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By Steph Whitehouse
There is a box that sits in my wardrobe. It’s been there a long time and has travelled many places with me. This box contains many treasures that have been collected over a lifetime. My mother started the original box for me when I was born. She filled it with special items from my childhood. Things she thought I would like to see when I was older and recall special memories. I have been through this box many times and cleaned it out a few times. Some things have been thrown out and others have stayed. Some things have stayed for their memories, others for the people who gave them to me and others because they are cherished childhood items.
I love this box that sits in my wardrobe. It can bring me many hours of pleasure to relive these special times.
Yet, recently this box has begun to haunt me. I saved many things from my childhood – books, toys and puzzles in the hope of passing them down to my own children. I looked forward to the day when I could give these things to my children and watch their play. Some items once belonged to my parents and I knew they were looking forward to reliving their childhoods too.
Now, none of this will happen. All these dreams that I have been carefully planning and shaping have come to nothing. Instead, of the future I had been planning with my children, I tend to their memories. My children died, all 7 of them before the end of their first trimesters.
The first time was devastating and time literally stood still. We packed up the baby clothes and items we had been excitedly collecting and put them in a box in the wardrobe. It sat alongside my own childhood box. The irony was not lost on me.
When we got pregnant a second time the box didn’t move from the wardrobe. We added a few new items of clothing once our daughter died. Sometimes I would sit in the spare room that was supposed to be a nursery and stare at the boxes in the wardrobe. I would wonder when I would get to take them out and live the life I wanted to live. I looked at my box and wondered if I would ever get to give it to my children. We didn’t add anything to the box for our third and fourth pregnancies. We had given up hope that they were going to live long. I threw out many toys, books and puzzles but I kept the box my mother had started for me. I still had a smidgen of hope that one day I could share some of the contents with my children.
We had renewed hope when we were offered IVF. We thought it would be our way to finally have the family we had been trying for so long to have. When 3 IVF pregnancies failed to thrive, we decided to call time on trying to have a family. This meant the box in the wardrobe was waiting for me. I had to make some decisions and they were all going to hurt.
All the items and clothes we had bought for the children were sold or given away except for a few special things that I transferred to another box. This box was to become the box that held the memories and lives of my children. It contains letters of congratulations and commiseration, ultrasounds, photographs, a few items of clothes, hand and foot prints and letters from me to them. It is a box full of joy and sorrow that sits alongside my childhood box.
After going through all of my children’s belongings I had to tackle my own. I decided to get rid of the rest of the toys, books and puzzles I had kept in hopes of my own children. Each time I dropped something off, another piece of my identity was lost. But I still had my box. I looked at it. I went through it and decided I couldn’t give anything away. It went back into the wardrobe alongside my children’s box. Every time I see it, I think, I should just throw it away. Why am I saving it? Who am I saving it for? It no longer serves the purpose it once had. It haunts me. It reminds me of all I once had. All I once hoped for and all I no longer have. Yet I can not get rid of it.
So, it sits there in the wardrobe, holding my memories, my hopes and my dreams.
There is a box that sits in my wardrobe. It has been there a long time.
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