told us Tam had died and we needed to wait to see a doctor. We both wanted to say or do something comforting for her but didn’t want to intrude either. We tried to throw sympathetic glances their way and empathised about the uncomfortable seats. I felt terribly awkward and kept getting confused and thinking we’d got bad news too and having to untangle that she was upset but we were actually okay. We came home in a daze of relief.

Today we were both tired as all the buried feelings wash out in strange bursts. I woke unsettled and alone because Rose had quietly got out of bed without disturbing me – usually she wakes me to kiss me goodbye. She was only in the lounge feeling sick and having taken today off child care placement after throwing up. Later as I cuddled her in bed she told me “Sorry your armpit is all wet with my tears” and I told her that sounded like a great title for a book of weird poems.
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Our little one protesting being woken up. 🙂

Into the Second Trimester

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We made it! We’re starting to believe we might all be okay and to look to the future and make longer term plans.

I keep trying to blog but frankly I’ve been so sick I haven’t been been able to put together a coherent post. I’ve had a few windows of feeling better which I’ve put to good use by catching up on 6 months of business admin, various bits of housework, and baking my Mum a birthday cake. Mood wise I cope with a day or two pretty well but by the end of day 3 of feeling horrible, Rose tends to take a very teary person to bed.

As far as we know, everything is going brilliantly with the pregnancy. We’re hoping like crazy that the second trimester might start to be a bit easier on me, currently I’m still losing weight and struggling to eat. We have another ultrasound later this week which is nerve wracking and exciting. Hopefully this time we’ll get to hear a heart beat.

I had a brilliant day today, after a rough morning Rose took me to meet a friend of hers who works as a doula (a pregnancy and birth support person) and we had a great conversation. Funnily enough we found parallels between her work in changing experiences of childbirth, and my work in changing experiences of psychosis which was really inspiring and gave us something of a common language. It was exciting. We also share some experiences around health problems and chronic pain, which is brilliant for me because I’ve struggled to find other people who are going through pregnancy and parenthood from these backgrounds and who can understand some of my particular concerns.

I am so excited to be pregnant, but I also have a tangled relationship with pain, hospitals, working with medical people, being given intimate exams by strangers, being told not to worry, being called a good girl by patronising people who are wearing all their clothes when you aren’t, and many other common aspects of pregnancy and labour. I have past bad experiences of not being taken seriously, of being misdiagnosed, of suffering from intense pain that wasn’t believed, or wasn’t able to be medicated, or was thought to be psychosomatic. I feel very anxious and out of my depth facing labour at times, and my usual approach to feeling this way is to do some research. I’m keen to find safe places and people to dig into this territory with and start to find my own path. As much as possible I want to feel skilled, competent, resourced, and informed. I’m scared and I don’t expect to stop feeling scared, but I don’t want that fear to run the show or limit my choices.

This isn’t the pregnancy and experience I might have had if things had gone according to my original ‘plan’ and I was starting a family much healthier and younger. It’s also not the same experience I had being pregnant with Tam. I find myself grieving for those at times, and struggling to figure out how to turn my longer, more complex history into a resource rather than the mixed bag of hopes and triggers I’m currently dealing with. I want to untangle things enough that I can begin to see the possibility of good outcomes as clearly as the bad ones – most nights I still have nightmares where the baby dies. A friend gifted us their cot and I’ve been frozen with distress at the prospect of an empty cot in the house. I cope okay with the clothes and toys and carriers and so on, but the thought of facing another loss and coming home to an empty cot is simply unbearable to me. Rose took over thankfully, and it’s been dismantled and packed away into the shed.

There’s a fair trauma history here like scar tissue all over my heart. I most hate the feeling that pregnancy is a kind of ‘winner takes all’ situation, that at the end of all this bravery and misery all is made right if we are given a live baby, and all is shown to be hopeless folly if we face death again. I’m trying to find some way to make my choices and our journey meaningful, whatever the outcome. Isn’t that always the way, with life? The challenge for all of us?

