‘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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.