Pigment print on rag paper, 90 x 60cm.
I SAW HER FROM AFAR
Commissioned by the National Artist Self Portrait Prize, 2015.
This is an edited excerpt from a letter I wrote for Women Of Letters in 2013. At the time, we had no idea that in just three short years, we would have endured four miscarriages, one birth of our beautiful baby boy Eli and this, our final pregnancy with a little girl who was born healthy and happy in November last year. This has been one of the hardest journeys of my life and has taken a toll on us, yet has yielded us the greatest reward.
To our missing puzzle piece,
When I was young, I thought that I could get pregnant anytime. I don’t mean anywhere, like at the beach, fish and chip shop or the skate park, but that just coming near a man’s nether regions meant that I was going to get pregnant; it was as easy as zapping leftovers in a microwave.
After a tumultuous early life and a number of failed relationships, I developed a deep faith in God that changed my life radically and knew I wanted to approach things differently. I decided that I wouldn’t be with another man unless I knew that he would be my husband and the father of my children. More than that, I resolved that I would not sleep with him until I was married to him.
Then I met him, Dani, your future dad, and he wanted the same thing. It was not easy but it was well worth the wait. I learned so much and a trust developed between us that I hadn’t experienced in any previous relationship.
Four years ago we got married and went on our honeymoon. We were both so excited to begin trying for a family straight away, believing it was going to happen instantly. Well, something did happen. I got thrush and a UTI. There had been so little downstairs activity for so long, it just couldn’t cope. There we were, on our honeymoon in the hospital in Bali, trying to explain what was wrong so that I could get antibiotics, so that we could resume our lovemaking and baby conceiving. And resume we did. However, I kind of went crazy-bonkers-psycho. Obsessed about it. Two months and thirteen pregnancy tests later, I realised I had lost the plot.
You already have a brother or sister. We’ve never met him or her either. It took us one year to conceive and then he/she only made it to six weeks old. But in our minds, we had dreamed their entire future lives with us. We were devastated when we miscarried. Cried for days. Couldn’t believe it hurt us both so much. It exposed our hearts and our vulnerability. How can you love something so much that doesn’t exist yet? We had been so excited that we told everyone. Then we had to tell everyone the bad news. It was hard but our friends and family sustained us. It brought us closer.
We learned that so many people go through the same thing but no one really talks about it. I don’t get why we’ve set up this miscarriage etiquette where we don’t tell anyone we are pregnant until we are at twelve weeks. Who are we protecting? I get that it’s hard to share bad news with people but in my experience, sharing it and being supported by the community around me was the catalyst for healing. If we share the good times, shouldn’t we share the bad?
Now of course, people will lovingly lean in towards me and ask me, while giving a subtle nod to my tummy, ‘How’s it going?’ I never know what to say. If you are a close friend and I can be inappropriate, I’ll say, ‘Great, still shagging away.’ Otherwise, something like, ‘Good, we’re enjoying trying,’ might work. I’m never really sure whether they’re asking about how efficient we are at making babies or if I’m pregnant already.
I know the day is coming when I’ll be able to say yes, it’s gone so well I’m actually pregnant. Our prayers will have been answered and we will give thanks to God. I’m not sure I’ll be able to wait the twelve weeks before I blurt it out; I don’t even know if I’ll want to. I’ll be too excited and I know now that whatever happens I’ve got people around me who are going to sit with me in the good times and the bad.
But you, my precious little baby-to-be, will be growing in my tummy and I’ll feel you and we will bond, even before you see the light of day. I’ll be your mummy and Dani will be your daddy and we will speak to you and sing to you and dream of what you look like. And the very thing we’ve longed for will be our reality. Not just a dream and a hope but a child of our very own.
We already love you, the missing piece of our puzzle.