Inconsistent

One thing that I have noticed over the past several months is how inconsistent my emotions and thoughts can be. Sometimes I can feel two completely contradictory things at once, often towards the same person. And I think that is what a loss like this does.

I am happy for people who are pregnant, but also a bit angry and jealous of them too.

I want babies to be born alive and well and for people to be saved my grief, but something in me also wants to see people suffer in the same way I have.

I wonder, have I shocked you?

Even if you feel disturbed by this, you can’t fix it. There is nothing you can say to me that will change how this is right now. This is grief. It is processing. I even think it could be called progress.

Do I feel bad that sometimes I almost wish that someone else will have a stillbirth like me? Yes, but also no.

Yes, because that is a horrible thing to think. And deep down I don’t want that. It just hurts when you see others getting what was taken away from you.

But also no, because I recognise where that thought comes from. It comes from not wanting to be alone in this. To stop feeling like I am “the only one” this sort of thing happens to. To know beyond a doubt that someone else understands.

This is partly why I write this blog, to share how I feel, what this journey is like, and so I can present my situation to you in a way that invites acknowledgement and support. Because this is a long and often frustrating, confusing and lonely journey.

Even though I know I am probably doing better than the majority of bereaved mothers, I still struggle. I don’t cry everyday, but I do cry. I am not in despair or depressed or angry, but I am still healing.

I am grateful for every bit of support and love and encouragement I have been given.

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Six Months

This time last year I was about two or three weeks away from finding out I was pregnant.

Had things gone well, I would have had a two and a half month old baby boy (and I would probably be trying to nap right now instead of writing a blog). However, it has been just over six months since Theodore John was born still at 23 weeks and 6 days.

In the six months since then, my husband and I have held a funeral, grieved (in completely different ways), and known the agony of getting a grave plaque only a few days after the due date – and the day before Christmas.

We have borne as kindly and as graciously as possible the news of friends’ pregnancies and the births of new babies. We have learnt how to share our journey without dominating conversations with our sorrow. We have learnt how to not let that same grief overshadow our home, too. We have learnt how to find joy and laughter in everything that offers it. We have learnt how to pin our hopes and expectations on something bigger than ourselves.

Losing a child certainly is not something you recover from quickly or easily, especially when it seems like every second friend is getting pregnant or celebrating over a newborn baby. There are reminders everywhere. Television shows, Facebook, Pinterest. Going to the hospital, the cinema, the supermarket. Even my favourite clothing store has a new maternity section now, and the changes in my own body are a daily reminder, should I care to notice them.

Yesterday I held the newborn baby of some friends, a big solid boy. And as I held him there was no glimmer of self pity or jealousy or anger. I was just happy that this baby had arrived and was living, breathing and scrunching up his mouth and nose while he napped in my arms.

Six months on, I think my husband and I are doing well.

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.

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.

Together

Yesterday I was reminded of a beautiful conversation with a four year old girl. This little conversation happened a couple of days after Theodore was born.

To give it a bit of background: after the miscarriage which happened in 2012, I struggled to think of the baby as anything more than a miscarried pregnancy. After all, we had never even seen him. Though we had decided to call the baby Jeremiah, we never referred to him as such. Rather, I thought of him predominantly as “the miscarried baby”.

The four year old I had the conversation with knew about Jeremiah. All through my pregnancy with Theodore, each time she saw me she would pat my tummy and say, “The other baby died. But this one’s not dead.” It was really funny and actually refreshing to have things stated so plainly.

On this occasion, two days after Theodore’s birth, sitting in church (because being at home without a baby two days after giving birth is surreal and awful), this girl was sitting on my lap.

“The baby died.”

“Yes, that’s right, Theodore died.”

“The other baby died too.” (As she is patting my arm.)

“Yes, he did.”

“Now they are both in heaven together.”

Wow. I wish I could put into words how that last sentence made me feel. It was like comfort was poured into my heart and like my whole world lit up with the joy of thinking of them together.

Two brothers, together.

One of my midwives said to me that maybe part of Theodore’s purpose was to help me heal after the loss of Jeremiah, and I think that is true.

Since having Theodore, Jeremiah is no longer referred to as “the miscarried baby”. Now, he is always referred to by name.

And whenever I close my eyes and picture them, they are always together.

Most Days

Most days, it is not too hard.

Now, nearly five months after Theodore was born still, I sometimes do not even think of him until something reminds me.

Like, seeing a picture of a baby or a young child. Or hearing the name. Or hearing of someone who is pregnant or who just had a baby. Or seeing the painting of his feet on the wall or the toys that were bought for him.

Daily things, really.

Sometimes the reminders are not too bad. Maybe a little sad. Occasionally relieved that my baby will not have to suffer through what another baby might.

Sometimes they hit so hard. Like suddenly you’re carrying a rock in your stomach and another on your heart. The heaviness and ache and pain and heart-brokenness of those moments cannot be understood by someone who has not experienced it.

Does that mean I have more understanding – that I “get” grief better?

No.

I do not know the pain of watching parents separate. I do not know the pain of losing a parent. I do not know what it is like to lose practically all my belongings in a housefire.

I can imagine, and I can sympathise, but I do not know.

The pain I know is the pain of losing children. Jeremiah was miscarried. Theodore was stillborn.

I know the pain of burying my baby. Of standing in a cemetery, looking at a plaque with my son’s name on it.

But, the pain is not constant. It is not all day, every day.

It is moments throughout my day, most days.

The First Post

Starting a blog is always a bit scary. It is the first step – the easiest step – of a journey which you know will only succeed if you put in the effort to make it do so.

And so, my aims:

– to share my personal journey after pregnancy loss

– to be real and honest

– to share the good bits and the hard bits

– to create and foster a place of support and understanding and care

 

Let’s see how it goes.