A reply to Auntie Miia

Things have been hard since James went back to work. We’re really sad, things seem to be sinking in. James’ sister Miia messaged me to ask how we were this week, so this is (a very slightly edited version of) my reply. It sums up how we’re doing this week.

“Hello. Thank you for your phone message. It takes us a while to get to doing things other than the essential at the moment, sorry for the delay, it’s not because we don’t want to talk to you. We’re alright. It seems to be getting harder. James is back at work, and that’s really tough for him. His brain isn’t working as it should or would have, concentrating, and actually doing stuff is difficult, his colleagues continue to be wonderfully supportive.
I miss James (and Elijah). We have just spent more than 2 months entirely together, so despite the horrible (and incredible) experiences, we have been with each other the whole time…the very longest time since we got married (almost 13 years ago) and the longest time since we met. So, I miss him…and I have more time to be alone, and my mind then wonders, which is fine, and it’s good to embrace the pain. We’re facing the tasks of taking down the baby cards and sympathy cards slowly, reading them all, and letting them affect us however they do. Amos is still going to his childminder (Mel) 2 days a week until the summer holidays. I need that time, just to be. (Lots to do, but I also need some time just to be how I need to be.) He also talks to Mel, and I can’t take her off him as well, yet. He loves her. He did tell her it was a shame that Elijah was so small, as he wouldn’t have been able to reach the kettle. (!)

When the boys are about, we do get thoroughly distracted, so it’s good to have some time to just think over the last few weeks.
We’re also a strange social phenomenon, some people know exactly how to manage us. (Which, at the moment is to ask us how we are, with long enough space to allow us to reply.) Some people don’t mention Elijah at all, I guess no one knows how we want to be really. But, when he fills our heads most of the time, sometimes it’s hard to just carry on a normal conversation, without acknowledging our current state…and I really don’t mind shedding the odd tear in public. When the subject is brought up, we can chat for a minute about it, and move on to other things if need be. It’s also hard for us to bring up the subject up, because we don’t want to be the people who socially always bang on about our baby who’s died, even though at times we might want to. I held a small baby in the playground on Monday (my request.) Which was lovely and terribly painful too. I’m feeling a real physical sadness today, I’m tired, Amos is snotty and has a cracking cough, so was up in the night. Amos misses him, and is sad. Jonah is not talking about how he feels at all. He has 2 peers in his class who have new babies in the family, and I can’t help but think he must find that hard, but I’m learning not to think I know how anyone feels.
We are still very lucky to have had him. I wouldn’t change that for anything. I just wish we still did.
I had my post-natal check last week, which was just a chat. We both went to it, and the GP was very good, she’d clearly read all my notes, and it was good for James to talk too. As the Mum I get more people being supportive of me than James does as the Dad. People ask me how I am more than they ask him. But then I am better at eye-contact than he is, and I meet up with friends, who talk, while he goes to work. He is being amazing. I’m so very proud of him.
So, that was a long reply. But you did ask.”

I think that was Tuesday. On Saturday night at a Party, our friends’ 10 year old son Fred waited until I was on my own, and came to find me, the conversation went like this:

“How are you feeling today Jen?”

“Do you mean about what’s gone on in the last few weeks?”

“Yes.”

“Thank you Fred, I really love you that you asked. We’re ok, it’s hard, but we’re doing alright. Thank you so much for asking.”

“I can’t imagine what it’s like for you.”

…We’re a difficult beast to approach, but Fred pretty much hit the nail on the head.

We have new tadpoles in the pond, and a baby frog, oh and a baby bird adopted us for a couple of days, and I can’t help but want to look after them.

James: Going back to work has been strange. My colleagues have been great and I couldn’t imagine things being any better on that front. If I want to talk about Elijah, it feels OK to do so. I’ve found getting work done difficult. Concentration and focus are not easy and jobs that perhaps would have taken a few hours are taking days. Whereas before if something went wrong I’d enjoy the challenge of fixing it, I now feel numbed. I’ve lost some fight and seem more tolerant of work bureaucracy. The other day, I simply accepted the fact that I needed to fill in a form. Before Elijah was born, I would have launched into a tirade of vitriol at having to waste my time. Mind you, I’ve still not completed said form (some things never change).

I gave blood on Monday. This was always going to be rather poignant. I was barely holding it together on the short walk from work to the Donor Centre but was doing OK until I sat in reception and noticed the tissues on the coffee table were the same brand and box size as the ones we became all too familiar with in hospital. Still, I managed to explain to the nurse why my eyes and nose were running and that I was physically fit to give blood. It hurt a bit this time – I don’t think the nurse got the needle into the vein at the optimum angle. On one hand it seems a little churlish to complain given what Elijah went through. On the other hand, if they can get a very small needle into a tiny baby’s minuscule veins, they shouldn’t have any trouble with me – bloody amateurs!

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