Loss Through the Looking Glass is a shared blog created by three bereaved mothers who wanted to share their experiences of life after loss. The blog also plays host to bereaved parents who have found their voice but not yet the place to share it.
It’s been 5 years 6 months and 28 days since we met you even though it was hello as well as goodbye. Even though it’s been 5 years I don’t think it seems that long ago, but to think next Tuesday you would be starting school that’s when it hits you another milestone we won’t get to experience. It’s even harder with social media full of it, knowing friends have wee ones starting school and with working in a school you can’t get away from it. I am happy for them but can’t help wondering and imagining what you would have been like. In pictures I see myself and your big brother in you. I can imagine that with a mixture of your big sister’s personality. I imagine you would have blond hair like your brother in pigtails and ribbons. Wearing a grey pinafore, red t-shirt and a grey cardigan. Walking up to the school gates holding your big brothers hand. It’s hard to find the words to express my thoughts and feelings on learning to be without you. To be honest Lilly it’s probably difficult to put in words because I really haven’t had to learn. Others who don’t understand think I should be over losing you, from the outside looking in many may think I have. I prefer the statement “still learning to live without you”. I really like this because it’s more like a process where there is no end and no beginning, there will be lots of things I will need to face, milestones still to come shows that every day we will “still be learning to live without you”. Still Learning to live without you being here doesn’t mean you are forgotten, we would never forget you. You have left such a big imprint on our hearts. You are on my mind every day, most days not so much but times like today a lot. We speak about you always. Your big sister, big brothers speak about you, make things in your memory and they often ask what would you be like. Just the other day they were saying you would be starting school and its hard us and it’s hard for them. You have shown me and taken me on a different journey, it may not be the journey I had planned but I have changed as a person, I don’t take anything for granted and I make every second count. I am still learning everyday on this journey.
As always, I include my true title to remember my 3 little stars also…
Right Where I Am: 5 years 10 months followed by 5 years 4 months 3 days followed by 5 years 1 month followed by 4 years 3 months 13 days followed by 3 years 8 months 5 days
Molly should be starting school today.
I can see her in my head. Hair plaited, shiny shoes, green blazer, red and green tie, big smile... all set to go the the primary school both myself and her daddy went to.
Social media is covered in 'first day of school' posts. It hurts to look at them. My little girl should have been part of that too. The photo of the uniform, the photo at the front door, the photo at the school gates. I can only imagine it in my head, I will never experience these things with Molly. Or with Grace, who should be starting school next year.
I often wonder what life would be like with 3 girls running around. Our little rainbow Cara brings us so much joy and laughter. I feel horrendously guilty that she will probably never have a living sibling... a playmate, a friend to grow up with, a support in later life as we grow older. She has her cousins but she will never have a living sister or brother.
Sometimes I wonder what would happen if we just tried again... a tiny sliver of hope says go for it. But we can't. The treatments already didn't work, why would they work now?
In all likelihood, it would just mean another silent birth, another coffin, another name on a gravestone. So here we are nearly 6 years down the line since our journey began. Despite all the heartache, we got to meet Molly and Grace and our journey brought us to Cara. She is such a miracle and a joy and she makes us grateful every day.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
You can read my previous Right Where I Am posts by clicking on the links below:
It seems like I am being caught up by grief again.Not the gentle, ever-present lapping of
sadness that has been with me since your death and birth nearly 5 years
ago.Nor the huge, crashing,
might-just-swallow-you-up waves that nearly drowned me when we first lost
you.But a constant pulling feeling; like
I’m always in danger of going under.I’m
swimming, just coping, just managing to get from one place to another.But the threat is always there – one false
move and that’ll be it.It scares
me.I think it scares me because, in
true ‘me’ style, I feel like it shouldn’t be happening.I should be okay.This bit of grieving should be over.I remember when we lost you, after the first
few terrible weeks, grief settled around me, making it hard to move through
life.I felt slow, heavy; the waters
were thick like sludge, and it was hard to walk forward.But over months and years, that started to change.The waters became gentle, and it was easier
to walk again.