So today it was exciting to feel like I’m finding what I need! The services of a doula are sometimes seen as a kind of luxury, but right now for our family this feels like exactly what we need – support that is informed, non-judgemental, and open to the grief and trauma Rose and I are carrying as well as the joy and opportunities we might otherwise miss. And it was exciting to talk shop with someone who was interested in my ideas and experiences too. When I’m a bit better I’m looking forward to doing more writing and giving talks again, and a little work is trickling in again which is making my heart sing. I wish I could be a doula too, but for people in mental health crisis, to help them deal with a first psychosis or navigate being diagnosed with DID, or a severe dissociative episode. That would be brilliant.

Keys to locked places

 

I’m 10 weeks pregnant and have been so continually sick that I’ve been unable to enjoy almost any of it. I get a good hour or half day here and there, but the rest of the time I am deeply miserable. The nausea is intense, to the point where I sweat, salivate, and tremble. Sometimes even the vibration of speaking will set off my gag reflex. Smells are intense and mostly horrible. The hot weather has left me weak and exhausted. 2 months of this has thrown me into a perpetual flashback of sick years where this was my life. It’s my nightmare – sick and needing Rose to do everything. Useless, exhausted, and depressed. Housebound, often bed bound. Joint pain, muscle pain, headaches. Thinking with sad longing of my old electric scooter. Visiting friends as long as Rose can drive both ways, and falling asleep on their couch anyway. I’ve been here before and the memories are so painful. I am so tired of being sick.

I know what it’s like to have an unborn child die, and I know that one of the things that burns is hearing women who are pregnant complaining about how difficult they are finding things like morning sickness when you’d give anything to be dealing with that and still have hope of a living child. So I don’t say much.

And I don’t say much because people love to tell me that what I’m going through now is only the tip of the iceberg, that the third trimester is exhausting, that labour is far worse, that chronic sleep deprivation and caring for an infant will make these days happy memories of vigour and health.

And I don’t say much because even my own lovely doctor wasn’t particularly sympathetic about morning sickness that doesn’t involve frequent vomiting, at least until she discovered my significant weight loss and realised I have been very sick. Then she told me that actually lots of women find the first trimester incredibly difficult, and it’s not uncommon for them to be in at their doctors in tears, ashamed and overwhelmed and saying they can’t cope after all and maybe they shouldn’t be doing this.

I don’t say much because I’m grateful grateful grateful and don’t want to lose this baby.

I don’t say much.

I, who have bared so much, find myself silent and stoic, head bowed, making bargains with the universe. If I accept this, will you turn tragedy aside from my family? Does the suffering make my child stronger? I have fought shaming and silencing in so many ways and yet here in a second pregnancy after loss, I find everything has changed. It’s such an effort to share this time, I stir myself from muddy deeps and swim oh so slowly towards the surface, weighted by dread. I fear attack, fear shaming, fear all those who believe that the world is just, that good people are taken care of, that fertility is somehow fair: an indication of boon or blessing or divine right. In my mind I can follow the tortured logic and understand people’s need to calm their own hearts but my heart doesn’t understand, doesn’t forgive, it’s just dark and thick tongued and wordless and afraid.

I didn’t just lose Tam, I’ve lost those beautiful weeks and months of heartfelt joy this time around. That calm certainty that things would be okay; all the stars in their right place and me in mine. (We think we are kind when in fact we are merely happy – CS Lewis) This time around the highs are followed by plunges into deep lows. We talk with qualifiers – if the baby comes, if everything works out. I find myself drawn to stories of tragedy with children and feel like I’m falling into a dark world I can’t get out of. Infants dying in the NICU, 3 year olds with cancer, 7 year olds who drown. I feel like I was so arrogant to think that if I did everything right, I could somehow bypass more savage loss. I could move out of the underclass, plagued by poverty, homelessness, and sickness into a bright ‘normal’ place where things like this don’t happen. That I’ve suffered enough and worked hard enough, earned my way out of more pain, as if life is about what we deserve. Isn’t that the illusion all hopeful parents have? That we can build a pastel coloured wall around our children and keep them from all harm? And when harm comes to your family anyway, the whole strange pastel mummy world seems so bizarre, such a fiction of security. We lie and lie and lie, and create these strange microcosms where nothing casts a shadow and nothing ever dies, and I cannot even breathe in them.

