Sunday, 12 May 2013
Good days and bad days
Almost two years ago, on the first of July 2011, I got married. It was the best day of my life. There were months of preparation; plenty of visits to boot sales, antiques fairs and charity shops, hunting down forty individual vases to fill with mixed bunches for the table decorations. Many hours had been spent painstakingly designing, cutting, pasting, and attaching ribbons to piles of handmade invitations. Rose petals were pressed, cakes baked and iced, food sampled and alcohol purchased. When I woke on that most special of mornings, I could feel my stomach was knotted with excitement and anticipation. My beautiful bridesmaids and I giggled, like the school friends we used to be, over a champagne breakfast; we slipped in to our pretty dresses in my cramped apartment overflowing with flowers, lace and happiness. Make-up applied, hair styled and simple posies carefully placed, we bundled ourselves, and boxes of confetti cones, into my friend's trusted car and sped along the scenic country roads; the sun was shining, the was weather warm and a landscape of green welcomed us. The world was bright and vibrant; we felt alive. When we arrived at the venue, we were greeted by our registrar; she sensed the nerves, comforting me with kind words and explanations of the formalities. The day was passing in a blur; I willed the world to turn slower; I tried hard to absorb every detail, to remember every smile, every laugh and every single moment of joy. My new husband looked anxious but exquisitely handsome and happy, oh so happy. Petals fell onto the dusty floor of the ancient barn; we drank, we ate, we danced.
Two days later my husband and I strolled through the brilliantly bright streets of Bangkok. Stepping into a marble lobby, chandeliers sparkled overhead, we moved forward to the reception desk of our luxurious hotel. The receptionist was courteous, helpful and understood what a magical time our honeymoon was. As we were led to our suite, we passed the faces of relaxed holidaymakers, serious businessmen and the maids scuttled down the corridors around us. Once we crossed the threshold, the bellboy showed us the features of the peaceful apartment; we were presented with a delicately iced cake to celebrate the special time. Finding ourselves alone, my husband and I fell onto the soft sofa; our hands touched, our fingers became entwined and joy radiated through our bodies, from our smiles right down to our toes. Unpacking my case, I pulled out seemingly endless reams of light colourful summery fabric. Each dress chosen to flatter and reveal the new figure I worked so hard to achieve. After fourteen days of adventure, endless delight, one elephant safari and with two sun-kissed faces, it was over.
When we arrived home, we were greeted by flowers and cards; our loved one's generous words tumbled from messages full warmth and happiness. We felt loved and connected; our joy was complete and our hearts were full. We lingered as we opened each present, read each card and committed the well-wishes into our memories. Surrounded by a sea of tissue, we came across a present that we weren't sure what to do with. It wasn't a vase we could place lovingly on a sideboard or a picture that we could hang with care. The confusing wedding gift was the opportunity to name a star. My husband and I talked about what to call the star; we came up with nothing, we shrugged and I put the box under the coffee table until the day that inspiration would find us.
Six months ago, on the twelfth of December 2012, our babies died. It was the worst day of my life. There had been months of preparation; countless trips to fertility clinics, specialist doctors and maternity wards, to achieve and sustain the pregnancy our hearts ached for. Many hours had been spent injecting, pill popping, testing, and undergoing scan after scan to ensure the eggs would mature, graduate to embryos and the resulting babies would survive. Maternity clothes were bought, nurseries dreamt about, friends told and my belly grew bigger. When I woke on the morning of our thirteenth pregnancy scan, I could feel that my stomach was knotted with fear and dread. My husband and I talked with hushed tones as we dragged on our heavy clothes in our bedroom filled with exhaustion, fear and sadness. Teeth brushed, hair scraped back and our maternity file carefully placed in my bag, we shuffled to my beloved car and drove along the grey wintry roads. Snow lay on the ground, the weather was icy and a landscape of gloom surrounded us. The world was dark and still; we felt stunned. We arrived at the hospital and were greeted by our midwife, she sensed the fear; comforting us with kind words and explanations of the formalities. The day was passing in a blur. I willed the world to turn slower and I fought hard to blink back the tears, to cling to every shred of hope, to remember every blurry image and hold onto every single moment of joy. My husband looked tired, desperately worried and sad, oh so sad. As the ultrasound got underway, the words shattered the air around us as they fell from the doctor's mouth, the babies were gone; we shook, we cried, we crumbled.
Two days later my husband and I walked through the depressingly dull streets of Reading. Stepping into a yellowing lobby, the fluorescent strips flickered overhead, we moved forward to the reception desk of the labour and delivery ward. The midwife was kind, helpful and understood what a tragic time the loss of our babies was. As we were shown to our suite, we passed the faces of expectant couples and anticipating grandparents; the midwives rushed through the corridors around us. Once we crossed the threshold into our delivery room, the midwife showed us the features of the deathly quiet apartment; my cervix was prepared for the impending birth and pills were given to start the contractions. Finding ourselves alone, my husband and I fell onto the uncomfortable sofa and our hands touched, our fingers became entwined and agony radiated from our souls. Unpacking my case, I pulled out a limited stock of heavy, dark clothes. Each item chosen to hide and cover the pregnancy I worked so hard to achieve. After nine hours of labour, endless torture, an emergency surgery and a blood transfusion, it was over. The next day, we stood like statues with fragmented hearts as we looked at our daughters, both of us too scared and broken to stretch out a hand and touch their cool skin.
When we arrived home, we were greeted by flowers and cards; our loved one's comforting words tumbled from messages full sympathy and sadness. We felt loved but alone; our worst fears had been realised and our hearts were empty. We sat in stifling silence as we opened each envelope, read each card and committed the grief to our memories.
Some months later, as I cleaned round our coffee table, I felt my foot touch something cold. I knelt down, reached under the table and pulled out a box that I didn't recognise. I prised opened the metal lid and a thin sheet of instructions floated onto the carpet. I smiled when I realised it was a forgotten wedding gift; the leaflet told me it was our opportunity to name a star. My husband and I didn't need to discuss what to call the star: inspiration had found us.