But lately, I don’t know why, but I feel it again.Everything is taking effort.I think of your birthday coming up, and I can
hardly say the words, ‘he would have been five’.Why does five feel so significant?As an August baby, you would have gone to
school last year, so it’s not that.Maybe five seems like you would have been a child, not a toddler, not a
pre-schooler. Perhaps it’s simply because it’s half a decade without you.
When we talk about baby loss, we often talk about how you
don’t just lose the baby – you lose all the stages your child would have gone
through.I have talked about that in such
a matter of fact way, to so many people, but I can really feel it at the
moment.I have lost you the baby, you
the toddler learning to walk and talk, you the big boy going off to school, you
the teenager with your own angst and worries.You the university student, you the worker- proud and possibly miserable
at your first job.You the young man,
falling in love.You the husband, you
the father.I have lost your
I’ve lost your voice, your laugh.I’ve lost holding your hand, kissing your
face.I’ve lost comforting you when
you’re sad, and looking after you when you’re ill.I’ve lost being frustrated at you because of
your tantrums, and I’ve lost you telling me you hate me and refusing to speak
to me.I’ve lost you telling me you’re
sorry and that you love me.I’ve lost feeling
useless because I can’t make everything wonderful for you and I’ve lost the
guilt of feeling I’m not doing enough for you.I’ve lost the pride in you when you get a sticker at nursery, a
certificate at school, an award for sport or art or drama.I’ve lost knowing what you’re good at, and
what taxes you.I’ve lost wiping away
your tears.I’ve lost knowing the colour
of your eyes, stroking your hair.I’ve
lost knowing what it feels like to hold you, to feel the weight of you in my
arms changing as you grow. I’ve lost having to tell you to set an example for
your younger brothers and breaking up your fights.I’ve lost the chance to photograph my three
boys, all together.
I thought that these losses became easier to bear as time
went on.I thought I could
compartmentalise my grief; that grief was a small but significant part of who I
am. That the waters would remain light
and easy to wade through.But I realise
that sometimes it’s more than that.Sometimes
- for an hour, a week, a month– the
grief over losing you is almost everything to me.And maybe that’s okay.Maybe it’s one of the ways I can ensure you
are as present a part of my life as your brothers are.I just need to work on coming to terms with
that.Accepting, if I can, that the loss
of you – of everything you were and could have been – is simply too great a
loss to ever have it feel manageable for long. Maybe the pull of the water is
the pull of not just my grief, but also of my love for you. Maybe I need the
space and time to sometimes, just for a little while, close my eyes and go
under. ~~~~~ You can read Nicole's previous posts here: Right Where I Am 2015: 4 years exactly Right Where I Am 2014: 2 years 10 months 25 days Right Where I Am 2013: 1 year 10 months 25 days Right Where I Am 2012: 9 months and 4 weeks
Rebecca Woods lost her daughter Kenley on 25 Feb 2013. She wrote the following & has graciously allowed it to be shared around the world.
A Letter to My Doctor or Midwife:
The following letter was written to be read at a medical school lecture regarding how to handle the delivery of a baby who has died in the womb. I wrote this post specifically to be shared. If you know of someone who would benefit by reading this, please share it with them.
In writing, I thought to myself how scared a doctor dealing with this for the first time must be. I also thought about all the doctors who do it all wrong as well as the ones who get it so right. My personal doctor was amazing, and I am grateful for her every day that she made such a horrible and heart wrenching experience a little softer for me.
However, during my almost two years inside the loss community, I have heard horror stories of doctors that make everything a million times worse, whether through rough treatment or terrible comments.
When asked to write this, I wanted to make sure that I was the voice of my community. I wanted upcoming doctors to know the right way to treat the Heartbroken Mother. I hope I was able to do justice to the experience and to shed a little light onto an undeservedly taboo subject.
I know this isn't what you were expecting today. You didn't wake up and head into work thinking, "Today is the day I am going to have to tell a mother her baby has died." Your day was supposed to be full of heartbeats and moving ultrasounds, of spreading goo over a laughing belly, of getting your doppler kicked by unseen baby feet. Your day was supposed to be taking care of excited mothers. You should be congratulating not consoling.