On good days I don’t just feel better, with the health unlocks all the memories of strength, hope, and vigour. I sing and play and work and find myself for moments in the sunlight feeling connected or excited or content. On good days I feel stronger than the bad stories, stronger than the fear and the sense of loneliness and cabin fever. On good days I feel like I will be my own kind of parent, strange and deeply loving, not squeezed into the strange mould I feel advancing upon me, I remember that there’s more than one way to do this right and that authenticity is more important than people pretend, and that some mothers climb trees too and understand both the lure and the fear of the backyard after dark. On good days I can breathe.

Most days, Rose sings to our unborn child, lullabies to quiet all three anxious fluttering hearts. Recently we lay naked in the summer night and she asked me to teach her a new song, something I loved. I thought of us the week before, driving to our first scan, making ourselves face this terrible laying bare of all our hopes and illusions. We sat upright in the car seats, that willing of the body to do what it does not wish to do. We sang to each other, tears masking our faces as we breathed in terror and breathed out our last courage. I sang songs by one of my favourite artists, Nick Cave, and so in bed I sang Into My Arms to her again. There in the warm dark, her fingers tracing my skin, I felt some shadowed part of my heart unlock and found a small sense of peace. A vision of myself rocking a baby and singing Cave rather than inane children’s songs to them in the small hours. It’s the first image of motherhood that exists in my mind beyond the fears of loss and the laughing tales of misery my culture gives me at every turn. I feel like myself in that vision, and in that moment I’m not afraid.

Another night recently we go to bed and I lose my grip on the crumbling stoicism and howl with a broken heart about so many things. How different this pregnancy is and how much I want to enjoy it and feel excited and connected to our growing baby. How deeply sad I am about my business failures and losses, and all the jobs I applied for last year and didn’t get, and the career that I so deeply wanted and have worked so hard for and now… realise that I might never have. Grief, grief like losing a piece of myself. My broken, frozen system, out far beyond all certainties and lost past the edges of the maps. All these dreams. She holds me, my love. She holds me and I weep onto her chest, she soothes me running her hands along my back as I shudder with pain. I find my voice in the darkness and I stop being strong and I stop accepting the pain as my part of the bargain and a little love seeps in through her arms, her kisses. My dark and silent prison unlocks a little. A little light reaches me, and I don’t feel so alone or so afraid anymore.

9 Weeks Pregnant

Well, we’ve made it this far. Tomorrow morning is our first, all important scan. If all is well, our little frog is about the size of a large raspberry, or for the geeks, the One ring. I’ve been pretty constantly sick this pregnancy and have lost quite a bit of weight due to the nausea. Combined with the heat I’ve been pretty useless, although I am still surfacing bit by bit from the pit I’ve been in, getting flashes of insight that my sense of being lost, loathed, and exposed to ridicule are products of my own mind rather than the reality of my life and work. Bitterness gradually eases into grief and self care.

Rose and I spent this morning weeping in each others arms, planning for possible loss. What we’ll name them, what our fears are, who we might ask for help. Then we had a quiet day doing whatever we needed to to stop clawing the world apart. I read on my lovely new kobo ereader, napped, had a bath, and we played a board game with a friend in the evening.

The world is suspended. Rose and I have never had a first scan with good news. Tomorrow morning feels like going to the biggest lottery in the world – a huge dream come true or a whole world dashed. The stakes feel unbearably high. We laugh, do things together, cry, feel numb, retreat into silence, reach out, over and over again. All possible worlds lie before us. And our minds try to break down the odds, understand the future we need to prepare for. They whisper that all is well, they whisper that a good scan tomorrow is still no guarantee, that 8 month pregnancies can still end in loss, that 3 year olds drown, that Mums die in car accidents. That tragedy is always part of life. One way or another our hearts will be broken. We try to face mortality and bear the unbearable.

