A Poem by George David Clark for Baby Loss Awareness Month

Today’s picture is not sad, it’s not raw, it’s not anything to do with miscarriage or stillbirth to anyone else but me. Today’s picture is of the lane into the village where I live. It is a picture I took while out walking my dog in mid winter. I use it here today because the road and the winter and that perfect moment of calm, that moment of me being out with my dog in the clean crisp air, moving forward, one foot in front of the other is a picture of hope.

Losing Matilda changed our lives. It took about five years to feel like a person and not a great gaping hole of grief. I will never be the same person again. When you lose a child it is like being completely destroyed, like a bomb going off inside you. It takes a long, long time for all the pieces to resettle, and when they do they are not in the same order that they were. Losing Matilda changed me for the better, in many ways. The love I feel for her and the love I felt for her when she was alive was like nothing I had experienced before. I can’t compare it to anything else. To have a person in your life that you do not even know but that you would die for at any minute, that’s what having a child feels like. When we lost her, all that love got sucked in like dark matter into a black hole, the sheer volume of it enough to tear right through us.

I am a better person for experiencing her loss. If I could hold her for one last time, I would do anything, anything. But I am a different, stronger person for losing her. I found a new courage that I didn’t know I had after her death, one that came from knowing that I couldn’t be destroyed. I also think I am more compassionate, kinder, with more empathy as well as being less ready to sweat over small things. I still get horribly stressed, but I also know that life is so very, very short and some people never get the chance to experience it. I want to grasp everything I can, do the things I love and love my husband with everything I have because life is so short and we are burning through it too fast.

I walk out now and put things to one side, I sit in the garden and watch my seven rabbits ( I had to replace having babies with something!) I do courses because I love learning, I write and write and write because I love writing. I left my job, I walked away from security to set my own business up. All things I know I can achieve because once upon a time I was de-boned by loss, like a chicken carcass. Once upon a time I had no body, no mind, just a scatter of kindling and scrap clinging to the side of a crater, and I came back from that. Once upon a time I struggled to leave one room for another I was so destroyed, I couldn’t do my job properly, I couldn’t look after the house or my husband or myself, once upon a time I had to put all Matilda’s things into boxes and bags and I had to deconstruct the moses basket and I had to take off my maternity clothes and bag them up and I had to put all her clothes into drawers we wouldn’t use. And once upon a time I had to sign consent forms for morticians, and my husband had to leave the bereavement suite and go and get a death certificate for a baby still cooling in my arms. That’s hard, much harder than anything else.

I have filled my life with so many things, university, books, writing, the business, I have filled my life with the people and things that I love, because it is in the in-between times when the quiet gets in that I think about the future without her. How will I write a will with no one to leave anything to? Who will I be without her. This time of year, with the leaves turning on the trees, the bluster of rain and the smell of wood burning on the thin air, I imagine her in the lit windows of houses, smiling, doing her homework, watching TV, having a bath, reading a book maybe, or drawing or eating or playing with the dog. I imagine these little squares of her life, like watching from a train window little pieces of a life I am not in, and my life seems so empty. My house feels so cold and unfinished.

Today’s charity is Child Bereavement UK, a charity that offers real support for grieving families and also for those that know their children of babies are dying. Again, it’s a taboo subject to talk about children with life limiting conditions, and pregnancies in which the outcome at birth is poor. There is real need for support for the people going through this so that they can ensure that they are prepared and that they have the time they want with their children, in the way that they want it.

And today’s poem is by George David Clark. i have been given kind permission to reproduce it here. I first came across it when writing a Review of the Emma Press book of Motherhood. The poem really let out to me and touched a nerve. George has experience of baby loss himself and watched his friends suffer loss too. I think it especially important because we rarely hear men speak about the experience. if it is taboo for a woman to speak openly about her dead children, then it is almost impossible for a man. And it shouldn’t be.

Laud in the Turning leaves

George David Clark

Redder than a pound of fresh ground beef

and redder than the poison on a sprig of holly,

redder even than last night, when, late

and thinking yourself finally pregnant,

you discovered you were redly not:

redder still, the sun this morning rises.

From your window, city towers make a glare

of glass like fine cosmetics counters –

this, the capital of lipstick. The river,

like a ruddy sheet of copper, blinks and blinks.

already out there dripping sugar

in the carnival of it all, your husband

is a great candied apple of a man.

While he fancies a son like a sweet tooth,

back home everything pink and rouges.

Griever, it’s the scheme of certain maples in October

to immolate so slowly every person passing

seems like Moses, but not all fires

are trick facades for some divine communication.

You’re not so much an arson as you are the crux

of family ardour. Lesser flames admire

the way you softly weep for tinder while you burn.

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