Before I lost my first baby I didn't understand what real grief, real loss felt like. I could only imagine what it might feel like to lose a much longed for child.
I worried each day through my first pregnancy that something would go wrong. I was one of four friends who were pregnant at the same time, due a few weeks apart, one was even due on the same day as I. I had heard the statistic 1/4 and this played on my mind every day.
As the days ticked by I started to look forward and although the worry never left I started to get excited.
At 17+6 weeks I gave birth to my son.
Nothing could have prepared me for that experience. Nothing could have prepared me for the emotional pain that lingered far longer than any of the physical pain. The emotional pain is much duller now, but it'll never fully go away and I'm ok with that.
After we lost our son friends and family didn't know what to say, but they tried. 'Everything happens for a reason.' 'At least you got pregnant quickly.' 'You can have another.' 'At least...' 'At least...' I quickly came to understand that there is no 'at least' when it comes to the loss of a baby. The deep feelings you experience can't be fixed or summed up in a few words.
I cringe thinking about it now, but I clearly remember saying the usual cliches to one of my friends, some years before, after she suffered a miscarriage. I didn't know any better. I had no frame of reference. I knew these things happened, but it's not something that I'd had the chance to openly discuss. I had no knowledge. I was unaware of what she was going through and how she was feeling.
When I lost my son I didn't know there was a Baby Loss Awareness week. I had no clue what the pink and blue ribbon signified and had never heard of the Wave of Light.
In the weeks following my loss I joined various online support groups and my understanding of how baby loss affects people grew. It grew beyond my own experience. There were people out there who were talking about their babies, just as I longed to do with anyone who wished to listen. There were many different reasons and the stages of the losses ranged from a few weeks to neonatal deaths, but regardless of the circumstances each baby mattered. It was truly terrifying to realise all the things that could go wrong, but having access to those who understood, who were walking the same path, helped me immensely.
Through these groups I learned first about the 'Wave of Light' and then how this marked the end of Baby Loss Awareness week. If I only found out about this week after experiencing my own loss, then others could be forgiven for not knowing about it. Being open about my experience was important to me and I wanted to help raise awareness.
Over the past 4 years raising awareness has become increasingly important to me. You see, just over a year after losing my son I had an early miscarriage at 7 weeks. Eight months after that I lost my first daughter at 21+4 weeks, seven months later a second daughter at 13 weeks (we had to end my pregnancy with her due to a fatal fetal anomaly) and after a further seven months another early miscarriage at 5 weeks.
Five babies lost in less than three years. Each loss unrelated and unexpected.
It's important for me to keep the memory of my babies alive. It's important for me that my friends and family remember them. I share how I feel, I blog to express the jumble of emotions I tackle on a daily basis. I raise money in my babies' names for Baby Loss charities so others can access the much needed support I received and also to raise awareness.
This, for me, is still a work in progress. Baby loss is still a taboo subject, but when it affects so many of us, so many of our friends, family, colleagues etc. why is this still the case?
It's a subject which makes a lot of people uncomfortable. I have friends who have silently gone through miscarriages and don't feel comfortable openly talking about their own experience. I know my openness about my babies can make others feel uncomfortable, but with increased understanding this will hopefully change.
That is why having a week designated to raise Baby Loss Awareness is so vitally important. It's affects so many it's something we should all eventually feel comfortable talking about.
By talking about my babies, my experiences, my grief, I was able to keep going.
Last night I was fortunate enough to tuck my 6 month old daughter into bed. That is something I thought would only ever be a dream. Even on my better, more hopeful days, I could hardly imagine it.
Having one of my daughters with me changes nothing and everything all at the same time. It doesn't mean I will forget my other five babies, they cannot be replaced. It doesn't mean I will stop blogging about baby loss, sharing quotes and posts from Baby Loss charities. Having her here makes me even more determined to 'break the silence', to remember her big brother and sisters and to increase awareness amongst my friends and family. It is slow progress, but as always I'm hopeful.
This Baby Loss Awareness week I am blogging about my babies and encouraging my friends and family to join me in the Wave of Light at 7pm on Sunday evening. I hope they will share photos of their candles so awareness of baby loss can spread.