Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Baby Loss Meme

Living in the Rainbow suggested I do this meme. There is something jarring about the fact that there is even such a thing as baby loss meme. That's not to say I think it is wrong, I think it just jars because traditionally blog memes are such frivolous fun things (Got writer's block? do a meme) and this one is so not that.

Losing my baby girl has opened up this whole other world in my life... I was completely oblivious of its existance until 2 months ago. Now I have friends from around the world thanks to a shared tragic commonality. In many ways I feel like I know other "baby lost" parents better than some people I've known all my life. Another part of this world which jars me is that it has its own lingo. Baby lost parents. Rainbow babies. TTC. etc. etc. There is something so sad in that. I'm trying to figure out what the essence of that sadness is and I suppose it is that this whole realm is so established. So real. So definite. But I digress...

Onwards to the meme. Oh... and BTW I am going for complete honesty here, trusting that this is a safe place for that.

1. What do you want people to know about the child you have lost?
I guess the initial and most obvious thing would be that she is a person, she has an identity, she is loved, she matters.

When we got to the hospital on that awful day and they scanned but found no heartbeat, I asked the doctor whether the baby was a boy or a girl. She responded "that's not important." A while later when she was finished with the "intense" part of the scan (where she was really trying to figure out what went wrong and what danger I was in) she asked if I had questions. I said "yes. Is the baby a girl or a boy?" She said "why is that important?" In my head I was screaming, but I was muted by shock and so Stef answered "because it is!" She checked and told us that she was a girl.

That moment was a horrible one for me. Of course now with the shock subsided I would be able to give that doctor millions of reasons why that questions matters. Some of them are: I knew her, we knew her, we loved her, we love her, we miss her, we have dreamt of her, we look toward the day we will see her again. When a person dies, we don't forget them... really pointing out the obvious here: a baby is a person! It is not as if some miraculous metamorphosis happens between the womb and the outside world and so I guess that takes me back to the first line of this answer.

Sophia is our first born. I have a daughter. We are parents. We will love all future children of course, but they can not replace her.

2. What names did you give your child and why?
We had decided to go the traditional route and not find out whether we were having a boy or a girl. We had names in mind for both. Nevertheless, as I've mentioned before, I knew we were having a girl. I had dreamt of her and seen her in my mind's eye so many times and when people used to say they "knew" it was a boy I'd be downride annoyed with them.

When "everything happened" we needed to decide on a name. We'd originally wanted to name our daughter after my gran who died last year, but knowing our little girl too had died, I just couldn't do that. And so we went with the name we had saved for our second daughter, Sophia Grace. It was a sad moment... naming our child. I was still in labour at that stage and it was so so far from the "moment of naming" that I had expected. I had thought that I would be holding my baby girl, cuddling her, a lifetime of possibility before us. Instead it was a sad conversation in a hospital hallway.

Sophia Grace is a beautiful name and it suits her. I wrestle a bit with this though: I don't want to ever be at a place where she becomes "she who shall not be mentioned". I want to speak of her and have people speak of her and yet I can barely say "Sophia" without my voice catching and my eyes filling.

We didn't even know, when naming her, that Sophia means Wisdom. Wisdom and Grace are her names and I believe her character has both. Both are what we need in navigating our way through this.

3. What rituals or ways of memorializing your child seem to best help you cope with their loss?
The day I found out I was pregnant we began a book of letters to Sophia. We recorded all the adventures of pregnancy, all the scans, the first kicks, the special moments. We had planned to keep writing in that book until she was 21 and giving it to her then. We have continued writing in that book from time to time.

I also had her name inscribed on my wrist and I love that.

I have chatted with the ladies from Bosom Buddies about their supporting moms whose babies die and I hope to become more involved in this after a time in honour of my daughter. I think that the various ways moms and dads honour their children's memories is incredibly beautiful. I will do a whole post on this at another time.

I think as time goes by I will find different ways of keeping her in remembrance.

4. What are the kindest and/or most helpful things people have said to you? What are the worst?
The kindest things really are when people have the guts to acknowledge what has happened, to say they are sorry for us and to call her by her name. SO FEW PEOPLE mention Sophia by name. She is reduced to "that thing that happened". So I guess it's not in specific words, it is more in people's attitudes. People mean to be kind when they pretend that nothing has changed. I know their hearts are right... they don't want to put me on the spot. But it grieves me... things HAVE changed. EVERYTHING has changed. My daughter matters and mentioning her by name acknowledges that.

People have, in general, been thoughtful, but some of the worst things have come from some people closest to me and have actually been intended as kind. Two examples:

The first: a friend of mine who has an adopted child and a biological child said through my process she has now realised that you are a mother throughout pregnancy and beyond. Seeing me suffer has made her realise that. She never used to think that way because she never thought of her adopted child's biological mom as a mom at all. The biological mom never held him, comforted him, fed him. She "merely" carried him for 9 months.

