Category: In Your Words

I filled my cup this morning. That first coffee has taken on more than a habitual practice over the years. It’s become a comfort. A reminder. An appreciation.

A comfort that whatever I am currently facing is but fleeting. I have survived the hardest. I will get over harsh words, I will move through the grief of death of a friend and family member, I can ride out the sticky situation in any social circle. The sun will set on this day I started with a coffee enjoyed in solitude and my body will rest.
A reminder that I am capable. I am able. I am able-bodied, and emotionally sound, to carry whatever the day may bring. I can do and take on whatever needs to be done (or endured).
An appreciation that I can do and feel all these things with a healthy sense of detachment, no matter how close to home… or the bone.

Why? Because I know the difference between allowing myself to be consumed and affected by any and all things that come my way and truly having something to be consumed by.

When someone you have created with someone else dies, your body knows it. On a cellular level, you know it. Beyond your thoughts and your feelings, your Soul knows it. There is no way to properly convey or describe it. It must be lived to be truly known.

Lovers speak of literally having a sore heart; in matters of the heart that sometimes happens. And it’s true. There’s nothing that can prepare the young innocent heart for the physical pain of the thwarted love.

I choose daily to be thankful that I found a way through. And my “Grateful” comes in the form of staying out of most things with many people. It might come across as aloofness, shyness, apathy, perhaps a lack of social know-how. It’s actually none of these things. It is merely energy conservation. In times when I am not being called on, I sometimes wonder why I don’t just get involved and join any number of social/online conversations. I mean, heaven knows I am online often enough to see them. But I don’t join. And then I get the phone call, the email, the text message.

“I lost my baby.”

No fewer than three such occurrences over the summer holidays so far have landed in my awareness. Bereaved parents directly seeking me out to find whatever comfort or solidarity there is to be found. So I am reminded once again that I have chosen a great task this lifetime. Even in setting up an online social network for myself, I might have liked to fool myself it was about me…. It never was. I am humbled by the reminder as I hold these parents in my thoughts and light a candle again today.

It’s not all play. It’s not all about working for the dollar either. My job is tremendously enriching in ways that go beyond the fun, go far further than any dollar could stretch.

As I finish my cup and wrap up this post, I am grateful. This is my life now. This is the life that lies beyond the searing, unmentionable soul-tears that have left now-healed scars on my heart. This is me. This is them. This is you, too. We are all moving forward – regardless – each moment we are still here. And for as long as I am breathing and can saunter in to my kitchen, able-bodied and clear of mind and enjoying making a simple cup of coffee, I will give thanks to whatever view lies outside my window. Because I can see it. I can think freely again, unconsumed by pain or grief. Detached and ready for my next call to service. Passing it on.

It’s a beautiful, fragile thing, this life as we know it.

 

 

We’re heading into a poignant time of year. One where families typically draw nearer (and some realise how painfully far apart they are), where any children in the family tend to be the natural focus.

This festive season, as always, I will be holding near in my thoughts all those parents who lost a child at this time of year. And to all those who never went far enough to even share their little secret to the world. That hurts; a painfully hidden grief that barely gets recognised, for we have been conditioned for however many countless decades not to be open about any pregnancy loss that has occurred, let alone losing a born child.

I can’t tell you how many hours I have spent searching for the meaning and the reason for this. But there you have it. It is there.

Speaking to this empty, lonely, silent grief-out-in-the-open, at this time of year in particular, comes a stunning guest post from reader, Joanna. The messages and personal lessons in her offering reverberate with me strongly. I feel so deeply privileged, as always, to share another’s words with you here on my blog.

Thank you so much for your generosity, Joanna. It is my humble honour to mark the passing of your two miraculous beginnings who could not stay.