Yet, here you are, trying with all of your might to find my baby's heartbeat. You move your doppler all around my swollen belly, but all you hear is the faint thumping of my heart, which is starting to beat faster because I'm beginning to figure out what's about to happen. The lump in your throat is almost too big to let you form the words, but you don't know what to say anyway. Who does? You're nervous and shocked, and you don't know how you're going to get both of us through this. Let me help you.
First of all, don't hesitate or stall in any way. I already have a million fears racing through my head. If you leave to go get another doctor without saying anything, I will panic. As hard as it is to get the truth out, please do it quickly. Tell me as much as you can as soon as you can, and don't leave me alone. I'm suddenly very, very scared and I need support. "I'm sorry. I can't find the heartbeat." Say it softly but clearly. Hold my hand. Look me in the eye. You'll see the fear rise, but you'll also see hope.
At this point though, I still think there's hope, that you might be wrong. I think there might be more tests, more things we can check. It won't be until you take me to the ultrasound room and I see my beautiful baby oh-so-still, that it will hit me.
It will hit me hard. I will curl up and clutch my stomach. I will writhe on the table. I will scream a scream you have never heard and will never want to hear again. A scream full of more pain than you think a human soul can take. "Oh, my baby!" I'll moan. "Not my baby!" You might even see me shatter, breaking into a thousand shards of sorrow. You might not be able to keep it together either. It's okay if you cry too. Honestly, please cry with me. Please let me see you are human. Let me see that you care about my baby as much as I did...that you care about me.
If you don't already know my baby's name, ask, and from then on, refer to my baby by her name. She is not a Stillbirth. She is not a Spontaneous Abortion. She is not a Fetal Demise. She is my child. Those may be terms you have been taught to use, and that's fine, but don't use them with me. Use her name. Please, use her name.
I have been dreaming of my child's birth since seeing those two lines on the stick, maybe even before then. I have been planning it in detail for the past several months. And now, none of it is going to happen the way it should.
Make sure I have time to process what is about to happen. Let me make as many choices as I can, but realize that there might be some choices I am unable to make. So much is being thrown at me at once. I am in shock and I don't know what I am supposed to do. Guide, but don't force. I will probably do anything you tell me to do.
Talk to me about making memories with my baby. As gently as you can, let me know that these next few hours or days will be all I have, and I will want to make every second count. At first, I might be uneasy because the thought of holding my lifeless child is too disturbing for me to think about.
Reassure me that I will want to see her and hold her. Encourage me to have a photographer come to take pictures. Again, I will be hesitant, but tell me that those images will be my most treasured possessions later. Tell me I won't have to look at them until I'm ready, but I should get them taken for the day that I am.
Give me the opportunity to bathe and dress her. Months later, after the shock wears off, I will regret not knowing what her belly button looked like or whether or not she had any birthmarks. I will regret not counting her toes or brushing her hair.
If your hospital doesn't provide memory kits, let my husband know where he can run out to get some plaster to make hand and foot moulds and some ink for prints.
During labor and delivery, spend as much time with me as you can. I know you have other deliveries today. Happier deliveries. But, I need you just as much as those women. I might even need you more because once I am finished delivering my baby, my time with her is almost over. Don't forget about me. I already feel so alone.
Don't tell me I can "try again" or to be grateful for the children I already have. It's not comforting, it's insulting to the child I am about to deliver. Encourage me to push like you would anyone else.
Remember that my husband has lost a child too. He's going to try to be strong, but on the inside, he is falling apart. Let him do the things a father would normally do. Ask him if he wants to cut the cord.
Even though our outcome is very different from the other families in the maternity wing, please don't treat us differently. While there might be extenuating circumstances that won't allow for complete normalcy, let us have the most normal delivery you can.
Before she comes, prepare me for the silence. Prepare me for what she might look like. Let me know she might be discolored. Some of her skin might be torn. She's not going to look like the baby I expect, but she is still my baby.
When all is said and done, I will still think she is beautiful. When she is finally born, I will cry with sorrow and emptiness, but those cries will also be filled with love. I will cry for her loss, but I will also weep for her beauty.
When my baby is born, treat her with respect. Hold her like you would a live baby. Pass her to me like you would a live baby, gently and with tender care. Tell me how beautiful you think she is.
If your hospital has a Cuddle Cot, show me how it works and let me keep her with me for as long as I'm able. If not, assure me that I can see her whenever I'd like. Bring her to me. Let me hold her.
