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Parents of lost babies and potential of all kinds: come here to share the technicolour, the vividness, the despair, the heart-broken-open, the compassion we learn for others, having been through this mess — and see it reflected back at you, acknowledged, understood.

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Thursday
Jul192012

glass words

I am so honored to welcome this month's guest writer. Merry's support and love permeates all the nooks and crannies of this community.  Merry describes herself as a "38 year old mother of four girls who came before and then Freddie who was born and didn't breathe but then did and lived for eleven days in SCBU before dying of pneumonia. In January this year we had Ben, our rainbow baby born 21 months after Freddie died." Merry writes at Patch of Puddles.

 

When I say the words, they remind me of the twinkling, polished nuggets of pretty glass that surround his memorial tree. Smooth, splendid, finished, perfect.

"He's their second brother. We had another little boy but he died when he was very young."

"They did have another brother but we didn't get to bring him home."

"We had another one who spent some time in SCBU. No, he didn't come home unfortunately."

"I've had six children... I have five children."

"He is number six. I have four girls at home."

Sometimes I phrase it so I don't have to say the words. Their brother died. My baby died. Our son died.

I've perfected the words so they skitter around like handfuls of decorative glass pebbles held high and dropped, bouncing in the sunlight.

photo by dalvenjah.


I'm guilty of an art of careful word architecture that parcels up our family pain and speaks it in a way that acknowledges but protects. I sometimes worry I phrase it in a way that make people think we weren't allowed to keep him rather than had him brutally taken. By the time I spit those artfully shaped words out they have been shaped to make them glisten and slide from my lips, not rip . I'm guilty of trying to make it palatable. I worry people think it means I have got over it.

I worry he hears.

+++

The world at large says words back at me that my world in miniature says politely.

"At least you have the others."

"The girls must have helped you get through."

"Thank goodness you didn't have to bring him home for a while. At least you never got to know him before he died."

As if the eleven days bent over his cot, praying to every god I don't believe in to grant a miracle didn't count. As if having four healthy children makes a difference to the pain of losing one. As if, at the birth of a good to go child, someone could say "Do you mind if we keep him and you just pop off home?" and the answer would be "Well of course, it's not like I know him yet!" As if, knowing his sisters, loving them deeply, makes his loss more bearable and not the yawning, gripping pain of knowing exactly how wonderful and beautiful a person we lost.

"It must be so much easier to cope with losing Freddie now that you have Ben."

Out pops a pebble, a shiny glass pebble.

"Yes, it helps. Of course it helps." Treading a path neatly between the socially acceptable and my listening daughters hearing and thinking he became expendable and forgotten. I break my teeth on another palatable pebble.

+++

It's because of my daughters that I had to give up fighting for Freddie. With disability and long term care looming hard and fast, I vomited up the words that we had to let him go. Losing him was not better because we had living children, it was made bitter and bile filled by the knowledge that I could ruin six lives by fighting for him or let him go and save us all.

"It's time to stop."

There was nothing polished about those words, they were molten and then jagged and my cheeks and tongue and throat are throbbing and scarring still.

Don't let anyone tell you that having other children makes it better. Different, but not better.

+++

Just 30 minutes holding the body of my son without wire or tubes.

With the image of my frightened and barely whole children waiting for news burned into my head, I watched my son die, packed my bag and went home to comfort them, to break the news, thank the people who cared for them - and have lunch.

Home to an eleven year old standing at the top of the stairs and sobbing "Is he dead? It's not fair."

Home to a ten year old who took one look at our faces and turned and walked away, the brother she had longed for gone before she ever held him. She never let herself cry.

Home to a seven year old who screamed "You shouldn't have had him! You had too many children already! Have other one now!"

Home to a five year old already shattered to pieces by her parents having been absent for eleven days, who had kissed the bump every night and made him a space in her heart and loved him as only a five year old can and who sat in our arms and seemed to understand and two hours later asked when we would go to get him and bring him home.

Who asked repeatedly, "Is he still alive really?"

All our grief, laid out and raw in the faces of the children we loved. Our children dragged through the splintering, wounding carnage alongside us.

My children, crumpled and bewildered and somehow supposed to filled the gaping hole in my heart, who listened and watched my every move, weighed up my love, weighed up my grief, looked to see if I would last. Looked to see if I could still be mummy.

Home to gymnastics sessions and maths that needed doing and laundry and presents waiting to be given to a new baby brother. I spent the first night after his death not in my bed and my husbands arms, but on a mattress on the floor of a pink bedroom, each of us with shell shocked girl lying either side of us. There was no hiding in a darkened room for me. There was no going to pieces. The greatest betrayal was that we had to put Freddie neatly away ourselves and carry on - go forward - to keep our living children safe.

Life goes on.

Don't let anyone tell you it makes it okay if the babylost have other children.

Sometimes what hurts most of all is accepting I was one of the luckiest of the unlucky people. That my pain is a little more bearable because of my children. But that my pain is magnified ten thousandfold by seeing them hurt.

+++

When I think I can't be any more sad, I hear them speaking pebbles. Polished, perfect pebbles that drop and scatter as they dance the linguistic dance of having two brothers but only one that anyone can see.

That is a special kind of heartbreak.

