Ten easy steps to survival.

Step One.

Say yes to everything. Reply immediately to every text message, offer to bring a plate, make a dinner, organise a catch up. Bury yourself in busyness until you can’t feel your heart beating in your ears anymore. Become overwhelmed, burst into tears in a board meeting and cancel everything. Choose only the things that bring you back to life and connect you with other people.

Step Two.

Attempt to write poetry. Accept that your poetry is terrible. Give up and read poetry instead. Spend hundreds of dollars on books of poetry.

Step Three.

Write like your life depends on it, because it does. Take furtive notes while driving the kids to kinder. Scribble in the margins of your favourite books. Read trashy romances, trade magazines, the newspaper, Virgil, Atwood, Clancy, Woolf, Dickens. Chew up words and spit them out in an order that feels right. Feel the words in your bones.

Step Four.

Go on a diet. Sign up to a weight loss app, measure yourself religiously, track everything you eat. Feel worse, much worse. Tell yourself that a soft body is a reminder of the three children you birthed, and you can’t be bothered being skinny anyway. Eat when you are hungry. Drink a lot of diet Coke and chai tea with honey. Sometimes, when things are really bad, go to bed with an entire block of Cadburys.

Step Five.

Become obsessed with skincare. Buy ridiculously expensive moisturisers, potions, weird spinning face brushes. Spend a lot of time in the evenings poking your pores, prodding the pregnancy-induced acne, tracing the sunspots dotting your cheeks. Let your tears soak into the skin on your hands and your stomach. Kiss your sons on their cheeks, sniff their heads. Force your cheeks into a smile until it feels natural again. 

Step Six.

Stop trying to sleep. You are awake until 2am most nights anyway, so stop fighting it. Read more. Pace your kitchen by the light of the rangehood. Feel yourself fraying at the edges. Go to a kind GP, explain that four months ago your baby died inside your body and stare at a poster about cardiac health while he writes out a prescription for sleeping pills so strong that they come with a booklet of warnings and risks. Wait until the weekend, and then sleep for eight hours straight, more than you have in months, and wake up feeling lighter but denser, more solid, like there is more of you in the room than there was the night before.

Step Seven.

Read back over the text messages you received when your baby died, the words you wrote. See your daughter’s name in the tiny green speech bubble of a text message, and cry again. Walk past her ashes in the cardboard box on the bookshelf, and wonder if you will open them one day, run your hands through her remains. Cry, but be oddly fascinated by the thought of it.

Step Eight.

Decide not to be sad anymore. It wasn’t even a real baby, anyway. Tell yourself to stop being dramatic. Read stories about families who lost babies at full term, at a week old, as a three-year-old. Imagine losing your boys. Cry. Be sad, and dramatic.

Step Nine.

Keep the words inside your mouth, or don’t. Tell a teenage shop assistant that you need something roomy as you just had a baby, but don’t need any breastfeeding tops because actually the baby died. Watch the words fall out of your mouth in shards, and let them shatter on the floor of the shop.

Step Ten.

In the kitchen, when your husband is making lunchboxes for school and kinder tomorrow, put your arms around his waist and breathe him in. His back is broader than your whole body, like a solid plank, an old growth tree. Press your face against his shirt and hold on tight as your boys barrel into your legs for a family cuddle. Let yourself be held up by the three of them.