As I start this post, the one that’s probably always been inside me, I wonder if I’ll ever finish it, do it justice, or more still, publish it.
Since we started our rocky road of becoming parents we have experienced the relatively normal ‘highs and lows’ we all love to banter about – the sleepless nights, the messy business of weaning, the terrible twos, the threenagers and even struggling with parenthood altogether. But there will always be one all time low that even I can’t bring myself to bat around with any comedy twist, and that is losing our second baby at 23 weeks.
We are all different, and we all deal with things in our own ways. Whether you have experienced loss at an early stage, IVF failure, stillbirth, recurrent miscarriage or any of the horrible scenarios in the entire spectrum of sad stories that are out there, you’ll understand the feeling of shattered hope. Just scratch the surface of any community of parents to find the experiences of heartbreak, yearning and devastation – the stories which are sadly all too frequent, albeit in a variety of different specific scenarios. There are no points to score here. No prizes for the saddest, the worst, the hardest to swallow – we all lost, just in different circumstances.
Having been unable to stop myself from tuning in to the recent episodes of Corrie, I realised something as I watched Kym Marsh’s brave and moving portrayal of losing her character Michelle’s son Ruairi (made even more incredible knowing that Kym had herself lived this horror in reality). It’s okay to talk about it. Those tiny lost babies existed.
To any mother that has laboured, delivered, and held a breathless baby in their arms, no matter how tiny, don’t kid yourself that this is something to pack away in the memory box along with the fingerprints and photos. It’s not blasphemous to speak their names. Time heals the initial pain but you will never forget growing, loving and saying goodbye to that baby. You saw the tiny hands, nose, ears and feet – and you had imagined your future, with them in it.
I do feel that talking about loss makes some people feel uncomfortable, so I have probably avoided it. We all grieve differently. Some in silence, some through words. Some heal faster than others and some simply never do. Don’t judge, or rush them and don’t belittle the reality of the horror of what a mother, and father have been through. You may find it hard to connect with a baby you never saw, but they did. Please, respect their needs and show them empathy, love and understanding.
Back then I spent hours trawling the internet looking for stories like ours – stories with happy endings to allow me to see any kind of hope for the future. A future that seemed inconceivable through the hurt of that moment. Yet, here I am, writing this now from that very place I was wishing for.
In the same way inanimate objects (like elastic bands dropped by the postman, or seahorses) remind me of my two children here with me, random things remind me of her. Poppies. Stars. Fireworks. She’s never far from our thoughts.
Like Michelle, we delivered our daughter at 23 weeks gestation. There were differences to our stories, of course. We knew the outcome of our labour before we arrived at the hospital to be induced, and we had time to prepare ourselves. Or should I say, our grief stricken moments took place in a different setting. But, like Michelle, the utter devastation of saying goodbye to a much loved and wanted baby took us to a very dark place.
23 week means no maternity leave. No certificates. It does however contractions, and pain. It means ten tiny toes and ten tiny fingers. A name. A tiny coffin, and a proper funeral. A crash of hormones and a recovery period.
Our second daughter changed our lives. She made us see that bad things can and do happen – and that every happy, precious moment is to be thankful for. Nothing in life is a given, and the miracle of life must be respected at every single stage of pregnancy, motherhood and beyond.
Life moves on, and time heals. It’s hard to imagine things any other way now we have a very much present second (third?) daughter. But it took us a long time to recover from the sadness we felt inside, and as a friend once described to me, ‘to get that sparkle back in our eyes’.
Amidst the bleak experience there were positives. Thankyous were owed to the unbelievably sensitive NHS staff who cared for us, to the kind stranger who hand knitted that tiny pink dress and donated it the the hospital, and to the endless messages and words of love and support from everyone around us. To SANDS for the beautiful memory box filled with ways to remember her, and on advice how to go forward. For her dignified parting from this world managed by the hospital staff, the priest and the funeral directors. For the astonishing amount of flowers that filled our vases, in fact, filled our home. And of course for each others support and our two year old daughter who gave us a reason to get up every morning. Thank goodness we experienced this in this era, not in the murky shadows of the past when this type of devastation would have been ‘dealt with’ and swept aside.
I am in awe of Kym Marsh and her strength to take her position and raise awareness for what really happens when a couple lose a baby at this stage in pregnancy. It took me back, but more than anything it helped me see that it’s okay to talk, to remember, and to grieve. I have nothing but respect for how she used her platform to portray an unspoken reality for so many people.
Then, it occurred to me that I could use my little place, my voice, to stand alongside her.
I’ve always felt that my blog vision was to offer comfort in shared experiences, and to make others less alone. I’ve never felt more alone and in need of comfort than at that time of my life, so maybe now it’s time to share this part of my story. For someone who needs to read this right now.
And, in honour of her.