Look what I did to my children. I wanted another baby, who died, and I made my children learn to speak the language of the grief stricken. I daren't look inside their mouths. I am too frightened to see if there are scars from the glass. I'm horrified, but happier, to see the pebbles.

 

How do you use word architecture when speaking to others about your child's (or children's) death? Is there one phrase you use consistently? Do you use different words or phrases depending on if you are talking to a stranger, the casual acquaintance, close friend or family member? If you have older children, how to teach them to talk of their sibling's death? Do you overhear them mirroring your words?  What kinds of things do you overhear them saying about death and grief and their family since the death of their sibling?

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Reader Comments (30)

Merry, this was so beautiful.
The only thing that my four year old has offered recently is constant reassurances that she can have a baby one day. If she does, she'll have three babies? Why? Because my mom had three babies, but one died. I'm sad that she has to live with this information but I so love that she doesn't forget him. She was obsessed with my pregnancy.
July 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeigh
Merry,

This, "Look what I did to my children. I wanted another baby, who died, and I made my children learn to speak the language of the grief stricken". This I live everyday. When my youngest who is 8 still sleeps with his teddy bear that wears one of his missing brother's outfits, when my oldest now 15 cried last week as he desperately searched for his dog tags he had made with his brother's name carved on them. This is my world and you summed it all up so perfectly. The luckiest of the unlucky. I carry my grief but I also carry theirs. I wish they were younger so the pain may have been different. The fact that they were old enough to understand death so well made it so much harder for me to comfort them.

Thank you for this post, thank you very much.
July 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaula
This is such a beautiful post. It's hard to explain to people the impacts of babyloss on older siblings. My son was 10 when his brother died at 22 weeks. We had to be strong for him. We had to explain to him the unexplainable. We had to be parents when we didn't feel like we were at all.

I am so moved by your writing. Thank you for sharing.
July 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCeleste
Merry, I can barely type through the tears, this is just how it is here too, exactly. Love you Merry. x
July 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeanette
I sometimes found it hard to read the blogs of women who already had living children, I will be honest. It might not be a popular opinion, but in some instances, it was too much for me and in those early months, I had to tread carefully. Not because they had living children and I thought it was easier - no not at all, birth order absolutely does not change the grief - but because they were already parents and would forever know what it would be like to raise a living child. I was in such a dark place after I lost Hope and for a few months there, was convinced she would be my only, even though there was no real reason to think that way. I thought she was a fluke and now that she was dead, my one and only shot at motherhood had gone up in smoke. I grieved my baby, but also my lost status as being a parent.

I've been so lucky to land myself on the live baby side of the fence, two times over now, and it has certainly opened my eyes up to what it must have been like for those who didn't a first baby. But I also wish, just a little bit, that I got to parent without the grief hanging over me like a dark cloud. I wish I could have known what parent I might have been and I wish I could have had one day raising my kids without having one of them dead. But that's not the case, so I just make the best of the situation I'm in, and it is a very, very good one and I never lose sight of my own good fortune. I don't look fondly back on my childless motherhood days though. Those 15 months were without doubt the darkest of my life and I felt I had absolutely no purpose on earth.

As for the language I use, I often say "our first baby passed away" or "we lost our first baby" and both phrases irk me, yet I still use them. I rarely say dead, death or died. And I probably should, as that's the harsh truth of it. And though I didn't have older children, as I said above, I am now starting to teach my two and a half year old about his big sister. He points to her picture and says her name an he knows she "lived in mummy's tummy" and that we "take her flowers" but that's pretty much the extent of it and he hasn't yet asked a single question. I know they are coming though, and god damn it I know they are going to break my heart.

This was such an honest and gripping piece, Merry. I'm so thrilled you got to post it here and I am honoured to walk this path with you and share in Freddie's life. He is missed, very much.

xo
July 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSally
Oh Merry. This is so, so beautiful. But it just rakes across my heart. Having to go home to your children. And that final paragraph.

I feel it very strongly, that I brought this upon my children. I wanted a baby and I got two. But only one was mine to keep. And, in that process, I lost my daughter her sister. I do worry that I've put glass in her mouth, for the rest of her life, for her entire life, through my own greediness.

It is a feeling similar to that articulated so clearly by Sally above, that of wanting to experience parenting without grief, but in relation to my living children, particularly my daughter. I would like to grant my surviving daughter time without the knowledge of the death of her twin, her might-have-been sister. Without that shadowy world where she has a companion. But that, sadly, I cannot do. She grows up and so she grow into that knowledge. She asked me why I didn't kiss Georgina better. My kisses might be ok for bruises but they can't deal with pulmonary haemorrhage, they can't make broken organs function. And my heart aches for my children who will grow up in a world that is so very unsafe. That has always been the case in truth but, but . . . I wanted to protect them. Just for a short while. So that they could live in a world where everything can be fixed, where mums are strong and smile, a world where I could say, 'it's alright Mummy's here' with even the tiniest amount of conviction.

I do not often mention Georgina these days. Which I find frightening. If Jessica had died too, would I talk about the twins at all? Probably not. I would have disappeared them as thoroughly as the rest of the world seems to want me to. I usually say something along the lines of 'she was a twin but her sister died when they were babies' swiftly followed by a brief spiel about how lucky we are that Jessica survived and that I'm grateful, grateful, grateful. And I am. But not only grateful. I've got scars in my mouth too.

