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vendredi 23 mai 2008

Mirror, mirror

The mind is a strange thing... And a bloody sneaky thing, too, sometimes...
This afternoon, I caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror (yes, I usually try to avoid it) and HOLY GUACAMOLE barely recognised myself.
And you can tell.
In my mind, I usually reckon I look just about OK. Nothing special, but OK. And then I see myself and realise that I actually spend most of my time looking like an alien-witch with wild, uncontrollable hair, hopeless skin (no zits, just very white) and clothes that probably don't suit me half as much as I think they do.
No wonder D rarely compliments me. No wonder, either, that the only comparisons he makes of me to someone famous are so unflattering.
You know, "Nicole Kidman", or "Julieanne Moore" would be nice (people you could realistically say "look like me" even if it would still be a HUGE stretch of the imagination - obviously, I'd quite like "Angelina Jolie" or "Monica Bellucci", too, but that's just impossible). Instead, I get "Winston Churchill" (may have been a great wartime leader, but he certainly wasn't known for his dashing good looks. And he was a MAN) or "Louis XIV" (another MAN).
Do I really look like these two MEN? I don't think so. I think it's just an indictment of what D really thinks of me (probably not very much most of the time).
That said, I was horrified by my appearance today (though I still refuse to believe I look like a man). My hair! My teeth! My legs (once so shapely)! My weight (not fat, but definitely a) fatter than before and b) fatter than I'd like)!
And summer's around the corner, with all THAT implies (bare legs, short sleeves, SWIMSUITS God help me).
I'm not sure what to do.
I guess not going to bed at 3 am would be a good idea, and probably eating less cr*p would help, too.
But you know, it's just not that easy. It's 2.20 am already (so 3 am looks like a reality once again) and I'm just aching to go and chow down on a bowl of cereal or something.
Those dreaded Midnight Munchies.
Then, all I have to do is go brush my teeth without catching sight of myself in that treacherous bathroom mirror. Perhaps, that way, I'll manage to get to sleep believing I look cute and sexy in my flannel pyjamas!
Now, where did I put those chocolate biscuits...

jeudi 22 mai 2008

Toowhit - munch - toowho

My lifestyle (if you can call it that) is now so seriously f*cked that I'm more or less an owl. So you can imagine how great I felt this morning when I had to take C and L to school while D helped a friend shoot a trailer for a short film. Yes, ab fab is exactly how I felt.
That said, by the time I got home, my smugness at being part of the "already been out and it's only 9.30" brigade meant that I felt OK.
But of course I fell asleep on the sofa for an hour this evening (and would have slept this afternoon, of course, except that it's Wednesday, the day I spend all afternoon with L as she doesn't have school).
So, I woke up around 10 pm and felt quite perky (as usual - exhausted, grouchy, ready to kill anyone who bugs me at 7 pm, Perky Pig by 10...), so settled down to work. And work I did.
And hey, whaddya know. It's almost 3 am. And all I feel like doing is surfing the web, reading blogs that make me laugh and cry (sometimes simultaneously - like this one) and EATING HUGE AMOUNTS OF CR*P. Oh, the cr*p I can put away...
Cheese - yum. Chocolate biscuits - munch, munch, wipe the crumbs off my desk. Bread and butter - mmm, use a nail file to get the crumbs out of the keyboard, the list goes on, like some kind of bulimic's fantasy.
Maybe I'm bulimic, now that I think of it.
Or depressed (always a possibility, and one D's pretty sure of, as HE KEEPS TELLING ME, like I want to hear that).
Or quite possibly just insane.
Talking of which, haven't watched Zac in Hairspray for a while... Never have the time, what with working all night, sleeping during the day, childcaring in the evenings... But might try and fit in a quick sequence tomorrow morning. So scrummy, young Zac...
And now that I'm 39 (God help me) - as of last Sunday, thank you very much, had a lovely day - I really am old enough to be the delightful Zac's mother.
Maybe I should stick to fantasising about Brad and Johnny - at least they're older than I am.

mercredi 14 mai 2008


Well, it certainly seems that spring has arrived... Not the weather, obviously, which is depressingly British for the south of France (OK sometimes, nice sometimes, grotty sometimes, always totally unpredictable), no, not that kind of spring, rather, a feeling of "burgeoning life"... All around me, there are new babies on the way... a British friend who lives near here is expecting her second daughter in October, our neighbours are expecting their first child, a boy, in July, the mother of one of my daughter's friends is due this week, two colleagues are also pregnant... and that's not including all my blog "friends" (ie, the blog writers I read avidly but who almost certainly don't know of my existence), many of whom seem to be pregnant right now... Renewal, new life, that's what spring's about.

