Wednesday, 3 November 2010

An unexpected pain

Anyone who has lost someone they love will know what I mean when I talk about the occasions where it hits you smack in the chest with a reminder of who you have lost, completely unexpectedly. There are of course the days that you know will be more difficult; the anniversaries, the birthdays, special occasions. You also know sometimes from the moment you wake up, that today is going to be a bad day, where the ache of missing them is as bad as the day you lost them. People tell you it gets better with time and that is both true and a lie. It's true that the fog lifts, and you are more able to function with every day that passes. However it's a lie that the pain least that is the case for me.

I feel like I've started this post a little back to front as I am sure I have readers that don't know my history. My brother died in May 2006. He had a brain tumour that he just couldn't beat, despite his very best efforts. In spite of the fact that he'd been ill for some time, and we'd been told there was no more they could do, it still hit like a sledge hammer when he died. His wife had given birth to their son just two days previously, whom he sadly never met and it felt incredibly unfair. At the time, my eldest daughter was just 10 weeks old, and my sister's youngest son was just 8 months old so I don't know whether or not that made it feel worse to us, that he never got to meet his son. I have a very treasured photo of my brother holding my daughter but at the same time I almost feel guilty about having it at all. I could talk on and on about my brother - about his qualities and his faults but suffice to say I miss him just as much today as I did on the day he died.

Today at Uni I had one of those sledgehammer moments where the pain hit me hard in the chest completely unexpectedly. We were sat in our Ethics seminar talking about ethical decisions and one of the topics under debate was the case of Diane Blood who went to court to fight for the right to use her deceased husband's frozen sperm in order to conceive. The issue of consent was discussed and the fact that her late husband had not given consent for his sperm to be used if he should die but he also hasn't specified that he wouldn't want it to be used. When my brother was first diagnosed with a brain tumour and he and his wife knew that he was going to have chemotherapy, they made the decision to freeze some of his sperm knowing that they were planning to have a family. It is now an automatic part of the "service" to ask whether or not consent is given for the sperm to be used in the event that they pass away. My brother has given permission for it to be used so my sister-in-law will never have to fight for her rights there. However there are still a number of issues surrounding her actually using it so I know that it will never be an easy nor straightforward decision for her.

Anyway sitting in class today and listening to these debates going on around me on this topic; the rights of the deceased husband's parents, the rights of the children, the rights of Diane Blood. It hit me bang in the chest, that it could easily have been a conversation about my brother and his wife. Due to the fact that I didn't know my fellow students before beginning the course, they of course had no idea about my brother. Actually come to think of it, I don't think many people know about his frozen sperm....and why would they? Is it anything to do with anyone else?

It's made me think about my brother obviously but it's also made me think about the fact that we all bring our own histories and it isn't always obvious what someone has experienced. I believe that no-one should be taken at face value and that our experiences shape us and our opinions on things. Sometimes it is good to challenge yourself and think about why you think what you do? Where has it come from? If you explore it more deeply, is it what you truly think? Just to put this into perspective; I grew up believing that all terminations were wrong. I had never really thought about why I felt like this - was it my upbringing, my religion, how I really felt? Ultimately of course, I can only make a decision about what is right for me, and as a midwife, I need to be able to support women in their decisions without judgement. Therefore how I feel is somewhat irrelevant, providing it doesn't affect the care that I give. And that goes for anything not just terminations.

I feel a little like I have rambled my way through this post but I would like to share this very precious photo of my brother David, holding my daughter.


  1. Oh lovely - it's horrible when these moments come up out of nowhere. Massive hugs for you x x x

  2. I am tears, what an emotive post. I studied medical law at Uni and had to discuss all manner of similar consent issues. Very, very difficult x

  3. Oh blimey, that made me cry too.

    I think you are going to make a wonderful midwife.


  4. You write so beautifully , your brother would be proud. You're going to be a great midwife x

  5. So sad & touching. What a special photo X

  6. Have you read 'Do I think what I think I think?' it covers the fact that so many beliefs we hold change so much once we invesitgate them. Kiss to you.