Superstition (noun): A widely held but irrational belief in supernatural influences
Has this time and experience been a blessing or a curse? I’ve been wondering about this for a while now and my view oscillates. At first, I thought about it in terms of the pandemic…
A Blessing: Summer was born on Monday 9th March and the UK went into lockdown on the 23rd. At first, the pandemic gave us space for our grief – a period of privacy – which was a good thing.
A Curse: But then it made everything worse. Just as we were ready to start seeing people, it became illegal to do so. We glanced around at Europe and we all knew a lockdown was looming. Five amazing friends managed to prioritise us, to see us before the rule change. My mum visited as much as she could in that time, and James’ parents visited for 24 hours. Our wider families left us alone. We have been so alone.
When I was in hospital still pregnant with Summer, I had naively said “for me, this is no different to any of my babies. I just have to grieve again and find a way to move forwards”. I so wanted that to be true, but seeing Summer changed everything. It has been different. I had no idea that living with this new layer of grief would take so much from me. The resilience barrier was obliterated. It was this realisation, that led to the creation of Mumoirs. I couldn’t keep it all in any more. I needed to write, to process, to rewire my brain and figure out what the heck was going on.
A Blessing: Because Summer was born alive, I was (am?) legally entitled to a full maternity leave. I didn’t even consider it (internal monologue: “maternity leave is not for you, you don’t even have a baby to look after!”). So if it hadn’t been for the pandemic, I almost certainly would have rushed back to work, like I did after the first two miscarriages. My boss was completely supportive of whatever I wanted to do, so I decided to return to work after two months. Two months! In hindsight, it was arguably still too soon.
However, working entirely from home since May – alongside the advocacy and kindness of my boss – has afforded me both the privacy and the flexibility to deal with the more difficult grief days. I occasionally had to email him to say “logging off, today is just too hard” and he was so good about that (he even had Mumoirs added as a trusted website to the company network, so that I could access it whenever I needed, on mental health grounds – absolute legend).
One thing I’ve been proud about, is how honest I’ve been with my colleagues about this being hard (who given the industry, are predominantly male). When the head of my team called in June and asked a cursory “how are you?” I was honest and said “It’s been a tough grief week actually”. I knew that he’d been on some of my calls and presentations that week and that I would have seemed fine. I sort of wanted to make the point that I had done my job, all the big things – trading, client calls, presentations, team events, chairing meetings etc – all while sitting under a cloud of grief. I just wanted to remind him that mental health stuff is not always visible. When you think about it, if someone is doing a good (or even an ok) job, in difficult circumstances, they should get extra kudos for that.
A Curse: Initially my office announced that it would be closed until September/October. I did the maths: “ok, that gives me 6-7 months for my grief”. But then in August, they updated the guidance and said that the office wouldn’t be reopening, at all, again this year. That really threw me. This has gone on for too long now. I can’t keep sitting at home, in this grief. I need to have a purpose again. I need to get up, get dressed, get a routine – away from this house. The pandemic has become synonymous with grieving from home, grieving for Summer.
A Blessing: So I sent an email to my boss and I’m now part of a pilot-scheme, a small group of people who can work from the office a couple of times a week (see, I told you he was a legend!). So, for the first time since February, I went back into the office a couple of weeks ago (only to have a pure comedy moment, sitting down to a BBC alert about Michael Gove changing his mind and asking office workers to stay at home if they can!). Thankfully we’re in a COVID-adapted workplace, so the small pilot scheme continues, which I am immensely grateful for.
I can’t think of many people the pandemic has suited, but I guess that in some ways, it has worked for me. It has created time and space for my grief. But more recently, I’ve been wondering about Summer. Was meeting my baby for an hour a blessing or a curse? It’s really hard for me to figure out, but something I feel I’d like a clearer answer to.
A Blessing: It was wonderful, we had a daughter.
A Curse: It is awful, not having our daughter.
I do think it would have been a LOT easier, not having to confront all of this: A second trimester loss has been very different to a first trimester loss, but perhaps there’s no point thinking about it. There’s no changing what happened. She was born alive, that was definitely a blessing. The memories however are both a blessing and a curse.
A Blessing: On Saturday morning, I woke up asking myself this blessed curse question. I got distracted from the thought, but made a mental note to blog about it. When night fell, I picked up my current book, nothing too cerebral, just some chick-lit and resumed my reading.
I’ve become more superstitious since Summer, especially when it comes to my books. So of course, a character explicitly tells me that her daughter was a blessing and then, on the very next page, Summer’s name appears (accompanied by the year of James’ and my own first summer). Guess that’s the answer then.
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