Encourage family members to hold her and to take pictures, even the children, but allow my husband and I some alone time with her without the insanity of everyone else.
My room will be The Quiet Room. It will be a room of hushed voices and sideways glances. A room with a giant elephant taking up all the space. I want to talk about her, but no one will. Ask me about her. Ask me how I came up with her name. Ask me about my favorite part of my pregnancy. Let me talk about her. Nothing you can say will make this better. There are no words more meaningful than "I am so sorry". Tell me you're sorry for the loss of my child. Tell me it was not my fault. I won't believe you, but tell me anyway.
Give me information for grief counselors and loss groups, maybe help me arrange mental health care if you can. Give me a hug. Say her name one more time.
I will leave the hospital empty and broken. My arms will feel impossibly heavy without a baby in them. I won't know what to do with myself once I get home. Send me a card a few days later, letting me know you are thinking about me and my baby. Write her name. I will appreciate your kindness and feel like my child mattered.
At my postpartum checkups, be gentle with my body. I already feel betrayed by it. Ask me how I am. I'll tell you I'm doing fine. I'm not. Again, give me more information about counseling or loss groups. I feel isolated and alone. I need to find others like me, even if I don't know it yet. Help me do that. Again, tell me it was not my fault.
Please, don't bring up religion regarding my loss unless I do first. I might not be religious, and talks of heaven or angels might hurt rather than comfort. Don't try to rationalize what happened. Just acknowledge how much I must hurt. Use her name one more time. Every time someone else says her name, it seals another crack in my heart.
It is possible there is a clear-cut reason for my baby's death, but it's also very possible there is not. I will have many questions, and some that you might not be able to answer. Please, give me all the information you can. Don't dumb it down for me, but don't use "doctor's speak" either.
I want to believe this was a one-time tragedy and that my body is not broken. I need to know what this means for future pregnancies if I choose to have them. Trying again might be the first thing on my mind, or it might be the last, but either way, knowing where to go from here is important to me.
Know that I am grateful for you, even if I don't say it. Know that your kind words and gentle bedside manner mean more to me than you might realize. Know that your acknowledgement of my baby as a real person who mattered is the first step in my healing process, and that how you treat me as a mother and her as my daughter will stay with me forever.
I didn't want your day to end up like this. I didn't want my child to come home with me in an urn. No one thinks this will happen to them until it does.
When I go home, you will go back to your normal routine of delivering babies with heartbeats, but you will be forever changed. You might, every once in a while, notice her face or name drifting across the white space of your brain, and I hope you do. I hope you think of her, even just one more time, because I think of her every day. I always will.
This post was originally published on Pea's own blog www.onedayofwinter.com before being published onselfishmother.com. It is being republished here with the kind permission of Nicola who goes by the lifelong nickname of Pea, a tribute to how teeny tiny she is. Nicola writes short pieces based on her Kadampa Buddhist faith and her experience of infant loss after her beautiful baby son Winter Wolfe grew his angel wings at one day old.
