I want to talk about my baby. I want to talk about him because his short life completely altered mine. It was devastating and profound and it changed everything. I want to talk about him even though at times it can be confronting and painful.
When my baby was born, there wasn’t a big announcement or balloons. A beautiful child came into the world and unfortunately instead of feeling elation, I felt a deep sense of guilt, pain, shame, denial and excruciating and debilitating fear. He of course, brought nothing but love, strength and warmth, and only ever knew kindness and care in his short life.
The events that precipitated his birth were terrifying, and I was uneasy the entire pregnancy. The overwhelming guilt that I felt along the way, was largely due to the fact that my body couldn’t support his growing body. When I couldn’t make sense of why our fate had to be so devastating, it was very easy to blame myself. I felt inferior and then ultimately severely wronged.
I understand logically that what unravelled couldn’t have been helped, and I am lucky to be healthy and well today, but this knowledge didn’t prevent me from feeling like I had failed miserably. In my mind, I was unable to complete a task that has been remarkably well performed for eons by women of all sizes and ages.
My introduction to motherhood wasn’t exactly pretty, but on reflection, that matters to me in the least. The pregnancy and subsequent birth of my baby boy turned me into a mummy and it was the most remarkable gift I had ever received.
The first time my husband was asked if we had children after our baby died, he replied ‘no.’ I remember staring at him feeling sick to the stomach in a state of utter disbelief. It was as if everything I had been through, the most life changing, gut wrenching experience, had never happened. I was so dumbfounded that I couldn’t even find the words to correct him, and it would have been too awkward anyway, so I let it slide until the end of the conversation to be polite, when all I wanted to do was scream.
About an hour later, when I had pulled myself together, I asked if he could please never answer like that in front of me again. Yes of course, there isn’t a child in our arms, but every answer in the future needs to be, ‘yes.’ He might not be with us, but he lived and must be acknowledged. I was crying when I suggested that from now on perhaps he respond, ‘yes, I have a baby in Heaven.’ If anyone wants to push further for more details they are more than welcome to.
I know it’s not easy, I still struggle with it today when someone asks if my 11 month old son has older siblings. I always briefly mention my first boy. Even if I have to do it through tears and potentially make someone uncomfortable I gladly do it. Why? because denying him is like taking a hit to the stomach with a bowling ball at full force. He is part of my story. He is a massive part of me, and he will always be woven into the tapestry of my life until I’m no longer here to speak of him.
We have to find a way to discuss baby loss in an open and honest manner because it affects so many. It’s devastation is fully felt and it stays with you for as long as you are breathing. It’s not an easy conversation to have but it’s quite necessary.
We often miss an opportunity for self-growth because we are too busy worrying about what other people might think of us. We only ever need to concern ourselves with getting it right according to our own values, needs and beliefs.
I’ve practised the conversation with many strangers over the years and I know exactly what to say. Every time I am asked that tricky question I don’t even think about it. I openly and honestly discuss my son. I love him, so it makes sense to me. Sometimes it’s more painful, depending on the circumstance, but it always feels completely natural.
I want to talk about my baby because he changed the course of my life. He changed my heart forever and I know I’m not alone. I know there are people out there in varying states of devastation who feel isolated in their grief and in their pain. But really, they are not. I’m here too. I’m here holding out my hand ready to hold theirs. I’m here waiting for someone to tell me how they are feeling. I’m here holding a space for a new life they might desperately be trying to conceive. I’m here acknowledging their child for the unique, beautiful, divine little individual they will always be and so is my son in Heaven.
I think we all need to talk about the tiny miracles that we held ever so briefly. Unfortunately, losing a child is far too common. It affects so many of us and as a community, we need to embrace and celebrate the lives of the little humans who touched our hearts and who gave us so much.
I often wonder how similar he would have looked to his baby brother. I know for a fact that as a twosome they would have tormented me daily and I would have loved every second. A perfect little being with a big personality filled with heart. I feel I know him now as I knew him then. I lived everyday with him and embraced his life with the greatest sense of love that only he was capable of giving me.
We are not the same as we were before loss cracked our lives wide open. When we were handed our giant bucket of pain, we knew it would threaten to expose every facet of the person we thought we were. Our loss is a point in time where everything was shattered and consequently we had to be rebuilt. It won’t define us but it will deliver us. It set up the foundation from which we now approach all things, because our hearts are that much stronger.
The presence of loss is devastating and demanding and it requires our complete attention. As we find the strength to allow it to mould around our lives, we can begin to see how the shame and guilt and sense of failure all had their place, but it’s ok now to focus on the transformational effects that receiving all that remarkable baby-love has on our existence. I will always be grateful to that little boy for showing up and for allowing me to be his mummy, and in this life he can forever be certain, that he will never, ever, be denied by me.