Month: February 2014

Sugarcoated Reality

Warning: this is not a typical post about stillbirth. Some people may find it quite confronting. Still, I feel compelled to write it.

stillbirth1

Last night I read a book. At one stage in the book, a pet dog had a small litter of puppies. Out of the three puppies, one was dead. The author mentioned its little cold body, and I knew it was dead. Then the author used a phrase that hit me hard: “the stillborn puppy”.

After losing a baby, it is not easy when I unexpectedly encounter that word and last night was no different. I read that phrase, then re-read it. Then stared at the ceiling and whispered it.

And then I whispered the next thing. “Stillborn means dead. It means dead.”

As I lay there, staring, repeating, I felt like I was staring in the face of a cold, hard, awful truth.

We try to sugarcoat it. Born still sounds so much nicer than born dead. Born sleeping is a comforting phrase. But these words and phrases just disguise the truth. My baby was born dead. Theodore was not alive. His body was only warm because it had been in mine. He was perfect and real and beautiful. But he was not alive. He never drew breath or cried or soiled a nappy. He was dead.

He was perfect to me, even though he was not “too perfect for this world”. That is just another phrase that helps comfort a little.

But the truth is, I am not sad because he was too perfect. I am not grieving because he was born asleep and perfect and free from the troubles of this world. I am grieving because my baby is dead.

Theodore is dead and gone. I never saw him smile or sneeze. I never woke in the night to his cries. I never fed him or burped him. I never got the chance. Instead my husband and I buried our precious son and for Christmas we received a plaque for a grave instead of a newborn baby.

My baby is precious and missed and grieved. But not because he was “too perfect”. Not because he was born asleep. It is because he is gone. It is because his death while still in my womb took him. It is because he died before he had barely lived.

By all means, continue to use the words and phrases that help ease the pain. Just do not pretend they mean something other than what they really do.

Mothers who have not lost babies, remember this when you talk to someone who has. They did not “just” have a miscarriage or a stillbirth. Their babies really did die. These mothers and fathers really are mourning a death. They are mourning a baby they did not get a chance to parent.

The words we use soften it, but the truth behind them is hard and unyielding. Yet, sometimes it helps to face that truth and acknowledge it. It helped me.

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My Anchor Holds

I have a new necklace. A sparkly anchor pendant on a silver chain. It is my Theodore and Jeremiah necklace.

An anchor. Someone suggested it symbolised hope and strength, as that is typical symbolism for an anchor. Well it does. But it doesn’t.

One of the songs at Theodore’s funeral contained the words, “my anchor holds within the veil”.

The veil is, for me, a safe, calm place of peace and safety and – yes – hope and strength. It is a place where I cry out in pain and frustration and grief, where my tears are not lost or forgotten but counted and kept.

It is a place that remains stable and secure, even when everything else is uncertain and stressful and, occasionally,  grim. It is a place where my worry ebbs out and is replaced by peace.

It is a place I need.

Really, it is a place of trust. Trust that good will come from this bitter grief. Trust that from this sorrow something beautiful will grow and blossom and shine.

And as much as I need this place, I also need the reminder that it is there.

I need the reminder and the reassurance that I am safe and that I am not going to get disoriented and lost while I am on this bewildering journey.

This is what my Theodore and Jeremiah necklace does. Its presence reminds me, encourages me, comforts me and calms me.

My anchor holds within the veil.

Slowly

I am very slowly writing a big long post of our story of having a miscarriage and then a stillbirth.

Slowly seems to be the way to do things.

I cannot rush the healing that I need after losing two pregnancies. I should not try to rush the grief. It is usually wise for me not to dive into something new when I still have a lot of processing to do.

So “slowly” seems to be my new internal speed, even if my external actions seem the same as usual, because I do not want to rush this sacred time.

I do not want to push on through the feelings too fast. I do not want to bury them or push them aside. I want to work through this thing slowly, to make sure it gets properly healed. I want to squeeze every bit of preciousness and kindness and love and learning from it. I want to miss my children fully and I also want to be fully content and pleased that they are in a safe place where they are happy.

And slowly the days will tick by until I am there with them. And then this slow journey of waiting and trusting and of being patient will be complete.