Our hearts are not up to the task. If our hopes burn, we’ll burn with them, and what walks from the ashes will be different to who we were before. I can’t predict anything with any certainty but that; every step on this road changes us both. So we try to be kind. This is what it is to be alive, humour, love, terror. The lights that guide us and the darkness that parts us. Hands reaching across the dark.

Figuring out Ovulation

Following my miscarriage earlier this year, my cycle has been impossible to predict. This has been a huge spanner in our plans and we’ve tried a number of things that haven’t worked. You can usually predict ovulation a number of ways, such as charting your temp, tracking mucous changes, keeping a watch for ovulation pain, and using various prediction tests. Unfortunately my cycle length was now swinging from 28 – 39 days without warning, none of our prediction methods were working, and the tests were not helping either. I was not producing enough LH to trigger those tests, and in the combined Estrogen LH tests simply recorded 10+ days of ‘high fertility’ and no ‘peak fertility’. Especially when you’re using a donor, this is beyond frustrating to try and manage.

We did two things that seem to have helped, firstly I started taking 1,000mg vitex every morning, which may or may not have helped my cycle straighten out enough that the prediction kits worked this last cycle.

Secondly I started tracking everything by hand – apps are useless in a situation like this. I charted all my cycles since the miscarriage, and then figured out when ovulation must have happened by backtracking from the next period. Ovulation almost always occurs within a window of days 12-16 before a period. I also tracked my cycle lengths and found my longest and shortest current cycles. Based on that info I was able to predict a large window for our current cycle – my predicted ovulation time for if I had a very short cycle, and if I had a very long cycle. Given that we were using fresh donor sperm and it can live in the body for several days, we could then arrange our insems for every 3 days within that window of a couple of weeks. Frustrating for all involved, but far better than what had been happening where insem dates were sometimes a week away from ovulation dates due to the vast differences in cycle length from month to month.

If you ever find yourself in this situation – firstly, you have my massive sympathies! And secondly, try tracking just your new, post miscarriage cycle and give yourself big windows of possibility to work in.

In other news, we have our first blood test back and HCG levels are excellent meaning that I’m currently pregnant (sometimes a pregnancy test will read positive but you’ve already miscarried), and that I’m low risk for some of the crappy possibilities such as an ectopic or blighted ovum. Excellent news! Possibly challenging is that being around sick little kids is not a great idea, and I had just signed up for childcare training and placement. Something else to figure out. But all things are good so far with our little frog, and our GP is over the moon and being really helpful about how anxious Rose and I are to know things are okay. 🙂

Trying to get pregnant and breathe

Today, I called the SANDS helpline and spoke to a lovely woman. I so needed to hear that the mess I’m in is ‘normal’. It makes sense. Other people who have been here get it, in all the horrible intensity. Trying to get pregnant again after we’ve lost Tam has bowled me over. I had no idea how hard I would find it. After the devastation of losing Tam, on top of the terrible string of losses Rose has endured, by mid year things felt so right and ready. We had a donor again, I had some fantastic opportunities for my business, Rose was working…

I remember that when we first started trying to conceive, I was haunted by a death sense that took me by surprise. Trying again after loss has magnified that to proportions I can hardly fathom. When Rose crashed into severe PTSD and couldn’t work, and my own business hopes were dashed, I went into meltdown. I fought and struggled and tried to find a way through. In the end I’ve had to accept that I can’t stop it happening and just accept it and be patient.

Some days I shift my sense of accomplishment to things like – well today I’m not in hospital. I’m not costing the taxpayer money for a psychiatric bed. (which would be find if I needed it, of course, but hooray that I’m not) I don’t have a string of medicos giving me conflicting advice. I get to choose my own reading materials from the library and I have control of the remote for the tv. Plus, I’ve showered, dressed, hung out with friends, and have all my pets around.

