Preparing to sell my giclee prints

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This was my rehearsal set up today – Rose and I are preparing for a stall at the Pregnancy Loss Australia walkathon tomorrow, where for the very first time I will be offering fine art prints of my work for sale.

I am anxious and would far rather hide home in bed.

We’re both feeling a little raw, pleased to be involved, inspired, but also vulnerable. Holding each other in tears in the kitchen.

Together we are stronger. We’re both working hard to use humour and everything else we know to help stop the bad hours spiralling into awful days.
I actually slept peacefully last night, for the first time in a long time. I dreamed deep dreams the meaning of which was a gift: that what I have to give to the world has never been much in the way of financial support. It’s always been about kindness and helping people feel more alive. And that’s mostly what my household needs at the moment anyway, so let go of the other ideas and focus on that.

I can see the sky again, can breathe again, for moments. The anxiety is still a herd of wild horses running, but I can steer a little, suggest a little, and today that was enough. Today was a pretty good day.

Tomorrow, because Rose believes in me, I’m going to sit in a tent on some grass with my art, and hope that other people will be kind to me too. Wish me luck.

Blossom

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Tamlorn’s peach tree bloomed today. We hung the crystal from a stand with a wind chime and in the afternoon, it casts rainbows through the garden and the kitchen.

Today has been hard, flashbacks and anxiety, but full of love from people around us, and animal cuddles. We’ll get through this.

Etching – Even the cats have graves

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I’ve been working on this in my print making class. The image is part of my series of works about miscarriage and grief. It’s linked to a poem, The Roar, I wrote about losing Tamlorn:
Even the cats have graves, even the little injured wild birds that die on the way to the vet.

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There’s been interest from a number of people I’ve reached out to about holding an exhibition of this series. There’s been a lot of things that haven’t gone my way lately, so this is particularly special to me. I’ll be glad to hold a space in the world, however briefly, where this isn’t a taboo.

My Artbook: Mourning the Unborn

I have completed the Artbook I created after my miscarriage earlier this year. Inviting you to send in things to be cremated with Tamlorn was a deeply moving experience for me. Afterwards, it felt to me like the most natural, connected, public artwork imaginable, for such a private and taboo experience. I wanted to capture some of the sense of ritual and connection for others to use as inspiration in mourning their own losses. I’ve been distressed to be part of support groups and hear how isolated and hurting so many people are.

So I wrote and painted this book, hand bound it using coptic stitching, covered it with silk, and illustrated and embroidered it with velvet, silk, and seed pearls. The binding alone took me 8 hours to hand sew. It’s very precious to myself and Rose. Here are a few images from the book:

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The peach silk cover, chosen because of the peach tree we planted to remember Tam by.

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First pages

 

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I’ve gilded the print on the right with gold leaf

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To the left are some of the names of other unborn children people sent to me. On the right, three seed pearls have been sewn to the watercolour vial to represent the glass vial of tears we sent with the box to the crematorium.

 

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On the right, a silk ribbon embroidered rose has been stitched into the book.

Now that we are trying to conceive again, the time feels right to share it. I am currently talking with local services about an exhibition of this book and my other art about pregnancy and grief to raise awareness and help start conversations. I am also reaching out to other communities such as those affected by partner violence to create exhibitions that speak to their experiences also. My next big task is to reproduce it in a colour photo book edition so that I can share it with you.

Update April 2016: I have now completed this project! View my beautiful photobook of this artbook in my Etsy store.

Going gently from miscarriage to trying to conceive

I’ve been sick and stressed. Going gently…

This means sleeping in. It means Rose taking a morning off work to hold me while I cry, and read me back to sleep, and coax little bits of toast and water into me while I try not to throw up. It means sobbing hysterically into my keyboard. It means my sister brings me cups of tea. It means nightmares about being homeless with a newborn baby. Blinding headaches, and body aches. Sitting on the bed with Rose and a perfectly laid out set of clothes for a 6 month old. Talking about Tam again, daily, feeling their loss keenly.

We’re trying to conceive again and my cycle is weird. Apparently this is common following a miscarriage. I thought we might bypass it – we’ve waited until all my levels are normal again, I’ve lost that little bit of weight on my tummy and feet, my body feels like a pre-pregnancy body. But no, things are still weird. I’m currently on day 8 of testing as being ‘high fertility’, when I’ve only ever had 2 days of that result, at most. I’m spotting, which is really unusual for me, and could mean anything from implanting, to not ovulating, to ovulating, to endo messing around with me. Having a weird cycle is kind of worse than having a normal cycle and just not getting pregnant. Today I’m going for a blood test for progesterone levels to see what they’re doing. It’s like being all geared up to turn a corner or fall over a cliff and having the trip extend just a little and then a little more so you stay in that tensed up state and the bottom doesn’t fall out of your world just yet.

On the plus side, we’re getting a lot better at doing insems quickly and easily. We’ve ditched our original syringe method and moved to the cup method, which is a lot more comfortable and portable.

