For such a long time (I’d say from the moment I lost Poppy) this post has been with in me – bubbling away and yet suppressed by my british courtesy and respect for others, as well as the fear and inner worry that perhaps I will be misunderstood by others and perceived to be a selfish person – one who is unable to be happy for those around me. But it is more than that, and yes, perhaps it should have been something I published in the early days, but it is just as true now as it was then and when I read Laura Doves Post recently about how she felt Jealous of those whose babies die and get to do more memory making than she ever did 12 years ago, or when she hears of those who get more time with their babies, it resonated with me (a lot), and empowered me to press publish on this long ago written post!
As we met last Monday with other bereaved mothers to film a news piece on Stillbirth, it became very apparent that Jealousy is a massive part of grief and another thing we really need to talk more about. And so in all of my vulnerability I am putting it out there, and I am writing this post to speak the truth of how it feels for nearly all of the women I have ever met on this side of loss, when someone (whoever it is), announces a pregnancy that you know! I am writing it for me to get it out, and for the women in my shoes. But I am also writing it in a hope that if anyone reading it has a friend or family member that has lost a baby, that they may approach it a little more sensitively.
Being a woman of childbearing age, and a mum of 3 living kids, it is inevitable that I will share acquaintances and friendships with women who are in the same boat – that is having babies and raising kids. We are also from big families, and belong to a church that is very much all about family, and whilst I love that we have so many people to enjoy life with, It can be (and most often is) very hard to see so many people having babies when yours has died! I love that I share relationships with people who get the madness of raising kids, but it is inevitable that with that demographic of people there will always be lots of “Hi I’m pregnant” announcements, and whilst I am happy for my friends and family, this is rarely the emotion I feel first when I hear the news.
I know that feeling of sheer joy when you find out you are pregnant, and that together you have another child coming to your family. You want to shout it from the rooftops and you want to share that happiness and great blessing with all of the people you know and love. It is exciting and you want to celebrate.
It is normal now that after calling, meeting up with, or texting family and best friends to let them know the news, that we slap it all over social media and want everyone to feel this excitement with us too.
I remember it well and it is such a great time of life.
But since having a Stillbirth, pregnancy is suddenly more fragile to me, and anything around tiny new babies just feels more heart wrenching! It is hard to see babies that new and fresh, and excitement for others, however much I love them, is not the first emotion I feel now when I find out that someone is pregnant. It is rather more of anxiety and jealousy. It’s often like an inner torture as I fight my grief and pain to find, and then balance it with the joy and happiness for others as they enjoy the blessings of a new baby. I mostly just want to hide away, and for a small while (sometimes longer) it is what I do as it all just feels raw again and a little unfair, even though I know it absolutely isn’t.
The Pain of announcement because of my loss
I find pregnancy announcements terribly hard because I am rarely prepared for them, and because I have little control over how much it hurts – every single time! Each time it is the same anxious and sick feeling I have always felt – a reaction tainted by grief that tears me up, and whilst I wish that my initial reaction to a pregnancy announcement was still one of joy and delight, and that I could truly celebrate the moment like others (and like I used to be able to), instead I am faced battling these bitter emotions. Often the joy comes in time, and after a lot of “getting my head around it”, but until then it can be a lot of “faking it til I make it” scenario’s.
More often than not, they are feelings that have to be searched for beneath the initial shock and pain that comes from hearing someone is having a baby.
It would be unreasonable to expect a delighted friend, family member or whoever to consider our feelings before sharing their news, but at the same time this is what is needed to soften the blow and know they are respectful of our feelings and the daily battle of living without one of our kids. An element of sensitivity would ease the awkwardness within me as oppose to the sudden “Oh hi we’re having a baby – yipeee!” which catches me off guard every single time.
I guess that people assume that our loss was an event and not a continuum we live on. They fail to see that this means that rather than sharing in their joy, I struggle with feelings of anxiety and awkwardness – I feel aching that they are getting another baby and I will always have to live without mine.
I find it terribly hard when having opened a message, a text, or a social media page, that I come face to face with an announcement. And, like a slap in the face there it is –
A scan picture…
A due date…
A gender reveal!
And nothing prepared me for it, nothing was there to catch my fall, and suddenly I feel defensive too.
Don’t they remember what we went through?
Don’t they consider how hard this is?
And I go into a panic, and I begin searching as to what it is that am I feeling about this and how will it affect me in my grief? When are they due and will it mean their milestones coincide?
Pregnancy announcements stir within me a jealousy and pain I never expected to feel and that I wish I didn’t feel. They all remind me I was pregnant and lost a baby at term. They don’t remind me of my living kids and those moments I felt at ease in pregnancy (though later I can find it), rather I feel the awful demon of Jealously rising up everytime, and I wish it wasn’t so.
I feel jealous and worried of how I am to be around the new baby, when brand new babies (however lovely they are) trigger the memory of holding my still baby! And then I worry that the more babies that come, the less Poppy will be remembered.
And so I battle and try to juggle the joy for them with the aching for me and my baby who died.
I fight to be happy that they have this blessing whilst every day we live with the continued aching for her and one less kid to raise with her siblings, and all I feel is that I wish it was me. I wish I was having the healthy baby… And the moment of an announcement makes me wonder why it was me that had to have the baby die, and why it was me that didn’t get the miracle?
An announcement makes me wonder why so many of our friends get these opportunities and we didn’t, and my heart sinks for our little girl that was gone too soon.
I get mad too … mad that I have a grave and they won’t ever know how incredibly hard that is or what that feels like – and whilst I would never ever wish that on anyone, compassion would be nice sometimes!
This feeling has never left me, no matter how much I pray and wish it wasn’t so. And it has never become easier to see people I know having babies even though I have had a healthy baby since. And so whilst its all kind of wonderful to have mum friends and family, and whilst it’s lovely to see them growing their families, often it can be like walking through a minefield, because I had a baby that died, and people keep having babies that live!
Of course I respond graciously and celebrate in the way you would hope, but it takes me a long time to digest the news because ultimately I am reminded of my loss each time I hear of newborn and expectant babies, and I am reminded of how hard it was, and still is some days and I guess I want people to continue to validate our loss. I want others to be aware that it wasn’t something awful that happened 3.5 years ago, but that it is something awful, and very painful that we have to live with for the rest of our lives.and so these joyful moments for others will trigger my grief and cause me to stress a lot about it.
If you know me personally, then I hope you would know that I love you and can eventually be genuine in my happiness for you and your family (though initially it is somewhat of a facade to try not be weird in my emotions that trip me up).
I know that It is so awkward for us all to live with this, but surely there is a place somewhere in all of this grief, where your living child and my dead child can both be celebrated and acknowledged in life. I guess in another world it would be nice if birth announcements came a little more gently to my heart and crazy mind, but they don’t. So please, if you made it this far, please have more compassion on your friend or family member that misses their sweet baby whilst you get to have and raise yours.