I know you.
You are sadness.
You are the sadness that I forget is still there.
You are grief.
You are the grief that turns my hands to ice, constricts my chest, shortens my breath, clouds my mind and stares unblinking through my eyes.
You are the grief that while I speak and smile and continue my conversation, threatens to claim me.
You are the sadness that is lodged awkwardly in my solar plexus that wakes me up at night, yet has the power to paralyse me by day.
You are the grief that lingers and trails behind what should be straightforward conversations.
You are the grief that I acknowledge, but by whom I will not be defined.
I have stood strong inspite of you and have learnt strength because of you.
Through your pain, I have learnt compassion.
Yes, I have learnt strength, courage and wisdom.
When your tears come and they are not wanted, I have learnt how to calmly conquer you and put you in your place.
Grief, you are a part of who I have become. We must learn to walk together respectfully.
But I will be your master grief, you cannot have me.
You do not own me.
It is me that owns you.
‘I’m doing the world a favour’, I often tell myself,
particularly as I glance at the magazines upon the shelf.
On the cover of the majority, there are glossy, smug photos
of baby riddled celebrities adopting their polished, self-satisfied pose.
Exiting the corner shop, I almost stumble over a child
who won’t take ‘no’ for an answer and is whining loudly in the aisle.
The exasperated parent patiently oversees the situation.
She is ‘just trying to get some shopping done’. I sense her growing irritation.
I meet my friend for coffee. She begins to tell me how tired and low she feels,
but she doesn’t get to finish as from the buggy comes several high pitched squeals.
Now she has to dash off to a play date for her eldest.
She tries to get the youngest’ coat back on. Crying, he furiously resists.
Another friend says she’s lost her identity. She has no more sense of ‘self’.
Her children are often rude to her, defiant and it's affecting her mental health.
She blames herself and seems confused, questioning her parenting skills.
She wonders if she should ask the doctor for some ‘special’ little pills.
I log in to social media to message a long distance friend of mine,
images of people’s offspring flood the screen and demand my time.
Trying not to become distracted, I ‘like’ and ‘comment’ on a few.
Of course, these are lovely photos, but there are so many to scroll through.
At times, it’s overwhelming, our increasingly child obsessed society.
I witness pressure and expectation causing imbalance and insidious anxiety.
Success, peace and happiness one could say, are now subliminally measured
by one’s ability to bear a child, be a family and take a thousand photos treasured.
Children can indeed bring happiness, but should we be so quick to conform?
With our frazzled brains and short circuit minds, I see many struggling to ‘perform’
the role of ideal and perfect family whose ‘spinning plates’ steadily multiply.
From birth to adolescence, they don’t seem to diminish as the years goes by.
Then there’s obesity and poverty, war, starvation and depression.
Paranoia and megalomania grips our incompetent, corrupt politicians.
How can we protect our children? Why bring them into this crumbling world?
Even more anxiety to contemplate as around us chaos is unfurled.
Racism, hate fuelled terrorism, sexism, homophobia and persecution,
we also have to teach our kids how to battle for a fairer, kinder evolution.
This responsibility is ours to bear, as well as getting World Book Day outfits right.
Perhaps, not having children after all, is a blessing and not such a woeful plight.
A dog barks, a distant yap.
Birds twitter and flit from tree top to roof top.
A seagull’s lazy cry pierces the low hum of traffic.
A siren’s soft whine quickens this adagio.
A soft flurry of muffled sounds.
Then all grows quiet once again.
Nothing here to make me think of you,
yet I do.
Late afternoon light. A fading, busy day that will
soon be followed by the stillness of night.
This day has seen dashing and rushing about.
It has overheard a misunderstood conversation and laughter.
Another scribbled square on the kitchen calendar
and on to the next.
Still no escaping thinking about you,
so I do.
Salty air on skin, fresh sting of sand blast wind.
Gusting gently, accompanying the sea’s soulful swell
almost keeping time in a syncopated rhythm.
Salted lips, tangy taste of coastal walks on tongue.
Four legged and two legged friends
leaving their prints behind.
Trying not to think about you,
but I do.
Smiles and cheerios. The end of an evening.
A final shared anecdote. A cigarette’s tendril joins
the musky scent of worn perfume and boozy breath.
A high heel stumbles slightly, is caught then embraced.
Taxi doors slam. Engines rev and tail lights glow red,
taking revellers home.
Still so many thoughts of you,
what do I do?
Trolleys skid and slide, hiding and seeking amongst the aisles.