Death is in the background constantly, again. My friend Leanne is in my mind a lot. I find myself sobbing for friends I know who are struggling, fearing they’ll kill themselves, feeling helpless in the face of loss. I find myself carrying Tamlorn’s name around with me like a scar, like a precious relic, like a secret. I remember you, love, I remember you. Some days it feels so close, the baby feels so near that all we have to do is keep the faith. Some days those dreams feel like mirages that recede as I think I’m nearing them, and all my hoping becomes an empty, gasping, darkness. I fall into it, and the world goes on brightly without me. People mouth platitudes at me and they become knives that fall from their lips and cut right through me. We can’t know anything, and anyone who pretends otherwise is turning their face from that brutal reality. Life is not fair and love is not enough and dreams are essential but often unrewarded. Those of us who choose not to know this walk on paths made of the bones of slaves.

Lastly, there is this peaceful place. Down in the bones of the world, where I can sit at the balance point between life and death. I accept my powerlessness and the risks and wounds of love. In that place I can let be. What will come, will come. I do not rule the world. I am old enough to know that dreams must be abundant, like sperm, like tiny sea turtles, like thistledown on the wind. Because most will die. This is the nature of the world, and it hurts, every time. Here, in this dark place, Rose and I sit and lay out the baby clothes. We weep and laugh and count our blessings and number our dead. We sleep and dream of children. We hold hands and we cry in our sleep. We hope, which makes our hearts and faces shine. We hope, which makes our hearts bleed. Going gently. Breathing in and out, the beauty and the nightmares. Faces pressed to the rich, rank earth, living deeply. Loving greatly and accepting the cost.

Lighting candles

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My love Rose posted this today:

“We light a candle today in memory of our Tamlorn, and to mark the next part of our family’s journey.
Today we begin this month’s attempt at trying to concieve a little tribeling. If you feel so inspired, please light a candle for Sarah and I, for our angels or for the people you long to hold; be they far away, passed or yet to be. We live in hope.”

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Tonight we celebrated together with soft cheese and salami… hopefully soon I won’t be able to eat them again because I’ll be pregnant.

Everyone in my home is sick, Zoe needs another vet trip, and I’m a long way out of my comfort zone with my business. So things are great and not great at the same time, which is kind of doing my head in and making it hard to communicate! Lovely Rose, who is really very unwell with 2 middle ear infections with pus and drums at risk of bursting as well as tonsillitis and a chest infection came home early from work for a doctors appt and was flipping between feeling very miserable and wanting to curl up on the couch, and feeling like a bit of a fraud and not that ill at all – and guilty for not doing more housework! You are sick love, I told her, you’re just cheerful too because we’re trying to get pregnant again. It’s weird to be feeling such contradictory things together.

Same here. I’m struggling to write on this blog because the lows are intense, the highs are intense, there’s not a lot of sense stringing them together, and I don’t have much perspective. I feel like there’s no word in English for the everything is great, everything is awful mix I’m feeling. Everything feels messy and vulnerable and unfamiliar. Kind of like trying to get pregnant after having a miscarriage, I guess.

Walking with the spirits

I’ve been missing my friend Leanne lately. Not like I did at first, with the heaving sobs and sense of disbelief. But I wake up and find her name in my heart, like a large rounded river stone. I miss her and I feel like I’ve grown so much since we were friends, and wish she could have seen that. Wish we could have talked again. She’d be so excited about what was happening in my life…

I miss Terry Pratchett too. I’ve never met him, but I find myself reeling over the loss of him, his profound gifts to the world. A finished story now. No more new books. My heart hurts and aches. It spurs me to reach out to my people, reminds me they are all mortal and will not live forever. I must tell them I love them now, must show them they matter.

I miss Tamlorn. In a couple of weeks we’ll be trying again for a baby. I’m excited and almost… Numb. It’s hard to believe it’s happening. It seems unreal and detached. I miss the little one we already had and I’m scared we’ll lose another. I’ve only just dropped the last of the weight I put on with Tam, I fit into my shoes and bras again. It’s strange to be inviting a little living thing back into my body again. Beautiful, wonderful, amazing, but strange.

I was at a wonderful community dinner this week, and as part of the getting to know each other we played a game where we moved around a hall in different groups depending on our answers to different questions. Go up that side if you were born in Adelaide and this side if you were born elsewhere… On of the questions was how many children people had. I stubbornly stood in the group who answered ‘one’, and was relieved when they didn’t ask us any more about our children.

It’s never easy to do, but every time I acknowledge Tam as my child, I feel stronger, and the grief feels… Cleaner. Sweeter somehow. Cold and clear as snow melt. My family feels whole.

The world is a strange and contradictory place, and we are likewise, so full of possibility and confusion and dreams. There’s a whole universe inside every one of us. I find myself simply marvelling at it, wanting to stop and simply be filled with wonder by the people around me. How vulnerable, petty, brilliant, deluded, and beautiful people are. How we get so tangled in the world and lose heart when our dreams die. And yet how resilient we are too, our broken hearts that hope again, almost in spite of us, our tenacity to keep living and keep dreaming and keep learning even when the lessons hurt. I’m proud to be here, glad to be alive, glad to be among people again. Life and death, love and grief, come hand in hand together.

