Thursday, 30 October 2014


I wanted this entry to be a happy one, full of joy for reaching the one year milestone and excitement about the coming months. But it has come at a period of darkness and struggle, in a tangle of negative energy and emotion that threatens to overwhelm me. A persistent grey cloud hovers overhead, ominous and dense with unspent rain, and so I am on a hunt for silver linings, because even the most forbidding cloud has a flash of silver if you know where to look. 

In part it is the change in the weather that has prompted this depression, for our halcyon days are well and truly over. September was a glorious extension of summer, spilling its golden light and warmth well into autumn, while October has ridden in on a dull grey horse, bringing with it the turn of the
seasons and days of endless drizzle. The official end of British Summer time has prompted the early twilights of winter, and already I find myself returning from walks with Felix in darkness. Yet it is not merely the sudden quickening of the seasons that lies upon me like a smothering blanket; Felix’s one year anniversary has provoked a flood of memories of his birth and I realize I am far from healed. I am haunted by the knowledge that I was let down; by the midwives, by the anesthetists, by the whole damn system. My suffering was entirely preventable and this knowledge fills me with a bitter, corrosive sadness, an acid that eats away at my ability to move on. The only thing I can liken my experience of giving birth to is having an operation without anesthetic, an idea so outrageous the mind shuts down at the very thought.

This has been underlined by the fact that other friends who had babies after me are now trying for a second, whilst I cannot contemplate giving birth again. Heavily pregnant women bring me out in a cold sweat as I imagine the agony of labour, and I know this is not a healthy reaction. Felix is a gift for which I am thankful every day but even he cannot erase the fearful memories of his birth, and deep in my soul I know I could never survive another experience like it. At the same time a part of me years for another lovely baby, a new soul to nurture and treasure.  Pregnancy itself holds no demons for me and second time round I would be sure to marvel at the miracle my body was casually constructing while I went about my daily business. But I find myself unable to process the hideous fear and pain of childbirth and complete the grieving I must do if I am ever to begin the cycle again. I have an inkling that only a better experience will ever truly heal the trauma of the first, but first I must find a way to release the black and dreadful memories that weigh upon me in moments of contemplation. What I need is a dark side of the moon and a rocket in which to blast away the reminisces to where they are no longer sustained by the brilliance of the sun, and where they can eventually drift off into space, distilled into tiny particles that can dissipate harmlessly into the great vacuum of the universe.


The tragic death of a school friend, one I had not seen for many years, has thrown into stark relief my own struggles and cast a dark shadow where once was a light. Anna was on the first leg of a charity cycle from John O Groats to Lands’ End when she was killed by a collision with a lorry. Since leaving college, the last time we saw each other, she had become an accomplished rower who had competed for Great Britain in the Commonwealth Games. The paths of our lives ran concurrently for many years. We went to the same primary school, secondary school and sixth form college. We were part of the same friendship group, one that travelled intact from the final year of school and into the first year of college, and thus shared many formative and unforgettable experiences. Anna was that rare thing, a truly natural blonde, with bright blue eyes and a winning smile. As a child I remember her vivacious and yet serene, a person with an inbuilt moral compass that directed her steadily through life. As we entered the tumultuous world of college I was dizzy with newfound freedom, a rudderless ship that embraced every temptation. As I become ever more estranged from my old friends I lost touch with Anna, and it was not until her funeral that we all came together again. 

As I stood outside the overflowing church, watching her flower laden coffin being shunted onto the shoulders of the pall bearers, I was struck by the unspeakable sadness of her death. Anna was in the prime of her life, not only an elite rower but also an avid supporter of charity. She was innately a good and kind person who made her way purposefully through the weirs and waterfalls of life, making thoughtful choices and dedicating herself to the relentless training of the elite athlete. As people wept openly around me I felt keenly the appalling sadness of losing a child. A child should never die before their parents; it goes against the rightful order of things. We hope and pray that old age takes us peacefully and in good time, and even if not that we live long enough to fulfill at least some of our dreams, some of our potential. Anna’s story ended so much sooner than it should have done and in the very act of trying to help others, but she died a beautiful person, someone to be admired and feted. I dedicate this entry and my sincerest condolences to her family and friends and all those who loved her. She will not be forgotten. 

n memoriam of Anna Roots (Townsend) always remembered.

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