This week has been a lot better. I’ve had a number of good days, and the bad days have reduced me to ‘useless’ but been nowhere near the intensity of 8 hour crying jags or 6 hour panic attacks. I actually felt well enough to call a helpline today – I know that sounds oxymoronic, but it’s really risky for me to reach out when I’m not okay at all, because there’s an even chance of not getting help and then I’m in terrible trouble. Today I could risk it and it helped a lot.

It feels like my life has stopped. Every cycle we aren’t pregnant feels almost like we’ve lost another baby. I’ve never cared a whoot about my own ageing, but I fell apart in the shower the other night suddenly noticing changes to my skin. I’m plagued by nightmares about my friends and family dying. Sometimes when we’re not pregnant I’m heartbroken and relieved in equal measure because at least that’s a baby I won’t miscarry. I can’t breathe properly, all the time. Remember that nightmare ten days between our ‘it doesn’t look good’ scan and the ‘they have died’ scan with Tamlorn? Like my life is on pause. Just trying to catch my breath, all the time, every day. A scream inside that never draws breath. Trying to force myself to be reconciled to something that everything in me simply cannot accept.

I feel crazy. I’ve been vaguely aware of ‘baby mad’ people from outside and never expected to be one myself. I want to be able to have a life while we try to get pregnant, and that feels impossible at the moment. I can’t fathom how that’s the case, but but right now my reality is that most days taking care of myself – eating, drinking, coaxing myself to sleep, staying in touch with my people, and so on, is all I have in me. I can’t tell you how frustrating, humiliating, bewildering, and scary that has been! It is so incredibly hard to maintain any kind of perspective and it’s unbearably vulnerable.

It’s unbearably painful to keep trying, and it would be unbearably painful to stop trying. I chose this and I felt ready and I thought we could ride the roller-coaster and walk into whatever came without regrets but now – I feel trapped. I can’t breathe. I can’t make it happen. I’m out to sea and helpless. We might get pregnant and we might not. We might carry to term and we might not. All the assurances people give us (it’ll happen when it’s time, when you’re ready, when the universe or God decides it’s right etc etc ad nauseam) belong to another world, an illusionary place where there is justice and fairness and a grand plan and some kind of certainty. I don’t live there! I’ve read the stories and talked to the people and I can tell you for absolutely sure that fertility is not fair and there is no certainty. If I knew we would never bring home a live baby I would stop right now and throw no more of my life away on this impossible dream. No more days just trying to breathe, talking myself gently through every hour, every minute. On the other hand, if I knew we were going to conceive this month and carry to term… nothing in the world could stop me. But I don’t know, and I feel powerless. How to live without regret in the face of such unknowns?

I am so frightened. I’m scared that I’ll never feel better, that I’ll have post natal depression, that I’ll be an awful parent, that we’ll never have a child, that all our friends will leave us, that we’ll have another miscarriage, or a stillbirth, or a baby who dies at 2. I’m scared that I’ll lose my mental health, my family, my tribe, my capacity to work, my lovely partner. What am I willing to give up for this? What if it doesn’t work?

Strangely, just being able to ask these questions helps so much. It gives shape and form to pain and darkness. If I can name it, understand it, share it, it’s not so overwhelming. I spoke to a stranger on the phone today and told her how agonising it has been to watch my beloved Rose suffer through PTSD. Night after night of screaming pain, to be holding her hand when she can’t even feel me there. And somewhere in all my rambling I said the thing I haven’t been able to say even to myself – Rose has loved so deeply and lost so many babies, I am afraid that if we never bring home a little one of our own, her heart will be broken beyond repair and I will lose her. I type that with tears running and my face aching with a scream I can’t sound. She hurts so much and I can’t bear it or take it away.

