“Separation – Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its colour.”
― W.S. Merwin
When my Son was first born and I would proudly venture out in public to the bustling high street for coffee breaks or attend new baby classes, I didn’t anticipate being asked by anyone who stopped us if he was my first child. I wasn’t prepared emotionally or mentally to have to think about an answer because it never occurred to me that anyone would ask. How do you answer that when you have delivered a stillborn child? In all the excitement for my new bundle of joy, I just didn’t foresee that I would be hit over and over again with this question. The more people kept asking the harder it became to answer without welling up or scurrying away in embarrassment. To lose a child at any stage during or after pregnancy is a loss that I don’t think anyone can explain unless they have gone through it personally. From the moment you wee on that stick and see those lines you’re a mother, whether that pregnancy continues or not the fact is you are a maternally bonded. Having a life taken away from you whether you have personally chosen that path or it’s been forced upon you is traumatizing. Before I continue, I would like to say that no matter what the reasons or the choices no one person has the right to judge the other without walking in their shoes. Sometimes choices are taken away from us whether they are natural or forced. And other decisions are personal and they are fraught with guilt and shame and are equally as damaging as the ones we have no control over. Either way, these events and decisions are ones that we have to live with, they become a part of our tapestry. Our lives are defined by our experiences and that within itself creates beauty, but it doesn’t lessen the pain of the emotional burden that some of us have to live with. I had started writing this piece some time ago but had to stop because it became too emotionally crippling to relive such a traumatic event. I don’t think the loss ever gets easier you just learn to live with it a little better. I wanted to put this out there so that anyone going through this would feel connected and know that they are not alone. That is something I never had and I think if I did then I would have been able to grieve and deal with the situation in a much healthier way.
I was nineteen when I lost my girl, none of my family knew I was pregnant as it wasn’t planned and it was what I can only describe as an extremely turbulent time in my life. I had moved out of home and was trying to make it in the world but I wasn’t doing a very successful job of it. The person I was with didn’t have my best intentions at heart and before I knew it our rent hadn’t been paid and we needed to move out, effectively homeless. I was quite far into my pregnancy at this time and the only thing I felt I could do was to stay with family members who were far enough away that I could hide from the shame of it all. I had no friends or immediate family around me, it was the loneliest and most terrifying time in my teens. I had no idea what I was going to do, there were no nice outfits picked out, no cute nursery. I had no clue about anything post pregnancy. I was just floating around in this bubble of denial just sticking my head in the sand, hoping someone would come and save me and tell me life was going to be OK. Unfortunately, things were not and sadly it wasn’t meant to be.
There I was alone, frightened and surrounded by medical staff who were talking as if I wasn’t there. It took a few hours to deliver my daughter after my waters had broken. The labour itself was excruciating, having to mentally and physically go through birth knowing that your child has passed isn’t an experience I would wish on anyone. It feels like such an unjust act, all that hard work only to say goodbye. As a girl I dreamed of cradling my baby after birth, I’ve always been very maternal, so being a Mum was everything to me. You dream of taking your babies home and building a life, not saying goodbye. I was given a lot of morpheme as pain relief so some of the details are sharper than others. Although I am positive that I have probably suppressed a lot of what was happening at the time to keep it away from my conscious mind. However the one detail I remember the most when she was born was how tiny she was, like a little dolly. She was absolutely perfect! She was angelic, peaceful, formed to perfection. The darkest lashes, little fingernails, hair, she really was amazing. However I didn’t feel anything straight after the delivery other than extreme fatigue, there was no moment of bonding I was just completely numb but I put that down to shock. I held her for what felt like a few minutes until they took her away, it was almost no time at all. That night was awful, laying in a cold hospital bed, an empty ward with nothing to do but just relive the shock of what happened to both of us. I was exhausted but I couldn’t sleep, when I asked the staff if I could hold her again they had informed me she had gone and that I wouldn’t be able to see her. There and then the emotions burst out of me and like some deranged woman and I sobbed, I don’t think I’ve ever cried as hard as I did that day. My perfect, baby girl had gone and I hadn’t said my goodbyes. I had no funds to give her a burial and I didn’t want people knowing about what had happened so they had taken her to be cremated.
The loneliness after was palpable, there’s a feeling when you’re carrying a child that you’re not alone from the moment of conception. She was the one being that kept me company in such hard times and suddenly she wasn’t there anymore. I was a Mother with no baby, I had no idea how I was going to carry on. Life felt like it had stopped and I was in this depression that I thought I would never see the back of. Everything was so dark, there was no joy in anything. I just yearned for this being that I knew was never coming back. It was the most heartbreaking experience I think I have ever gone through. Nothing anyone says can help or fill that void of your child, you just have to try and carry on one step at a time. It’s hard, but there are no other options. Life doesn’t stop because you do, you have to carry on with it before the sadness completely consumes you.
I’ve realized why I shy away from telling people the truth, I don’t want them to feel embarrassed about the answer because it’s so personal, but I shouldn’t be doing that. To me, that’s more their issue than mine. Why should other peoples discomfort have me dumb down the reality of what happened? I should be celebrating her and being proud that my body carried such a beautiful, perfect little being. She was my daughter, I made her, carried her and I loved her very much as I still do now. Not being honest I think ultimately has caused me to imprison myself, I haven’t grieved or fully moved on. So I think now it’s time to be open and honest and give her the respect that she fully deserves. It might make some people uncomfortable but perhaps that will force them to think more openly about the questions they are asking strangers. Because we don’t know peoples stories, we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors and we shouldn’t assume. Being honest doesn’t have to be this dirty thing of oversharing, it can be a gift to help change someone’s outlook for the better. What if being honest encourages someone to share a burden so heavy that it changes their lives for the better? Or what if being open changes the perception of someone’s thoughts? I like to think that beauty can be found in everything even the darkest of spaces. So in answer to the question, no my Son is not my first child, I gave birth to a beautiful little girl many years ago but she just didn’t get to come home with me.
I think that’s an awesome answer for a little girl who will always be in my heart and never forgotten.