Remembering your dear Freddie x
July 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine W
My lost children never lived. They died inside me. This post fills me with sadness and also more understanding .

Thank you Merry
July 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen aka The Mad House
This was a beautfully written post.

Being that my son was my first born, a lot of what Sally says applies to my feelings as well.
...everything she said I think

I could not imagine having 4 children left to parent after such a loss.

On D's side, he has 4 nieces and 1 nephew. The eldest niece asked where my baby went. About 2 weeks after I gave birth, I visited for a family dinner... she asked, "Veronica, did you have your baby" "Yes, sweetie, I did. He was beautiful. But I didn't get to take him home. Instead, I'll see him again soon..." It felt good that she talked about it. at least SOMEONE was saying something about him. The youngster got cut off, and given a simple answer "he's in heaven now... why don't you tell Veronica about your swim class!"

She was 4 years old. I wanted to tell her everything that happened. I didn't want her to think that he was left at the hospital. I feel she would really understand... and she would really feel the weight. I don't think she would have told me that it will all be ok, and that I just have to try again. "this happens, ya know" I dont think would have been a passing thought to vocalize from her.

a few months later, that sister-in-law and her 2 daughters came to visit. The 4 year old drew me a picture. There were three people in this picture. "that's you, that's Zio, and that's your baby". She remembers. She knows. I wonder for how long though... I wonder what she is told when she asks today where my baby is...

I have a hard time telling strangers I had a stillbirth. I'm not yet at the point where I can NOT mention my son when someone askes, "do you have kids"

I say, yes... but he died near birth

yes... but he was born, and THEN died.

Yes... but he didn't make it.

I've done trials with random people. Ones that are told "stillbirth" seem to think I don't really have a child then. Somehow it was easier to have an already dead child, rather than him die shortly after birth. I think they associate 'fake' with 'dead'. I didn't lose someone real, because I never knew him alive...

The "knowing" him is a big deal breaker for some people. "it would have been harder if you got to know him". That is really hard to hear. I dont know exactly why people have to try to somehow soften the loss... showing me the angle in which it shouldn't feel so bad.

So, I twist the death. Rebuild reality with my words so people give me the proper sympathy.

I know I wont always do that. But for now, with passers by... I do.

I see so much strength in your words.

I have become stronger in reading this post... this community never falls short.

Remembering your Freddie, with love
July 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVeronica
Merry,
As so many have said above me, thank you for articulating the challenges of grieving your baby while having other children to care for. My youngest son, Ethan, died 8 weeks ago after just 4 days in the NICU. That was the same night I was discharged from the hospital after my c-section. I came home that night to a 4 year-old, 2-year-old and an 11-month-old. They had not seen me for almost 2 weeks as I had been urgently hospitalized when my water broke. They had never met their youngest brother...and my husband & I had to explain that they would never have the chance to do so on this Earth.
Yes, my 3 older children are young - so they don't fully grasp the finality of Ethan's death, not yet. But I anticipate a day, as they mature, when my older children grieve the death of their brother again...when they comprehend what it fully means. My 4-year-old daughter had seen me go to the hospital twice before, and return with her newborn baby brother each time. She knew this was not supposed to be this way. She asked for Ethan...and no speaks of him living "on the clouds and in my heart."
I know so well the word architecture you speak of - and find that it hurts my soul to dance around the sad truth...that Ethan died. Last night my father told me "I prefer to use the phrase, passed away." I told him no matter how I phrase it, the truth is that Ethan died - that I couldn't make it feel any better with certain words.
Merry, thank you for putting words to something I struggle with. "Don't let anyone tell you that having other children makes it better. Different, but not better." I know how blessed I am to have my 3 healthy children - and yes they motivate me out of bed in the morning...but my love for my 3 older children does not lessen the pain my grief for Ethan brings. I am sad that my third child, Ryan, will never know what it feels like to be a big brother. He is one, but he will never know what that feels like.
July 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnnie
Merry, thank you, thank you, thank you. You have said all that's in my heart and more. I had to read much of your post twice, as it is difficult to read through tears.

As far as language, I had to answer the "how many children" question for the very first time last week. Honestly, I can't believe it's the first time--Dylan died and was born 15 weeks ago, yet I haven't had to answer it. I found myself giving a factual, but not quite honest answer--"I have two boys at home." Yes, two at home and one whose ashes hang around my neck...that would have been honest, but seemed like too much for the situation. Now that I'm pregnant again, I suspect I'll get the "Is this your first" question and find myself wondering how I'll answer. Will I stick with a safe and honest "no," will I says it's my fourth--with three living (I hope), will I simply say it's my fourth, or will I find another factual, but not quite honest response?
July 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjoanna
Oh Merry, this breaks my heart. Thank you so much. And to everyone else who posted too, thank you.

Those little children who never forget, who always include the lost baby, and who aren't afraid to talk about them will always have a special place in my heart. My daughter was three years, one month and one day old when her baby sister was born, and died. She has talked to, talked about, grieved for, and celebrated her sister every single day for the last almost ten months.

