A friend visited last week with her new baby and told me about someone in her NCT group whose baby died while she was in labour. This seems in my mind to be infinitely worse than what happened to me, so I feel bad too that I should feel so upset about such a comparatively minor experience. I never felt the baby move.
There's a programme on ITV here in England with two cleaning experts that apparently go around shaming people into cleaning up their messy houses (I don't remember the programme name). Last week one of the ladies, Aggie, was interviewed on Richard and Judy about her new autobiography (I was channel - hopping, ok!). In it she describes miscarrying at five months, alone in her flat, and burying the baby in the local park as she was so frightened and didn't know what to do (the incident occurred 30 odd years ago). The same day as the interview last week she was taken in by police for questioning because of her description and may be charged with concealing a body. While obviously I had full medical care and my case was also different, what struck me about her story was the fact that she was so upset so many decades later and clearly remembered how terrified and alone she'd felt as though it was yesterday. Does one ever get over it?
As all insatiable readers do, I have turned to books to make sense of the world around me, with limited success to date. I started off with MISCARRIAGE: WHAT EVERY WOMAN NEEDS TO KNOW; a positive new approach by Lesley Regan, and found it singularly unsatisfactory. While it clearly describes every possible cause for miscarriage and how to avoid it, I am already in the "been there, done that" phase. I have already experienced it and know what caused it - now what? I was struck by the fact that this book sits in a sort of no man's land of information. It serves little purpose for the woman who has already experienced a miscarriage, but on the other hand you wouldn't really read it while you were pregnant as you wouldn't want to think about miscarriages. I suppose it fills a general slot for students writing papers etc.
I am starting to realize that for me this has less to do with finding out further information on miscarriages, and more to do with experiencing, accepting and living with grief. So now I am on the lookout for books that might deal with this (any suggestions welcome). Mining through a secondhand bookshop yesterday I found FINDING HOPE AGAIN: JOURNEYING THROUGH SORROW AND BEYOND by Peter Millar. The words that leapt from the page I opened it on read:
To feel attached to a wider sense of lament is not to lessen my own personal sorrow, but rather to give it greater grounding, depth and movement (p. 44)
I do feel this way. I have been struck by just how many people I know have had miscarriages, many of them multiple. I am even more struck by the fact that I had no idea (most only told me once I had a miscarriage myself). While I knew of some of my friends' miscarriages, the scale of the more accurate experience is startling, but in a strange way very reassuring. There is a wealth of anguish, but also great comfort and peace of heart from these women. Like Millar's words, I find hope in that.
On to slightly cheerier topics (and more representative of my daily life; despite how the above sounds, I am not permanently wretched). Exploring Canterbury this past weekend with a visitor reminded me that this is a great centre of pilgrimage. Living here every day it is easy to forget that and go about one's daily business without seeing what actually is right there. John Stilgoe, one of the finest teachers I have known, changed entirely the way I look at the world, but sometimes I need a reminder to actually look at what is in front of me - to see it as it is now, but also think about what the buildings, cobblestones, lampposts, gargoyles, gratings, edifices, towers and trees meant when they were young, or younger, and what they are now. In a city as old as this where pilgrims have trudged or come striding to the cathedral for over fourteen hundred years, that is a great deal of wider context and meaning. As I walked home yesterday, a Franciscan monk (brown robed and worrying at the white cord around his waist) waited at the busstop reading a book amidst a swirl of tourists and returning students. Everything changes and yet nothing changes. It made me smile and feel at peace with the world.
Labels: general non-fiction