I don’t know how I found myself here, feeling so stuck, feeling that all my world pivots on a single dream I have so little control over. I can’t go forwards, I can’t go back. I can’t breathe. I’m ashamed and embarrassed and confused. I am good at reconciling myself to terrifying things! I’ve supported people I love through suicide attempts, I’ve built a life from homelessness and isolation, I’ve escaped communities in which I was dying and I’ve been able to grieve my losses without going back. I am good at this!

But oh, watching my love in pain. Oh, oh, my heart. Like an addicted gambler, where the stakes are everything I have done with my life until now – each month I roll the dice and hope. I can’t bring the stakes down, can’t end the game, can’t breathe.

Yes, said the woman on the helpline. It makes us feel crazy. It sends us into breakdowns. It isolates us.

Writhing like a worm on a hook. Silent because too many people already think I won’t be a good parent, or that I’ll regret it, or that I’m not up to it. Silent and frightened and embarrassed as my sense of the world falls to pieces and I’m in the biggest free fall through the deepest black pit.

I didn’t have any idea just how hard the last few months were going to be. I wanted to be able to handle them so much better! I’ve tried very, very hard to do so. And I’ve done a lot even in this distraught place that I’m proud of. I’ve helped my love find the support she needs, held her hand and cheered her on as she’s moved into an incredibly fast recovery and return to work. I’ve supported my sister through a tough time. I’ve not leaned too hard on any one person, but I have asked for help and been honest about how not okay I am. And I’m still here, still with Rose, in our lovely home, caring for our pets, gardening, looking after myself, hanging out with friends. I might have flunked college and given up on my business and not been able to write or paint and have no idea what I’m going to do for work – but I’m still here. My life has  not burned down around me. I’ve read a lot of books. I’ve even joined a baseball team, just last night, with Rose and a couple of friends. I still have my life and I’m starting to come out of the deep darkness. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to hear a beautiful talk about supporting trans men at a local pregnancy service a couple of days ago and my heart was so buoyed by it – I love work like this so much! I can’t wait to be well enough to get back to it. Our stunning garden blooms outside my window and it feels like a metaphor on a day like today. All that hard work months and years ago, and today when I have done nothing – not even got dressed, I just sit here and watch it bloom. The effort pays off and carries me through the times I can’t do anything. I rest and it carries me through. I rest and it carries me. For that I’m thankful.

In memory of our Tam

Tamlorn was due today.

It seems so much died with them. A fork in the road and a different path forced upon us. I don’t know how that can be but it seems it is. Somewhere out there, in a different universe, two happy ladies are so bouyed by the pregnancy the work stress doesn’t tip one of them into ptsd. We don’t lose our donor, we go to the pregnancy expo full of excitement, we don’t push the business hard and wind up falling down a hole of broken expectations and pressure. Such a little thing and yet our whole year is different. Our whole world.

My sense of faith or meaning about life and death, any possible afterlife, has splintered. Sometimes we comfort each other that if they all still exist somewhere, Leanne and Amanda and Grandma would take excellent care of Tamlorn. I can’t imagine three people with more love and skills and care and humour. And maybe all the others I didn’t know so well would help too; Bethy, Tash, Nana, Bradbury, Pratchett… Somehow every possible answer seems to hurt more than it comforts. This loss makes me need a certainty about death I simply can’t have.

We are still trying to get pregnant, and it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It seems so little, but it’s so consuming! The roller-coaster emotions make me feel crazy and I work hard to hide and suppress them. Rose and I are so gentle with each other, constantly making room for both hope and grief, reminding ourselves life is still wonderful without a child, that whatever the outcome is we have each other, and yet it’s like trying to calm a storm by talking to it. Beyond our power by far! It consumes everything. Our whole world becomes balanced on pinnacles between ecstacy and devastation.

I’m always trying to manage fear. I’m frightened of losing our donor again, frightened Tam was my one and only baby, frightened of getting pregnant and losing another one by miscarriage or stillbirth or leukaemia at 3 years old. Life feels like a lottery and the bland reassurance of those who’ve won and spun it into some kind of ‘just world’ (don’t worry, of course it will work out) is balanced by the raw pain of those who’ve lost and are childless following eleven miscarriages or other patterns of tragedy and loss.

