I recently invited my friends to share and comment on any personal experience of losing a baby, for the purpose of writing an article. Nobody came forward.
I was disappointed but understood. We are frightened to speak about it. What if I get it wrong? How can words be enough? When a parent loses a baby and does not want to talk about it, it is mostly because they do not know how to express the depth of pain.
So here I am. Forcing myself to try. I have lost two babies to miscarriage in two separate pregnancies. Very much loved and wanted. Still missed, loved and thought about. There could be no burial or cremation. They were early losses - tiny.
It is near impossible to physically mark a life that short. I have no rose bush, no photographs and no candle. Yet every second of my life, every fibre of my being and every beat of my heart - these are legacies of pain and love I have for those babies.
And the thought - whatever the stage of loss or the time passed since, or the number of children you have - seems the same across baby loss communities whenever it comes to discussing it: What if the words do not accurately or effectively convey the sorrow in my heart?
That is perhaps why we don't talk. It is not fear of 'opening up the grief', for the grief is always there. It is not only dread of stigma or people who do not understand saying hurtful things. Although comparisons to losing grandparents and pets are horrifically insensitive...
Some people say things like "You are so strong - I would never be that strong", which is massively damaging because it undermines the grief experience. They think I am coping too well. They think they would be sadder, less able to function normally. They think I am not lost without my baby. They mean I don't seem utterly heartbroken.
Another reason bereaved parents do not want to talk about it is out of loyalty to, and dignity for, the lost baby. When I started this, I was reluctant. What if it is too public? What if somehow acknowledging this out loud, in some way touches upon the whole situation negatively, insensitively?
A million memes about babies with wings, angels, being too good for this world... I can tell you they all mean sh*t. "He is in a better place." There is no better place than here in his mummy's arms. "God wanted her more." No, He didn't. It is not possible. I WANTED HER MORE! Some report being ignored by friends who did not know what to say or do, so they said and did nothing.
As a writer, I believe in the power of words and communication. As a journalist, I believe in telling stories, sharing experiences, emotive heartfelt poignant narrative. But when it comes to describing my own pain about babies I have lost, I am almost speechless.
Because it is too tender, too tragic - the babies that will never be. The way I felt different about each pregnancy and how I can still feel the way I felt when pregnant with each baby. There is a story of conception, of pregnancy and miscarriage: of relationship, of comfort, of sadness, of grief. There is a timeline - time passed between now and then. I know their due dates. I know how old they would be. I used to think about those babies every day and now, every few days. I am pleased I do. Because that is the beauty and there is the love.
I am glad it still hurts because it should. I am encouraged that we are getting slightly better at talking about babies we have loved and lost. Whether or not we lost a baby in the womb, whether that baby died during pregnancy or after, in childhood or beyond...
All loss of a child is catastrophic and life changing. If you never experienced that, I am glad for you. If you did, you already know you will never be the same. And like me, that secretly makes you glad too. Your whole life is a testament to that baby and your story is the story of that loss. That loss is purely about love. We wanted all of our babies in our arms. We will always grieve for the ones who could not stay.
Talk about baby loss. Go to a meeting, if meetings are your thing. Read a book. Go online. Charities such as Sands, The Miscarriage Association and Tommy's have websites providing information and details of how to access support.
If you know someone suffering, do not be so afraid to offend that you say nothing. But do not say something crap. I hope you never experience the pain of losing a child, but if you ever have, or ever do, you will want it acknowledged in a way that is meaningful to you. No matter how long ago it was. No matter how many babies you have. No matter what the circumstances.