A ballet of metallic baskets laden and heavy
bob, swing and shuffle occasionally halting, deliberating,
adding more to the mound that could avalanche at any moment.
A small child takes her mother’s hand.
A torrent of thoughts of you,
what can I do?
A fleeting shadow in a bright, cool corridor.
A ghostly breeze catches the curtain, the fabric flutters.
Footsteps echo, a few then dozens of young faces appear lively
with chatter, some carefree, some pensive, but each engrossed.
A memory that never was.
subconsciously searching for you,
I always do.
Murmuring from a church chair. Infant cradled in strong arms.
Soft touch, cheek to cheek, soothing whispers, cherishing sleeping child.
Now standing, swaying, hip out, silently sharing one space.
Comforting and reassuring each other. Mother and child.
A frozen cry in my throat.
Igniting so many thoughts of you,
this, I so often do.
God, are you listening?
I am worn out from my grief.
My eyes are sore and swollen
and I cannot find relief.
God, why aren’t you listening?
Many nights tears drench my bed.
A continual ache is throbbing
throughout my body and in my head.
God, have you forgotten me?
Why do you hide when I need you most?
My soul, like sand, is scattered by the wind.
Though my heart beats, I am but a ghost.
God, have you forsaken me?
Why do you feel so far away?
I need refreshment and encouragement.
For my strength is dried up like sun-baked clay.
God, can you hear me?
Each night I cry out for your help.
I thought that you might rescue me.
I feel so alone and by myself.
God, why do you ignore my pleas?
I am out of depth in this deep water.
I am no match for this mighty sea.
Be a rock for me, your humble daughter.
God, do you even exist?
Answer me please, for sanity’s sake.
My faith is all but vanished though I see you
in the mountains, stars and mist laced lake.
God, can you please be merciful?
For I am in great distress.
You say that you will watch over me
even in times of fear and great sadness.
God, have you rejected me?
I am shrivelled, waiting for your blessing.
I wish to be like a freed, captive bird,
released from her cage, so utterly depressing.
God, are you punishing me?
Is there something wrong that I have done?
Send your light and your truth,
let me not by my thoughts be undone.
God, will I find peace one day?
Where does my shadowy path lead me?
Do not abandon me in my hour of need,
stay beside me through my journey.
God, will you rescue me?
So that I do more than merely cling to this barren life.
I wish to be like a thriving olive tree,
fruitful, beautiful, blossoming and alive.
God, do you remember me?
Have you been with me since my birth?
Did you see me growing in my mother’s womb?
Well, I wish to lead a life of integrity, positivity and worth.
O silent God, why aren’t you listening?
My plea is founded in fragile, humility.
It’s me, a valiant, warrior woman,
asking for help to conquer this curse of infertility.
'Would you like some help
to wipe that vomit from your top?’
I politely ask my friend as
she winds her child non-stop.
“Oh, I really shouldn’t worry,’ she says,
‘it’ll probably blend right in
with the other patch of baby puke,
the dribble, crumbs and gin.’
There are many ‘soon to be’ mothers here,
radiant with rotund tums.
As well as those who’ve popped sprogs out
and are already experienced mums.
Together, we are gathered to wish
one such expectant friend farewell.
She is on the cusp of her first foray into
her own exhausting, sleepless hell.
Meanwhile, a small squadron of cantankerous
two year olds toddle aimlessly around.
Our conversations left incomplete
as one of them face plants on the ground.
Cards and gifts are given generously.
Sugary cupcakes and booze-free tipples consumed.
A lady with a proud, protruding bump
discusses the contents of her womb.
Increasingly, it occurs to me
how out of place I really am.
The air is so thick with oestrogen,
it could trigger ovulation in a man!
I do attempt to natter
with another of my good friends,
but her child announces that he’s pooped himself
and there our conversation ends.
No, this is not the best environment
for those in situations such as mine.
For goodness sake, why did I neglect
to bring some alcoholic wine?
Swapping midwife stories, gender guessing,
births, big breasts and pregnancy.
I remain calmly composed
despite my contrasting reality.
Like new ships, they’re launched one by one
into the next phase of their lives.
Whilst I’m left wrestling with my own
unexpected, not quite so nice, surprise.
It’s not a competition, not a contest,
tournament nor race,
but next time I’m given ‘exciting’ baby news
My smile may not be fixed so quickly into place.
I am aware of the positives.
Unlike my friends, I’m not covered in sick or poo.
My favourite outfit is dribble free,
not a hint of snot or baby goo.
A stenchous whiff does not pervade the air,
wherever I choose to roam.
