For my sister’s 40th birthday this September she decided to take her two children (aged 11 and 14) to New York. Initially when she started talking about it last year, Simon and I thought we’d probably be starting IVF around then so weren’t planning on going. Once we found out baby was on board, we then thought we’d have a new baby to care for so were happy to sit out the trip in favour of dirty nappies and sleepless nights! A few days after Isobel was born asleep, we started talking about going to New York with them and decided it would be good to have something to plan and look forward to. We decided to take Simon’s 15 year old son too, and make it an opportunity to spend some quality time with him which can sometimes be tricky with a teenage boy! I’m really close to my niece and nephew and hanging out with them makes me feel closer to normal than most other things! So over July and August we sorted flights, hotel and spent time planning what to do and most importantly where to eat! Part of me was worried that with such a big financial outlay the trip would be wasted if we ended up being miserable there and not enjoying it!
I needn’t have worried about that. It was so so good to get away. New York was a change of scenery, a change of culture and a hectic change of pace! We did all the sights and made great memories that I hope the kids will always treasure. Overall Simon and I were in good form. We were so busy and active during the day that we slept well at night. It was lovely seeing my sister and her family every day and great to have quality time with my stepson. I still thought about Isobel constantly – almost literally. But somehow the thoughts felt different with being away, easier to hold, more bittersweet than unbearably sad.
There were a few times when I was upset and cried. We did a guided tour of Central Park which finished at Strawberry Fields, the John Lennon memorial garden. It was packed with tourists, people were leaving roses, taking pictures, crying, and there was a really stereotypical hippy type playing Beatles songs. I was overwhelmed with sadness, not for John Lennon (sorry John) but for Isobel. My baby who never got the chance to influence the world, to touch the lives of millions of people, to have a memorial visited by people from all over the world. It felt so unfair that all these people really cared that John Lennon had lived and was gone, and yet such a tiny amount of people know of Isobel and mourn her. I had a little cry behind my sunglasses and people probably thought I was just a massive Beatles fan. I was then distracted out of my tears by the arrival of Yoko Ono! Our first and only celebrity spot in NYC but a pretty good one. She still lives in the apartment building across from Central Park where John was killed. I imagined how difficult it must have been to walk past that spot every time she goes in and out of her apartment but I guess that the positive memories of her home with John must outweigh that. Tenuously similarly, people keep suggesting that Simon & I move house, thinking we need to get away from Isobel’s room. I don’t think they understand that we want to be close to her, and that reminders of her are so deeply ingrained in us that physical reminders can’t cause any more pain than we already feel. Anyhow, back to New York!
We also went to the 9/11 memorial and museum. Of course it was emotional. I can’t imagine many people visit and remain unmoved. I can imagine however that not too many people go and feel jealous of the people who died that day, but I was. I recognise that may sound insane! Certainly the way many of them died, with awareness and with fear is not preferable to how Isobel passed quietly inside me. However again, it was the memorial and immortality through remembrance aspect that I was jealous of. Those who sadly died that day have a whole museum dedicated to their pictures and stories, their names surrounding a pool read aloud or internally by strangers on a daily basis – their lives are acknowledged by thousands of people from all over the world every day. They will not be forgotten. The quote above, forged from recovered metal of the World Trade Centre says exactly that. Compared to this, Isobel’s little grave and my few blog posts seem so insignificant a memorial.
I suppose on reading what I’ve just written my fear is that Isobel will be forgotten. Not by me or Simon, as I know that will never happen. (I feel guilty even thinking it but sometimes I wish I could forget her for a while just to get some relief from the sadness.) I know she will always be remembered by us but who else?
I usually hate attention seeking ‘sad’ status updates on Facebook and since Isobel died have only posted motivational things – like when I ran my first 5k, or went back to yoga. But with these posts and my smiling New York pictures I’m now worried that everyone will think I’m doing great and have moved on. Why I care what random Facebook friends think is a pondering for another post! I find myself tempted to post a sad or even a borderline suicidal status just to remind the world how awful I feel, how pointless my life is, how much I have lost – to remind them of Isobel. I posted her picture in a closed stillbirth support group a few days ago when I really wanted to post it on my own page. I haven’t done this as I know not everyone is comfortable with seeing her picture and I don’t want anyone looking at her with anything less than love. However seeing dozens of baby pictures every time I open my newsfeed and not feeling able to share the few pictures I have of my baby is really hard. As I contemplate going back to work in the next month or so – the ultimate sign of being ‘ok’ – I worry that Isobel will disappear from the consciousness of those around me. A difficult time that is now over. A war survived.
Being away was amazing, coming home to reality and a house/future without my daughter has been so so hard. In my mind this war that we’re fighting has only just begun and I don’t want people to forget that.