In the nine months that have passed since our son lived and died, entire pregnancies have evolved from the meeting of egg and sperm, to live and kicking ‘out-of-the-womb’ babies. During that time, I have held more babies more times than I will ever hold my own, and each Facebook log in brings with it a flood of pregnancy announcements, bump shots, birth details and first milestones. If infant loss is considered a taboo subject, and surprisingly to me, it is, then the feelings that arise from grieving mothers when faced with other babies, has to be the biggest taboo of them all. It is one of those subjects that we would rather avoid and my stomach knots as I imagine people reading this with anxious trepidation. But with a little gentle honesty and understanding from both sides of the coin, no knots need be involved. Since losing Winter I have become part of the online infant loss community, a place thanks to the ever growing world of social media that probably didn’t exist even five years ago. On there I have discovered a sea of other humans in the exact same situation as myself, childless mothers, desperately trying to make sense of the emotions that they battle continuously in this thick swamp of grief, all whilst they mourn their loss and try to maintain their everyday lives. I know from talking with these newfound friends, that the feelings I experience are commonly shared and natural, and through my Buddhist practices I am working hard to make sense of them and, more importantly, ease them. Firstly, this is taboo because, well, no one wants to admit to having negative feelings towards an innocent baby, and the initial feelings that we experience can be trailed by a huge amount of guilt and shame. But the truth is not so scary. We are not experiencing these feelings because we are met with a healthy baby, we are experiencing these feelings because we don’t have ours, and those feelings arise simply at the moment we are confronted with that reality. Most regular people experience heightened emotions of some kind around little babies, creating a new life is a highly charged event. And when you have had your own baby pulled from your arms so suddenly, those emotions are heightened tenfold. We are talking about instinctive, animalistic emotions, feelings that are knitted into your DNA, and threaded into every atom. When things go wrong and your baby dies, these intense emotions derail spectacularly and can be terrifyingly difficult to understand and exhausting to manage. Speaking from my own personal experiences now, being around other babies can be difficult. Seeing other people share the happiness at bringing their baby home from hospital can be painful. Hearing other people talk about the achievements of their young children can be heart breaking. Can be. Not always. The varying factors shift and change. There have been many, many times when I have successfully held a newborn baby and separated the experience from that of my own, and there have been other times when I’ve had to politely avoid a situation or paint on a brave face. The feelings that arise in that instance depend mostly upon other unrelated events. How am I feeling that day, in that moment leading up to meeting the baby? Has it been a difficult morning, am I feeling particularly low? Or am I feeling light and positive? Other factors can be thrown into the mix. Babies tuning one, babies born around the same time as my own, babies who have just been freshly delivered. Sometimes it’s effortless and sometimes it’s impossible. Each day is different and each baby brings with it its own ties and connections. A close family friend that has a baby changing right at your very touch, an acquaintance in a shop with a baby whose name you can’t remember or an online face so familiar but far enough out of reach that it’s safe. As with everything in life, each individual experience is dependent upon the mind in that moment. Jealousy is an emotion that gets thrashed around feverishly after your baby dies. When someone has something that you want for yourself, it is our self cherishing mind which leads us to jealousy. If we experience even some low level jealousy when someone gets a promotion we wanted or a wedding we dreamed of, then we can begin to understand the burning jealousy that can be overpowering when something as precious as a child is involved. It is, I believe, completely natural to experience that, but it can be overcome with time. When I see a birth announcement or a first scan photograph, I can get that first sharp ping of jealousy. I recognise it, and I face it. On the one hand, I’m thoroughly relieved for healthy babies being made and born, who wouldn’t be? On the other hand I am reminded that mine wasn’t. Sometimes it takes just a minute, other times a day or even a week of contemplation, before I feel relaxed and able to sincerely congratulate. During that time, I am reminded by Buddha’s teachings, that my happiness is not dependent upon others, only myself. I have a choice to firmly face and avert negative minds. I remember that whether or not that baby was created and born, my son is not here. If other babies stopped existing, my son would still not exist. Other babies being born does not change my situation, I can therefore choose to harbour negative feelings for no purpose other than to poison myself, or to let go of them and rejoice in the good news. A jealous mind is simply a mind that wishes for someone else to not experience happiness at a time when we feel that we are not experiencing happiness for ourselves and realising that our experiences are entirely unrelated helps us to enjoy the happiness of others. But of course, it is not easy and it takes great effort. I am only human with human emotions, I am far far far from a perfect enlightened being. Feelings arise, they are intense, all consuming, I cannot always gather the reigns and steer my horse with a smile and a jaunty tip of my hat. Sometimes, I can’t do it. And honestly, I think that is ok. And I think it’s even better if the mother who is no doubt looking after their live baby with great love and affection, can understand that sometimes you just can’t do it either. With every baby I see I am reminded that Winter has a lifetime of missed opportunities. My heart aches, I struggle to find words to describe the longing I experience to have my son here with me, knowing I will never have that chance. For the rest of my life I will track his age, I will see children around me that are growing at the same pace, and with every milestone I will miss my boy and wonder how his first steps and first day at school would have played out had he just been given the gift of life. I’m sure most mothers would understand that after holding your baby as they died, holding theirs will ultimately bring with it some level of pain and I have discovered that with some open conversation and gentle effort from both teams, the experience can one day bring with it some joy amongst the heart ache.