When I was growing up my, me and my younger sisters had a tank of goldfish in the playroom. Every so often one of the goldfish would die. My mother would sweep in, scoop the body up and drop it out of the window. “It’s all your fault, you know,” she would say. “If you kept the tank clean and looked after them properly they wouldn’t die.”
Last night I dreamt that a friend of mine gave birth to a baby, except when I was giving it a cuddle it turned out not to be a baby at all. It was a rat. A very cute and furry rat, but a rat nonetheless. In my dream I worried that she wasn’t keeping the cage were she kept it clean enough, and wondered how I could do it myself without upsetting her. She said she was waiting for a call from her oldest daughter, away at university, but she was in denial. That daughter was dead.
When Juliette was ill I dreamt constantly about bright, orange goldfish dying. Helpless, vulnerable creatures drowning in air because of my neglect.
When she died, I screamed I’m sorry over and over again. “It’s not your fault,” people said. “You couldn’t do anything.”
But I’m her mother. I should have been able to protect her. All I did was watch as the doctors did their work. I didn’t stop her dying.
I hate that I can’t let go of this guilt, that I’ve started having these crazy dreams again. What, realistically, could we have done? What is the point anyway of agonising when it changes nothing? Someone, please tell my subconscious to shut the f*** up.