We found out about AdiaRose very early on in my pregnancy. It's almost like she tried to compensate us on the other end. Our older daughter had been very, very vocal about wanting a baby. Her love for " Baby Pumpkin", then smaller than a pea, was immediate. Her career as a big sister began that moment. Her heart is as big as she is. So fearless that she insisted that we bring her to the funeral home to see her sister. So full of love that she looks at the pictures of her baby sister at birth, blue and fragile, and sees only how cute and sweet she is. My older daughter's love for her sister is so beautiful to me. It also hurts to see how much she hurts, how she longs for her sister, how much she misses her.

We speak very frankly about what happened, and why, about the soul and the body, about where we think she is now. About how much we wish she were here.

She would like another sibling, one that would stay here with us. We tell her that we would too. Will she be afraid to become attached, if we are so blessed? What if we have another tragedy, what would that do to her?

This morning she said, "Mommy, I think you have a baby in there because your tummy is fat. It's a little leaf." She is not afraid. But we are terrified for her. Even so, I take note of her courage to hope.
July 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen
Wonderful post. It describes so many things that have gone through my head. It took me a long time to use certain words. Funeral. I could not say it for the longest time. It was a memorial or graveside service. A parent does not plan a funeral for their child, or have their 5 yr old ask if she had a funeral when she was a baby.

When explaining things to new friends, its commonly, "We have 3 children. Teagan, our third didn't make it". However, when it is a stranger.... "I have three." If they ask ages... "6, 4, and my baby would be 11 months". People don't really catch the 'would be'. Sometimes its nice talk as if my baby didn't die and pretend that I'm living the life I want.

I have overheard my children's conversations with friends: My 3 yr old explaining to his friend that his baby sister died cause her body didn't work, or when asked where his sister is that 'she's in heaven'. My 5 yr old, insisting to her friend that she has a brother AND a sister.

I've encouraged my children to say whatever they want about Teagan. I don't care if it makes other people uncomfortable to hear a child talk about a dead baby. I don't care if people don't know what to say to it. And I don't mind if my children's friends have difficult questions for their parents after learning about Teagan. I deal with those questions on a daily basis. My kids have had enough heartache and they shouldn't have to censor a huge event in their life because it may be 'uncomfortable' for others. They love to talk about their baby sister and talking about it helps sort out their emotional confusion.

It was hard at first. My 5 yr old would avoid talking about Teagan around me for the first couple weeks. She would talk to my mom and sister about it. One time, I was listening to a conversation and she said Teagan's name, looked up and saw me, and I saw fear in her eyes. Fear that she was going to upset me and make me cry. She didn't want to hurt me. I realized then that I needed to be able to talk about Teagan without breaking down. I needed to be a person my daughter could turn to for help through her grief.

It is so heart wrenching to see your children deal with this grief. It heart breaking to have your 3 yr old ask about every baby that he saw, if that baby 'works'. Its hard to be strong for them when you want to climb in bed and never get out. But, I couldn't imagine going through this grief without having my 2 living children giving me a reason to survive.
July 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJennie
None of my children are alive with us. All three are dead. But Kees, a healthy son, lived for 7 weeks and Jet (also healthy) for 3 days. I miss them, and their sister Freyja (who was stillborn, also apparently healthy), every waking minute.

I know what it's like to parent a living child. I also know what it's like to parent 3 dead children.

I don't know what it's like to lose a child when I have healthy, living children at home. But your post makes it suddenly much clearer in my mind.

I tell people about my children. If people ask whether we have children, I tell them. They're usually so shocked that they don't know what to say. Or, if they are like my mother, they say, "oh well, at least you have each other". As if that makes the loss of our three beautiful and healthy children any better.
July 21, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermirne
Wow. This really moved me.

I think about the words I choose a lot. "Dead" - that's one word I use. I feel like saying "passed away" makes it seem less sad. And I need people to hear how real the sadness is. But I don't feel up for telling everyone about her. I speak often about her with my immediate circle, but when strangers ask about my children, I just say "I have a three year old." It feels better to simply omit information.

I have discovered though, that I only feel ok in a relationship if I tell the truth. Any relationship that will be continuous...like the moms at school...I just tell them straight out. I figure if they are going to have any chance at being a part of our lives then they would have to be comfortable with loss. But I have the luxury of not needing to make new friends. I think it would be incredibly hard to be a new mom trying to make mom friends. I already have my support network and mom groups in place.

Thank you for this post. That image of you comforting your daughters that first night will stay with me.
July 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKari
thank you for this post- it really settled in with me, because i was one of the childless mothers for so long, and my peers in loss all had children before they lost their babies. my daughter (stillborn) was my only, and then we went on to lose my firstborn son (stillborn) as well, and i *always* felt, bottom line, that is was less horrible for a woman to lose a baby when she had other babies at home to mother. my heart would harden when i would read about how their other children were coping with the loss of their baby sibling. i jjust couldn't deal with the fact that i had no one to care for, when i was needing to care for someone so badly.

but your words were very meaningful and clarifying for me. it helped me to see that the siblings of our children are just a part of the tragic loss as the parents. it is an incredible loss! and it seems like a terrible hardship, as a grieving parent, to have to also carry the weight of managing your living children's grieving process as well. not 'manage' in a controlling way, but to have to oversee and comfort when you yourself need so much comfort from the loss.

