We're in an impossible situation you and I. It's been weighing on my mind for a while now and it feels a bit overdue to say. But here goes. As much as I love and care about you... sometimes I just can't bear you.
Don't get me wrong, I'm happy for you. No, scratch that. I'm really happy for you. Genuinely. I'm sorry that I appear to be showing zero interest in your child; and that I haven't called; or visited. It's not that I don't care or think about you. I do.
If things were different, I'd be all over this. I'd be jumping at the bit to spend time with you and little Billy. To hear all the gruesome details of the birth and breathe in that inimitable smell of his tiny head. To coo over his long fingers and claim that one day he'll make a fine pianist. And to pace restlessly around the room with him so you can retreat upstairs and get some rest.
I'm sorry that's not how it is. It's how it should be. It's how it used to be.
But I can't cope with that elephant I carry around with me anymore. You know the one. That big, grey, sad-looking animal that's slumped like a drunk in the corner of the room, wearing that sign round his neck: recurrent miscarriage.
After the first one, even two, I could still pretend. But not now. Not with five notches in the hospital bedpost. It's just too raw. And I've had it with pretending; it takes it out of me. The more I do it, the more painful it becomes. And I know you'll be worried about upsetting me. Just like I'll be worried about getting upset in front of you.
We'll play this weird charade - you playing it down for my benefit, and me over-enthusing for yours. When you pop into the kitchen to grab the pump, you won't notice me furiously blinking up at the ceiling, or the marks on my arm from trying to pinch it all back. You'll just see animated Auntie Ange, cooing and cuddling and genuinely happy for you. Which - again - I am.
Maybe you'll even try and play down motherhood in a misguided attempt to make me feel better. Please don't; it'll just make me feel worse. You see, I don't want it to be about me and my pet elephant. It's meant to be about you; and your baby. I don't want to ruin your celebration but I'm afraid I can't do it; not in person, and especially not on social media - the almost continuous stream of photos and videos on Facebook:
Billy at 2 months, Billy at 3 months, Billy at - yep, you guessed it - 4 months. Billy dressed as The Lion King; Billy dressed as a pumpkin; and don't get me started on Billy and the bloody baby-themed Christmas card. I get it; you have a baby. And I'm pleased for you, really I am. But it does my head in.
I know none of this is any of your fault, by the way. That's the difficult bit - there's no-one to blame. And I'm sure if things had turned out differently it would probably be me being the pain in the arse - breaking the internet with the smugness of motherhood. Miscarriage #1 would have been almost two now. Prime fodder for Facebook Easter bunny hell.
This isn't fair on you, I know. It's not your or your baby's fault that I keep miscarrying; that in the last 2 and half years I've lost 5 would-be-Billies.
I'm sure I make you feel uncomfortable; maybe even guilty. I can remember the glimmer of awkwardness when you told me you were pregnant. I'm pretty sure I managed to gloss over it; you see, I've got the congratulations patter down to a tee now. I'm good at acting like I'm fine. Maybe that's part of the problem; a bit too good. Because I wasn't fine.
It's a physical reaction, like being winded. Makes me want to run away, like a wounded animal; find the quietest corner, and howl. But of course I didn't want you to know that. I'm ashamed that's how it is. So I bit my lip, put on my cheeriest voice and genuinely congratulated you.
I find it harder and harder; those announcements. The more miscarriages I rack up, the worse the pressure to perform; the more my reaction is watched. Each time I have to crank up the act.
Don't get me wrong - I wouldn't want you to hide it from me either. Yep, that's right: You can't win!
All in all, I know I'm putting you in an impossible position. But I just wanted to let you know... that's why I've not been around; and I'm truly sorry.
When they're a bit older I'm sure I'll be fine. It's this bit - the 'fresh from the oven' part - I struggle with. So, do you reckon we can perhaps have a bit of a timeout? Maybe not; I'd understand if that arrangement didn't work for you.
And again, I'm sorry...
Sending all my love to you... and of course, to Billy.
Auntie Ange (and her pet elephant) xx
To read more from Angela Brightwell, visit: www.funnymatters.co.uk