But then there are the others. Those who are in those dark places I know so well. The ones who have lost babies, or those who've never even had the chance to get pregnant in the first place.

My mind is weaving in and out of those places right now. I don't know what sparked it off, perhaps reading this post, or this blog, which is just heartbreaking and makes me sob late at night when I can read it in peace, without fear of being caught "wallowing" in my own, now almost-8-year-old (but still fresh as a daisy, or a sprig of lavendar) grief.

I ache for these women and what they are going through. I feel so angry that anyone should have to go through this.

And I miss my first daughter so much... I miss the fact that she never got a chance, and my heart is broken that in the eyes of JUST ABOUT EVERYONE ON THE PLANET she never even existed. She never even got given a name, thanks to one of the nastier aspects of French law and heartless bureaucracy - if she'd been born just 3 days later, she would have officially been "a foetus", with the right to be buried (not "incinerated with the other abortion detritus", as the midwife so kindly told me just minutes after giving birth to her poor, dead, but amazingly beautiful little body), to be included in our "livret de famille" - family register, to be given a name... the right to EXIST in the eyes of the world as a whole, not just in my memories and my heart.

Yes, there's bitterness in my voice. Because these things just aren't meant to happen. They aren't meant to be.

So my heart goes out to all those women writing in the grief blogs, all those women who are suffering and in pain right now. It doesn't matter what the circumstances are/were, losing a child is the most painful experience I can imagine.

These dark places occupy my mind day and night, but of course it's mainly at night - those wee small hours when I should be in bed but prefer to exhaust myself, staying up and working, or reading, or reading the blogs I enjoy so much.

As I said, it's been almost 8 years for me now. So I'm one of the oldest members of this wretched "club" that no one ever wants to join. But my pain is still there, I've been cut to the quick and the wound will never heal completely.

I've had two other daughters since then, C, who is almost 6.5, and L, who's just turned 4, and they truly are the light of my life. I love them more than I could ever express in words. They're sweet and bright and beautiful, my blond-haired, blue-eyed angels, and I wouldn't change them for the world. But my first daughter, she was sweet and bright and beautiful too. And probably blond-haired, certainly blue-eyed. She'll always be there, in my heart, even when no one but me ever thinks about her.

I don't mean to be so gloomy, I really don't. I was hoping this blog would be light-hearted, not a "grief blog". But right now, with all these new lives blossoming around me, I can't help but feel pulled towards those who can't walk in the bright spring sunlight, those who are trapped in the dark place, waiting for the light to come back into their lives.

And, if you're reading this, I want you to know that the light will come back one day. There'll always be a dark place, tucked away for when you need to take refuge there, but the light will return and you'll feel the warmth of the spring sun once again. But you'll never be the same.

vendredi 9 mai 2008

20 vital things about me

Yes, after weeks of one-post-every-blue-moon, here's my second today!
20 vital things you simply have to know about me.
1. I used to hate the fact that I have red hair, but now I'm pretty pleased with it.
2. But I hate having the white-never-tans skin that goes with it.
3. I'll be 39 in 10 days and don't (as far as I can tell) have any grey hairs.
4. I tend to be pessimistic, but usually feel justified.
5. I have always (well, since 1978 anyway) had a crush on John Travolta-as-Danny-Zuco
6. When I was 6, my parents had the brilliant idea of sending me, their hopelessly shy and geeky only daughter, to be the only girl in a boys' school in Scotland for a year or so.
7. I don't think I was very happy at the school (don't really remember), but that summer - 1976 - was idyllic.
8. I love musicals, particularly modern ones, but HATE "Dancer in the dark", mainly because I can't stand Björk.
9. My cat, T, is the most perfect feline you're ever likely to come across.
10. I often feel very guilty about the fact that I live so far away from my father (he lives in Scotland, I live in the south of France), but never enough to contemplate the idea of moving nearer to him.
11. I love my father very much despite that fact.
12. I'm a pretty picky eater, but not nearly as much as I used to be - when I was a child, I wouldn't eat anything green, not even green Smarties.
13. I was deeply unhappy at high school because I felt so invisible.
14. I have always been useless at every type of sport.
15. I would love to be better at sport.
16. Although I made most of my best friends at university, I was pretty miserable there, too, again because I was so invisible (to the opposite sex, I mean).
17. I fell hopelessly "in love" with a number of guys, all of whom at best were "friends" or at worst totally oblivious to my existence.
18. I spend most of my life being inhibited by this paralyzing shyness I've never really overcome, even though I now teach large classes of university students every now and then.
19. I'm not as unhappy as I probably sound. Really.
20. My eldest daughter died in July 2000 and my life has never really been the same since.

