Time. We measure our lives in units of time. Past, present and future.
If life is going well, we pray for time to linger, pause, slow down. If life is hard or painful (or we are simply stuck in a dull meeting) we urge time to leap, speed onwards. Time can do all these things. Apparently it can also heal. However no one is able to advise how much time this will actually take.
Like most people, I rely on units of time as a categorisation in which to file away the pivotal moments in my life.
Eight years ago, I was friends with a really lovely girl at work. She had recently lost her mum to cancer. The only thing keeping her from breaking down was the fact that she was expecting her first baby with her husband. Sadly eight months later, she suffered a stillbirth. Her closest friends at work were warned, as were her team...but how can you warn an entire company? I had lunch with her when she finally returned to work and I will never forget her pain (and unbelievable strength) when she told me that someone in the lift had excitedly asked "Oooh, you're back. What did you have, boy or girl?". I've since followed her via social media - perhaps with a naive smugness. That feeling of "poor you, lucky me" which I realise may now have reversed! Her marriage didn't survive but she moved on and is now living overseas, has re-married and looks so happy in her photos. I feel bad that we lost touch. However I have to resist the urge to contact her and ask "Are you truly happy? Have you healed? How much time did it take?"
This time two years ago my sister was preparing to give birth to my youngest niece. I heralded this as a sign of hope. My sister suffered with PCO as well as a large fibroid that had to be removed. If she could get pregnant, why wouldn't I? My sister is a beautiful, talented woman and a fantastic mum. And over the last few years she has sensitively witnessed my struggle to conceive and tried not to make my pain worse, whilst experiencing her own joy. On days when I feel at my lowest, she sends me video clips and pictures of my niece. She knows it will make me smile. I look at my niece and see my sister. Wilful. Beautiful. Lispy (when she was young she had a lisp that I tease her about to this day). It hurts me to know I will never see myself in a small human. Sometimes I hold my niece and think, if she keeps still (and stops wriggling away from her mad Aunt) how much time would it take for her to mend the hole in my heart?
Eight weeks ago I had my final "couples counselling" session. When asked his final thoughts, my boyfriend (who was SO supportive throughout all our struggles) said "I just want her to feel better. I want to stop tip-toeing around talk of babies. I want her to stop crying when she sees Facebook feeds of friends having new babies. I want her to feel happy again". They say opposites attract. You couldn't get two people more opposite than us. I am heart. He is logic. I am sensitive, reckless, emotional. He is measured, analytical and I jokingly (affectionately) call him "the Tin Man". He does have a heart, I promise, it just beats in a different rhythm to mine. So what do I tell him? What kind of time-line can I offer for the conclusion of my grief? "I will heal in time?"...."Give me time, I promise I will get better?". My mother, the smartest woman alive, sends me regular messages saying "take your time, don't be hard on yourself". I hear her, yet I still force myself to find a scheduled finish date to this life chapter.
I fully recognise that I've never enjoyed living in the present so I live in a glitzy, exciting future filled with new potential. Deep in the most frightened part of my soul, I had imagined future times with a first born, the first words, the first day at school (where I would cry like a banshee at having to let them go) and future arguments because no Mother is perfect, after all. Time has passed and this future is gone. Replaced with what? Days at work? Life plodding on? Time passing with no meaning?
So what do I do now if I can't get excited by the future? Live in the present?
Today I heard that the Basildon & Brentwood CCG had decided to cease all future NHS funding for IVF. This means that all couples who may have once been eligible can no longer expect to receive treatment unless they self-fund. I have some form of closure because I have tried (albeit without NHS help) but how will these couples heal? How long will it take to comfortably accept they cannot try for a child if self-funded IVF is something they cannot afford?
The CCG will resolve their deficit in no time at all by removing IVF funding. But how much time will it take for all these childless couples to heal when a whole future has been erased? When will they feel "normal" again? Maybe that time will never come? Maybe it will in time.