my mom had a brother who died at birth, almost 70 years ago. his death was a dark secret in the family, something that was aimed to be forgotten about, erased. but, haha, it doesn't work that way. as an adult, she has carried his loss around like a shadow. more like glass thoughts, or phantom grief... the loss was there, but no one allowed you to touch it or feel it or talk about it. she always talks about visiting his grave- it really bothers me that she had a brother, and he was not given a name, and she doesn't know where he is buried. i think we are very fortunate to live in more modern times where deaths like this are acknowledged and the children, siblings, parents, etc. are given a chance to grieve properly. yes, a terrible loss has happened, but thankfully we live in a time where steps can be made to incorporate the loss into our lives in a healthy and meaningful way.

you wrote about being afraid to look into their mouths, for fear of the scars from their grief. but you know, loss and death and grief are a part of all human's life experiences. we all have scars, and we cope and heal and tend to them in our own ways. the more open and loving and honest you can be with them, all of that will help to sooth their scars from the loss of their brother. at the very least and base, they will live a more rounded, complete life experience, knowing about death and life and love and mourning. that sounds so wrong, but i really believe that it is one of those annoying "positives" that come out of this shitpile. to never know about loss and death and grief, it is a handicap, i think. because even though i wish i had never lost my children, to see others blithley and ignorantly skipping along thru their lives, i fear for them when the inevitable sorrow and loss comes knocking on their doors.
July 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterss
Like you we had four children and our fifth child died the day he was born - during my labour - shockingly unexpected and plunging us all into grief. Like you I had so many people say, "Well at least you have the older children" and "At least it wasn't one of the other children because you didn't know him yet" and I screamed inside at their callousness. But outside I would weep silently and try to explain that no, they're not interchangeable or as good as. They're my children, every single one loved and wanted. And like you and your husband we had to keep on through our grief and help our living children cope with our new normal. My sons were 9, 7, and 5 when George died and our daughter was eagerly waiting to be a big sister at 2. Their grief was every bit as real and raw as ours. Now, three years out from George's death, we have a rainbow girl who is one and a delight. But not a replacement. I've often felt guilty for my sorrow knowing that I'm unlucky but lucky at the same time having my arms and days busy with our living children while other mothers have empty arms. But as you said it's not easier necessarily. It's different. (((Hugs)))
July 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren
Merry this was so beautifully written. I often marvel at how my living children came through Cullen's death (and my subsequent 6 month shut down) with such grace and beauty.
They lost so much on that cold day in September...
I watch them now as we navigate this early time with the twins.. cautious, guarded, and yet so full of love and hope. It is indeed a journey.. and you have written about this aspect of it so very beautifully. Love and light always...
July 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie
My mother had a third boy, he died in utero and was brought into the world Nov 10, 1986. I was not yet six, at the time, and not a day that goes by do I not wonder why he didn't live, but the rest of us did. Why we got lucky, and he didn't. Or who he'd be today. On that day, every year, I count up to how old he'd be, in disbelief. I remember seeing his pictures in my mother's drawer, the ones they took of him after he was born. I remember being obsessed with looking at them. At the time, his crib had been set up in my room, and I was so certain he was going to be my little sister. On my brother's wedding day, I visited him at his grave. I know that when I became pregnant, I thought about him a lot. How my mother only had that experience, no other. And how much more she grieved than I could have ever known not having carried a baby myself yet. And when my first was a boy, I hoped parts of my brother I never knew, were in him. I still think they were. Esp as I imagined him to be a budding artiste, and my little one has that in him. LOL!

What a beautiful, and heartbreaking post. Sending lots of love to you & your girls & your Freddie & Ben too. : )
July 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShay
Wow! Beautiful, powerful and poignant. You have a gift for writing. I felt like you were speaking my own heart. thank you
July 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKate
Initially, I said, " I had a little girl who passed away. She was stillborn".

Just about a month ago, I suffered my second loss, a miscarriage. I was at the gym where I used to work out regularly while pregnant with my first. I was in the changing room and still reeling a bit from my recent loss (I was just cleared to go back to normal activities). A woman who didn't know me personally, but knew me from every damn aerobics class we shared, smiled and pointed to my belly, "You had baby" (English is not her native language). I just looked at this woman and said, " She's dead. She died. She's dead". I turned to the other woman I was speaking with and said, 'God, that doesn't get any easier to say". I then went for a run.

I am normally not that blunt when it comes to speaking about Simone, or my recent miscarriage, but I was just at my limit that day.

However, I do bristle when I feel that I have to or should/try to 'make others comfortable' about my truth, my pregnancy losses, my children. Really, all I want to do is scream "F YOU!" You can F-ing deal with being uncomfortable for 5 minutes, you sorry excuse for a human being! ... But I don't, because, like everyone else wrote.. they won't/they can't.. and they are so damn fortunate they don't get it.

I hate that I have to be considerate and thoughtful of 'society in general' (my opinion).. when they aren't considerate and thoughtful of me.

