Tuesday, April 14, 2015

opening the curtains

Was reading something the other day and was struck how honest and forthright the piece of writing was. I was transfixed. While I am always honest about one teensy percentage of my life up here, I choose to leave out the other 80%.

Mainly as it would bore anyone to tears. (Being a mother makes you instantly dull. I needn't elaborate.)
I'm also not 26 anymore. Which means I don't need everyone's opinion on every aspect of my being. As you age you just get naturally more selective about what you share.

I've always prided myself on being frank though. If I do choose to engage in a topic, I'll tell you everything, even if it involves pooh, or a wank or setting fire to myself.

So much of what I spill out on here these days is my grief and being a parent. I use this space to spew and talk about Molly, as there isn't another space. But, sometimes if I write too much about Molly I feel guilty about not expressing how much I love and appreciate Sebastian. If I go on too much about Sebastian, I feel guilty about not remembering Molly. It's a complex beast, this kind of grief, when you have one dead twin and one living one.

The journey isn't pretty or simple, and it never will be. But it got me thinking. It would be quite (fun? liberating? energising? synergising? stupid? risky? irreverent?) to give myself a shot of Truth Serum, pretend I'm sitting in a KGB cell somewhere in Crimea, and have someone interrogate me. About anything.*

So here we are. Honesty Hour (or Happy Hour*, however you see it):

What's your favourite colour?
It used to be red. It was red my whole life. Then two years ago I decided it was too vulgar, and now it's my favourite colour if I have to have one that isn't black, grey or navy blue.

OK, so you're emo.
No, I'm a Londoner. Most Londoners with any sense of style do red in summer or at a festival. It's just too stark. I take style fairly seriously these days - which is mental, I know - I'm a mum and have baby secretions and last night's supper smeared on my trousers - but I was told that you can never have too much black, and you should always wear black/muted colours in front of your fashion friends.

Right. Has grief bought you and your family closer together?
No. It's made me realise a few very important things. I've seen some true colours emerge, and while you'd think love would be the ultimate thing to throw at this situation, I haven't got that at all. I think there are two things that have happened. One, I am grieving and I have found that some of my 'closest' family members don't understand my anger or sadness or why I need certain dates and things to be acknowledged. I am the mother of two children, that's never going to go away. Some of them refuse to talk about 'it', and brush my emotions under the carpet without even knowing or asking. The second is, I've become a parent. This in itself means I have now experienced things my parents have experienced. I have a lot of questions. That haven't been answered. So in short? Losing Molly and gaining Sebastian sadly hasn't been a matter of one child lived and one child died and everyone lived happily ever after.

It's this.

How does your husband deal with the grief?
I am thankful that he talks about Molly and he expresses his emotions and anger. He acknowledges how I feel and he acknowledges her existence regularly, which I am so grateful for. However he deals with his emotions differently to how I do, and it's been tough on our [young] marriage. Losing a child is a dynamic that is incredibly complex and hard to deal with.

What scares you the most in this world?
Anything happening to Sebastian. Or my future children, if I have any. I am also terrified of getting cancer. That seems to be the illness en masse in this country. I try and live a healthy life, but I wonder if stress, sadness, anger all those negative things is what kills people, not what you eat or drink.

Is being a parent everything it's cracked up to be?
Parenthood is heavily romanticised, and most of the focus does lie on the fact that you love this thing more than anything you can even conceivably imagine - which is true - but I don't think anyone truly realises the impact it has on you when you have years of broken sleep and the changing dynamic of your relationships (spouse, friends without kids, parents, in-laws). You primarily exist for something else. Your sense of Self goes, and like yesterday, I burnt my fingers on the stove but couldn't stop and wrap it up - Sebastian was thrashing around on the floor angrily after I confisacted the candle he was trying to gnaw on.
That said, any mother would tell you she wouldn't change it for the world. I wouldn't. But I do remember the life I had before they were born, and the person I was before they came along. The things I could do. The freedom. The disposable income. Yeah.
But all I have to do is look at his face, and that stuff doesn't matter anymore. So I can't travel much anymore. So I can't go shopping at Ted Baker every month. I really don't care about that stuff like I used to.

What are some of the things you face as a parent that's lost a child that no one else knows about?
Those awkward conversations. Seeing one of the mums I used to 'hang' with at the twins club before they were born, at a local baby shop on the weekend. Having to see her twins, Sebastian's age. And try to duck out past the baby dungarees before she saw me, but I know she saw me.
Having to have that fake conversation when I see her that goes something like, "Hey, wow, the twins have grown....they look great...." and she kind of awkwardly feels she has to over-compensate, "Sebastian is so big! Wow he is amazing!!!!"....and there's a massive luminescent, glowing, neon pink elephant in the room as we have this futile little dialogue. To think there was a time when we used to speak about where we could get a two-for-the-price-of-one car seats and that one of our babies was breech...

