(Still Birth, © Polly Morgan)
Today I share a celebration and a request, and, 2 wonderful works of art. First: Polly Morgan’s taxidermy, above, so powerfully evocative of my ‘Evan experience’ in its juxtaposition and bittersweet beauty. Sadness and joy tied into one piece of beautiful surrealism. The balloon is weighed down by the pitiful dead chick; but at the same time the bird is buoyed by the joy of the balloon. There is also sadness in the anchored balloon, and hope in the rising corpse of the little creature. Between them there is delicate, hovering balance. This is life: pain and pleasure, in one inextricable package. Scary and pretty in one. Aptly wrapped in one package of human expression: ART.
Today marks one year ago that my first baby was born, when I’d strolled around my house in labour, so thankful for every surge that filled my hips, each one assuring that my baby was coming smoothly and that I could stay at home. But this was not just any birth. This was to be a birth of a baby who could not live beyond my body. This birth was going to also be a death. Having known this for 12 weeks, I was in a weird world of acceptance. But despite what scientific prognosis said, it was a happy ending: happy, but an ending. A happiness of a different breed. Talk about surrealism in my photography – this was the greatest surrealism I’d ever experienced.
I was Alice down the most bizarre rabbit hole in the forest. My partner slept as the winter night deepened. By 2am our son was born, already an angel, already miles away on his continuing epic voyage, leaving his proud mother drinking a cup of tea before falling asleep with the midwife and Evan’s beautiful body cradled between us, lovingly dressed in his lavender suit (‘but real, rockstar lavender’ as Matthew wrote on his Facebook announcement later that day).
© Mother and Child, Ray Caesar (detail below) A piece that has captivated me all year. Full of many details synchronous with that night, both literal and symbolic. So full of the peace I had with Evan. The first words I said were ‘He’s ok. It’s ok’, words I comfort myself with now.
Now here I am 12 months on, with new life cradled in the fluid space of the flesh crib that rocks with new vivacity and hope. It is Evan’s sister. During a year of adventures, a year that had a calendar stacked high to make the most of a postponed family life, we created his sibling on the summer peak of one of those creative highs. Our rainbow baby, perfectly healthy, due next spring.
But today, I shed a tear for the little boy I could not do anything more for. Happy first birthday as an angel, Evan, born 11.12.13. You will always be loved, fiercely, and just as equally as any of my children. Today as we celebrate with a special high tea booked at a lovely cafe, and adorn your grave with many flowers, we remember you.
You remind us that life is an animal, sometimes it sits in our lap happily stroked, it purrs back lovingly, but ultimately it is wild, it runs out of our grasp and flies free whilst we can only sweetly savour the moments we had. And we celebrate the little girl who now flourishes in the space you lived your whole, sweet powerful life, we on a humbling ride on the back of that elusive wild animal, an awesome adventure that left us a little bruised, but strangely invigorated, a reminder that there is something much bigger happening in our existence than our earthly humdrum grind. ART is all the drawings we make of that mysterious, unpredictable animal.
A request to you!
All year I wondered what I might dedicate to Evan’s birthday, and I found last week that there is a documentary being made called ‘Still Loved’ by Debbie Howard, aiming to communicate the powerful and inspiring stories of families who have lost babies. Stillbirth, such a depressing topic, but something that happens to families every day. Unlike in our case of Evan having bilateral renal agenesis / Potters Syndrome all along, and diagnosed at 32 weeks, often parents don’t know the cause of their baby’s sudden death at birth. In fact, losses of all kinds during pregnancy/birth are sadly more common than we realise. People just don’t talk about it.
Mothers who lose a child never forget that child, equally loving them just as much as if they were still alive. What has empowered me through my experience is the confirmation of my son’s existence by my friends mentioning his name, keeping him ‘in the loop’, reminding me constantly that he is not forgotten. Through this blog I have openly shared my story and it has been the greatest catharsis I have ever known.
Help other women and their families to have their stories heard. I believe the more compassionate, open and expressive we become about the taboos of life and death, the more powerful we become as humans.
Debbie’s documentary is already halfway to its goal, but only has 6 days to go.
Please, consider contributing something even small to the making of this documentary here.
Update: the documentary has reached (and surpassed) its £5k goal! Thanks to all those who contributed!.. x