I don't have any living children, but I do have a 3 nieces and 3 nephews. The older ones, 14, 10, 8 & 7.. don't really talk to me about Simone much. Though the boys were visiting the day before my scheduled D & E with their mom, and we were out feeding the chickens. We have a turtle sand box that friends gave us for Simone in our backyard. They both asked me why I had it.. and I said, " It was for Simone, remember her?" They both said, 'Oh, yeah or uh- uh" and went back into the house. I think the older one gets it, but is less vocal about it. The little dear (he's 10) brought me a little porcelain doggie in a wicker basket when they came to visit. He had it wrapped up in a million tissues and a ziploc baggie. He brought tears to my eyes, and I have it on my mantle in memory of Baby # 2.

My youngest niece just turned one, and her mother and I both speak openly of Simone to her, and Simone's picture graces the wall of my sister's living room. I hope that as she grows up, she asks about her.


Merry, your post was beautiful, and I cried as I read it through. You've given me beautiful insight to what it is like to parent living children after a loss.

xo
July 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSME
I had no living children when my daughter died, she was my first but was my husbands third. My step-daughters were 8 and 6 and I can honestly say it was a dark, dark time for me. To watch my husband throw himself into his 'father' role and to know he would get cuddles, kisses and be called 'dad' when I was left with nothing was like I said, a dark time.

Like Sally, I thought that Neve would be it for me. My one chance at motherhood, my miracle baby conceived naturally during a break from IVF. I couldn't believe it had all gone so horribly wrong, I felt like I was in a nightmare that I couldn't wake up from.

I don't believe I was really there for my step-daughters during the first few months. We had Christmas to get through and my family was over from NZ, I let them all get on with it. I do remember one morning the 8 year old finding me crying in bed, saying to me that it was ok because I still had them. Sweet and sad at the same time.

Over the years we have celebrated Neve's birthday, we have a cake for her and each year my husband and I take turns writing a letter to her about our year. My step-daughters are a part of this and there are always tears. They don't talk about her much, there haven't been many questions but I guess they are processing it all. There have been school projects about family trees and Neve isn't on them. It upsets me but what can I do, these projects are done with their mother.

I consider myself lucky to mother a living child, my daughter who will be 3 soon. I'm making sure she will know that there is another big sister who is looking out for her. I feel sad that I've robbed her of that sisterly bond especially when she sees her bigger sisters have it. I hate that all these girls have been touched with grief at a young age and that unfortunately they know the harsh realities of life. We couldn't protect them from that.

Thank you for this post, I found it and the comments to be deeply moving. Lastly I would like to share the poem my oldest step-daughter wrote at age 11 for a writing workshop at school, I was deeply touched and surprised as I had no idea....

I remember the excitement
of the arrival of my sister
and imaging of playing with her
I remember the day the doctor said to come to the hospital
I remember the doctor
telling my dad the bad news
I remember the tears and sadness
the silence in the car on the way home,
and the pain, dull, days after
I remember her white face
and her pale purple lips
I remember the mourning
at her funeral....
And I will always remember
my baby sister
July 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMel
It was 4.5 weeks after my son's stillbirth when I was first asked how many children I had. It was at a construction site, asked by a very large man named Hoss, and there was much jackhammering of concrete in the background. I simply said that I had a 3 year old daughter. I was not going to scream above the noises of the jackhammer that my son had been stillborn just 30 days ago.

In the 4.5 years since then I've varied my answers based on who asked and my mood. Sometimes I've told complete strangers the whole story (they usually asked for details after I offered the initial shocking, 'my son died' response). Othertimes I save his story for me alone. Lately, its been more of the latter, and that is ok with me. He is my baby, not theirs.

My older daughter is now 8 and she is in a quiet time with her questions about her brother. This is ok with me as well. Her memories of that time are fading, but I'm sure she will have some questions every few years as she processes it as she matures.

In the early days she and I read many dead baby books and talked about him a lot. A couple of days after I came home from the hospital I started a bout of intense ugly crying in front of her and scared her half to death. That was the end of that. Nothing will stop uncontrollable sobs faster than the look of terror on your child's face while she plugs her ears. I stopped crying in an instant and after that was able to speak of him with just tears in my eyes. I saved the ugly crying for late at night while she was sleeping.

My younger daughter is just 2.5 and completely unaware of her brother. We talk about him in front of her, but not frequently. We have a few pictures about the house, but she hasn't noticed them yet. I'll welcome the questions when they come.
July 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHeather
Thank you all for responding so generously to this. I was very nervous about writing these thoughts out loud.

Leigh, I know. It makes me so sad my 4 girls will do their pregnancies 'knowing' this reality. They will never get to be pregnant with the ignorance of loss that everyone deserves.

Paula, yes. We carry their pain too. And we carry knowing they are carrying ours. So very hard.

Celeste, such a hard age, 10. Old enough to nearly get it, young enough to need to go through understanding over and over again.

Jeanette, this was very much in honour of the lead and love you gave me. I remember so well the phrase of yours I read, long before Freddie. "My children cried as I never want to hear them cry again". It rocked me and then I found myself there too. And following in your footsteps help me know we would get through.

Sally, I can't blame you. I couldn't look at little boys and I've never been surprised that most babylost stay away from my blog. I think one of the reasons I never threw myself into commenting was that I didn't want to draw people there and hurt them. You've been such a support to me.

Catherine, how unfair that we are supposed to be grateful. And recover. And have that oh so British stiff upper lip :/

Jen, hugs. I wish I could say something that made that better.

