Every year October marks ‘Baby Loss Awareness Month‘ and from the 9th til the 15th of October we have ‘Baby Loss Awareness week‘. These are things I was never aware of 6 years ago and yet now, I find that there is always so much I could say each year (and each day for that matter) around the topic of baby loss. It is something I wish I was still naive to and something I wish daily was not our reality. But, like so many other families, it sadly is and drives me to want to tell people about that and our baby.
Last month for us (like every September now) was when the reality of baby loss once again looked like another birthday spent at a graveside. Another September without advancement in school. Another September without birthday gifts to buy.
But daily, it looks like telling people we are expecting our 5th child and then a look of confusion which makes you feel mad as there are obviously only 3 kids in every picture and on every school run.
It looks like not know what having 4 kids is really like even though your body and mind know you have had them all.
It is not knowing what this particular 6 year old would be into or what having all my kids together really feels and looks like.
It looks like increased anxiety again as we take a leap of faith and have another child. Because now, words which were once spoken of warnings or that were others experiences, are our experiences too…they are our reality – not just each year on her birthday, but each day of our lives too.
I’ve stayed quiet on baby loss awareness this year. I haven’t shared like I usually do on social media and I almost was going to let it pass by as a reflective one. But, my emotions however in the last few weeks couldn’t be silenced. And so now, a day before the end of baby loss awareness week, I think I’ve just about found what it is I want to say on the topic of losing a baby this year.
I want to to talk about the ripples of that into life after….especially other pregnancies.
When words are your reality.
10 years ago today I became a mother for the first time – it was wonderful and absolutely mad too. I remember at certain points of that pregnancy receiving warnings of “uterine death” because of my gestational diabetes and that I also ended up having an emergency section for his delivery because of complications that would cause a risk to him.
And then, 2 years later I had another baby. I remember in her delivery an essence of panic as her heart rate dropped. But in both of these pregnancies I trusted and naively just assumed it was words or that it would be okay. It didn’t really mean much to me and I certainly never thought they would die.
And then of course that way of thinking completely changed when we lost Poppy at term in 2014 and, we soon realised how fragile life is and how quickly you can drop into reality with the most painful bump of your life!
When we decided to have another baby a few months ago I honestly thought that it would be a completely different experience to when I had Alice in 2016 after losing Poppy. Despite all the Sands meetings and therapy though. I quickly discovered that all subsequent babies you have after one has died, comes with flashbacks, anxieties, fear and increased worries.
And now, when I hear the words that my gestational diabetes can cause uterine death, or that I am high risk of this and that, by my midwife or other health professionals, it suddenly hits me hard. I get a chill, a tear in my eye, a knot in my stomach (or a full emotional breakdown the next day) because those words are our reality.
That risk of uterine death, however big or small, happened to us 6 years ago. It affects our family daily – we miss seeing our daughter grow and our other children miss their sister. Family misses a granddaughter, a niece and another cousin!
So now, when I see warnings on things that could make my kids poorly or when I hear of something that carries a risk of death, i know what that looks like. I know what it feels like to say goodbye for the remainder of my days. I know the gut wrenching pain of lowering my child’s casket into the grave and visiting that instead of living life with them. My choices are frequently governed by the fact that these words to others are our reality, and my emotions recently have been all over the place… because a risk of uterine death in this pregnancy (again however big or small) is no longer a warning from a midwife. It is a trigger to remind me exactly how utterly painful it is when you discover 2 days before your due date, the baby you have been growing and hoping for has died.
It is remembering the deafening silence of the delivery room and the fear to hold your own child
Its leaving the hospital empty armed.
Its nights of crying and days of trying to survive the tsunami of pain and emotions.
It’s people not understanding the mess of it all or why you are so different.
It is stood by a grave with your child’s name on it.
Baby loss isn’t just a term or words – it effects 1 in 4 pregnancies and it’s ripples last a lifetime. And, even after 6 years of talking, blogging, being on the radio and even channel 5 to talk about life after baby loss – I still feel silenced at times by my loss. I still have to find the courage to message someone and say “I’m scared in my pregnancy” or “I am feeling emotional that my baby might die again”.
It is a real and rational fear, because it has happened and happens still to a quarter of pregnancies at some stage.
I still paint on a smile through the week of our daughter passing and I still don’t fully know how to tell people again that it still hurts and I just want to talk about it all again.
I still wish people would just ask me – How I am… how it is… I do so treasure hearing her name and it it helps on the harder days. I treasure when people allow me to share that.
I really love life and my family – it is a great adventure in spite of this truly awful loss we have experienced and live with. I Know that I am in a much better place too. But, at the same time, 6 years on and pregnant again, I still have fears and worries. I still wake up because I dreamt that the baby died. I still cry and sob when I’m told of the risks of my baby dying, because the words spoken with ease from many have been our hard and painful reality.