Over the last few days I've been reading Feather Crowns by Bobbie Anne Mason (Vintage 1993). It's about a woman, Christie, who gave birth to quintuplets in 1900. People came from all around to see the babies. Subsequently the babies died. I wont go into what happened next or the other narrative threads as what really moved me was the portrayal of Christies' grief & anger. And the interactions between the grief (or suppresion of grief) of other family members.
I've added this book to my pile of grief & loss culture that I've been collecting ever since September 2002 when our son was born & died at about 20 weeks gestation. Many things happen when a baby dies. For a while I hated my partner, desparately wanted to leave, go anywhere. Often I felt like my insides were full of stones, heavy & stretched with no room for any feeling at all. I could watch television far more violent than ever before or after. And then several months later, camping by the sea, after losing yet another pregnancy, I became so afraid of snakes & reptiles that I could not leave the path, even to walk on rocks or sand. I became a compulsive reader of books about pregnancy loss & once you start looking there are quite a few. But what I really wanted was narrrative fiction & art, work that would feed my soul & assure me that I was not alone.
Last night I stayed up late, faffing & browsing around other blogs. I happened on a series of links that lead me to reading some blogs by women whose babies had died. Mostly close to term, which I imagine to be even worse. At this point I'm not going to share links because eventhough the blogs are public, I don't know these women (even in the cyber sense) & I wouldn't want to intrude. Not without asking first. And I found myself weeping. In front of the computer. Big wet sobs.
Then I realised how far we have come. How much joy Grace has bought into our life. In a sense having another baby has validated the enourmous sense loss we felt when little Frank was born/died. Ah, that's why it hurt so much, mattered so deeply. But every now & again it all comes rushing back & I remember what the kind & gentle doctor at our local community health centre used to say to me when I'd rage against the unpredictability of it all. Janet, she'd say, grief is not linear.
This morning was sleep in Saturday, a day I look forward to more than I can say. Grace came into say hello & have a story, then I snuggled under the doona to finish Feather Crowns. Afterwards, I lay there looking out at the cold grey Melbourne winter & thought about what I had read in blogs last night & about our son. I pondered how I was going to write about him, whether I should set up a separate blog. Then I thought, that's silly, my son & the sadness that he's gone is as much a part of who I am as are my photos of dahlias or the things I make. I'm not going to exile anything that isn't happy & upbeat to a separate place of darkness. Anyone who doesn't want to read will just move on.
Then I started to think about how I don't have a really nice photo or memento of little Frank, nothing that I could show people or put on the wall. And I thought about telling Grace. Frank was born alive and he is listed on her birth certificate. I did tell her, the day after she was born, that she has a brother. More sobs. Gerard came in & we had a talk. He still thinks about Frank too. How could you ever forget? He reassured me that Grace will know & that we can take her to the place were her brothers ashes are scattered later. The sobbing started to subside. G went & got Grace up from her nap & we all had a cuddle in bed. The day got a whole lot better after that.