happy families

So, this was a bank holiday today in France. Should mean "nice family day out" somewhere.
But no.
This was actually a pretty crappy day here in our house.
D was in bicker mode pretty much all day, and I could feel his not-spoken-but-thought-very-loud criticism of me very consciously. L of course didn't have her nap this afternoon and D went ape - shouting, saying nasty things he didn't really mean (though how's a 4-year-old supposed to know that?), confiscating ALL her soft toys (including her beloved Lapin Jaune) but one, dealing out punishment after punishment... Horrid, really horrid.
Then we all went for a "walk" at the zoo, which was OK, except for D's general snottiness which came and went all afternoon.
Got home, D still snotty, L hideous in the car and sent straight to bed... Joyful evening, as you can imagine.
And now, D's gone to bed and still seems pissed off with me for some reason, like all this stroppiness is somehow my fault. Like to know how he figures that.
God, it's tough being in a relationship.! We've been together for 12 years (yikes!) and have had a fair number of humdinging rows, but basically we get on fine for a couple who live together and work from home together.
But that doesn't mean that sometimes I wouldn't just love to stand on the roof of our building and scream at the injustice of some of D's remarks, comments whatever.

On a more serious note (if you're going to be downbeat and frustrated, you may as well go the whole hog and be downright gloomy too, eh), sort of watched a deeply disturbing film this evening - "21 grammes".
Holy shit, it's depressing! As I wasn't really watching, I didn't really get past the "woman whose husband and two little girls get killed in an accident" part. My blood ran cold.
Especially after the panic attack I had the other day about the very same thing happening to me.
I feel sick with worry.
I've already lost one little girl. I just can't bear the thought of anything, ANYTHING, happening to C or L. They are the light of my life. I love them more than anything on earth and always will. They're bright, beautiful, kind little girls. My world.
Please keep them safe and healthy.
Please let them live happy lives.

samedi 3 mai 2008

For some reason, I just have to talk about this dark period in my life. I'll blog about the whole sorry tale at another time (yes, it's almost 3 am again and I have to be up at 8.30 to take L. to her circus class, God help me). But I came across a fabulous "baby loss" website this evening ( and feel honour-bound to answer these terribly tough questions:
1 In a word, how would you characterize yourself before your loss, and then after?
Before: never thought such bad sh*t would happen to me; After: unswervingly pessimistic
2 How do you feel around pregnant women?
Now, there's no problem. But after my daughter died in 2000, anything pregnancy/baby/child related was a form of torture.
3 How do you answer the 'how many children' question?
I try to avoid it. Even now, explaining what happened to my first daughter is liable to make me cry (which can be embarrassing and very inappropriate), yet saying I have 2 children breaks my heart because to me, I know it's not the truth. I have 3 daughters, but one wasn't able to live. Period.
4 How did you explain what happened to your lost baby to your living children? Or, if this was your first pregnancy, will you tell future children about your first?
My daughters are still young (6 and 4) and I haven't told them about their "big sister" yet. Partly because I would cry, and I'm not sure they're ready for that, partly because I don't want them to be traumatised in any way. But I will tell them, there's no doubt about that.
5 What would another pregnancy mean to you, and how would you get through it—or are you done with babymaking?
When I was pregnant with C. (in 2001), I was a wreck of nerves, worry, pessimism and anxiety throughout, even once I'd got past the "equivalent date", which unfortunately happened to be 9/11, so I was freaked out, started having contractions, freaked out even more and ended up spending a week in hospital. But C. was fine and was born in December, 4 weeks early. For my third pregnancy, the stress was still there, but lesser. And L. was born 4.5 weeks early.
6 Imagine being able to step back in time and whisper into the ear of your past self the day after your baby died. What would you say?
Hang in there. Fight for the right to bury your daughter - they can't just take her away and incinerate her. Fight for her right to have a name, be buried. And be strong. This baby was NOT your only chance at motherhood, there will be other chances and they will be successful, and you will have two beautiful little girls who will make you so proud.