I realise that it may be difficult to see why this was so sore to hear... I'll try to explain. I guess it was the mention of any doubt at all that you're a mom from the start. I guess it was the initial dismissal of the bond a mom and child share through the womb in comparison to the shared joy that follows birth.

The second: my closest friend is fiercely protective of me and I of her. When I returned from Plett, she told me that when she'd heard what was going on, she had just wanted to drive there and be with me, but, she said, in retrospect it is perhaps good that she didn't coz The Band and I were so strong and so sure in our actions and choices in that time (referring to us knowing that I should go through natural labour instead of a c-section).

She said (and here it comes....) when she'd heard that I was going through labour she couldnt bare the thought of it and felt that those doctors should just "get it out of Caz". Now I don't know if she said "it", maybe she said "her" but that's what I heard. My daughter, reduced to an "it" to be eradicated. That one hurt a lot, probably because I think that just about everyone (The Band excluded) probably felt the exact same way. I know my brothers and my dad couldn't understand why I was going through labour. And all these people only felt this out of love and protection for me. I know that. But for me, as a mom, I would have laid down my life for my daughter and it's heartbreaking that those closest to me still think of me first... if they'd ever met her, or known her like I had, she would have captured their hearts too... not just the prospect of her, but HER and then they may have felt differently.

Hmmm I am aware that the above is confusing and I don't know if it'll make any sense to anyone. oh well.

5. Who is your hero? Who helps you make it through the dark days better than anyone else on the planet?
The Band - he draws me out of myself. He loves me unconditionally. He doesn't judge. He knows when to just hold me. He speaks of Sophia with such love.

This blog - an outlet for so many emotions. A place of support and love. Through blogging I have had the privilege of learning through the experiences of others and of getting glimpses of their children who, perhaps, are friends with Sophia in heaven.

Claudine - Claudine lost her daughter last year and has since given birth to her second child, beautiful little Madison. The midwife at the hospital called Claudine and asked her to come visit. She ended up coming by every day of my hospital stay. I think that hearing her story, her lessons, before I'd even given birth was immensely helpful and made such a difference to the whole thing. We have stayed in close contact and I have come to value her as an incredible women and a very caring friend. She totally gets it and I thank God for her.

My aunt aka FA (favourite aunt) and I am FN (favourite niece) though no one knows about that but us :).
FA lost her husband 10 years ago in a tragic car accident. They were very much in love and weren't yet forty when it happened. She has known tragedy. And she has known grief. She has known the reality of life moving steadily on all around you while you are stuck at the point of impact. She generally calls me once a week on a Wednesday coz she knows Wednesdays are tough days for me. She sometimes remembers it's Wednesday before I do. She asks the questions that no one else is brave enough to. She gets me to talk about things and she always calls Sophia by name.

The Guv - ok, ok, so The Guv may not be a hero (although he is a skilled fly slayer and we are very proud of his prowess!) but he is a delight. This little kitten crept into our hearts and has brought us so many laughs and much joy. Waking up to a handful of fur staring at you about 3cm from your face and purring furiously means that your very very first thought is not of your despair and grief. And no, as one person asked, I don't feel like he somehow fills the gap because now I have something to mother (I MEAN SERIOUSLY!????) but a kitten is a very sweet thing, and this crazy little feline is particularly special and in fact warrants his own post on another day.

6. Is there anything you need to say or want to say but haven’t been able to? Can you say it now?
Unless you have lost a child (in which case the following becomes a thing of hope for me) please don't tell me about your baby or your pregnancy. Please don't hear what I'm not saying: if you have a blog, what you write there is 100% your business, your space, your privilege, it is my choice whether I am strong enough to read it or not, but here in this space and particularly in real life, don't assume, because I am going through the motions, sucking it up, smiling, laughing, joking, that I'm not in agony. The constant narrative in my head details how different things should be now, how big Sophia should be now, what we should be doing now.

Also curiosity kills the cat, or as the Afrikaans say "van nuuskierigheid is die tronke vol and die kerke leeg" (from curiosity, the jails are full and the churches are empty). I understand the heart behind it, but don't worry about warning me against reading this magazine or that blog... that makes me curious to know what you think I shouldn't read and makes me more likely to read it.

I am sadly far from the place where I can feel genuine joy for others with regards to their babies... It hurts so so much to hear about babies and pregnancies. I hope and pray this changes at some point, of course I want to be happy for people I care about and I am, but it is coupled with so much agony.

The Band and I actually spoke about this last night. It is not the same for him and he had no idea that it was as bad for me because I am very talented at putting on a happy face. What would be helpful is for you to pray for me on this one because as I have mentioned in the past, I don't want to feel like this, it's not something I like in myself, but it is the way it is.

