Saturday, 14 February 2009
A bundle of Absence
Sometimes, when on this horrid road, it is the loneliness that weighs on you. I am eternally grateful for the space created on the net to meet others and overcome this, but, at some point, each of us turns off our computer and takes our heavy heart out into the world.
I don't know anyone in real life, experiencing what I am experiencing. I know a few people who have had a stillborn child. I know a few people who have gone through IVF to build a family. I don't know anyone else (IRL) who has had a child live for a while and then die, or who subsequently has been unable to become pregnant. This is the world I take my battered heart in to day after day, in search of understanding, sympathy and healing.
The difficult thing is that I don't have anything to show for all my work, heartache, courage and pain. It is a burden that is carried silently. Unseen. The presence of a child (whilst not taking away from the individuality of the child and the importance of their experience) tells something, something of the experience of the parent. You know they have a birth story, wakeful nights, love, fear..... It offers an entry point for community. A point of connection, a place where experiences can be compared and contrasted, looked at from different points of view.
The experience of absence of children is as significant as the experience of parenting, particularly following the death of a child. It is the lack of a presence that is part of what makes this experience so isolating. There is nothing that signifies my loss - and ongoing losses. Nothing to tell the world something of our experience. Our love, courage and heart ache. Nothing that shows years of thought, longing, hope and disappointment. Nothing that offers that point of connection, an entry place, through which people around me can understand a little of our experience. And so, it is largely unseen. Carried quietly, and invisibly with me into the chaos of community life - as many wounds are. I recognise that there are plenty of people with other sorts of internal wounds that I cannot see as I travel in this world. I also recognise that physical representations of trauma (such as burns victims, quadraplegia etc) bring a different set of isolation as many turn away at the sight of you. The pain is too much for some to even look at, and your body betrays your story before you even have a chance to smile at someone.
I wonder though, what would it be like for a parent to have a child that was invisible to everyone else? To live in a world where no-one else had children, and the parents tried to tell the stories of their invisible child to the people in this world. You can see the disjunct. You can see how much people would not understand their experience. You can imagine an invisible child mum meeting someone else who had an invisible child and them huddling in the corner for hours, swapping stories of progress and pain. You can imagine an increasing frustration with a world that while somewhat sympathetic, did not really understand the cause of their extreme tiredness and occasional dysfunction. Frustration at people who could not celebrate their small victories of parenting.
That's how it is for me, carrying Absence, so heavy and obvious to me, but invisible to the world. I am grateful for the few that try to listen and understand, but, ultimately, only my husband and I can see our "invisible child". I am not talking about Maya, although the loss of her is part of it. It is also all the other losses, the times of opening myself to possibility and stinging from the smart of those possibilities crushed, the friendships that have dissolved, the loss of connection, loss of community, the losing and re-finding and re-losing of faith, the pressure on the relationships I hold most dear.... These are the things that make up my bundle of Absence, so burdensome and so precious, that goes with me into the world.
I wish you could see my invisible child.