I’m walking down to the edge again, to the sharp place in the dark where a life may be given or taken, where a child may live or die within me. I don’t walk alone. I don’t walk alone in any sense ever, the spirits of my loved ones come with me.

Painting mandala stones

Rose and I have started having craft nights some evenings, now that my intense work phase has eased up. We’re really enjoying it! Recently we’ve been painting stones, inspired by this YouTube video and this one too.

I brought these stoned home from the beach where I stayed overnight in my van on Mothers Day this year. It was a very liberating, very moving experience, and I wanted to bring tokens home. One we’ve kept for ourselves and put under Tamlorn’s tree in the backyard. The other has been given to my Mum, who would have been Tamlorn’s grandmother, to honour her grief and relationship. Each has a little gecko, which was our name for Tamlorn while they were trying to stay ‘sticky’ (alive).

For more amazing stone paintings, see here and this fantastic artist.

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Sculpture: She’s a Mother on the Inside

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Mixed media sculpture: Pine, brass, silver, freshwater pearls, AB Swarovski crystals, bone colouredcotton, Noodler’s Tianamen ink, various glass beads.

Made in honor of my beautiful partner Rose, who with my miscarriage of Tamlorn recently, has now lost 7 babies unborn. As we have no living children yet, she is frequently overlooked on Mother’s Day and rarely considered to be a ‘real’ mother by friends or during events. Added to the cultural pressure not to tell anyone about early pregnancy and not to mourn such losses as ‘real’ children, she has grieved and suffered silently for most of her life.

The title is borrowed from the Whovian/Palmer phrase bigger on the inside, referring to the TARDIS and the human capacity. The doll mother closes completely and locks shut. Once opened, 7 stranded pearls tumble from her broken heart, red rich, precious, and painful. They must be untangled to fall neatly.

To close her again, you have to touch the strands, to tuck them back into her heart. You must interact with and acknowledge them, and handle them carefully, or she will be ruined.

I love Rose deeply. She is still in profound, compounded, silenced, complicated grief. It is my passion and my joy to use my art to bring a voice to a topic so silenced, and so show her as I see her: however childless she appears on the outside, she is, like me, a mother on the inside.

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Looking for a donor – part 2.

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We’re looking for a donor again. We’re ready to try again for a bub, but the donor who helped us get pregnant with Tamlorn has had a change in circumstances. We were very lucky to get pregnant very quickly with Tamlorn – in just three cycles (months) of trying. Unfortunately they died in utero at only 9 weeks.

My body has had some time to recover, as has our hearts, and we’re ready to try again and just need to find someone willing.

In our original ideas about donors (which has a lot more information about us and the process) we were keen for a known donor if possible – someone with an ongoing friendship with our family. We’re more open now to a range of preferences, really the most important to thing to us is that you are free of STI’s, major genetic issues, and can be honest and communicate clearly with us. Bringing a child into the world is a journey – sometimes an ordeal – and it can take you places you never expected emotionally.

Sex will not be involved under any circumstances, but apart from that we’re happy to talk with you about what would suit best – discussions ranging from totally anonymous through to very involved are welcome. Each family defines the donor relationship differently. We don’t mind what nationality, sexuality, or gender identity you are, but you do need to be between 25 and 40.

So, if you’ve ever thought about being a donor, or know someone who might be appropriate – please share this and get in touch.

skreece1@gmail.com or facebook: sarah.k.reece

Mother’s Day

 

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Love to all mothers, to those of us with hearts brimming over and those with hearts tattered and battered and torn. To those with hearts broken by yearning and sick with unrealised dreams. Love to those grieving, to those mothers who can’t or won’t use the word mother, who fall through the holes of our language into a silence, those who love dead unborn children, who mourn children lost, who love children they have no claim of flesh and bone and law to but love them anyway. Love to all women who love and give life to and grow something more than themselves.

Love to all children, to those of us with hearts brimming over and those with hearts tattered and battered and torn. To those with hearts broken by yearning and sick with unrealised dreams. Love to those grieving, to those children who can’t or won’t use the term mother for a woman who once bore them but did not love them well, who fall through the holes of our understanding into a silence, those who love dead mothers, who mourn mothers lost, who love women they have no claim of flesh and bone and law to but love them anyway. Love to all children and once children who love and are brought alive by and grow because of or in spite of a mother.

(thanks to Ellie Hodges thoughtful facebook post for the image)

 

Carpe Diem

Sometimes life kicks you in the face and you fall over and have to curl up and lick your wounds. Sometimes it just keeps kicking you and at some point you get up and kick back. That’s where I’m at now.

Two days ago, we sent Tamlorn for cremation. We took all your beautiful sendings with us in a box.

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This is how mothers say goodbye – on their knees.

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Yesterday we learned that our donor’s circumstances have changed and he’s no longer going to be part of our process.

Today I picked up Tamlorn’s ashes from the funeral company.

