The internet, as with all new things (and let us not forget that while we have had a seismic growth in technology over the last decade, it is still new), receives a lot of criticism. From online bullying, trolls, racism, sexism, revenge porn, and all sorts of other things, it can be a true cesspit. What we forget, however, is that it is also used simply as a tool to bring together like-minded individuals, and those who have shared experiences.
In my case it was experiencing the death of a child. I documented my pregnancy with my son on Instagram, as well as his birth. When he died, I withdrew, but I wrote about it on Instagram - at the time a private account. But somebody reached out. Our experiences were not identical but it seems that when it comes to the death of a baby there are so many ways it can happen that mirror accounts are a rarity.
When I was ready, I went public with it, and I found a community of people who were not afraid to speak about the realities of grief. It was not the following I had had before, it was not friends or family, but a whole new world of people. I found that in the early days, speaking to anyone about my grief was a waste of time because there was no way that any of them would understand it, so when I found the baby loss community on Instagram it felt as if I was finally being understood and that my grief was validated. Strange, isn’t it? That one grieving for their child needs to feel validated. It seems peculiar to me that the death of the child should be forgotten about quicker than the death of a parent, but that is how many think. I think that is in part due to the fact that we don’t talk about the fact that children die but also in part due to the fact that “you can just have another” (one of the many, gut-wrenchingly cruel things to have been said in the aftermath).
#BabyLoss and #InfantLoss led me to a plethora of (mostly) women, all of whom had experienced the loss of a baby, often stillbirth or neonatal loss. Admittedly, neonatal loss was less common, so our experiences did differ, but they understood what it was like to come home from the hospital, see all their baby’s belongings and know there was no baby; they knew what it was like to have to arrange a funeral for your child, how there was nothing to be said in their eulogy because they had hardly lived. You’re, instead, only able to talk about what you wish they would have experienced, and nice as that is it’s hardly comforting.
When the exhaustion of being asked if your child is your first baby multiple times a day hits, they understood. I couldn’t just say yes, as you often think or are told to do, because the feeling of betraying my first born was too strong. They understood how tiring it is to constantly bare yourself to strangers. The awkwardness and the lull in conversation after revealing that your baby has died, they understood.
Instagram became a safe haven where I wasn’t judged for hating pregnant women (even though my sons death and my subsequent miscarriage was far from their fault), for wishing I had died instead, for wanting another baby. These women became friends. Actual, real life friends. I could text one of them with a thought that would likely make a normal person think I needed professional help or maybe that I was beyond it. When I fell pregnant for the second time and miscarried, it was them that understood exactly how that felt, and then with the third, it was them that cheered me on, genuinely pleased.
As good as the Lullaby Trust, Tommy’s and SANDS are for the bereaved parent, you can’t choose who you talk to, and more often than not they are people whose losses happened years ago. Their situations are not the same as your own, and to really see any light at the end of that tunnel you need to be able to imagine yourself. Seeing people like you who seem to be on the “other side” of that situation, whose lives don’t seem to have ended. You need to see people just like you who have managed to somehow muddy through the swamps.