Did you know its Baby Loss Awareness Week?
The reason this week is so needed is because baby loss is still very much a taboo subject, people are reluctant to talk about such a sensitive and painful subject. By marking a week on the calendar, some people are given a spurt of confidence to open up when they may normally feel less inclined to do so. So in honour of this week I wanted to share a post about what it's like for those who have lost a baby in pregnancy, at birth or in early years. I hope by reading it you can get a sense of the issues that face those who have gone through such tragic events.
How it is:
You don't know what's just happened, all you know is the bottom just fell out of your world.
A trapdoor opened and you fell.
If you're blessed, people rush to comfort and support you initially. If you aren't so fortunate, you are left totally alone, as people 'give you space'.
You continue to get baby updates from online companies, you once excitedly signed up for. Discount vouchers start arriving in the post for nappies, you now won't need. Even if you hit unsubscribe on these sites, they often refuse to believe you may not want to hear how old your baby would be today, so continue to send them anyway.
You secretly weep when you see pregnant women, as it's a reminder of what you no longer have. However if you envy that woman, you feel like a terrible person, as you are acutely aware that she might be one of the one in four women who has previously lost a baby.
It seems like everywhere you look there is another baby bump.
Hidden at the back of wardrobes are the purchases you could not resist. Little treasures that once made your heart beat faster, when you fantasised about dressing your little one in them. Now you avoid those cupboards like the plague, as just catching sight of them brings you to your knees.
You feel lost wherever you go, and whatever you do - your grief consumes you.
Your child that never saw life outside of the womb, has now changed the core of you. Your DNA will simply never be the same.
Prams, Moses baskets and little tiny booties all have an almost magical ability to bring memories flooding back, a blatant reminder of what you should now have....but have tragically lost.
You long to stop weeping...Surely one day the tears will dry up.
You find yourself angry at everything and everyone. Yes this is indeed another stage of grief, but a powerful and hard step to process.
You are sure you can still feel your baby move, but that's not possible. The doctors call them phantom kicks. For most people they are torture. But in a funny way they are reassuring too, that your body hasn't forgotten your baby, your child.
You start to imagine whether your child would have looked like you, your partner, or even a child you just caught sight of in a magazine. Suddenly your soul cries out for the baby you long to hold.
Then one day you suddenly laugh, or smile at something that just happened, and the guilt is all consuming - you panic that this will mean someone will think you have forgotten your baby, your child, and life has now moved on. So the smile disappears and the tears return.
You remember all the painful details like its yesterday.
The look on the sonographers face, when they saw what they didn't expect to see.
The expression on your midwife's face, when she was explaining what was going to happen next.
The feeling of excruciating pain both physically and emotionally, like you are having open heart surgery without any meds.
Time goes on and you realise that it's not betraying your child to feel happiness. Your baby will always be a part of your life, and that alone is a reason to smile.
People try to de-value your pain to make themselves feel better, "well it's not as bad as this or that". All this comparison makes you feel more lost, and more alone, as if they truly don't understand how the loss of a baby, a child is different to any other loss or situation, you know you will never be able to explain it to them, and they will never truly be able to empathise with your story, your journey.
Babies are supposed to be born and thrive. Parents aren't supposed to say goodbye. But they do every day.
A massive part of you was lost that day, your hopes and dreams for the future, gone in the blink of an eye.
The atmosphere dramatically changes when you mention your child, so eventually you give up talking about them, in a bid to protect those who feel awkward talking about loss. You have seen the looks on their faces when you mention a time when you were pregnant, no one knows whether to hug you or pretend you never spoke.
You quickly find that many people you thought were friends were simply acquaintances, and they vanish from your life.
In time you make new friends, and these precious few, will be the friends you now do life with. They will become your anchors and give you strength.
Who knew so many people went through loss? You didn't.
You would give the world to step into a time machine, to change the ending of your story.
You want to know why life took this turn.
But the doctors told you, "These things just happen!"
"Do they" you ask? In shock and disbelief, not in my world, you think.
Then time moves on.
You don't cry as much anymore.
Life has now taken on a whole new meaning.
You understand that you can live a life consumed with regret and grief, or embrace life and make every day count.
You can make your child's legacy be one of tears and sadness, or joy and transformation.
You can sit in your pain, or help lead others through their pain.
There is never closure after the loss of a child. However young your little one was, you had longed for them, you had carried them and they will forever be part of you.
The length of a life is irrelevant to the legacy it can leave.
Not all Mothers can say 'I carried my child every second of their life' - now that's a GIFT.
Minor changes have been made to the style and content in this post.
Zoe Clark-Coates is one of the founders and CEO's of the Mariposa Trust. The Saying Goodbye division offers support and national remembrance services for anyone who has lost a baby at any stage of pregnancy, at birth or in early years.
Website: www.mariposatrust.org & sayinggoodbye.org