Tomorrow I’m going back in to the local welfare centre again to beg for help with these ongoing debt issues that no one ever returns calls about.

And I’m fighting back.

I’m sleeping. I’m cooking meals. I’m energised and throwing myself into life. I’ve started the new term of art college. I used the holiday to catch up on all the homework so I’m ready and focused. Things are different now I’m in second year subjects. This week I’ve actually felt like this isn’t a crazy waste of time. I’m getting some support for the kind of art that is meaningful to me, learning useful things about the history of art where I can place my own stress and ambivalence into context. I have a new sense of hope that there is a place for me and what I do in the art world, somewhere.

I am currently doing prep work for a gathering tomorrow of the potential board for the HVNSA and DI networks I’ve been care taking through my business. And I am excited! I’ve been reading a couple of books; Start Something that Matters by Blake Mycoskie, and Be a Changemaker by Laurie Ann Thompson. Social entrepreneur… it’s not a word I’m familiar with. I have painstakingly gathered business skills in my face painting business over the last couple of years. I am not good at marketing myself. I am good at giving things away for free to vulnerable people. But now at least, I can manage invoicing, tax, record keeping, and the basic admin of a business. And I am finding words for my passion for people, and models for what I’ve been trying to do. I feel less alone and bewildered and overwhelmed. The other board members are good people, conversations with them imbue me with hope about what we can do together. I am realising that what I most need at the moment is not to be doing this alone.

So, I’m burning with passion and my mind is clear and alert. I’m confident and imaginative and enthusiastic. I know this energy can’t last. No matter the cause, at some point the body needs to rest, the mind to recharge. That’s okay, I can do that. I’m astonished by my current state, grateful and relieved. I did not expect this. This has been an incredibly hard year. I’m determined to live fully, to embrace what I have and do what I can. I’m reaching out to country and interstate people about going and giving my talks – I’ve decided to offer some for free and ask for help to cover travel costs. I want to be out there, I want to be doing what I love, helping people. I don’t have a little baby in my arms, I may not even be able to try and get pregnant again this year while we look for and build a relationship with another donor. So I have a lot of love in my heart and there’s a lot of people out there who need a bit of love.

And when the night falls on my heart again and that flame of hope goes out… I want you to remember that one is not good and the other bad, one is not real and the other a lie. Pain, sorrow, anguish. They are as real and necessary and sane a response to my life as my current zeal. I am reminded of something I wrote a long time ago in Traumatic replay:

When awful things are happening I feel awful. I feel numb. I feel furious. I fight like hell. I feel strong. I feel helpless. I feel vindicated. And other people say things to me like “How are you still going?”, with respect.

When nothing awful is happening I still feel awful, numb, furious, but I have nothing to fight. I feel weak, helpless, stupid, pathetic, and full of self loathing. And other people say things to me like “What is wrong with you?”, with contempt.

Remember this day, tomorrow when I am broken again. They go together, the flying and the falling. This is the fire – I am forged strong, but I am also consumed and devoured by it. This is my life, ending one minute at a time. Carpe diem.

Poem – The Roar

We cremated Tamlorn yesterday. It was very hard to go to the funeral home, to face this painful thing. And yet, it was transformative. Unexpectedly, something shifted in me.

The scream behind my silence becomes a roar
I can breathe again, the weight lifts.
Perhaps it was not grief, but silence.

The silencing, the weight of a culture that says ‘do not grieve’
for fear of being accused of wallowing, or worse, 
public wallowing. 

Like cresting a steep hill, I inhale the view, deeply.
You were part of our family, dearly loved.
and we mourned you as we mourn our own.
Even the cats have graves – even little injured 
wild birds that die on the way to the vet.  

Something came and took you from us
into the night and I thought I’d never get you back.
There was just the void and a great silence.
A deep numbness. In that place, you did not exist, neither did I. 

But somehow, in this defiance – naming you
mourning you, cremating you, in some way we drew you back
from formlessness, you took on shape
became a part of our family, honored by our rituals, inducted as a member.
Part of a legacy.  

We are your home, love.
You are not a body washed up nameless on foreign soil
you are not a stray dog dying alone out in the bush
you are ours. We took you back. 
You lived and died in our body
we have sung you to life and back to death again
we have burned you with lavender and rosemary
the drum of my heart calls your name
you are here, you are here, you are here. 

Poem – Saying Goodbye

We are going to arrange Tamlorn‘s cremation tomorrow. I have been gathering the poems and sharings from other people, but finding myself wordless. It was very hard to find some way to say what I needed to. In the end, I wrote this poem. All will be burned to ashes with Tamlorn’s tiny body.

Whenever I try to find
A way to say goodbye
There’s no words in me
No poems or flowers that can speak for me
Just a scream rising up inside
If I let it loose, the sound would break the world. 

I don’t know how to say goodbye.
I can’t bear this.
I can’t bear to face you
And I can’t bear that life goes on without you
Everything is wreathed in pain. 

Are you there?
I don’t know if you are there.
I don’t know where you came from
I don’t know if there is any spirit left
After your heart wound down.
I can’t, with all my agony, pierce the veil
I can’t find absolution
I can’t find certainty
I can’t find hope. 