7. How are you doing? How are you really doing?
I have my ups and my downs. In general I am somewhere inbetween. Everything has changed. I feel this defiant indifference with regards to the opinions of others, a kind of "this is me, take it or leave it" attitude which is really probably only some lame attempt at trying to regain some form of control. I really really battle to be mentally motivated. Work feels like running on a treadmill uphill in the heat and without the endorphin rush. I feel like my life is in limbo until I have another child. I feel like there is such unfinished business just hanging in the air... I am a mom without my baby. Empty arms. I feel restless in this place.

When I am down (ya, the above is not a description of down.. that's just the normal... scary but true) I feel like I am drowning. It is a terrifying feeling. A suffocating, desperation. An awful, dreadful powerlessness. Reminds me a bit of The Nothingness in The Neverending Story. When I am up I feel hope... hope for the babies we will still have (God willing). Hope for the day I meet Sophia in heaven.


Simply-Mel said...

An incredibly insightful, honest, hard-to-read and moving post. I can see how blogging is very therapeutic and cathartic.

I must confess that I often just dont know what to say because (as you say) unless anyone has lost a child there are generally no words one can utter.

Simply-Mel said...

Jislaaik, and sorry bout my silly comment the other day about avoiding my blog....see? I just never quite get it right...thats why posts like these are helpful!


Anonymous said...


Yes I guess it is a depressing thing having such a thing as "babyloss meme" but I liked the questions and it was helpful to have some challenging questions asked like that.

Thanks for doing it and for doing it so honestly too.

I cannot believe the doctor said why did it matter if it was a boy or a girl - that is awful! She is a baby, more than that your daughter - well done for not hiding that and embracing her into your family.

That book of letters is amazing idea. As is the tatoo - you are braver than i!

I have noticed how the people who were great after Abigail died all had something in common - they had all experienced something really difficult themselves

Here is to more ups in your future than downs - thanks for doing the meme so honestly. I might answer the same questions again a few months on

Mrs. Holly Hall said...

Sophia was real even before you were pregnant I believe. You loved the Band so much you married him. Then you two became a family. Sophia is part of your family.

hugs to you and prayers too.

Tamara said...

Thank you for sharing, Caz. It was really helpful for me to read this and understand even just a little bit better where you're at.

Caz said...

@Simply-Mel: thanks lady.. I wouldn't have a clue what to say to me either (if that helps!!) and no, don't worry about the comment the other day, I know your heart x

@living in the rainbow: thanks for encouraging me to do it. I think it was good for me to take a snapshot of where I'm at and probably also so helpful for my readers who've been around long before all this happened

@mrs HH: that's a beautiful and true thing you said

@T: glad it helped :) (so it was worth basically taking up an entire work day!!! LOL)

Maddie said...

I just found your blog and have been reading some posts. You're a beautiful Mum - your love for Sophia shines through.

Our first daughter Matilda Anne was delivered 3 weeks ago tonight and passed away in my arms four days later. Like you I feel I've entered a new world where the only people that understand are other Mums that have lost babies. They reassure me the pain becomes more gentle with time but that's difficult to believe at times.

Caz said...

Maddie, I am so sorry for your loss.

I hope the pain does become more gentle... sometimes I think it is and then WHAM it stabs again just like in the early days.

I am so grateful for the support and friendship of others who've lost babies and who "get it".

Thinking of you ESPECIALLY today... every Wednesday is hard for me, I'm sorry that Fridays are hard for you.

Shayne said...

I found you via Tam - she left a comment on my blog when i posted about a friend losing her baby at 11 weeks.

I think this post is incredible and I admire you strength in writing what you have and putting it out there. Sophia would have been proud to have you as her mama.


Shayne said...

Will you mail me your email? Would love to chat more (if you'd like to?)

Just read your posts back to Sept and cried all the way through.

You are an incredible woman, i hope you know that.

kooky said...

Hi Caz! I discovered your blog through Shayne who wrote about my miscarriage. Your writing amazes me and has put into words a lot of my own feelings.

Joanne said...

Nothing profound to say just still always thinking of you and little Sophia.

Charlotte said...

Thankyou for sharing this. You express your feeling and emotions in such a raw and a real way; not hiding how you feel and putting on a front like many do (including myself) when we are depressed. I cannot say I understand what you feel because I do know that is the worst thing a person could say, everyone's experiences are terrible and different, not one person can understand that. You are very brave.

Julie Caldicott said...

I have just found your blog and have been reading for the past day, it is really amazing to read my emotions written on paper! My baby boy, Adam died 6 weeks ago at 38 weeks, his heart just stopped! It has been the most earth shattering time for us and having read this post makes me realise I am not deranged. I am going to do a meme. Thank you for sharing your loss this is helping me come to terms with mine!! Going to carry on reading and see where you at.
Love & Massive thanks