Christmas has been bittersweet for me since my beloved nana passed away just a week after Christmas, seven years ago. Really if I am honest, it has only felt like Christmas for the last four years since my son was born. This Christmas, however, has that slight bittersweet tinge again. I should have been heavily pregnant, complaining about the heat while I put up decorations. And on Christmas Day, I should have been nursing a tiny baby, born on 13 December or thereabouts, and complaining about sleep deprivation.

My story is hardly uncommon, nor is it the worst story about pregnancy loss that you will read (and while I don’t believe that there is a hierarchy on grief, solely from my own perspective, having had two miscarriages in early pregnancy, I can truthfully say that it would be even more awful to lose a child later on or even worse, still born or shortly after birth; my heart goes out to those who have walked this path). I am one of the lucky ones – I am blessed with a beautiful little boy, four years old, the light of life and my heart.

Two miscarriages in 18 months – what are the odds? Pretty high at my age (43). And pretty amazing that I even managed to fall pregnant naturally both times. Both angels lost at seven weeks. A short time but long enough for me to bond with both of them completely.

There is a line in a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye which describes miscarriage perfectly:

“Before you know what kindness really is, you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth.”

That’s exactly how it felt to have my babies slipping away from my body, and not being able to do a single thing to stop them.

Miscarriage – especially repeated miscarriage – robs you of the innocence of pregnancy. The first time was pretty awful emotionally and very painful physically (to the point where I ended up in the maternity ward of our local hospital, listening to the sounds of newborns while I felt my baby slipping away). The second time was a little easier physically but emotionally more deadening.

I came to motherhood late. Not because I didn’t like kids but because I spent a lot of time trying to figure out my own past and was damn sure that I didn’t want to make the same mistakes when I had children. When I look back over all the years I spent in therapy, going over the pros and cons of having a child, two things spring to mind. Firstly, how naive I was to think that I actually had a choice. And secondly, and perhaps most importantly, what I was MOST afraid of was that by becoming a mother, I would create the one person that I was most terrified of losing. Little did I know back then what the Baby Gods had in store for me in terms of lessons about letting go.

There are so many lessons and gifts that I have learnt from my fertility battles. I have become far more compassionate, empathetic and understanding of this somewhat secret club of women that I have joined. For despite the high rates of miscarriage, it is so often secret – the world doesn’t seem to know how to deal with it and a lot of women walk this path alone. I found strength within myself that I didn’t know I had. I am passionate about women not taking their fertility for granted (even though this is an enormously tricky subject to navigate).
And yet, I won’t lie – I am also still so angry at the universe, so bitter (why me) and while life goes on and there is a lot to be grateful and happy for, there’s a light within me that each time I fell pregnant was lit up and then bang…out it went.

Most of all, I have learnt that there are things that I simply cannot control. Yes, I can do my best to do all the right things around becoming pregnant and then staying pregnant but really in the end, it’s outside my control. And this perhaps has been the most bitter lesson of all: I remember years ago, a colleague advising me not to leave falling pregnant for too long because, as she said, “When you want to, you may not be able to”. At the time, I brushed away her words. Me, not make things happen? I truly believed that as long as I worked hard, I could make anything happen. What a rude awakening to know that in the end, it’s simply not true.

One of the hardest things about grieving a miscarriage is that you are grieving the loss of someone that you never met, someone who was still unformed and yet someone who you have longed for, sometimes for years, and who you already love so much and who is part of you. In the end, you start grieving the loss of a dream. There’s an emptiness that comes with this kind of grief. When my nana died, as hard as that was, it felt complete. Our relationship was incredibly beautiful and her passing taught me a lot about continuity. I feel her spirit and her presence every day. I can visit her gravestone. There is evidence that she existed, most of all in me, in my son. I have a strong sense of knowing where she is, even now and knowing that her spirit is at peace.

I just hope that she is looking after my two lost babies for me. I hope this Christmas the angels are looking after all our lost angel babies.