My abdomen has deflated like a soft balloon
My breasts sag gently onto my chest
My body remembers you, little one.
I loved you so very much and
I’m not sure that you knew that. 

There’s a pain in me that nothing stops.
There’s a terror in me that nothing eases.
I feel like running, screaming through the streets
Naked, tearing out my hair, like a madwoman
Screeching “We’re all dying! We’ve so little time!”
The end is coming for us all. 

I felt you once, so near, flesh of my flesh
Now I do not feel you at all.
I cannot hear anything over the harsh sound of my breath
Over the frantic beating of my heart
Life is brief and it is taken from us
I can’t find meaning in this. 

Who were we, I think, to love you so dearly?
Unknown, unmet, undeserving
When the world is full of loneliness and death
When so many children grow without love
My hypocrisy chokes me
I am ashamed. 

I wish I knew you and I’m glad I didn’t know you.
I think about babies dead at birth, or 3 months, or 2 years
Dead at 8, or 16, or 27 – it’s unbearable.
I keep dreaming my mother dies.
I keep dreaming of losing everyone.
And in the meantime, try not to tear my life apart
Cutting strings with my sharp pain
The brutal arithmetic of loss, the restlessness
The need to run, to make a mark, to change something
Here in this little life.
To make it mean something
That I lived, when you did not.
To atone. 

I loved you, and it was not enough.
I do not deserve life, as you did not deserve to die.
I can’t make it right.
I’m just here, wordless, choked
Terror, and loss, and love
Empty hands and heart screaming
This is what is left of love, little one
This silence that has a scream beneath it
These empty hands, this empty womb, my breast folded soft against my skin.
This is love seen at night, love on the cliff at the edge of the void and it’s unrecognisable
It’s sharp as knives and burns like poison and there’s no comforting me
It tears my dress and pulls out my hair and runs blood down the inside of my legs
This is love in the shadow of your loss, Tamlorn
It’s a mad and terrible thing
It’s a death, of a kind, a kind of despair
The keening howl of a wolf returning, who finds the den destroyed
There are no words here, no peace
This is love, my love
This is how mothers say goodbye. 

Running away

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Rose has arranged a few days away for us both as a birthday gift. We’re running away from home, but we’re packing all our vulnerabilities, the broken bits of heart into our suitcase. Bringing all the demons along, the way it feels like I can’t quite catch my breath all the time. Bringing the nightmares, the portal into darkness and loss, waking with the memory of rope tight on my wrists, the burning lights of his touch in my skin. Bringing the dreams where I try to make things work out, dreaming the same dream a hundred times and no matter what I try it all ends in loss. Bringing the pain in the lines around my mouth and the futility in my hands at rest. I’m running away from the days that flip from good to dangerously bad without warning, from nights where I only go to sleep after checking with my love if she’ll be safe in the darkness. I’m running from the split in my world: it’s a beautiful day/I’m dying inside: because they’re both deeply true and tearing my heart apart. I’m running away from feeling so good, so loved, so blessed that I’m holding myself back from lying my head in friends laps and crying with joy. I’m running away from biting down on the scream in my chest because there’s nowhere in my world that could bear that kind of pain without catching fire. Running from the house full of tender soft baby things. I’m taking the self hate with me, sewn into every inch of my skin. Running somewhere with wide open skies and deep black nights, somewhere my heart can swell to its true size, feel all the love and all the pain without waking the street.

Grief and the book

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I’ve been very sad today. It’s three weeks after the miscarriage surgery today. I feel heavy and tired and dazed. Plodding along in my own little world at my own tired pace while life moves on around me.

There’s been a lot of things to manage and arranging Tamlorn’s cremation keeps getting pushed back. I have a folder of beautiful and touching contributions by other people. I’m still wordless myself. I turn towards it and look at it and there’s just nothing in me. No poetry, no artwork, no words at all. Just a sadness, unfathomably deep.

I seem to have spent today weeping in cars after very nice visits with lovely people. As soon as I walk away there’s a terrible emptiness, a loneliness in me.

I keep working on the book. It’s something I can do. It’s an anchor when I feel lost. I don’t know that it will be worth anything, useful to anyone, worth all this time and love. I don’t know that anyone will read something so obscure by someone so unknown with so few credentials. Self published at that. I feel very small. There’s a weight of self hate like a blanket over me. I need to be doing homework, chasing up money issues because departments that were supposed to call me haven’t. But the words are flowing. My mind is teasing out the knots and puzzles of multiplicity and my life and my approach, constantly. Between emptiness, nightmares, moments of connection with others like candles being lit in a windy place, there’s the riddle to be solved. There’s just grief and the book at the moment for me.

How to tell it’s getting cold at night

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Our three cats. Sarsaparilla hates sleeping indoors about as much as he hates Bebe. Sars is the black chap on the left, Bebe has the laser eyes.

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Tonks is helping me write my book.

