Mims' Musings

Archive for March 2011


Now that my Short Story coursework has been safely returned and moderated, I feel it’s safe enough to share them online. I’ll aim to put one up each week, please feel free to comment, whether it’s positive or negative I’m always trying to improve! Make sure you enter your email address in the top right so you don’t miss next week’s story =) Don’t forget you can also challenge me to write about anything, whether it’s factual or creative, just click on the ‘Challenge Me’ tab!

This story was written to the prompt “A Life in Brief”.

Eulogy

It would look like any other advert. Unused baby clothes, an anonymous seller, a few clicks and the deal is done. I bought them early on; I was so excited about her. Thinking of her future and all the things she could do. A soft baby-grow, a matching hat with little ears on it. It was her coming home outfit. I felt the soft material between my fingers, wondered what it would feel like to have her in my arms. People question if it’s possible to love someone before you meet them, at that moment I knew it was.

After three months she was meant to be out of the danger zone. The Mumsnet gang agreed. A week into the second trimester, everyone had been told. You were all so supportive. I took all the right vitamins, joined the pre-natal yoga class, played music to her, as my stomach grew so did my pile of books. Baby names, pregnancy diets, what to expect during birth. Nothing about loss.

At the third scan they confirmed she was a girl. Immediately I started thinking, Amelia, Miranda, Tara. Her silvery shaded form held so much potential. I couldn’t wait to meet her, to feel her warmth. I never did settle on a name. I decorated her room with her own galaxy of stars and meadow of flowers. I wanted her imagination to be unlimited.

In the last few months I started to count down the days. Each red cross on the calendar brought me closer to meeting my little girl. There was a party where you were all so generous, a deluge of clothes, toys and supplies. I never imagined that a feeling of such completeness would soon give way to an indescribable emptiness.

It happened in the thirty eighth week. My hospital bag was already packed. I hadn’t felt her move for a few days. I convinced myself she was storing energy for her birth. I went in for the check up and that’s when they told me. There was no heartbeat. I would never wish the pain of what followed on my greatest enemy. To go through the pain of labour knowing you will never hear your baby cry, never rock her to sleep, because she’s sleeping forever; it’s unbearable.

Today we’re meant to celebrate her life. I can’t thank you all enough for coming, but the truth is my baby didn’t really have a life, none of you got to meet her and I regret that deeply. They say that lives aren’t measured by the breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away. She may have never taken any breaths, but she took my breath away: when I first saw her in a scan, when I first felt her kick, and now every time I think about her. Some people argue that she was never truly alive. But I believe that she was, I loved her, for nine months. It was just all too brief.

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Today I celebrated International Women’s Day, as organised by one of my good friends who I can remember meeting on our induction day way back in 1999!

We met for coffee (or tea) with 6 other girls who I was at secondary school with. Some of whom I hadn’t seen for 5 years. We talked about all kinds of women’s issues and had some really interesting conversations (as well as a good deal of catching up).

As we’d all spent 7 years at the same all girls school, it was really refreshing to see what paths our lives were heading down, 5 years after leaving, and to hear how similar some of our viewpoints and experiences are.

We were all quite distressed by how low the percentage of convictions for rape are. Nearly all of us knew of someone, or had heard of cases where time and time again rapists are ‘let off’ from rape. There are too many stories of judge’s blaming women for their own rape, too many ridiculous excuses used, and too few serious punishments. How is it fair that in return for raping someone you can be sentenced to just 6 years of jail, or even worse, community service and a fine?

Leading on from this we talked about how girls are brought up in a culture of fear. We unanimously said that we don’t feel safe walking alone at night (in this country at least), but the fear is never of being mugged but attacked. Surely statistically we’re no more likely to be attacked than men are, so why are we always told to fear it? Then again perhaps we’re just more cautious and aware of our safety?

Then again even in places where we should feel safe physically, like work or uni, sexism rears its ugly head. The problem is that we’ve learned to dismiss sexist comments as ‘just a joke’ or feel guilty for being offended, when really we shouldn’t have to put up with it.

We also talked about how much in-fighting there is in the ‘sisterhood’. Girls are constantly in competition with eachother, bitching about eachother and excluding eachother. Going to an all girls school for 7 years we certainly had plenty of experience in this area and seeing the side effects. Too many girls threw themselves at the first guy that came along as some sort of attempt to cancel out their low self esteem. In a world where patriachy is against you, girls should stick together, not make it worse for eachother.

