The day before my daughter’s first birthday I remember running through the play-by-play in my head. “This time last year we were heading to the hospital… it was around this time when shift changed happened and we got the new midwife… I was starting to get a bad feeling at this point…”
She was born at six in the morning and what happened overnight will stay with me forever. By the time I woke on the morning of her first birthday I didn’t know how to feel. It was a happy, joyful day and the part of me that remembered the awe of seeing her face for the first time celebrated. Still, another part of me was quiet.
Over the last couple of years, as I’ve interviewed my family about their experiences during the Troubles we’ve discussed some harrowing things, but every single conversation I’ve recorded is punctuated with laughter. The seventies saw the worst, bloodiest years of the Troubles but my parents are unable to recount their memories of that time without also relaying stories of weddings and dating and pranks played among friends. Stories of rent and rates strikes and house raids mingle with memories of cancer diagnoses and bad hearts.
I am fascinated by documentaries and stories about the Troubles but my frustration is that the narratives are so often one dimensional tales of violence and woe. Terrible things happened in the north of Ireland but we are so much more than that. We always have been.
A few years after my daughter’s birth I was finally given the space to tell the story of what happened and fully name the trauma. It was a simple conversation but I reclaimed something of myself in that exchange. I put myself back together in the act of the telling. Story is kind of magical like that. With each story told another part of ourselves can be integrated into our ever-expanding, multi-faceted sense of self.
As my daughter’s fifth birthday fast approaches, I am grateful to feel able to hold the full complexity of the story of that day in my body and mind.