I went to go and see a doctor a few weeks after Gabriel was born. I could not sleep. I would lay myself down and stare at the ceiling, and I could not close my eyes. I was, quickly, becoming frantic. Terrified. So, I went to go and see the doctor who was filling in for my GP, and I explained that my son had died 14 days before, and I could not sleep, and could I have something to help me? Because it was bad already, and I knew it would be worse if I couldn’t sleep. He gave me, as if he was doing me the favour of all eternity, 7 nights worth of pills. He looked at me and told me that I would have to learn to cope. It’s a level of cruelty that astounds me still.
A week later I sat in my GP’s office and he told me that he wasn’t sure that 3 months would do it, but it was a start – come back if I needed more. There is, for the record, 1 pill left in that bottle.
Perhaps it would surprise you, those of you who have not lost a child, if I told you that there are places in my grief life I do not – cannot go. At some point in this process, you look hard at places in your sorrow, and you shake your head, and you realize that if you go down that path, madness lies at the end. However much, in the midst of our most personal moments of agony, we might wish for madness, we seem to know that it is not an option. We sit in our doctor’s office and we quietly explain that our baby has died, and we are very sorry to trouble, but we cannot sleep, and could we have some help with that. Not Valium or laudanum or entire bottles of rum, but a pill so that when we close our eyes, we can sleep. Our overworked brains can rest, if only for a few hours. And our outward behaviour does not match the pain and the fear and the sorrow in our hearts.
The truth is, I can see him at 18 months – reddish hair, his mother’s temper, his father’s logic. It doesn’t take much, and those thoughts are never very far from me. But I do not spend time there. That way madness lies.
I’m talking real madness. Not slightly crazy, distraught. No, I’m talking the have-you-committed, lose-your-job-your-house-your-car-your-will-to-live. You can spend so much time on what should have been, and the gross unfairness of it all, that you stop living. You can spend all of your time in what should have been, and lose your grip on what is.
I have never really lost it at Gabriel’s death. I have never screamed or wailed in public. Indeed, I’ve never done either in front of Mr. Spit. I have screamed once. Wailed beyond all comprehension twice. That way madness lies.
And so, most days, well, really all days, I move through my life. And more than moving through life, I actually like my life. It’s not what I wanted, what I planned, but it is what it is. And it`s a good life.
“Did you hear the announcement about our baby in church?”
A note on my Facebook page asking if we had heard the announcement at church about the new baby. An announcement on Father`s day. And I looked at this note, turning my head sideways, trying to figure out how to explain. Struck by this gap. I understand how they wouldn’t “get” the conjunction of the day and the news, and how hard that would be for Mr. Spit. I understand that. I get it, even if they don’t. And I am left confused and saddened. Because there is no way to explain a hurt that is so wide or deep. There are no physical signs of it. I am, solidly sane.
Because I do not scream, because I ask for mild sleeping pills and not tranquilizers, that doesn’t mean that some times don’t hurt more than others, and that doesn’t mean that we are the way we were, and that doesn’t mean that some days don’t take us too close to those places that madness lies.