I started a blog when I was pregnant with my first baby, a girl we finally decided to call Isabella. I thought the blog would be a little project for my maternity months, something to keep my fingers typing and brain at least partially whirring. The problem is that Isabella didn't make it. She died in May, when I was six months pregnant. When she was born, I cradled her in my arms and she looked like she could take a breath at any minute, perhaps because of the warmth of my skin or the overwhelming power of this strange new love I felt which was bigger than anything else, stronger than life or death. But she couldn't; she was already gone.
Our friends went to our house and hid the pregnancy books, which I'd been reading just the night before we lost her. They took down the congratulations cards from the bookcase. My husband steeled himself to put the little pink dresses and frilly babygrows in the attic, so I wouldn't see them in the spare room.
I initially thought that my life would never recover; I would never recover. We would always be The Couple That Lost Their Baby. I thought I would never be the same again - and there is so much truth in that; you are never going to be the same again after losing a baby, a child, a life that you made. But you can survive.
You learn life lessons in the process. The main one for me was acceptance; whether you believe in a higher being, a destined purpose, a natural order or just a sequence of coincidences, so much of our lives are outside of our control. This is actually a part of the beauty of life - the surprises that keep you guessing, the half-made plans that are realised when you least expect or the one you've prepared for that is never to be. Losing a baby was something I couldn't stop or put right. Iron supplements, forgoing all alcohol, staying 10 feet away from smokers - nothing had been enough to keep her safe. The results of the tests performed by the hospital staff were all healthy; there was no reason to explain why she died. But she died anyway.
You also learn that grief is not always black and sombre. If I felt like crying and lying in bed all day, I would. Equally, if I wanted to wash my hair, paint my nails and laugh with my friends again, I would do that too. Grief isn't a set pattern; it's loss and remembrance and thankfulness of what you have had. She is my favourite thing; the most precious thing in my life and, when I think about her, often the joy of having her for the short time we did overshadows everything else. Isabella is with me regardless of whether I am crying or laughing, she is always going to be my daughter.
You also develop a kind of strength inside yourself, which perhaps - according to the pop songs and, let's be honest, what don't they know - might have always been there, lying dormant awaiting action. It's this strength which protects you when people ask ridiculous questions and make outrageously insensitive statements around you. It's what stops you breaking down when your four year old nephew gives you a huge cuddle and says "I know I couldn't see you for a while because your baby died and you were sad. That's ok." Like a muscle that's not had much use, you develop this over time until it becomes an automatic reflex. It gets stronger and stronger and it keeps you going.
There are other things too; my husband, family support, amazing charities like 4Louis and Sands and the NHS who gave us everything we needed when we had no idea what that was. A lot of friends and acquaintances came out the woodwork to say that they went through this too. It's crazy how many people had experienced these horrendous tragedies and then just closed off about it, never to bring it up again. This seemingly underground network was a huge comfort in the days when we felt that we were alone in a world of happy families.
That is in part why I decided to carry on blogging. I'd found a network of pregnant and parent pals on there already. It felt wrong to abandon it because my baby died. I could see our story becoming underground too, Isabella becoming part of the taboo of pregnancies without happy endings. That wasn't what I wanted for her - or for other parents of babies like her. They still exist; we are still parents; they are still our children.
This is the message which I think is most important for new parents of stillborn babies. You are not alone. We are in this together. I am surviving and you will too.