If you’re not interested in very public exposure of the soul, look away now. To help you, here’s some pictures of bacon taped to a cat.
It’s been nearly a year since my daughters Charlotte and Marianne were born and died and I’m still living very much day-to-day. I have no plans for the future. I can’t even realistically imagine me in any kind of future and that’s largely what this post is about.
Why post publicly? Definitely not as a call for sympathy. Unless you’ve held you children in your arms as they die, you just don’t get it and hopefully you never will. There are three reasons behind this post:
- Knowing that other people may read this focusses my mind and sharpens my expression. Writing publicly demands that I give my ideas a clarity they will never achieve otherwise. This in itself may help me towards an answer.
- This is my life and I like the idea that others know a little bit about how my mind works – but not in an emo “Heather is such a bitch,” myspace kind of way.
- There are other blokes out there going through this who also don’t know how to handle it. If I show them that they’re not alone or trigger a new way of looking at things, my work here is done.
(The distant fourth reason is that someone out there in teh interwebs may actually have a clue about how I can deal with all this stuff.)
Back to the future…
There was a time not too long ago when I had a plan for my life without children. IVF is a gamble and I was always aware that the gamble may not pay off. I had an idea of what my life would look like, the kind of things I’d occupy it with, a sort of overview of how it would unroll. Kathi and I would always regret not having had children but we would always have the knowledge that we did everything we could have done to have kids. It was a fairly positive view of the furture, albeit tinged with sadness.
Then came my angels and I worked out a new idea about how my life would unfold. I now looked forward to all the joyous life events being a father entails: arguing with Kathi about who’s turn it is to be elbows deep in dirty nappies, avoiding the sword of damocles of twins demanding which of them you love more, trying to keep “daddy’s helpers” from undoing all my work in the garden, arguments about “you’re not going out dressed like that, young lady,” and even loading the shotgun to fend off the inappropriate boyfriends, etc.
Now that they’re gone, I can’t imagine life without watching living children grow up. Having had a taste of that life, I can’t find a way to go back to being happy with the idea of never having living children. But the reality is that this may never happen.
The result is that I live day-to-day. I find it hard to get excitied about anything. Most of my time is devoted to short-term goals such as going to fencing training, painting wargaming figures, reading trashy fifties hardboiled detective novels. All of these are pursuits of limited duration. Work is nothing more than a painful annoyance without which I know I’ll lose those things that make my life comfortable. There’s no long-term planning. There’s no “where will you be in five years time?” None of these things matter. I’m in limbo.
If I can’t have my girls with me and watch them grow and discover the world, the next best thing is to talk about them. I love talking about my girls, how they looked, what they did, what they could have become. The problem here is that they only lived for 11 and 12 days. They’re gone and the curse of the surviving parent is that I will never have new memories of them or new things to talk about. What will happen – and is happeneing even now – is that the once scalpel-sharp detail of my memories of my girls blur and fade and in the years to come all I will be left with is the memory that I once had two beautiful daughters and the shared (possibly confabulated) stories of them that Kathi and I tell each other.
Since we started back on IVF this year, one of the main points of discussion is the idea that if we get pregnant again, it almost certainly won’t be with twins. It may sound ungrateful but even if we have a baby in the future who survives more than two weeks, we’ve lost the chance of belonging to the special club of parents of twins. As we get older, the chance of IVF working diminishes. It may be that the brief lives of Charlotte and Marianne will be the only marks of parenthood we will ever know.
I really don’t know right now how to handle this. I can’t live in the past as that way lies madness. I can’t live for the future because a future without living children is just as horrific to contemplate as a future without the memory of my girls. That only leave me the now, the eternal present.
I make sure I keep up with my mates and keep myself busy doing things I know I used to enjoy: historical fencing, reading, roleplaying, watching movies, wargaming, coffee, talking crap with friends, passing particularly harsh judgements on idiots, etc. But these are all ‘now’ events. They have no future either.
While I enjoy all these activities and I love spending time with friends, I feel keenly that there’s a wall which separates me from them and prevents me from fully participating in the fun of whatever playful stupidity we’re currently engaged in. This stuff is nothing but actions to fill in the great emptiness of the now. There is no goal that they’re leading towards that I can see other then they prevent me from crawling into a bottle of either scotch or anti-depressants or both. Maybe that’s enough and all I should expect for now.
The problem is what comes next and what happens after that. These are questions that at this stage I can’t answer.