The best feeling in my world is that moment before getting up to do a pregnancy test. Everything glows with possibility. Our bodies fit together, skin warm and soft, and the morning is gauzy with the film of dreams. We promise not to be devastated, that it’s early days only, that it’s okay to grieve, we can do this. We feel strong and settled and ready.

The worst feeling is another negative test. Coming up with all the reasons we might still be pregnant anyway. Trying not to feel that empty pit inside. Patting each other – it’s okay to be disappointed, we’ll be okay, we’ll try again, while inside we’re both dying. Wastelands and ruin and fears that we can’t counter that perhaps all this is futile. It might be. The only thing that would be harder than trying, is stopping trying. What started in joy begins to feel like a trap. We can’t let go of the dream but the dream is all fire and pain. We surface from misery briefly to remind each other that life will still be worth living if we can’t have children of our own.

We claw for balance, serenity, perspective, and it’s a veneer only over so much shameful intensity. We glory in our roles as aunties of others children, come home feeling blessed to be trusted and embraced, remind each other it’s significant and meaningful and worth putting effort into. And cry as quietly as possible when we’re alone, trying not to be ungrateful. We try to protect each other from our anguish and find gulfs open between us that we have to work hard to bridge with something other than raw hurt.

The very worst of it – worse even than platitudes or instructions to worry less or being told it will happen if we’re really meant to be parents – like a divine benediction, like the gods blessing the ascension of kings – the worst of it is feeling so alone and ashamed by how incredibly hard it is, so disinclined to let anyone know because it seems crazy, and if we seem crazy maybe we shouldn’t be parents after all. The pain of longing reinterpreted to prove our lack of worth and fitness. We’re not so far into this that I can’t recall my own bafflement at ‘baby-crazy women’ and wonder why they can’t just live their life and let it happens if it happens. It so seemed like such needless fuss, such obsession, but on this side of the fence it’s the dream that drives you and it burns.

On bad days I’m glad of a negative pregnancy test because at least that means I won’t miscarry again, or break our hearts with a stillbirth, or lose an infant to an accident. I like to take risks where I feel I can survive them not working out and I’m beyond that place at the moment. I can’t bear the thought of another loss and I don’t know how I’ll find any contentment in the moment or belief that things can work out. I read of women who’ve suffered catastrophic losses and their stories leave me gasping for air, completely unable to fathom such grief. I reach out to Rose and she tells me we’ll take this one miscarriage at a time if we must and my throat closes over and I can’t breathe at all.

What helps is sitting in the night with Tamlorn’s ashes or going to stand by their tree. What helps is spending time with other people who have walked this road or walked roads like it and seeing that the trauma and pain and sense of being crazy and need to hide it are nearly universal. They are normal responses, not well understood by those who’ve not been there usually, but very much the norm, especially for those of us with losses, fertility issues, a donor, and a culture that can be harsh about queer parents. Our sense of fear and vulnerability and exposure is strong. Our need for swift blessings to show the benediction of the universe is much higher.

The pressure on us to be highly emotionally invested but at the same look calm, balanced, and even slightly indifferent, is high. We feel crazy counting days and tracking cycles and collecting clothes, and we’re aware we mustn’t look crazy because it’s only recently that queer parents were even allowed to live openly together, to both call ourselves mothers of our children, and that is still being argued in courts of public opinion that talk about deviance and harm to innocents. (homosexuality was only decriminalised 40 years ago in South Australia) We’re still being held accountable for other people bullying our kids because of us. We still get looks of revulsion when we walk hand in hand. And we are some of the luckiest queer women in the world!

