Time is so often revered as the healer of all things; ‘it takes time’; ‘all in good time’. Yet in life after loss it can be cruel and confusing. We wish for it to turn back so that we can in some way re-write history. We wish for it to stand still for fear that moving away from our loved ones will destroy the precious few memories we have. We wish for it to speed forwards, to a time when we may smile spontaneously and sing out loud again.
In this letter to Time, Jess @the_maeve_effect perfectly captures the complexity of our relationship with the one thing in life we cannot change.
Jess became both a mother and a bereaved mother in April 2013, when her first baby, Maeve died during an induced labour. She has since survived two further pregnancies, both fraught with worries, but worth every anxious second to bring Maeve’s siblings home. Since losing Maeve, Jess has found solace in writing, and healing in the power of finding words to capture her struggles with life after loss. She hopes that by sharing her grief journey, she might be able to offer some comfort to other grieving souls, as she has found such great support within the inspiring community of warrior parents. Jess lives in Ayrshire, Scotland, where life is a beautifully chaotic and complicated ride of parenting all three of her children.
Oh how you confound me. You move too fast and then too slow. You make my head feel fuzzy and my heart beat fast with panic as you slip away like sand through my fingers. I’ve wished for you to stand still and yet also willed you to race away. But you didn’t listen, Time, and as someone who needs to feel in control in this wild life, you trouble me.
I remember vaguely the days when I didn’t care too much about you, when you were simply the hurdle to jump to home-time from school; or to the start of my favourite tv show. I remember how you began to crawl as each December began, and during my birthday month, until the days gifts and excitement arrived.
I remember those blissful summers when you seemed to stretch so that days felt like weeks and the fun seemed endless. I remember how you sprinted towards exam time, as I tried to squeeze out every last minute so I could squeeze improbable amounts of information into my tired brain.
We trotted through my twenties, you and I, through travel and study, building the blocks of a career and a relationship, buying a flat; the end of that adventurous decade crowned with a wedding. I know we must have fought during those years, Time, as I have long been prone to impatience, muddled with a fear of the future and a desire to bask in the beautiful moments. But my overriding memory of that easy decade is of how you passed in a way that brought me contentment, items checked methodically off a list, just as they were supposed to be.
Soon after, Time, you became an enemy. As we tried and tried to grow our family, your ticking grew louder and louder, a sense of panic swelling with the fear of being left behind. There are five years of my life measured not in weeks and months, but in cycles and medication, in rising hope and bitter disappointment. I wanted you to stop, Time, and yet I couldn’t bear for you to be still. Until that one moment, that blissful, perfect moment: “it’s positive”.
And you did stop, Time, for a breath, a heartbeat that I have relived in a thousand dreams. It was the happiest second of my life. And as my little miracle grew inside of me, we played you and I. I counted incessantly: weeks+days, every morning had a new label, each day a step towards the next milestone. I counted anxiously towards scans and midwife appointments. You became measured by fruits and vegetables rather than numbers, objects that mimicked my baby’s size as she grew. I felt that intense conflict of wanting you to stand still so I could absorb the magic of my pregnancy, and simultaneously race ahead so that I could hold her in my arms.
For nine months you were a measure of life, of hope. And then, Time, you became a measure of death. There is a report, an investigation, with your footprint all over it:
The time that we arrived at the hospital;
The time when her heart beat strongly, a beautiful trace, lines dancing along a page;
The time my waters broke;
The time that ticked by until help arrived;
The time her death was discovered;
The time my heart broke in two.
From that moment, Time, we battled you and I. Each passing minute that you forced upon me was a minute away from the ‘before’, from happiness, from hope. Each passing minute was a step closer to the moment when I would have to say goodbye and leave her behind forever. And yet each of those minutes, from her silent birth, until I took those agonising steps through the hospital doors, will always be the most precious minutes of my life. Thank you for giving me those.
But I am so angry with you, Time, for not standing still then, in the only hours I had with my baby. Why didn’t you stop? Why didn’t you give me more? We made beautiful memories, my little family and I, but it will never be enough. And as you have persisted in ticking by, those memories have begun to fade. There are moments when I hate you, Time, for stealing my memories and for taking me further and further away from those most precious of days. But I know that your relentless pursuit in the years that have followed has given me so much to be grateful for too.
I now have two more babies to hold, to love fiercely and to marvel at as they grow. If you had stopped for me, Time, I would have missed out on so much. You have become intertwined with my grief, dancing a dance that stretches and changes me with each passing day. I still fight you Time, when it feels like you’re racing away too fast for my feet to keep up. But I am learning to surrender, to stop resisting your pace as the grey hairs multiply and my thirties slip away. I am daring to trust that the days that have gone before won’t be lost forever. I am working on believing that even when they feel so far away, I will see those moments again in my dreams.
Thank you, Time, for taking my hand and pulling me from my darkest days into moments of joy and renewed hope. Thank you for giving me so many chances for kindness and for love. I am looking forward to many more and to watching my children grow, their big sister’s legacy too. Though perhaps, Time, you could slow down just a little?