College is over for the term! I’m on a two week break. I have a fair bit of homework to do but I’m taking a couple of days off first. Saw my doctor today who was not fazed by depression or suicidal feelings, considered them all to be perfectly normal grief and trauma reactions, and that the fact that Rose and I are getting dressed and leaving the house most days and talking about Tamlorn are all really good signs. Her biggest concern was for us not to rush through it all but go at our own pace, as delayed grief is complicated. She didn’t mind calling them a baby either, and made it clear she considers Rose and I to be mothers. Good doctors are a blessing.

Rose proposes

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Yesterday Rose and I drove for about 6 hours home from our little get away. I don’t cope with coming home sometimes. By bedtime I was a mess, head full of noise, overwhelmed by emotional pain. We lay together in the lamplight and I pulled apart my heart in confession: “I feel so bad at times I would do nearly anything to stop it.”

“My thoughts are turning to suicide.”

“The contrast between glowing with health and hope in pregnancy and now not caring about my body and wresting with self harm is shattering.”

“I feel like I’m letting you down.”

“I feel scrutinised and under pressure to cope gracefully or at least to hide how much this is hurting so that I don’t seem ill. I feel in a double bind where wanting a child very much and loving them very deeply is seen as a sign that I would be a good parent, but grieving them deeply and being affected by their death is somehow a sign that I am worryingly ‘mentally ill’ and would not be a good parent.”

“I want to run away from my life. I want to hide under a rock. And I don’t understand it because I’ve worked so hard for my life. I love it. But right now I hate it.”

Rose stepped into that place with me. She didn’t argue or hush me. She shared her own pain and sorrow, her own desire to run, the sense of pressure to cope. “I thought you were coping so well and I was the ‘ill’ one.” And in that sacred place of shared pain, a relief. Illuminated by the fire from our burning dreams, we lay naked in darkness and shared our hearts with gentle, brutal honesty and I felt like I was breaking and I felt like I could breathe because I wasn’t alone. There’s a kind of nakedness that has nothing to do with clothes. She wiped tears from my face and on impulse, scrapped grand plans for a big romantic reveal. She dashed into the rain and found the ring hidden in the shed and sat on the bed with me to tell me how much I’ve changed her life, how deeply she loves me in my light and darkness, how privileged she feels to be so close to me, to all of us who are Sarah. She asked us to be her family and gave us this ring.

The ring is from the same jeweller that made hers, all the coloured stones are sapphires from around the world, and the diamonds are ethically mined. The rings are similar but different, just like us. Rose’s ring:

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So there in the dark it shines on my finger. She loves me as I am, not just for my best days, my successes and triumphs. Even in darkness, broken-hearted and lost, she loves me.

“I don’t want this ring to be about pain or Tamlorn’s death. But it just felt right that you need a symbol now to take with you to remind you that I love you.”

This is our family. The rain crashes through the night. “If you have to run away, I’ll understand.” I tell her, “Run and be safe and come back to me.”

“If you have to run, just tell me.” She says, “We’ll find somewhere safe for the animals and run together”. We lay blessings on each other from one broken heart to another.

I proposed to her in a forest, at a time when our lives were bathed in light, full of hope and excitement. She proposed to me in a storm, at a time of deep grief and loss. They are perfect bookends. This is who we are. She loves us, and we love her.

Burns

11040852_10153195144805421_5464967661799978638_n(the child is this image is alive) Seriously proud of my people. No one in my feed tried this on today. I’m thankful for friends who are helping out, for sympathy cards, for tokens and gifts, for people sending in something heartfelt for the cremation of our Tamlorn, for those who offer something specific instead of asking me what I need, for people calling to say “I don’t know what to say but I’m here and I’m not avoiding you” so I can say “I don’t know what to say either and I’m sort of here and some days I may be avoiding you and other days I need you, sorry”.

Today was a little better, only 2 near hysterics. Rose bought some sinus meds on special for the meds box and I was tempted to take them just to shift the sense of being dead. I’m pretty sensitive to sinus meds, they’re a serious upper for me. That impulse didn’t feel good. Friends came round for dinner and played board games and we all got silly and ate chocolate biscuits and made each other laugh at dumb jokes and silly voices and my mood shifted anyway and I remembered I didn’t need the meds to do it, just hang on a bit and something will come along where I can breathe again for a bit.

11072749_10152790799547711_823498512_n-001Today Rose and I looked after a friend’s little girl. I’ve been watching the pain and the recoil in myself, looking for a moment when it doesn’t hurt too badly and the desire to connect is there. You have to look for such moments in times like this, to stop the aversion settling in. Like a wall that gets a brick higher every day, it gets harder over time. But if you push it too early it gets harder too. There’s a moment where its right and you have to look out for it and try to catch it when it happens. So today we went off and did baby wearing with a sweet little girl and got to smell her hair and wipe yoghurt off her hands and blow bubbles for her to chase on the lawn. And it hurt, but my arms weren’t empty and my heart wasn’t cold. And her Mum knows we’re hurting but she trusts us with her little one and that’s such a precious gift, such a generous act.

