I’ve been having a wee bit of a melancholia, culminating Saturday morning in the simultaneous arrival of yet another crushing delivery of germs, an invoice for my (failed) IUI, an eye-watering Visa card bill, and, triumphantly, my period. God daym.
Saturday afternoon I took Harry to a kids’ birthday party where he got a bit rough-housed, and complained that the kids in question were using ‘words I don’t like’. (This will in no way have involved any type of expletive, most of which he views as just another piece of parlance. Which is entirely My Bad. Words Harry doesn’t like often include ‘give’, ‘can’t’, ‘share’, ‘wee’, ‘tidy’, ‘hurry’, and ‘bed’.) Partners in despondency, on this occasion I cut our losses and brought him straight home.
I felt vaguely better after spending the rest of the afternoon pottering about in the garden, although I faffed far too much over the most feral of my hens, who has, with catholic abandon, injudiciously produced 5 chicks in the midst of November. Bird-brained animal. I couldn’t help but muse that, given my catastrophic ineptness with live bearing, it would be nice to have the opportunity to try sitting on a clutch instead. Knowing my reproductive luck, I’d probably suffer from some ridiculously obscure eggshell disorder, and… yeah. I’ve been feeling bitter lately.
I’ve been working at a lot of toddler groups the last couple of weeks, and it’s not helped the whole Miscarrying Rage thing much. So many children. So many bumps. Outright jealousy has not played an overt part in my mindset hitherto, although the undercurrent was there, but I have lately found myself looking at these women with bewildered, acid resentment of their ability to effortlessly, bloomingly reproduce. At will. Without undue fear of mishap, misfortune and misery.
How the hell must that blithe expectation feel? Pregnancy minus the core underpinning of abject terror? I watch their composed serenity, their glow to my umbral shadow, and feel the unreasoning flare of my oppugnancy, in vicious, flailing antagonism toward what I perceive to be the buoyant ignorance of the oblivious blessed. They have what I have not. I am rancorous, furious and barren. I am desperate, and full of malice and spite. I am dismal, sorrowing and pitiful.
Which is all a bit heavy, considering I only went there to sell them a bloody card.
Sigh. I didn’t quite mean to strike out so far in this direction today; it’s just that as further fertility treatment slides from my broken fiscal grasp, I fall correspondingly deeper emotional prey to the unchancy vaguaries of my own reproductive so-called cycle, in the nebulous hope that the entirely organic conceptual surprise that was Harry, might re-occur. After 5 ovary-wearying years, I fear very much not, yet I’m going down fighting like a mad thing. *pause* I am a mad thing. And I’m a mad thing fighting for two, because John has lost all hope and enthusiasm for this, and wants to concentrate on the son we have.
Our son. Our sun. Our King! (Yes, there will be photos. How could I not give you photos?)
Harry scampers round the playground; diminutive, dishevelled, and delectable. He is fabulous fun just at the moment, and gloriously good company when on form. I want another one, just like him. A healthier start in life would be preferable. But I am a reproductive beggar, and beggars’ choices are famously narrow.
Despite the internal emotional maelstrom – which I daresay is not awfully discernable to The Outside, given my dementedly upbeat public persona – the weekend before last, I embarked upon my annual charity coffee morning for Bliss, the premature baby charity.
My primary reason for so doing, is, as I have written before, an expiation of what I obscurely feel to be my indebtedness. Payment for that very small sun indeed, whom, at first, beamed such a muted light. Dulled by seizures and overwhelming, sweeping apnoea, tethered to us and his life by the ridged ropes of a ventilator.
Body and soul, he was far, far away from me, trapped inside both a plastic bubble and the dark oblivion of critical illness… and he came back. Came back fighting. Fought the ventilator, fought the drugs, fought me, damnit. The single determined survivor of my murderous, Medea-like uteri, he protested, fought and struggled his way into blossoming, vivid beauty. It could so easily not have been. The baby next to Harry also protested, and fought, and struggled. And died.
I feel I owe a personal restitution; a weregild ransom, blood-tribute for my live, whole, coruscating, luminous son.
Deluded, idiot I, because what price a child’s life?