 

 

This is how it is, folks. For people who have a miscarriage (or two, or four, or twelve, or twenty). No more or less difficult is the miscarriage suffered by a couple who already have children. They are the ones who have the unfair and short-sighted label of being less affected, because they “already have [insert number of offspring here]“.

If you know someone who has had a miscarriage, please consider your placating words very carefully. Steer clear of any opinions that imply it was “for the best”, that the person who suffered the miscarriage has “plenty of time” left, or making any judgements regarding her level of despair compared to the gestation at which she lost the pregnancy.

None of those things will help. And actually, they may very well worsen and prolong her pain and grief. The following story highlights several of the most often-heard (and ill-received) gestures that are designed to bring comfort to a woman after miscarriage… Quite simply, for the vast majority, they really don’t.

When you’ve chosen the words you want to say, let them sit for a while on the tip of your tongue and think again. Does she really need to hear anything from you right now? Or is it more that you really want to say something, to show you care? If it’s the latter, try instead asking if she wants to talk – let her do the speaking while you actively listen (avoid all presumptive statements during that conversation, though, steering clear of things like the baby’s imperfection being the reason it died or that it was God’s timing or will or any other such thing). Ask if you can put the kettle on and make you both a cup of tea. Ask her how she’s feeling today (instead of inadvertently telling her how you feel about her miscarriage). Be honest and say you don’t know what to say to make her feel better but you wish you could take the pain of it all away for her (if you do feel that!). If in a few months any of these other statements are still floating around in your mind, perhaps you can approach them then… but sometimes, even if they are factual statements, nobody needs or wants to actually hear them. Truth is, she’s gone over them herself silently in those intervening months anyway.

She doesn’t need anybody to point out what might seem quite obvious to you. Certainly not in the first hour, day, month (or several) that she goes through her miscarriage ordeal.

I received the following anonymous submission during October – Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness month. Due to posting constraints with a few things I had to run, I didn’t get to deliver this incredibly important story then. Please welcome this guest poster warmly, as I know you will, as she opens up and shares a very common but often unspoken pain: that of the mother who experiences miscarriage/s, something that is felt keenly and quite justifiably remains painful because of the lack of understanding around it.

So now, it gets to stand alone as a stark reminder to anyone who happens across this post to please be mindful. Regardless of a woman’s circumstances – whether she already has children or is undergoing IVF or has at least a few years left on her clock… – it is up to her how she grieves, or whether she grieves, and it is up to you to try your damnedest not to prolong that.

I had the dream again last night. The one where I am in the Doctors office and has says there’s no heartbeat. He just said it like he was ordering a sandwich. I’m in a chair in his office, with my legs in stirrups and an ultrasound wand up inside me, and a still, silent blob on the screen right in front of me. He says “there’s no heartbeat”. How is that possible? Again? Two losses in a few months. I ache. It hurts to hold these emotions in and be brave.Our pregnancy loss has been downplayed by almost every person in our lives.
We already had other children so we “should just be grateful and focus on what we had”.
This was an IVF baby so “It was nature’s way of telling us it wasn’t supposed to be”.
It was early in the pregnancy and “in older days you’d still be thinking you were just having a late period”.
I was full of hormones for the IVF so “It was no wonder the poor little thing didn’t have a chance”.
We were in our early 30′s so “there’s plenty of time to get it right”.
We fell pregnant on the first cycle so “Everyone loses one or two in IVF, that’s the way it is…”And yet the loss was crushing. Destroying. Yes there are other children but that did not mean this little life was was any less wanted or worthy. It didn’t mean we hadn’t already decided where it would sleep, know the day it would be born or been discussing possible names. 

Gone almost as soon as it began. And yet, with IVF, you are so hyper-aware of every tiny detail of the formation of life I could tell you its age down to the hour.

The one thing that gets me, even now, 9 years later, is that little baby will be forever an ‘it’… no sex, no details… it still breaks my heart.

Time moves on. Our beautiful blessing came along 8 yrs ago after more IVF. We have donated both embryos and eggs to others. We are okay and grateful and complete.