There has been so much bad news lately I can’t take any more in. I’m numbed, which is a relief. Today’s dose didn’t even raise a tear, just a sense of fatalism, a bowed head. We’ll get through it all, as long as I have her, lovely Rose, there’s still a future here, still hope. We’ll unpick the knots and fill in the pit traps and find a path through.

Only my hand aches, psychosomatic pain where the drip was badly placed. And my womb, cramping, pulling on ligaments, settling, taking my breath away in small bursts like labour pains.

I’m doing a lot of maths and admin, figuring our way through a couple of grand of debt we just found out about a couple of days ago. Stupid auto system errors like welfare changing the fortnight I get paid to match Rose’s and simply skipping payment of a week of rent. I’m making progress, it’s coming together. I can see where the errors are and I’m undoing the auto system and taking it all on myself so I can monitor it for the future. We’ll be okay. We’re not going to starve, we’ll be okay.

The funeral home sent a text to let me know Tamlorn is safe in their care, collected from the hospital. We can go ahead with the cremation any time. Doing it feels like willingly putting my hand in a fire. Not doing it feels like there’s no air left to breathe in the world. I guess at least burns heal in the end, hey.

Distraught

I am shattered. 2 days of intense Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) type distress. I remember this, it’s like being 14 again (when I was first diagnosed). I jump at every little sound or movement. I’m still bleeding, so much blood. It flashes in front my eyes, I see it pouring from my opened wrists for just a moment, a flicker of it pumping from the drip site in my hand. This isn’t just grief, it is trauma. I feel like I’ve staggered into another world, I’m walking wounded with the returned soldiers from a war we’re not supposed to talk about that everyone pretends isn’t happening. I feel like a ghost. I feel like I’m dead. I’m slipping sideways into that detached place where I’m not sure what the hell is wrong with me or why I can’t just cope better, where nothing matters and nothing counts.

I’m reading about women miscarrying at work and not being allowed to go home early, about partners putting on pressure to get over it, about women who were treated with sympathy after the first loss but the fourth is old news now and there’s just frustration that she needs time off again, about women being treated brutally by medical staff, denied pain relief, denied the treatment of their choice, suffering through multiple internal exams, strangers trying to pull the last debris from their womb by hand. I’m reading about women who 3 years on still have flashbacks, can’t bear to be too close to another pregnant woman, can’t see her children without pain. And no one talks about PTSD or trauma, because no one has talked to them about it. Because ‘nothing really happened, miscarriages happen all the time and most women just get on with things and don’t make such a fuss and an early loss isn’t really a baby and it’s best not to talk about, not to think about it, not to make a big deal out of it…’ So we don’t call it trauma and we don’t call it dissociation or flashbacks or triggers we just call it some hypersensitive women not coping…

I’m at the limit of coping. Small things push me into hysterical distress. I can’t go more than a few hours without feeling absolute desolation and sobbing. My voice cracks, my heart feels shattered, there’s this keening howl in my throat when I breathe in. I feel like I can’t breathe. I feel like I’m drowning. I hate reading other people’s experiences but I can’t bear to be alone in this either. Their pain, their crazy-making pain, their trauma and woundedness and hopefulness and grief and sense of being alone give mine context. This is just what it is, this is what it feels like. I get it now, and when I feel compassion for them or rage on their behalf, a little spills over for me too.

I crave sleep and rest, time in the garden, in the sunlight. Other people’s children hurt to see, their babies are a physical pain in my chest, an ache in my arms. But I love them also, I want to be near them, to follow them, if they look at me or smile I feel like my heart breaks but it is bitter-sweet, a flood of love and hope, looking over at world where the sun is shining. I don’t want to avoid them yet. Maybe after the next loss I will be in that place.

Every time I have to talk about the pregnancy in the past tense I feel a fresh wound.

I find I crave touch. I want to curl into a hug for 6 hours and not get up again until the world hurts less. I want to hide in a pillow fort, under blankets until the monsters go away.

I want to run down the streets, naked and screaming, blood streaked, and set fire to the houses of the complacent people who don’t think this is a big deal.

This morning I slept in a little then got up to go to college. I dressed and got ready then opened emails from welfare. They have made major mistakes with calculations and we owe them a lot of money. The same thing has happened with housing and we now owe a lot of backpay rent too. I called a friend in hysterics. They came round and cleaned the kitchen while I called debt departments and wrote up excel charts to try and figure out how this happened and how we are going to manage it. I spent all day in admin between bouts of hysteria. I’m exhausted to the point of trembling.

People are sending in messages of grief and support from our Invitation. I read them out loud in bed to Rose at night. We kiss goodnight through tears. I’m so glad we did this, so glad we chose to handle it this way. It’s deeply meaningful to feel we are honouring other dead babies, other families love and grief too. I have to go back to college soon, to work on artworks and all I want to do is memorialise grief. All I want to do is make trees that weep for dead babies, monuments that speak for silenced grief.

I’m trying to keep my life running. I’m scared of dropping out of college, of losing my business, my networks, my friends. I’m scared that when I climb out of this black hole and there won’t be anything left. The world is already moving on, sweeping me along, demanding attention. And I’m still here, bleeding. I’m still here.