Veronica, people say such staggering things. The world at large never seems to be able to decide what is worst, only that whatever they are faced with at the time must be better than some other random awfulness. And yet, force them into your shoes and they'd know that stillbirth/neonatal loss - none of it is okay if it happens to you :(

Annie, I find it remarkable that people think altering the phrase makes it better. Huh. Dead is what it is. And dead really, really hurts. I am so sorry about your Ethan and the impact it will have had on all of you. Children are amazing; mine have staggered me with their recovery but that doesn't make it okay.

Joanna, I do this all the time. I just slither around it and I have seen that people who will be compassionate do cock their ear and say "you've had 6? tell me" Well, sometimes they do. Remembering Dylan with you. xxx

Jen, I tell myself they will be more amazing and strong and beautiful because of Freddie and all they know. I hope it's not me inventing that to make myself bear it. They faced my subsequent pregnancy with incredible courage and that gives me hope for them long term.

(More replies later, family calls. xxx)
July 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMerry
Merry, what a beautiful post...my heart ached reading your description of your daughters awaiting and their reactions. Like Sally, I can't seem to handle stories of siblings dealing with babylost grief. I can't even begin to imagine how their young minds process all the intense emotions, when we - grown ups - can't seem to figure out how to deal. But I'm sadly repeatedly reminded with stories like your's that this world is a messed up place, and kids aren't exempt from the pain. I'm proud of you for being such a great Mommy for you kids...

As for my pebbles...I don't seem to have any yet. I lost my Samara in February, and I still struggle with words :( The first question came from my grocery store cashier. The first day I went without my baby...she took one look at me and said - Where's princess Samara? I could see the bewilderment in her eyes...as I quietly responded "She's gone." Then of course I had to explain...she got diagnosed with cancer two weeks after her first birthday, it was so quick, we didn't even know she was sick, she used to be so healthy, yes we were in the hospital for a month, yes she had a seizure, no i'm not fine, yes i'm seeing a counsellor...blah blah blah. I zoned out after a while. Tears everywhere. Random people standing in line at a grocery store. Bizarre.

Then I got brave enough to tell people I "lost" my first baby. But I was told this apparently makes it sound like Samara was stillborn or I had a miscarriage - whereas she was actually a 13 month old chubby little bouncy ball of happiness. In my state of extreme vulnerability I was being guided by society to teach me how to come up with socially acceptable words describing what happened to my little toddler. Next I tried..."My baby passed away". Better. Precise and clear. But I hate it...I don't want to say it.

Last week i was having dinner with a friend, when the waiter randomly started a conversation and asked me if i had children. I was so shocked and bewildered...I said I didn;t have kids. And then burst into tears....I felt horrible. I didn't know how to handle it...I didnt know what to say...I didn't want to repeat the excruciating details about my baby's battle with cancer - that too with a complete stranger. But I felt so sad thinking Samara probably heard what I said. And I really didn't mean that I don't have kids. I just meant that my child isn't here with me. But how do I explain that to people in a socially acceptable way?? :(

I guess I just need to work on my pebbles. Thank you for this beautiful article Merry. I sometimes think about the 13 months and 20 days with Samara and how wonderful it was. If I am lucky enough to have more children in the future, I can't imagine how it will be...parenting under a cloud of grief. It certainly won't be the same:(
July 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermommy4eva
Jennie, what you say about your 5yo avoiding and showing panic, my second daughter was just like that. Even now she is a little the same but initially if a baby came up on tv, she would react with panic. I had to cover up so much and eventually be very brutally honest with her: I am the parent, she is not my parent, I have to look after myself. Poor girl, trying to mother me.

Mirne, it is incredibly generous of you to take the time for me.I can hardly imagine wrapping myself around so much loss. Remembering your children with love.

Kari, yes. I was told I wear my heart on my sleeve at a baby group last week. But really, how can I pretend Bene is my first (as all their babies are) and so I have to say he has sisters. If I say he has sisters, I have to explain the gap, because people ask. If I explain the gap as just a gap, I feel terrible. It's better to be honest from the start. People who can't take it, won't befriend me. Starting afresh, as I am, I have to be honest. And I say dead too, I just cannot do 'passed away' it seems to belittle the devastation to me.

ss, "annoying positives" - *smile* yes! I hate to say it, but my girls are more thoughtful and 'better' for their brother. I suppose as siblings I expect them to shape each other. Freddie has given them something I never expected but he is as much part of them as they are of each other. Oh, your poor mum. I cannot imagine how much the pain must be magnified by silence. My dh prefers not to talk of Freddie really, he's a stoic and I find that hard. He accommodates me by allowing Freddie to be mentioned but his way is not my way. Thank you for your generosity in understanding my piece. I would never want to cause hurt to people who lost their first or first and second, if I am honest I know I wouldn't swap, except for a few moments to cry and rage and scream alone.