No one ever, EVER mentions our miscarriages. It’s like they never happened.

 

Pregnancy Infant Loss Awareness month is drawing to a close this week. The awareness for the wider community may lessen – unless they are directly affected by the loss of an infant or pregnancy – but it won’t stop these deaths from happening. It was never about that.

Everyone knows, though for some it is so wretchedly new that it’s too difficult to accept, that death is a natural part of life. But when it happens at the beginning of a life, or before one has barely begun, the need for solid support is absolutely vital to safe healing of the parents. Without it,  the journey to the ‘New Normal’ can take much longer. And sometimes, never really ends.

I’m deeply honoured to introduce Nicky, a new blogger and a mum who is riding the incessant waves of grief and shock since her baby boy died just three months ago. It is easy to hear the natural optimism Nicky exudes when you read her blog, One Of Seventeen, which is shaping up to be a really engaging new space. Even the most optimistic of us can feel flat to the floor by the relentless pounding that comes with losing a child. That is where good friends – the real salt-of-the-earth good eggs! – come in blessedly handy.

In today’s post, Nicky highlights the huge importance of consistent normalcy mixed with lashings of gentle care. And chocolate. Please give her a warm and hearty welcome to Sunny Side Up and join me in a huge thank you to her for this uplifting take on loss.

Thank you, Nicky, for sharing this and all the very best to you  x

 

In just over 5 hours it will be 3 months exactly since my baby boy passed away in my arms.

To say the last 3 months has been a rollercoaster of emotion would be the understatement of the century!

But rather than focus on sadness today, I’ve been thinking of all the friends who have helped me since that horrible day when we came home from the hospital with empty arms.

Friends like Debbs, who has sent me a text every single day since he died. Often they just say “thinking of you” or “I love you”. Sometimes she describes her day and tells me of the funny things happening in her world. Sometimes, I’m lying in bed thinking I don’t want to carry on with my life as the pain is simply too much to carry. Sometimes, I wish I’d died with him in that operating theatre.

It would be easier.

Then “PING”. It’s a Debbs text. I read it, I get out of bed, I hug my boys and I start living my day.

Friends like Helen, who built me a Jenga tower out of biscuits, just to make me smile.

Friends like my Vixy, who has opened her arms & her house to me regardless of time of day or any other plans she has.

She’ll text “what you doing Nixy?” ”Bad, bad night” I reply. “Come” she says. “But its 8.30! You don’t want woe is me now” I protest. “Just come”, she says. I do. We are both in our PJs in her busy kitchen. I’m a mess. She makes me coffee while giving her beautiful kiddies breakfast. We just look at each other and I know she gets it. “I wish it could be different for you my love” she says. “Me too” I say.

Friends like my sweetheart Rekha, who has debated fate, life, what it all means with me over hot chocolate in her kitchen, way beyond bedtime, even though she has to get up early for work the next morning.

I could go on. There are many more examples but I can’t list them all. I’m so lucky, because lots of wonderful friends have gone above & beyond for me during what has been the most heartbreaking time of my life. I’ve really needed them & for the most part, they have come up trumps. Super trumps!

How do I ever thank them? I don’t know. I probably haven’t said it enough, consumed as I am by grief. So here I am, now, today, saying THANK YOU to all my friends who have comforted me and supported me. I love them all and one day this WILL be easier and we WILL go dancing.

 

 

Do you have a story to share? Submit yours here.  

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.

– Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

 

 

Today, I feel most privileged to share a submission from a reader named Dani, who has selflessly offered a little of her journey with her son, Jasper. Please join me in welcoming Dani and show her you have read by leaving a comment below if you are able.

To properly convey her thoughts and emotions, she has also included a poem she penned at the time which illustrates beautifully – painfully – how she was feeling, inside and out, at the time. Dani says, “I understand so many out there cannot find the words and I hope mine can help.”

