August 2016 archive

‘I’m sorry for your loss.’

When a baby dies it is often a time when people do not know what to say, or how to help. And so they often say nothing due to a fear of saying the wrong thing.

This incredibly moving post is a story of how one woman, Charlotte, is feeling following the death of her baby during pregnancy. She has set up @heart_spill and hopes it can be a place where others can share stories and support each other, whilst raising awareness. It is a safe place where people can talk about pregnancy loss, and not ignore it. Talking is good. It is healing.

*Please if you are in anyway sensitive to this subject then be aware this may be very painful to read.

I am sorry for your loss.

Every time those 5 little words came through on my phone I wanted to scream, “what does that even mean?” Those 5 words irritated and bruised my soul. As time goes on, however, I realise that a loss is exactly what I have experienced. Don’t get me wrong, I did not lose my baby. No, my baby died.

But I have lost other things, things that someone who has never been in my position would not even imagine I have lost. 

I feel like I look at what happened as if I was watching a distant family member or neighbor go through it, with a slight haze across my eyes and a “poor them, how awful’ expression on my face. Every now and again, however, I remember that it was me laid in that room, me that heard the sonographer say those words and me who ever so gently stroked my babies hand two days later, my baby that would not be coming home.  It is me who will never quite be the same person again. 

Pregnancy is supposed to be a happy period in your life, “you are glowing” people tell you, “do you have any names yet?” people ask. You get a buzz in your stomach with excitement speaking about it. Even before the secret is out, you sneak online to look at baby grows and make a note of which ones you will buy once you have had your 12-week scan.

Charlotte 1

This is the way it should be. This is not the way it will be for me if I decide to try again. I will never again think of a 12-week scan as a safe zone, my eyes have been opened to a side of pregnancy that is much less fun and exciting, a side that is instead anxiety fueled, and stressful. A side where I will wake up every morning and think, “why do I not feel sick today,” “should I have felt you move by now?” The idea of sitting in that waiting room again and being called into the room where my heart snapped is a thought that makes my bones ache. Pregnancy will never again be the same for me.

Charlotte 2

 On 27th September I was due to meet my baby, but I have already done that and have already said goodbye.

I had hoped that by the time my due date arrived I would have some answers as to why this happened. I had hoped that having that information would enable me to make a decision as to what I wanted to do next. But hope is fleeting.

My baby was sent off to Oxford over 12 weeks ago for a Post Mortem, but I have yet to receive any results. How or why my baby died is still a mystery and all I can do is continue to wait. Wait to find out whether there is anything medically wrong with me or whether I will never know why, and it was something that “just happened” as the doctor explained to me can be the case. The amount of what if’s that run through my head on a daily basis is exhausting. I let them creep in for only a moment and then I shut them away somewhere dark, somewhere that I don’t like to look.

During one weekend a couple of weeks ago now, three people in my life had their babies. Three people who announced their pregnancies not long before myself and who I was looking forward to spending my maternity leave with. We discussed mother and baby exercise classes, what prams we were getting and what foods we could not stomach that day. Usually when you hear that someone close to you has had a baby you are full of happiness for them. I did not feel any happiness. Don’t get me wrong, I would never have wanted anything else for them, I would not wish what happened to me on anyone. But I cannot act like I am full of happiness. I did not cry tears of joy, I just cried. With each announcement I cried. Cried for my loss, cried that I would not be in the same position as them in 5 weeks, as I should have been.

Charlotte 3

 The normal thing to do when someone you know has a baby is to pop out and buy a card and a gift and wait excitedly for them to ask you to pop around for a cuddle. Previous me would have been all over this. Current me cannot think of anything more painful. Current me is worried that I will crumble in front of them, that my “brave” veil will slip and I will be outed as the fraud that I am. A fraud who cries alone in the shower and in the car, a fraud who cannot help being green with jealousy that it worked for them and not for me. A fraud who punishes herself for these feelings on a daily basis, even though my therapist tells me that they are completely normal.

 Now as you can imagine, people don’t want to talk about a baby dying, why would they? It is not a pleasant thing to talk about, it’s not The Bake Off… This natural human reaction however creates a distance. A distance that is forged from awkwardness.

The difficulty seems to lie in the fact that people don’t appear to know how to talk to me anymore. People no longer look at me how they used to, their voices seem to have changed, their heads tilt to the side whilst they are talking to me and there is sometimes an ‘am I going to break her?” look on their face. You are not going to break me, believe me, I am pretty tough. If my experience in that hospital didn’t break me, you saying the wrong thing to me definitely won’t.

The thing people need to remember is that people who have “lost” a baby do not want to talk about that solely. Sometimes I will want to and that is part of the healing, but most days I just want to talk to you, talk about normal things, things I would have talked about before this happened to me. Please let me.