Karen, I have a friend who told me her mother used to say "Really, which of yours could you just give up then???" It's incredible how people think that they are interchangeable. And people say it when you only have to put the reality of what they've just said back at them and they know it isn't true. I suppose people just want to help. It's very British here to minimise, I think I do it myself. People also told me I needed to get our (home educated so around us ALL day) children into school immediately as they would need distractions and teachers and people qualified to deal with their grief. But you know, we managed and I think being around us, having time, seeing grief and healing as it is - all that was good for them.
July 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMerry
Leslie, I think I was almost as shocked by how the girls coped with Ben as I was by dealing with grief. My little stoic sobbed when she saw him and that nearly took our breath away. She never cries. Then when he faltered and was slow to get strong, they really shut off from him. It was hard to see. It's such a relief to see them now so much more relaxed. I didn't realise how much grief and stress was on all our faces until it fell away.

Oh Shay, the crib in your room :( It takes my breath away to imagine being inside the head of someone so small dealing with loss. xxx

Thank you Kate.

SME, goodness yes. Exactly that. I've been asked a few times not to speak of it to avoid upsetting people, but really... pah. The truth is a small and gentle comment helps so much. I get relatively few babylost parents to my blog, perhaps because I have other children but the comments of the ones who come mean so much. And when people who don't understand tell me they never know what to say, I assure them just a word can really help. At the very least, in the real world, we should be allowed to speak our pain.

Oh Mel, that poem just filled up my heart. I have read it over and over again. Much love to you all.

Heather, you give me much hope. And also, pause for thought about how we will deal with Freddie's memory around Ben. I don't want him to feel he is just a 'replacement'. Thank you.

Oh mommy4eva, I wish I could help you through this pain. Not fair. Never fair and to lose her at that age. Oh, my dear. xxx
July 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMerry
Thank you for sharing your story, Merry, and everyone who shared in their replies. I had 3 older children (they were 10, 12, and 17) from previous marriage. We first had a miscarriage very early and immediately fell pregnant again. I was having complications and on strict bedrest from 25 weeks. At 28 weeks, our little girl, London Rose, stopped moving. My youngest, Kaity, who is now 15, went with me to the Women's Pavillion to get checked out. We joked on the way, thinking they just needed to give me some juice and get her riled up. But the nurse in triage couldn't find her heartbeat on the monitor. She called the midwife on duty, and she couldn't find her, either. They sent me for an ultrasound, which confirmed that she had died. I was admitted for to have labor induced. Her Daddy was 600 miles away, getting a new life ready for us. He got there about an hour after she was born. She was a big girl and already had curls. They couldn't find anything wrong with her. No explanations other than stress I was under caused her to die. How does one deal with that kind of information? How do you not hate, loathe and despise the ones who caused the stress and killed your baby? How do you not getting eaten away by anger, fear, and despair? I certainly don't know. Neither do my older children. They hate my husband's ex-wife because she was the source of my stress. They blame her viciously and bitterly for the loss of their baby sister. The middle child also has Asperger's Syndrome, which makes it very difficult for him to deal with his emotions. I didn't realize how badly it had hurt him until we were having our rainbow girl, Ryanne. He and Kaity went to an ultrasound with me, and he curled up in a ball and cried in fear, even though he was 14 at the time. He was afraid because he was with me the night that London died, that he would jinx Ryanne and cause her to die. How heart wrenching to hear this from him, to see his pain, fear and tears.
I, too, do not leave her out in my child count. And I, too, do not care if that makes people uncomfortable. I am not going to diminish her memory and value just because it offends someone's delicate sensibilities. I am not going to belittle my family's pain because it's "unpleasant". I resent my mother-in-law because she pretends London never existed. I understand that she doesn't put the step-children in her family count. She's a thoughtless person. But I resent that she doesn't count her own flesh and blood. It hurts me every time I see those stupid stick figure stickers on the back of her car under the words, "Nana's love". I want to ask her why London isn't deserving of her love?
Much love to all of you ladies. I have to stop my rambling now. It's late and hard to see through the tears. Love and light to you and your butterflies.
August 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWanda
Merry,
Thank you for this! I thought of you today. I was at playgroup with my rainbow baby. A new mom showed up, asked if she was my first. I told her no, she had a big brother, he died. Then I automatically felt obligated to "bring the conversation to a lighter note." So then I said, " we are just so glad to have her here though, she wouldn't be here if he had lived." And instantly I hated the words as they came out of my mouth. All glass. ugh- why is it so hard to be honest and just let the conversation stay with death? Anyways, thank you. This article made me feel less alone and it was good to hear others are in similar situations with saying things we don't really mean.
August 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRyAnne
I can relate totally to the last paragraph I thought I would ruin my daughter's life by her having to share me with a sibling only she didn't learn about sharing but grief, mine, my husband's and hers and I fear at 2 1/2 it's too young a lesson to have to learn all because I wanted more children. She sees my pain so much, today she told my MIL that David died and mummy cries because he did.
I see mirrored in her play the depth of my feelings the lost doll cries of I want my baby. The imaginary friend in her hand that's nearly always her brother.
So many strangers I tell she's my only child I shared him with a new group of friends recently, how can we move on as friends without them understanding who I am even though they don't know the old me David has shaped me so much.
My baby died is the phrase I always use I find some comfort in the words I tried the we lost him, it seemed gentler to say that for the person i was telling, only I didn't lose him oh no I know exactly where he is now and forever.
Such lovely words Merry
Samantha x
August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDavid's mummy
But fun as those would be, they are not permanent, and not exactly changes to our physical self.
December 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlix Feeney

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