Monologue #1: IRIS written by Matthew Ford
Dramatic Moose Productions
In Greek mythology, Iris was the messenger of the gods, conjuring rainbows from the sky to the earth below.
Christmas night at twelve minutes past eleven, 2019 – Iris was born. In the womb, someone must have told her how this Christmas thing works, and she pushed the eject button; “Not missing out on presents. I am NOT missing out on presents!”
I knew, and Iris’s mother knew, that the pregnancy wasn’t going to be easy. We had lost our first child, Elijah, back on the 7th May 2018 from a miscarriage at twenty-one weeks. Twenty-two and the doctors could have attempted to save him. One more week…
At Iris’s twenty-week scan, we were told that she has a heart condition; she will need an operation when she is born, plus further surgery as she grows. Twenty-nine weeks and five days, Iris was born. I didn’t say it, Iris’s mother didn’t say it, but we were aware just how close our backs were to the wall.
Then we saw her, our little girl, and we thought, this will be tough, but we will all be okay. Iris was feisty, stubborn, and loud… Very, very loud. She took after her mother. Iris was a red head, which explains a lot.
Iris was definitely a daddy’s girl. The first time I held her, her body went limp, floppy, and I asked a nurse if she was alright. She told me Iris is fine; she’s just relaxed. I was over the moon that she would relax when I held her. She was so relaxed with me that one time, to show her appreciation, she was sick on me… It dribbled inside my belly button. It was a special moment.
I read to Iris every day. There’s not much to do when you’re in a Neo-Natal Unit and your baby’s surrounded by wires and tubes. The day Iris was born, she was given a present, a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The parents of a boy, born on Christmas day 2018, bought a copy for every child born on Christmas day 2019. I’ve never been into Harry Potter. I watched the third film when I was at uni. Me and a few friends thought it would be a great idea to have a few drinks and go to a late screening. Surely there won’t be any children around at a late screening. Oh, how wrong we were! My mates and I had to do our best sober impressions whilst sandwiched between children and their disapproving parents.
I really got into reading Harry Potter, putting on stupid voices. I can’t do accents; my Welsh sounds Pakistani and my Scouser sounds like I’m steaming drunk, so it’s probably a spot-on Scouse impression. I’ve got Scouse friends; I can say that!
If Iris didn’t like something, she would tell you. Every day without fail she would pull her feeding tube out and chuck it across the incubator. It made no difference if the tube was down her throat or up her nose, you would find it lying by her feet. As far as Iris was concerned, it could stay there.
Iris could be cwtched up, sound asleep, but if you opened the door to her incubator, even slightly, she would open her eye – just the one, you’re not worthy of having both eyes open – and scowl, her way of saying, “Think about what you’re doing. Ask yourself, is it worth it? Is it really worth it?”
When Iris did open both greeny-brown eyes, she was wide awake, staring at you, like she was sizing you up; working out whether you were worthy of wiping her bum.
Iris was so strong; she squeezed the life out of my little finger when she held it. I had to wait until her grip eased off before I could move; that could be twenty, thirty minutes – tricky if I needed the loo. Iris wasn’t just strong physically, she bounced back from one infection after another. Doctors would tell us time and again that this is it, we’re looking at end of life care, and Iris would turn things around and keep going. She wanted to live; she wanted to live so badly.
Sadly, life had other ideas. Iris passed away at just after midnight on the twenty-seventh of February 2020; she was two months old and just over a week away from her due date. My fiancée and I were cwtched up in bed with her while the doctors switched off the ventilator. We held her, sang to her, told her how much we loved her and how we would never forget her. Iris was not alone, and she wasn’t in any pain.
I’m not angry at the world. I don’t see parents pushing a pram or being out with their child and wish that was me. But I do get angry for Iris. Someone so brave, who fought so hard, deserved to go on living the rest of her life. Friends and family say it’s terrible that this happened to you, can’t imagine what you must be going through. Never mind us, forget about us; this should never have happened to Iris.
When a tragedy, something terrible happens, you’re thankful for all the good things, all the positives in your life. Me, I have my fiancée. One morning I found her looking down, touching her C-section scar and, stupidly, I told her there are ways of getting rid of it, if that’s what she wants. She just smiled and said no; it keeps Iris’s memory alive, it reminds her that Iris is always with her.
It’s the little things my fiancée does: she cannot sing a song without getting the words wrong. Completely wrong. Nothing like the actual lyrics wrong. She adds sound effects to her life. Pouring the kettle: explosions. Buttering toast: gale force winds. Stepping out of the front door: super-hero music. And those greeny-brown eyes, same as Iris, know exactly what I’m thinking: when I need a cwtch, when I need to talk, when I need to rant, and when I just need to sit and hold her hand. Life without her would be calm and stress-free, but it would also be boring – black and white instead of full-blown colour. She is the wisest person walking this earth when I need advice. She is only five foot three – don’t forget the three, those three inches count – she may be five foot three, but she has propped me up time and again.
The next few months, the next year, won’t be easy: anniversaries, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day. I know there are going to be tough, dark days. But my fiancée and I, we have each other. I’m not scared to say what’s going on inside my head because whatever I’m thinking, she’s thinking it too. We’re both grieving, both hurting; we both love and miss Iris. We will – one way or another – be parents again, and, when we have come out the other side of all of this, we will be stronger.
But for now, I hope you’re listening Iris. Mummy and daddy are so proud of you and we hope, amongst all that fighting and staying strong, you remember the happy times: cuddles, singing to you, reading to you, holding your hand, talking, telling you all the adventures we had planned. We hope that’s what you took from this world: the happy times. You don’t have to fight any more. For someone so small and lived for such a short time, you had a massive impact on your mummy and me.
Mummy and daddy love you and we always will. Our special little girl, Iris.