It’s a phrase heard by so many women and families, and one that many of us are now keenly aware of, trained to avoid and to challenge at all costs. A simple, well-meaning phrase that can shatter, destroy, devastate. Think I’m being over dramatic? I’m not. Telling a new mum that the horrendous, life changing experience she has encountered is ‘just one of those things’ can be hugely damaging. Telling her that her feelings are not valid, she’s not entitled to feel that way and she needs to focus on the positive can be huge damaging. Telling her all that matters is a healthy baby can be hugely damaging. Because the thing is that is all matters. All of it. Every word spoken, every note written, every slight glance given. This is her experience, her moment and her once in a lifetime pregnancy. It’s not just another day. It’s not a little blip in the road towards a positive outcome. It’s not all that matters….
Eight years ago, almost to the day, I opened a WordPress account and joined the UK parent blogging community. I was pretty sure nobody would really want to read what I had to say, and even more sure that I didn’t want them to either. Now, reading back on old posts is a fairly uncomfortable experience. When I first started to write about my son’s birth I was in a bad place. I mean, a really bad place. Almost at the bottom of the gaping blackness of grief, anger, despair. Almost. Not quite. And while its hard to read back the words that literally spewed themselves onto the pages back then, I cannot ever bring myself to erase them. They’ve been such a huge part of my story, my journey, and my recovery. I used to think I was defined by my story, and that this blog was too. But now I see it. I’m defined by what my story has taught me. I’m defined by the strength I’ve built. I’m defined by every single person who reads my story, who takes the time to say ‘thank you for sharing’ or even ‘how dare you share’; every single person who lifts me, and even those who do not. I can’t pretend that everyone who has been a part of my journey has been a positive force, but in realising that for myself I have learned so much. So for every single person that has been here, in whatever way that may have been: thank you….
Years ago, as a child, I read the amazing poem Not Waving but Drowning by Stevie Smith and the words have stayed with me since. It’s so powerful, and has the ability (as all great written works do) to stop you in your tracks and contemplate the world, the people in it and your own position as a tiny fleck of something. To know that nobody can hear you and yet you still keep making a sound. You still cling to that desperate need to be heard, to be saved. To signal so desperately for help help HELP but to be misunderstood instead. To have people smile, nod, wave back to you. Nobody has the time. Nobody wants to get involved. Nobody wants to save you. To prefer to believe excuses instead of accepting that you stood by and did nothing. Nothing. Wow. It’s little wonder this poem haunted me for so many years, and probably always will.
And it’s been pertinent for me, because for a long time after my son was born I was that man in the water. I was the one trying desperately, in the only ways I knew how, to attract attention and to make people understand. I was the one who was still moaning, long after they’d turned their backs and walked away. I was the one waving madly in their faces like a loon, while they simply waved back with a smile. I’m sure we’ve all been that man before.
I’m not saying I’m ‘cured’ or that I am 100% a new person, but I do feel I’ve changed my perspective. That’s the only way I know how to put it! I haven’t moved on because I’m not sure I ever can, nor that I ever really want to now. But I HAVE changed my perspective, in that now I am not downing, but waving….
The first time I sat down to write a blog post I never once imagined it was anything more than a diary entry. For me. Not for you, or for your sister or your friend or anyone else. I didn’t even publish the first few posts because it was the act of writing them that mattered more than anything else. But like every other writer, I needed an audience and I soon discovered I needed a purpose too. Writing for a cause just kind of happened.
I started by writing about my son. My beautiful boy, who was ripped from my body in a blur of panic and white hot fear. Born into silence. Born into chaos. Born alone, while I slept. I needed to write. I needed to spew forth all the emotions and the confusion that was rattling around inside me and I needed to try and make sense of it somehow. Writing has always been my release, ever since I was a child, and it’s only natural for me to need the prop during times of crisis. …