Or the fact that the obstetrician delivering Royal baby number 2 (and one, for that matter) is the same consultant that advised me what to do with my twins when I found out Molly died.
It's all over the news at the moment as they wait for Kate to pop again.

He headed up my 'case'. Guy Thorpe Beeston was due to deliver them. He never did in the end, but he was the chief counsel on everything that unfolded from that fateful day on 18 March, and sat with me everyday to guide me through how he thought I should birth them. I had a lot of people advise me on what they thought I should do for their birth. He was the guy I chose to listen to. (If the Royal Family hire him, then his word was good enough for me...)

The fact that I suddenly seem to be working with a lot of Molly's at work. Not even a joke. At first I thought it was just because I noticed the name 'Molly' more, but it's not even that. Two new Molly's have shipped into the office and I am working directly with them. Everytime I have to respond to one of their emails or call them, or simply say their name, or even when someone else says their name, I flinch.

I can't tell anyone this random stuff. Who would be interested? It's not something you bring up in casual conversation. It's something that jumps out at me in my news feed, at the shops or in the middle of my work day, and just takes me back to a dark place. It's nothing to everyone else. It's huge to me. And this is why you feel I so alone - it's these things that make me feel like I'm running on a different hamster wheel to the rest of the world.

What's it like being back at work?
I am lucky to work at an amazing company. My career has always given me my purpose in life. Without it, I feel kind of rudderless. Even as a mum, who supposedly should have the most purpose in the world. 
I am very good with pushing things aside and managing to focus on work without anything distracting me. I miss Sebastian so much, but I don't allow myself much time to indulge it.
It's hands down easier being a Working Mum than a Stay At Home Mum. You run from pillar to post, but it is much easier. I want to be able to do both jobs well, even if it means I'm spinning 7 000 plates at the same time.

Do you have regrets?
So many.

Are you happy?
Truthfully? Half the time. 50% might not be great odds to some, but I choose to view this as a glass half full scenario, not a glass half empty.

What surprising thing have you got out of therapy?
To be kinder to myself. Recognise that I am good enough and I have done the best I can.

Do you miss South Africa?
I do and I don't. It's my fifth year here and I feel like, for the first time since immigrating, that I don't ache to go back there. It's quite foreign to me now. I am on the periphery of the politics, the statue bullshit, the loadshedding, the everything, and while I miss  - and always will - the sunshine, friendliness and beauty of the place, I think I have moved on now.

Not to say I feel like I am British. I will always be a foreigner here.

Your best attribute?
The ability to get on with almost anyone. If I have to. 

Your worst attribute?
I am mad.

Oh, you're mad. What keeps you sane?
Running. I run to feel happy, it's my alone time and it's another form of therapy. The bonus is that it happens to also help me lose weight.

Favourite things about living in the UK?
It's quite civilised.  Britain in the summertime makes up for most things. We don't have people shitting on statues or building whole estates with money that should go to the poor. You have five types of quinoa and five different supermarkets if you want it; there is choice everywhere. Fashion, shopping, so much weird stuff to see and do. A thousand brunch choices. You never worry about your safety, even if you're wondering through the common at midnight, a little bit drunk after three glasses of wine, with your iPod in, like I did the other night. I come across some very intelligent and funny - as in they are highly amusing - individuals everyday. Satire is admired here, and it surrounds me everyday. People are mostly polite and cheerful. You can pop over to Europe for lunch. Working here is fascinating for me - not the least, because I work with the media and the British press is a particular sort of beast.

Worst things about living here?
Standard Saffa complaints - the weather is a total balls-up (all forgiven when there is ONE sunny day), we all live on top of one another, property is crazy expensive, London's commute sometimes makes you want to kill yourself, too many people, people are too scared to rock any sort of political boat, so are completely passive aggressive and overly PC. Chavs and East End accents. My. Worst.

If you died right now, what will you see?
A lot of beach scenes in Thailand when I was young, carefree, unbaggaged. My beautiful son. His face. Everything about him. My daughter. My husband.

What's the best thing you could give to a mother?
Things money can't buy. Sleep. Love. Patience. Gratitude. Offer to take the baby for an hour while your mate has a nap. She will never ask you for this, even if you say, "Just let me know when you want me to come round." Just do it. Or even better - buy her a massage. That way she gets to sleep while getting pampered. Best present ever,  and from since last year, it's all I've really wanted in my Christmas stocking going forward.
Oh and a million pounds. To pay for private schooling.

* It should be noted that it was Gin 'n Tonic night in the Peas On Toast household. And I was three drinks in. 
It's taken me three days to gain the courage to actually post this.

1 comment:

debbie thackeray said...

You are so incredibly strong Peas. x