I am certain they do help, Dani. Thank you so much for sharing this.

I loved him dearly
More and more every second he was with me
I held him so gently
Then tears began to pour
Because I knew by the end of the day
I wouldn’t have him anymore.
In tears I saw him sinking,
I watched him fade away.
He suffered much in silence,
He fought so hard to stay.

He faced his task with courage.
His spirit did not bend,
And still he kept on fighting
Until the very end.

God saw him getting tired
When a cure was not to be.
So he put his arms around you
And whispered, “Come to me”.

So when I saw him sleeping
So peaceful, free from pain,
I could not wish him back to suffer that again.

But I’d have done anything to keep him out of harm’s way
But that didn’t stop God’s will-
I still lost my baby that day.

In my arms he died
So for weeks I cried.
I couldn’t understand what was on God’s mind
How could he do this,
It was so unkind-
To take my baby before his time.

I’d have given him my every breath
I would’ve given God every beat from my heart
I’d have ripped it right out of my chest
Just so he wouldn’t take leave us apart.

 

At 23 weeks I was diagnosed with Pre-ruptured membranes. I was in and out of the hospital for weeks until the 18th of November, 2009. I endured needles, magnesium drips and adrenaline shots. I was on constant medication to prevent any kind of illnesses. I had to take my temperature 5 times a day to make sure it remained constant.

On November 18, I woke up in pain. A few hours later the pains were worse than before. We headed towards the hospital. I was moved into a birthing suite where the pains got worse and worse. The monitor on my belly was telling us that the baby’s heart beat was breaking 200 beats a minute.

At about 9am the surgeon came in and told us that the only way Jasper was going to have a chance was if we delivered the baby now via emergency c- section, I was in the surgery by 9.15am and the baby was out and born at 9.31am. To our shock and amazement it was a boy: Jasper Rhys Hall (four separate ultrasound tech’s told us it was a girl ). They got him breathing and then rushed him to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). An hour later we went to see him.

Jasper was in an incubation chamber, with lots of tubes going in and out of him and a machine making him shake to help him breath. He was red in colour due to the bruising because he had refused to come out into the cold.

Later that afternoon around 6pm, we left my hospital room to go down and see him. We were greeted at the door by two solemn nurses and a very serious doctor. Basically, they told us that he wasn’t taking oxygen any more and his oxygen stat’s were dropping and that we had to make a decision, as he had a very very slim chance at recovering his oxygen levels. But as he had been with so little for such a long period of time, there was a very high chance he would be severely brain damaged. Our choices were to either let him live and see if he would pull through, or we could pull the plug and let him slip gently away surrounded by those who cared for him.

We decided that it was best to just let Jasper go. As my husband went into the waiting room to get his family, it fully dawned on me that we were losing our son. By the time my husband came back, I had organized for Jasper to be baptized and a priest was on his way down. He was baptized while still in his incubation chamber. Then the rest of the family turned up to say their farewells.

Jasper was taken out of his incubation chamber and laid on a bed with me and my husband. Everyone said their goodbyes. Then as his machine was turned off, he went still. The doctor pronounced him at 7.32pm on the 18th of November 2009. We said our final goodbyes a mere 10 hours after first meeting our little man.

Post-script: Dani says, “I would love to mention that the doctors did find a reason for my loss. I now have a happy, healthy little 4 month old named Harrison.”

Do you have your own story you’d like to share? Please feel free to add yours here. You can also read more shared stories here.

October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness month
While care and consideration is especially important in the first weeks, months and even several years
after a loss such as Dani’s, the acknowledgement of the long-reaching impact of such a loss
is so important for all who have lost a child.
~Lest we forget~
Although they could not stay, these tiny lives were here
and they’ve made their mark forever on their parents and loved ones.
Please be mindful of the hearts and memories you move amongst, always.
You just never know who has been touched in this way nor where they are in their own inner personal journey of recovery.
x

 

 


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