Somewhere, deep in the malaised core of our NHS, someone knows the answer in pounds and pence. Our most vulnerable neonates are fighting budgets as well as for life, and it’s going from bad to fucking ridiculous. Specialist nurses reduce infant mortality drastically, and a third of neonatal units are making cuts to and downgrading their nursing workforce, when more were desperately required a year – two years – five years ago. Ten years ago. A baby requiring intensive care in the UK still cannot reasonably expect to receive the same standard of nursing that adults can,and are dying in greater numbers accordingly, despite the Secretary of State for Health claiming that they have made “tough choices on public spending so that we can protect the NHS and ensure that the sick do not pay for Labour’s debt crisis”. Sick babies are paying. If I do ever manage to gestate to viability again, my odds of a premature birth are incalculably high, and I will watch my child fight both the woefully inadequate start that will likely be all my uteri can provide, and the horrifying shortages in care provision.
So, tough it out, babies! If you can hang on in there doughtily while we push Bliss’s SOS campaign under the noses of government as noisily as we can, that’d be… useful, yes?
I’m sorry; again, I didn’t quite mean to run on so much. Recurrent miscarriage and dying babies: topics upon which I Officially Become Cross and Type With A Series Of Big Hammery Thumps.
I have a stress headache induced purely by my own angst now - fule! - and Harry has started coughing a lung up and is shortly going to wake and complain, so I am going to pinch the words I wrote last year when I asked for donations, on the basis that A) they are still absolutely true and B) times are still awful hard.
However! Before I do so, I have a small additional incentive to dangle in front of you this year, because I have felt so writhingly and infusedly humbled by your past generosity, knowing that I could offer you nothing but my most heartfelt thanks in return. I have given the matter a little thought, and, given that I live immediately outside Stratford Upon Avon, I have duly purchased sets of magnetised Shakespearian Insults and Love Quotes, intended for your refrigerator door. They have the benefit of being light, thin, and, in many cases, bracingly rude.
I have looked carefully at Royal Mail’s airmail costs, weighed the magnets, weighed envelopes, sourced lighter envelopes, and I reckon that, even if you live in Darkest Peru, the very most it’ll cost me in postage to send you a vituperative/sentimental bijou for your fridge is 76p. Email me your postal address at email@example.com when you donate (There is a minimum donation set by the Just Giving website of £2 [approximates to USD$3.17 / AUD $3.11 / €2.3 / 0.00178456 gold ounces] and if that’s what you’re comfortable sparing, then please, believe me honestly, truly grateful, and more than grateful.) and I will happily despatch a magnetic message full of love… or slander. Entirely at random! I promise faithfully not to sell your postal address to JunkMail.com. You can, in fact, absolutely trust me to lovingly regale or abuse you with no strings attached.
I know a small, colourful patch of Shakespearianity on your fridge isn’t much of a payback for levering open your battered purses in these times of financial anaemia, but perhaps you might (and particularly whoever gets the ‘she is spherical’ one) feel, when you see it every day, that there is a bit of my heart (the bit that isn’t permanently screwed up in either reproductive grief or anxious maternal blatherings) that is simply devoted to thinking kind thoughts about you, the possessor. It is already true for those who have already donated, sometimes anonymously, these past two years, but it would be nice if I could give you something tangible to actually invoke it for you this year. Nothing says ‘I love you’ quite like ‘Thou Smell Of Mountain Goat’, no?
I was humbled beyond belief last year when so many of you, whom I have mostly never met, donated online. I was completely mentally tripped-up by the notion that my odd little corner of the internet could have generated so very much unforeseen good will, generosity of spirit, and sheer human kindness. Many of you found me here because you do not – yet – have children, and yet you gave your money to Bliss – a charity that helped us, Harry, and his medical team – because it was a cause dear to my heart, not yours.
I cried. I cried for days.
I do not take your support for granted, and I know - don’t I just! – that times are hard, and the wolves are likely snapping as closely at your fiscal sledge as they are at ours. But if you are able to
hurl off an undeserving peasant give (from each according to his ability, from each according to his need, type-of-thing) then I would be… well. I think the word is verklempt.
Filed under: Parenting