salad days

Today, we welcome a guest post from Jess at After Iris. In May 2008, Jess' second daughter Iris died while she was in early labour. Jess' insights always turn my head inside out. And by inside out, I mean, I am left laughing, crying, gaping and scratching my head in absolute wonder at her sagacity. Her observations on grief and loss leave me both satisfied and wanting more. —Angie

There was a time before. A once-upon-a-time. 

Babies were born all shouty and pink, noisy little buggers. Mouths, milk-seeking. Toes, tiny and flexed. There’s a type of English bread called Mother’s Pride, which I always thought was fitting – a bun in the oven. I was so proud.

And then things changed. And I changed.

photo by gliuoo


I think perhaps you are a little more guarded when it comes to other people’s reactions to you, or sometimes you use it as a test, for them and you.

So Holly says. We met almost ten years ago. I directed her in a play. Her character was a nun who kills her secret baby.

It’s hard to define. I’d say you are stronger in your convictions, more opinionated about the things you care deeply about.

That’s Beth. A friend from teenage years. We used to apply red lipstick in the darkened windows of the number fifty bus.

You are more aware of all things “bereave-y” than you were before. I think the experience has strengthened you without becoming hard or fierce. I am comfortable talking in your presence about Iris, because you allow and encourage it. I can’t remember whether you were as open as that before.

Robin, my colleague and a dear friend. Don’t I seem nice through his eyes? Good in my grief, certainly. I wish I really was that way. But I know about the times I raged inside at other people’s petty problems.  ‘Boyfriend trouble? Yeah, it’s tough. But not like PUSHING A DEAD BABY OUT OF YOUR VAGINA.’ Not so nice.

I have noticed two things. One would be the heightened emotions you now show. Sometimes huge sadness but also joy, anger, frustration... they seem to be nearer the surface now. The other would be your drive and determination to do stuff. Where before I think you were content to drift along, now you seem to be more focused and less inclined to let things pass by.

My boss, Alan. Yes, I asked my boss. He’s lovely. We weep every year during my annual appraisal.

No. You have not changed at all.

Carol. My opposite in every way. Yet perhaps she knows me best of all, and I am as green as I ever was.


I’ve spent three years chewing away at Iris' death, and birth. Chewed myself up. Chewed on my knuckles in grief; blood on my teeth. Trying to get to the bone; the barest boniest bit of my truth, after Iris. I grieved for myself, before. Mother’s pride, baked blind. I grieved for the woman who was so sure of shouty babies. But perhaps I haven’t changed. Or perhaps I shouldn’t grieve that past-me, passed over. She doesn’t seem to be missed by anyone else. And maybe she never left.

Do other people tell you you’ve changed, following the death of your baby or babies? What do you think they see now? Do you care?