It is so odd to walk into a room full of people you have never met but instantly know something so very personal about them. As you know that you have something so painful in common with them all, you feel an immediate connection to strangers and, after spending a good few months of shielding my emotions from many people, it was a relief.
We are very lucky to be surrounded by such a large network of wonderful people who support us fabulously - unfortunately not everyone is so lucky - but, even so, it is a very lonely time. People offer support, condolence, hugs. They do what they can, whatever they can, everything they can. But at the end of the day, they don't know. Even our parents- who so desperately want to protect us from bad things- can do nothing to take the pain away or make it better, maybe for the first time in their lives. They don't know what it feels like to lose a child and, as their families are now complete, they never will. They don't know. Friends can empathise, other parents can empathise but they can only imagine; they don't know. Of course I'm glad of this, I wouldn't wish the loss of a child onto anyone, but it is wildly comforting to know that we aren't on our own.
As we walked in to our first meeting, three and a half months after losing Beatrice, I had no idea what to expect. There were six women and another couple besides ourselves and it was awkward. They offered us a drink, we obliged and then we sat down. Everyone knew why we were there, I knew why everyone else was there, but it is so hard to strike up such an emotive conversation with a total stranger. We were the only newbies so we let the others take the lead.
I don't know what I was expecting but we just sat and talked about our experience and our daughter for two hours. It was lovely. There was no standing up in turn and saying your name in some kind of weird AA fashion as we had perhaps thought; it was just a chat. People asked me questions about my baby which was lovely- nobody ever asks me questions about my baby- and I asked for advice from people who have been there and done it. It was refreshing to gain the perspective of someone who doesn't know us personally but yet already knows us so well. Half way through the two hours, a candle was lit in the centre of the room and everyone took a few minutes in silence to remember their baby. I cried but that's ok.
I spoke at length with one woman who had lost not only one baby but three. Thankfully, she did manage to have one successful pregnancy so she does have one living son. We spoke about how we'd fantasise about the parents we would have been, about how we want to warn all pregnant women not to be so naïve and vulnerable and about what we say when people ask how many children we have. Talking to her made me feel both comforted and ridiculous. Here I am, so upset about losing Beatrice when there are people out there who have had to deal with this multiple times over and are doing just fine... Pull yourself together. For a small moment, I felt like a drama queen. It sounds ridiculous I know. I quickly realised, of course, that this woman has had over 10 years to come to terms with her losses. Simultaneously, our conversation gave me so much hope and terrified me to the very core. She is living proof that you can carry on... We'll be able to get through this... But she lost 3... It could happen to us again... I can't go through it again.
As with every day, in the space of a short amount of time I convinced myself that I wanted another baby straight away and then almost immediately decided that I would never be able to go through another pregnancy ever again.
It was good to be in a safe space and talk so openly. I wasn't worried about offending anyone; we had all made very different decisions when it came to funerals for example but there was no feeling of animosity attached to our views. I openly admitted that I desperately wanted another baby now but I know I'm not ready because, if I were to carry a boy, I would be devastated. I asked really blunt questions and the answers I was given gave me a whole different perspective.
The main thing I am took away from this meeting was how to cope with the battle I constantly face between thinking or talking about Beatrice and managing to hold it together.
You don't need to feel guilty, certainly not in these early days, about sometimes allowing yourself to not think about her. You don't need to feel bad if, sometimes, you omit details of your life to shield yourself from talking to someone about her. You aren't ignoring her or forgetting about her you are just being kind to yourself. Don't bottle everything up- that isn't healthy- but, similarly, don't torture yourself every second of every day either. Don't deliberately make things difficult for yourself in a vain attempt to 'not forget her'. You won't ever forget her, don't worry.
I am quickly realising that strangers will forever put their foot in it with me now without meaning to. They'll see me with Rob and Poppy and tell me jokingly that I should have a baby. No kidding! They'll ask me if I have any children and, when I'm pregnant again, they'll ask me if this is my first. This will happen forever until they design a badge for us to wear that is universally recognised as The Pin of a Bereaved Parent.
Nobody will be expecting the truth and not everyone needs to know the truth. Not everyone can handle it.
I was starting to get scared of meeting new people which is the opposite of pre-Mum me. I'm OK with it now.
Not everyone deserves the truth and I don't have to offer it to everyone.
I no longer feel guilty for writing my reason for joining Slimming World as 'to slim down for my wedding' rather than 'to lose my baby weight'. It isn't anyone's business and it is my decision who is deserving of my story.
It's about self-preservation not about lying.
It's about being kind to myself and I don't need to feel bad.
Needless to say SANDS is wonderful; the evening was emotionally exhausting but uplifting. I immediately felt so much better and we made the decision that we will definitely be going again.
(To catch up on earlier blogs you may have missed visit https://elizabethrosemartin.wordpress.com/)