We invite you to grieve with us

We have arranged for the hospital mortuary to hold onto what they call the ‘products’ of my post-miscarriage surgery. A company I really respect, The Natural Funeral Company, are going to collect our little Tamlorn on Monday and make arrangements for a cremation.

It might seem silly to fuss over a miscarriage, over a baby who was so little and died so early. But for some people, it’s exactly the right thing to be doing. It gives a home to aching loss, rituals of grief are how we anchor the senselessness and bewildering pain. This isn’t the right way, the only way, the best way. It’s simply what Rose and I are exploring, step by step, as we feel our way through our needs.

Because Tamlorn was so tiny, we have been advised that they usually cremate such little ones with paper so that you can be given enough ash to scatter or bury should you wish. We decided we would like to gather some things of meaning to cremate with Tamlorn. We are aware that as we have been so open about our pregnancy and loss, there are so many others who have grieved with us. We know that many of you have felt the old ache of losses of your own, babies and other loved ones. Grief calls to old wounds of grief.

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So we wanted to invite you to email us something (skreece1@gmail.com) by this Thursday April 2nd, if you wish, to be included in the cremation. I will print it out and take it along to the cremation with our own letters and poems. You don’t need to feel that you have the ‘right’ thing to say. Words come easily for some and others grieve wordlessly. Here are some ideas about what you might like to send:

  • A photo of your favourite place
  • A picture you or your child has drawn
  • The names or dates of your own angel babies
  • A favourite poem
  • A quote you find meaningful
  • Song lyrics that speak to you
  • Lines from a text sacred to you such as the Bible, Koran, or Torah
  • A letter to someone you have loved and lost
  • A brief message such as ‘With love from the Smith Family’

If this seems uncomfortable or strange to you, please feel welcome to let it pass by. You don’t need to send anything, it’s not about ‘proving’ that you care. We simply wanted to acknowledge the outpouring of love and sadness and for those who wish to be part of this, extend an invitation. For those of you who have suffered loss such as infertility or miscarriage, especially if you have not felt safe or ready to share, or not had the opportunity to remember them in some way, you are welcome to be part of ours and to remember them with Tamlorn. You don’t need to have been close to us to be welcome to do this, we are opening this up to our whole community including those of you who read here or have just heard about our loss through friends. If you feel moved to participate, you are welcome.

If you would prefer instead, you are welcome to send a small token we will hang on the peach tree we will be planting for Tamlorn. Items can be sent to PO Box 165 Brompton South Australia 5007. If you send something you wish to be kept private, please let me know so I don’t share it with anyone other than Rose.

Thankyou xxx

Love and grief

img355 img353 img354Rose’s nieces heard I am ‘sick’ and drew me some gifts. Another friend brought chocolates and took 2 loads of dirty washing home to clean. I got the great game Pandemic as an early birthday gift. I’m miserable, depressed, and in pain, but getting lots of love.

Yesterday was rough. The pre-meds made me pretty incredibly unwell, which I wasn’t expecting. The nurse in reception was nasty to Rose. The rest of the staff in the surgery were really kind to me, but I had to listen to them treating another woman really badly in recovery. I was crying and so badly wanted to go over there and give her a hug but couldn’t walk. I was glad to get home. The pain was pretty bad. I used a hot pack which helped a lot but I didn’t notice that I was burning my skin so I couldn’t use it again today. I had a brief but very upsetting argument with someone on facebook telling us to be positive and look forwards and treat Tamlorn’s death as a ‘trial pregnancy’. I’ve never actually shouted at anyone in caps online before. I’m depressed and exhausted. I feel like I’m in a desert, everything is dry and flat and empty and tasteless. My stomach is flatter and my breasts ache. My arms feel empty. My womb feels empty. I called the mortuary today and arranged for the ‘products’ to be kept safe so a funeral home can cremate them. I can’t get an appointment with my GP for a fortnight. It doesn’t feel like it matters anyway, nothing matters. Going through the motions and trying to be kind to those who are kind to me. I was mean to a friend who was only being kind and said sorry and gave her a hug but still feel bad. There’s burning anger sleeping just under the surface of all the grief and that familiar broken apathy I remember from the early days of PTSD, the wondering why something so ‘little’ can have such an impact. Life is restraint. Life is breathing through the next moment. Making the next phone call. Emptying the bin, feeding the cat, touching my love’s face, holding her hand.

That moment in bed, late at night, when all the lights are out and the house is silent and we lie facing each other, breathing out, breathing in, breathing each other’s air, heartbeats slowing down to sleep, the closest we get to death. And her skin feels like silk, feels like linen clean and hanging warm on a line in the sun, feels like a cat sleeping on warm clothes fresh from the dryer and I’m glad to hold her in my arms, silent and broken hearted because I can feel it, like the moment of joy from a gift, the recognition of kindness and love in other’s shared grief, the warmth from reaching out. For these very small moments the world makes sense, and they are precious moments.