Charlotte 4

“I am sorry for your loss.”

There is nothing wrong with that sentence. There is nothing wrong with saying that to someone like me, it shows that you are thinking of the person, it shows that you care, it is 100% better than saying nothing. Just please make sure that you think about what that person has truly lost before you say it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aurora Borealis and Fireworks

When do we start planning the lives of our children? Is it when we conceive? Or is it earlier than that? Does everyone, unconsciously at least, absorb events, feelings, hopes and dreams, and hold them in a tiny part of their brains ready to transmit to those they may give birth to.

We may think, as a stroppy teenager, angry at the world that we will never speak to our children in the way our parents do to us. Or we will find a love in something so powerful that it absolutely has to be passed down to our children so they can exact the same pleasure we have from it.

However the hopes and wishes for our children manifest themselves in our minds there is always one enduring want – for them to be healthy. You often hear people comment when asked, probably for the millionth time, ‘Do you know what you’re having?’ that they don’t care as long as ‘it’s’ healthy.

And so, what happens, when your child isn’t healthy when they are born? Or are diagnosed with a life changing disease when they are still young and vulnerable? Do your ideals for their lives flash before your eyes, like time is said to do when on your deathbed? Do visions of what could’ve been dance and flicker before you when dealt with such a hand?

I should know. I should know because I have been there. I am that mum. I have sick children. And ever since their diagnosis I have been struggling to find the right way of describing how our lives have changed. How what we thought was before us was snatched and tarnished with the threat of a life changing and life threatening illness.

And until now I have found no way to explain how that feels. What their diagnosis has done to them, to my husband and I and to our family, who are all affected. But then, two nights ago, I watched a documentary on the Aurora Borealis, where the night sky is lit up by the most beautiful, natural lights in an awesome show of colour. And it got me thinking. Whenever I see the lights in photos, or on the television, they fill me with pleasure. One day I’d love to see them for real and experience nature at its most awe inspiring.

The journey there wouldn’t, of course, be stress free. Especially if I went with the children. There would be arguments along the way. We’d be oh so very tired when we got there, but would marvel at the relative ease with which we are now able to travel around the world. We’d laugh at the time our suitcases went missing and have fond memories of the time we caught a plane for our honeymoon and talked about doing this, seeing the Northern Lights, with our family complete. We’d be making the journey with a multitude of other people from all different countries and backgrounds. And there’d be a plan. A guide telling us what we needed to look out for and the best times to travel and see them. It would be an adventure and one that we would all be on together, with other people who, like us, would want to offer their children the very best experiences in life.

And then I took this dream and put it out of context. For not everyone gets to go to see the lights, even though they may want to. Some people are forced to watch fireworks instead. Something that is noisy, artificial, and dangerous. Fireworks have the ability to wow and hurt at the same time. They are not predictable. There isn’t just one destination where they can be seen – they are not always let off at the same time and in the same place.

My family wanted to see the Aurora Borealis, but instead we’ve been singled out to observe the fireworks. At first we watched from afar, not wanting to be herded in with the other people there. We watched the different colours and patterns and oohed and ahhed. But all the while believing this wasn’t go to be all we were going to see forever. We’d be allowed to go to the lights at some point. But then, over time, we were pushed deeper into the crowd. It didn’t matter if we closed our eyes to shut out the bright, artificial lights, or the noise – the fireworks were still there. And they had the ability to catch us off guard. Make us jump, like when a firework is set off at 5pm on the first of April instead of 5th November after it’s dark.

And fireworks burn. Scar. Leave you with physical injuries that, although they aren’t painful and raw forever, remain as a reminder of what happened and where you are. Where you can’t escape.

Some people in the crowd walk away from the fireworks. You can hear them scream, ‘I didn’t sign up for this shit,’ and as it’s all a bit loud and unpredictable, they go. To where I don’t know for I don’t believe you can fully ever leave the fireworks once you’ve been forced to go to the show. There’s always someone nearby ready to set one off and rock your world once more. It can be peaceful for a time, but never for ever.

And so at the moment, this is where my family is. We are repeatedly being surprised by loud noises and sudden fires, and even though we’ve remained relatively unscathed so far, it’s been bloody hard work. We have to tend to the field where the firework show is daily, and it’s tough fighting the fire to make sure we don’t get burnt. But we are doing it. We’re getting used to this new future. This new place we find ourselves in. The Firework Show. And The Northern Lights and all the hope and wonder they would’ve brought remain a distant memory. Nature has played us this cruel hand instead.

And all the while, the most important thing is to make sure the children enjoy the show. That not for one minute do they feel they are missing out on something more spectacular. So we embrace the show, buy them sparklers and candyfloss and take them on every single ride we can.

They know no different and for as long as I am fighting fireworks, I will fight to keep it that way.

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