The week after I wrote #myNCTstory blog post, I found out an old and wonderful friend had died. She too had suffered from postpartum psychosis. She’d survived and lived and mothered. But then, things caught up with her and she died. It’s a tragedy, she was too young, too miraculous and too loved.
I had lost touch with her apart from the occasional facebook message. In fact, she wrote to me a week before she died, I think she knew. But I didn’t. Grief is always a shock, and always complicated. In part, I felt I had no right to feel as upset as I was. I wasn’t close family. I wasn’t living near her. I hadn’t seen her physically for so long. But she was often in my dreams, and then, my thoughts when studying to be an antenatal practitioner. She was the one who told me to find what I was really passionate about when I was messing about in theatre. I don’t ‘think’ it was because I was a rubbish actor!
Every time grief hits, though, it’s like a fresh cut. If you’ve suffered many losses, the cuts build up into an visceral wound. We’ve seen a lot of death in our family. We’re relatively at ease with it, as much as you can be. Yet, when someone dies, all those regrets, unspoken thoughts, love never expressed come back to haunt you. I found myself searching through our message history to make sure I had told her how much she meant. And I had. For whatever difference that makes.
I can’t connect her experience of becoming a mother with her eventual loss of life, but I feel somewhere in my core, that her suffering was part of a long term lack of care. Care for herself above all else.
That initial journey to becoming a parent can heal and it can harm. I’m very unlucky and statistically unusual to have known two people to have suffered so severely around birth, but it has left a lasting impression on me and in my work.
On my long road trip back from Yorkshire, I decided to stop and see some friends in Warrington. They took me to Risk Astley’s parents garden centre and we went for a walk on an old slag heap, the site of Stevenson’s first steam engines. The light was cut off by a ferocious black cloud, sleet came down, making us laugh, chasing after their small dogs. Small balls of furry fire, streaking across the industrial landscape. Of all places to find hope, I found it there. One step in front of another, carrying on, because, after all, stopping seems worse.