Now that it’s 2012 you’d think that feminism would have become acceptable. Instead the media is now trying to claim that feminism has ‘gone too far’, when it clearly hasn’t gone far enough. Somehow feminism has become synonymous with the word ‘lesbian’, a ‘dirty’ word that people are ashamed to admit to being. When really it just means that you think the world needs to become a fairer place, for men and women.

The assumption that feminists hate men is just wrong. In fact all the issues I’ve written about here are just as relevant for men, and it’s just as interesting as to why domestic violence, rape and sexism are always associated with women, and if men identify themselves as victims they’re seen as ‘weak’.

These are just some of the things we talked about. Not even going into the problems that women around the world face. After a few tables full of coffee and tea cups, we all donated what money we could to Oxfam, who are currently sending all donations to women’s organisations around the world. I urge you strongly to do the same!

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=ZoeCarletide


It seems appropriate that on our 2010 trip to the Philippines, we spent the most time in Davao. After all, it is greatly significant in that it’s where my parents met. As the biggest city on the island of Mindanao, the chances of my parents, a volunteer from Manila and a Jesuit Novice from Zimbabwe, meeting in Davao, seems nothing short of a miracle, or fate perhaps!

Before last year’s trip, I hadn’t visited the Philippines for 18 years (my last visit being when I was 5 years old).  However, Davao had always been part of my vocabulary. As a young child I knew it as the place where my parents “walked under a full moon and I was just a twinkle in their eye”. Like much of my Mum’s home country though it remained mysterious until our trip.

Our first stop was the Ateneo de Davao, the university which my Dad was visiting during his studies as a Jesuit. Compared to the bustling streets of Davao it seemed like a lush oasis with its’ shady trees, and blissfully air con offices (sweet relief for someone truly acclimatised to London weather). Nestled amongst the labyrinthine faculty offices is the office of Fr Ting Samson (a friend of my Aunt), whose collection of innumerable curiosities we admired. They oddly felt like a connection back to my western homeland, perhaps as they seemed like such a personal touch when we’d spent 3 weeks going between anonymous feeling hotels and apartments.

As we had visited three different universities during our trip, I couldn’t help but compare them to the university I attend. The first thing that struck me was how my Mum had never actually seen the campus, which suddenly felt important to me. Secondly, I couldn’t believe that university students at Ateneo wear uniforms! In our school students sometimes resemble prostitutes. I can’t see uniforms at universities going down too well in the UK, at all. However I did find it interesting that I could draw comparisons in the architecture of some of the buildings, in the pathways and the shrubbery. It’s interesting what can feel comforting when you are far from home.

By night there is no better place to be then Jack’s Ridge. With a beautiful vista of the city, it’s hard to believe that Davao has a population of nearly 1.5 million people. From Jack’s Ridge it feels so removed and peaceful. They serve enjoyable food, and as it’s at a raised altitude there’s even a chance of catching a breeze. After dinner there’s a charming area to walk around and admire the Parol (star-shaped lanterns) and read signs about the etymology of the name Davao and various facts about the city.

What I miss most about Davao (and the Philippines in general) is the fruit. At a gathering of Mum’s friends we were spoiled by a variety of fruit straight from the plantation, including  Santol, Rambutan, Lanzones,  Mangosteen and of course- Durian! In fact 6 months on from returning I bought freeze-dried Durian just to get the taste of it again (of course it didn’t even come close to the fresh stuff).  We did manage to bring home two Kalamansi plants which are still alive, so at least one day I might be able to make myself a Kalamansi juice (which I ordered pretty much every time we were at a restaurant!).

Our last day in Davao was spent on Paradise Island, which had been developed massively since my Mum’s student days in the 80’s. It’s now dominated by a large seated eating area and families. Eager to take a break from being ‘on parade’ to infinite friends of Mum and Dad, I spent most of my time just lying in the sea, trying to forget the argument we’d had about my swimwear despite the fact that on the table next to us there were girls dressed far less modestly than me.

Following our trip I was glad to have connected with a place that’s so important to my personal history. Perhaps next time we visit we’ll have less pressure of needing to rush between groups of people who will only ever know me in reference to my Mum or Dad, and I won’t have to constantly repeat the same answers to questions that I’ve been asked a hundred times in 3 weeks. As much as it’s exciting to have made this connection, I guess the saying still stands that there is… no place like home.

 


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