Letter from Joanna


Dear Paula

I feel I should explain to you what I couldn't say to you in person. I told you I'd lost the baby, last night on the phone.  I'm sorry I couldn't bring myself to tell you more.  It still hurts too much.  You'll see why when you read what I have to tell you below.

I know you'll be sympathetic, but I can't cope with sympathy at the moment.  Not just now.  I'm too busy with my own grief. And as for Tim — I've never seen him devastated before.

I suppose we'll get over it. People do. But just at the moment I can't imagine how.

I remember sitting in that horrible waiting room at the hospital. Women around me, with bumps like mine, drinking water and joking about full bladders for their ultrasound scan. By then I'd had mine. They were laughing, smiling at one another, grimacing when baby kicked.

And the ones who'd had their scans were coming out, especially the ones only a few weeks pregnant, showing off their photos of the baby on the screen.

When I had my first scan I wanted to write poetry. I know you had told me that after Jamie's scan you wanted to go and pray straight away, to thank God for the miracle. Even though you knew all the biology of how the baby got there and the physics of how you were able to see it, you said it was still the first real miracle you'd ever experienced.

I didn't think my next scan would be so different... The baby stopped kicking in the night. At first I was glad, I thought, it's letting me sleep. But in the early hours of the morning I just knew there was something wrong. The midwife couldn't hear a heartbeat. She tried to reassure me, but I knew... 

The doctor sent me to the hospital for a scan. I hadn't told Tim.  I didn't want to worry him! And after the scan they said the baby was dead. And they booked me in to have it induced the next day — yesterday. I can't tell you how awful that was. But they let us bath her, and dress her, and we both sat there and cuddled her. She was perfect, small, but a perfect baby.

The funeral's on Friday, 10 o'clock. We wanted it quiet but everyone seems to want to come. I was going to ask you to be godmother, Paula. We called her Petra. She was due on June 29th, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, and it seemed appropriate, Petra and Paula. It was supposed to be a surprise for you.

I'll see you on Friday, I expect.



curly rule

Helen Whitehead

Part of this work was submitted as the Dissertation for the MA in Writing

Nottingham Trent University

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spirituality | motherhood

Last amended on 10th August 1998 / copyright H. M. Whitehead