We lost so much with Tam, far more than I realised at first. My cycle is still unpredictable, which apparently is common following a miscarriage. We can’t track it accurately at all – on one set of tests I apparently never ovulate or produce any hormone surges, on another I’m about to ovulate constantly – we gave up testing after 9 positive days in a row. My cycle is now a different length each month. We guess the relevant week and scatter insems through it and hope, and try not to think about it. I try to imagine a future where things work out okay, and I stop reading the anguish of the women in my miscarriage support group. Being pregnant was the most wonderful experience. Trying to get pregnant has been a kind of hell. Normally dreams sustain me and only hurt when they fail. This one cuts deep as you hold it, brings life and death unbearably close, gives me joy and takes my breath away with pain.

image

White poppy

On Monday this one white poppy bloomed in the sea of red in our garden. Rose found some comfort in taking it as a token of Tam’s nearness. We talk back and forth to our garden, to Tam’s tree. It bloomed with a thousand blossoms, none of which set fruit. Red poppies in memorial, white poppies for peace. Today we’ll take flowers down to the ocean and set them in the water. (we hold hands like widows over graves)

Oh darling Tam. Do we mourn you or ourselves? You were loved every moment of your short life, we tell each other that. At times I think all the ills of the world could be righted if we could but love it and each other the way we loved Tam. In my minds eye I see myself as a bringer of death, my womb as a coffin, a portal through which souls come into the world to die, and there’s a stream of dead babies flowing away from me to the afterlife. My soul is twisted under the weight of knowing I’m not supposed to care this much, think this way, feel these things – and of not wanting to, either. Spare me the burning intensity, the clinging awareness, the cloying emotions. Spare me 3am and nameless dread. The stakes are high, the bets are placed, and each month the dice rattle in the cup like old bones; I wear a scarlet dress to hide the blood.

Darling Tam, who sometimes seems so close, when I close my eyes I can almost see us together in another world. You are nested between our bodies, fat and pink and milk-drunk, with eyelashes soft as moth wings. Our hearts are like ripe grapes on the vine after rain, overfilled and torn open. It’s a sweet pain.

Dearest Tam, tell my people that I love them. Love them fiercely from this side of the valley. Forgive us that we could not keep you here or hold you longer. Help our hearts tear open with love and heal again with the same love, every day. Happy birthday, darling unborn. I hope you are at peace. May we find some too.

Tam’s tree

If I’d been able to put something up here three days ago, I’d have said we were going okay. Rose held my hand through the stall at the Pregnancy Loss walkathon. It was just like old days, her stalwart, me skittish. Not many people were interested in the stalls, but I did sell one print.

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Two days ago I’d have said I think we’ve turned a corner. I let go of all my fears and plans and expectations and found some sense of ground beneath me, the present moment full of light and glory. For a couple of days I could breathe most of the time and coax Rose into doing things that helped us both feel more alive. I so wanted to write that post and share that news. We made each other laugh, even in flashbacks and darkness, and the darkness was less dark, less painful, less total.

Today, I couldn’t sleep for hours. I’d settle then startle awake to some concern, personal or existential. I deeply want to caretake my people and my networks but I’m too heartsick to do it. I can’t get back on my horse. I can’t be inspiring or hold hope or protect or save or make things better. I’m here, in the mud, too injured to climb back on my horse. Here in the mud, knowing that my life is beautiful, my tribe is beautiful, that I’m vomiting pain in a life I’ve worked so hard for and built so painstakingly. I’m peirced through by a sense of failure and loss and my own woundedness. My baby died. My love is hurting. My business runs at a loss. The word ‘recovery’ is like a spear in my side. I want to be riding my horse. I’m just going to lie here and hurt.

I know some of you are in the mud too. Broken dreams and hurting hearts. A memory of strength and energy and courage. And it’s so desolate and desperate. I know I’m not the only one and I’m not alone. Whatever your life looks like on the outside, you can choke on pain. Something inside screaming out for help and nothing you do calms it. Working hard to do things that might help, to shore up the river banks and sand bank the doorways against the sense of self hate and defeat.

The day with my art prints stall was very long. I took some art supplies and started a new oil painting. It’s Tam’s peach tree in bloom.

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