I've been struggling a lot with the strength of my emotions recently, as I always do on the run up to the anniversary of a lost baby.
This time of year, it's the loss of Patrick James Doyle - Patpat to his family - who passed away 3 years ago at the age of 14 months and 4 days, known only to me through the internet, and the power of his mamma's badass writing.
I'm not sure why it is that I feel the loss of this little guy so keenly but it's probably not helped by the fact that he was 10 days younger than Esme, who, on the day I read the news of his passing was lying asleep in my arms on the sofa after the fifth round of cielito lindo. I remember the words swimming in front of my eyes as big fat tears fell onto my snoring toddler and I gladly risked waking her to bury my face in her neck and squish the bejeesus out of her.
Like thousands of other mammas, I have carried on following Julie through her pain and grief and y'know what? I still can't. Three years on, and this year, watching the countdown to the 8th February replayed through Timehop pictures, like Julie, I simply cannot. My heart, my brain, it remains something outside of my ability to truly comprehend.
Of course there are sound biological reasons for this; the death of a child is so utterly unnatural to a mother that it lurks around the edges of our sanity. Even empathising with another mamma makes my throat tighten and my heart start to race; not because I'm scared it might happen to me, but for them, on their behalf, because the weight of their pain feels as real and as heavy to me as if it were my own.
It feels strange to write those words - this is actually a post I have shied away from writing for a very long time - because who am I to grieve? Who am I, who has all my babies around me, to look at another mother and even try to comprehend the multitude of ways in which her heart is broken?
Well probably nobody; but I still remember Patpat, and Daniel, and Angel, and Emily, and Landon, and all the others, and my heart breaks a little along with their families.
It's a scary place to be, when you feel so much but know so little, because that same voice that asks "who am I ..." is the one that also stops you from speaking honestly: "What if I say the wrong thing? What if I make it worse? They've just lost a child fuckwit, what could you say that could be worse?! But what will it help?"
It's so tempting to say nothing; which is not a great response, but as it turns out, also not the worst thing you can do either.
I have come to the conclusion, based on a very unscientific study called "ask the people concerned", that the best course of action is, in fact, summed up simply as "Don't be a dick. Do be humble, and present, and supportive: Basically a decent human". I'm working on phrasing that better.
Because I may not know much, but I reckon that losing your child would surely be made ten times worse if other people acted like they had never existed. Can you imagine how painful that would be? To have this amazing child who nobody ever asked you about because they were scared that it might get a "bit awkward". The pregnant pauses as you discussed your family "oh yes, Drew is doing really well, and Chloe passed her exams with flying colours ...... yeah, umm, anyway, family's good".
Inside your head you must be screaming "WHAT ABOUT HIM?!?! He was real and he was here and he was spectacular. I think about what he would be doing now, and what he would look like and I can't say any of that because you're looking at me like you're scared I might strip naked and strike up a fiesty little jig".
Yeah, I reckon that must be a special kind of hell.