BY PATRICIA GRISAFI
She is so alive on Google Images, her blonde hair spun into a tiny ballerina bun at the top of her head, one baby dangling from the carrier on her chest and another in a stroller. She moves through London in a series of frocks, sometimes holding her husband’s hand, other times a plastic grocery bag. She is often smiling — a toothy yet restrained grin — so it’s difficult to see the death wish she harbored even when kissing her two baby boys.
Peaches Geldof had been listening to a lot of Elliott Smith in the weeks up to her death in April 2014 at age 25. It kept her anchored, she said: "It’s comforting…to have someone, even if it’s just a disembodied voice, who understands the unsayable." Peaches might not have ever articulated the unsayable during her life — it is sometimes just a sound or feeling or look — but when she was found dead of a heroin overdose in her home, it was clear that she had been suffering despite what she considered her saving grace — her children.
Now that I’m pregnant after a three-year struggle, I feel more connected to Peaches than when I just monitored her antics on the scene and her success as a young writer. For me, she was never simply another wealthy, party-crazed socialite. Peaches had a voracious intellect. She was creative.
And everyone worried she would die from a drug overdose.
Then she had her first son, Astala. She got married. She had a second son, Phaedra. It seemed like we could take a breath. Peaches would be okay.
A friend recently told me I seemed much more grounded. Was it pregnancy? I laughed and said it was probably ten years of therapy, being responsible about my meds, finding a good support system.
"But you know," I added, fidgeting. "Sometimes I worry I’ll find myself curled up on the kitchen floor holding a knife and crying so hard my body involuntarily convulses. How far away really are we from that?"
Our destroyers don’t go away. They just sleep.
This was something Peaches knew. She had been quietly frequenting a methadone clinic for two and a half years to stay off heroin and manage her addiction; her goal was to come off methadone completely. Tests showed she was clean in November 2014. By February, she was using heroin again. By April, she was dead. Her son Phaedra was alone in the house with the body for 17 hours.
Having children does not fix your broken parts. If you are lucky, you arrive at a point in your life when you feel okay enough to bring a human into the world. You have addressed your suicidal tendencies, your phobias, your occasional penchant for having one too many drinks after dinner. You eat more greens, take the right vitamins, read up on infant development.
Sometimes, I imagine my mental illness as the horrible figure behind the diner dumpster in Mulholland Drive. She’s always lurking, but I don’t have to visit her. If I get the urge, I don’t need to stay for long: "Hi, how’s the weather, I see you, I’m leaving now."
Peaches tried. She did the work. She dove into motherhood. At the time of her death, she was even in the works to write a column for UK parenting website Mother & Baby. But maybe Peaches bought into the myth of domesticity too deeply, thought of it as the thing that might heal her.
"Motherhood tends to be over-idealised," writes Deborah Orr about Peaches’ public fervor for attachment parenting. "Its power to give meaning and purpose to unsettled lives is not a myth." Peaches’ own mother infamously died of a heroin overdose when Peaches was 11. How could Peaches not have mythologized the role, seen her own motherhood as a way to reclaim a lost childhood as well as be the perfect mother?
I don’t consider Peaches a failure — I see her as a struggling mom who tried her best. I think of her when I wander through Buy Buy Baby trying out strollers and looking at tiny onesies dotted with smiling zebra faces. I think of her when I try on a floral frock that stretches across my small bump. In a strange way, she has become my pregnancy muse. Her story is one of love and darkness, a reminder that we might never defeat our demons — but that we should never stop trying to make peace with them.
Patricia Grisafi, PhD, is a New York City-based freelance writer, editor, and former college professor. She is currently an Associate Editor at Ravishly and a contributing writer and editor at Luna Luna.
Her work has appeared in Salon, Vice, Bitch, The Rumpus, Bustle, The Establishment, and elsewhere. Her short fiction is forthcoming in Tragedy Queens (Clash Books). She is passionate about pit bull rescue, cursed objects, horror movies, and designer sunglasses.