Constant Slaps Around The Face

Yesterday, taking a photo of the cat having a cuddle on my lap. One of many such photos that I spam my Instagram followers with. Typing the caption: “…having a cuddle with…”. Before I had a chance to type the cat’s name, the predictive text suggested ‘Hugo’.

A slap around the face. It stopped me in my tracks.

There is nothing in the world I want more than a cuddle with Hugo. To feel his warm little body, his chubby fists, smell his wonderful baby smell.

But I cannot.

The predictive text suggestion felt like a taunt. Salt in the wounds.

It is not, I know: it is based on algorithms, picked up from other posts, tweets about me cuddling Hugo.

That knowledge does not stop the sobs.

Grief, a mother’s visceral desire to cuddle her son does not know rational thought.

Technically, the cat is not ours. She belongs to a neighbour, but has adopted us as her own. We do not mind; we love animals, and the cat is the willing and grateful recipient of all our pent-up love and affection.

As beautiful, affectionate, entertaining and loving as she is, she is no replacement for my baby.

Today, another slap.

Feeling hungry, a good sign I am recovering from a vomiting bug that started a few days ago. We – Martin and I – venture to a local sandwich shop for a treat for lunch. I have not left the house since the bug started, and the glorious sunshine and spring-like feel to the air makes the short walk extra special.

Arriving at the sandwich shop, seeing the lady who runs the shop standing at the door with her baby. A beautiful, dark-haired boy baby born just a couple of weeks before Hugo should have arrived.

I smile a brief hello at the lady, seeing the brief look of puzzlement on her face that I have not stopped to admire her baby.

We choose our sandwiches, and wait to pay. I can hear the baby happily gabbling away at the sights of the street outside. Tears prick my eyes. Martin sees, says he will deal with the transaction. I pass proud mum and happy baby to leave.

She must think me strange, or rude. But I cannot explain: that she has her baby in her arms and I do not is not her fault. I do not want to spoil her moment of pride. More customers will soon come through the door and coo over the baby and I will be forgotten, I am sure.

Standing in the sunshine, trying to focus on its comforting warmth. The tears flow, and my words are choked as I explain to Martin what he knows, of course. That this baby, with his head of dark hair and of a similar age to our son, looks like how Hugo should look.

I know these unexpected stings will continue throughout our lives. Shadows of what should have been, spectres of what we have lost.

Shadows at the obvious times: the milestones like birthdays, Christmas, starting school. These can be prepared for. So can the expected ones, such as little boys the same age as Hugo should be playing in the park. To an extent.

I dread that one day one of these children will have dark hair. They will be defiant, not behaving, wanting to do their own thing, in their own way, in their own time. Their parent will call “Hugo!”.

This situation will feel not so much a slap around the face as a full-on Glasgow kiss.

That is a situation that happens in my head, of course. My grief-brain making up all sorts of awful scenarios.

My rational brain knows that situation might not ever happen. But it also knows that strange things, bad things can, and do, happen.

Those who are more experienced in their grief tell me these slaps around the face will lessen in intensity. The signs will still be there of course, but over time the stings will feel less acute, perhaps even fading into an imperceptible nod.

Maybe. But at the moment I need those stings. The masochistic side of grief.

My loss is raw, my anger at the unfairness of the world is raging.

These constant slaps in the face are metaphorical, but their sting feels no less than if they were real.

 

 

 

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16 thoughts on “Constant Slaps Around The Face

  1. joyandpops says:

    I’m so sorry, I get it.
    There is a children’s programme called Louie (my son was called Louis), the programme has this song at the beginning, it goes ‘draw us a picture Louie’ – I can’t tell you the times I’ve wanted to throw something at the TV. Obviously I just turn over – our eldest daughter always seemed drawn to the programme but I couldn’t get through an episode, all the characters just kept saying ‘Louie Louie’.
    I realise I sound bonkers!! I am actually very well adjusted these days but there will always be something – hearing the name Louis will always stop me in my tracks.
    It does get easier – I didn’t see how in the beginning but it is possible.
    Take care.
    Xx

    Like

  2. Natalie says:

    Thank you for posting this, it’s exactly how I’m feeling at the moment. Like you, February is a difficult month for us as in a few days it’ll be the first anniversary of when I went into spontaneous labour with my twins at 23 weeks- our first son died at one day old and we brought our second son home after 5 months in NICU. Timehop keeps taunting me with photos of when I was pregnant and although I know what is likely to come up on it and could just delete the app, I keep looking and torturing myself. I know I’m incredibly lucky to have my survivor and these things are a reminder of him too and not just his brother but there seems to be twins everywhere and again, as painful as it is I can’t help but look.

    I like the comment about not worrying if others feel awkward- I’m always the same in not knowing how to answer when I’m asked if my boy is my first child etc. I suppose if people are going to ask questions they should be prepared for an answer that may not be straightforward!

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    • Leigh Kendall says:

      I’m so sorry for your loss, Natalie.

      I agree re the awkwardness point – life isn’t always sweet or straightforward, and people have to accept that. A few moments of awkwardness for them, and no real harm caused isn’t the end of the world.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment xxx

      Like

  3. meghanoc says:

    ugh! I totally have felt that way too- seeing people with babies and I seem to think they are surprised I dont coo or congratulate. I know some people think I’m projecting, but sometimes I really truly think something is wrong with me for not acting more appropriate. but like you, I cant, just cant.

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    • Leigh Kendall says:

      There’s nothing wrong with you or with me for not wanting to coo or congratulate other mothers for their living babies, Meghan. My therapist would say it is an understandable reaction. There’s nothing appropriate about it in the context, even though it seems socially strange. We just do what we can to get ourselves through xxx

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  4. You Baby Me Mummy (@YouBabyMeMummy) says:

    Oh huni, I have nothing to say that will make any difference. You have gone through so much, things I wouldn’t wish on anyone. You are strong and you write beautifully. You WILL create such a lasting legacy for your beautiful boy and will help countless others with your talent with words xx

    Like

  5. Casey Bottono says:

    I am sorry for your pain, Leigh….you have a beautiful way of expressing it, though. (I was hoping to see a new post from you.)

    Thank you for sharing a little of your world with us.

    Take care,

    Casey

    Like

  6. kaitlynva says:

    It is so hard being faced with a child the “same age” as your own. I used to feel horrific about making other people feel awkward, just the way you describe the woman seeming surprised that you didn’t greet her baby… Then I realized, I feel awkward all the time and I’ve survived! Other people can share a bit of the awkwardness, they may be confused but it’s not going to cause any real harm. There’s a poem about names being called out that I will post later today…

    Like

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