When I’ve had enough of noisy kids,
I seek shelter in my tranquil, child-free home.
But still this so called bright-side
that I can quite clearly see,
isn’t quite enough to completely outweigh
my growing sad, despondency.
Surrounded by these hormones,
babies, buggies and bulbous bumps,
it's another brutal, cruel and bitter blow
that adds to my hidden anguish every month.
I sense your eyes of judgement
bearing down on me.
I know you can’t understand it,
so naturally it’s hard for you to find empathy.
You haven’t been where I am
which makes me difficult to understand.
But rather than disappointed incomprehension,
I wish you’d reach out your hand.
But instead, you have unrealistic expectations.
One’s that I can never hope to meet.
As the chasm widens between us,
I battle a growing sense of defeat.
Two women world’s apart
at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Your ascent has brought you joy
whilst I’ve been sucked under by depression.
Unaware that it is the ‘black dog’
who has become the guardian of my cage’s key.
I pretend, trying to act ‘normal’
and not at my selfish gaoler’s mercy.
Alienated from those I love,
trapped in a cycle of misery,
shackled by my own self-loathing,
it’s from within these walls that I see.
I see you, seemingly proud and confident,
embracing the newest chapter of your life.
The Spring to my endless Winter,
flourishing, fertile, successful in your role as wife.
You are a celebration of womanhood,
a producer of grandparent’s heirs.
You’ve created and you’ve given light.
God has answered your secret prayers.
You are the success and I, the failure,
the mutant female, ashamed of whom I’ve become.
My body a barren betrayer,
unlike yours that has produced a golden son.
Yes, I sense your eyes of judgement
questioning my behaviour and response.
But I can’t do much about it.
My self-esteem, my inner strength are all but gone.
This atmosphere of expectation
is a heavy burden, I can’t fulfil.
I dread the knowledge that I will disappoint you
despite asserting great courage and strength of will.
I suppress my urge to shriek,
to grimace with grief and cry.
My fight or flight would like to run for it
without even pausing to explain why.
As best I can, I cover up this battle.
I remain suffocating slowly in this room.
I hide my physical and emotional shakes
and try not to sit here like a harbinger of doom.
I am sorry. I’m aware I may hurt you.
We co-exist in a growing cloud of tension.
I can see in your eyes of judgement
your invisible, yet tangible incomprehension.
Still no sign of a baby,
Still all barren and bare.
No bun in the oven.
No anything, anywhere.
Still empty and waiting.
Still counting the days.
Baby shower parties.
Still pretending not to notice
A billion mothers walk past.
Suppressing the ache
With a terrible, fake laugh.
Vitamins and potions,
Bonking my husband
Like a desperate whore.
Another month gone
And still full of grief
For the life that I wanted
But couldn't conceive.
Losing my faith
And along with it hope
That it'll ever happen.
It's a really sick joke.
A test of a marriage
For better or worse.
We never expected
The infertility curse.
The worry of age.
My biological clock.
Terrible thoughts of using
Another man's cock.
Losing my grip
On these whirling emotions.
Crying in Waitrose.
My femininity in question.
A redundant, duff womb.
An incomplete woman
An imposter, a loon!
Ignoring friend's babies
For fear that I'll crack.
If I held one a moment
I may not give it back.
And unhelpful words.
Just no idea
Of this ongoing hurt.
"Don't think about it."
Said so ignorantly.
Years of my life
thrown right back at me.
A change of direction.
That's what's required
To boost my morale,
Be re-engaged, re-inspired.
An action packed life.
I'm managing things well.
Counting my blessings
When my friends speak of hell.
Of persistent insomnia
Of nights without sleep.
While for me, it's a bonus
A blessed relief.
I can lie in til 10
Or siesta at two
With no threat of tantrums
Drool, sick or poo!
I look on the bright side,
Am thankful for a lot.
I learn not to forget
To ‘enjoy what you've got’.
Then all of a sudden,
My chest starts to ache.
That’s all it takes.
Again all alone.
Trapped in this cycle
Of endurance and fatigue
It's physical and mental.
I want to hear mummy,
And a new baby's cry
To have my child with me
Not a week then goodbye.
I want to know motherhood
Present a child to my mum.
A way to say thank you
For the friend she's become.
Phone calls at midnight
A calm, listening ear
Plenty of hugs
To soothe the raw fear.
More prodding and poking,
Appointments and queues.
More time in loos.
More peeing on sticks,
More far Eastern cures,
More consultants and nurses
What more to endure?
The worry, the stress,
The fear and confusion.
Starting a family?
It's just pure delusion.