Thursday, May 17, 2012

The journey of stillbirth - part 2

It's been at least 2 years since I've felt so utterly depressed. And really, the word depressed is not one I throw around. Down is not depressed. Sad is not depressed. Depression is dark. It is a sense of utter hopelessness and that is what I am now fighting. Thank God for Tandi. A million zillion times over. Thank you God for Tandi. It's very hard to cry with a little girl splashing water in your face from her bath, trying to hide Gubby (the Guv) in the cupboard or pinching your nose and wrenching open your jaw to try shove food in while laughing manically. She is incredible. Thank you God for Tandi. Back to the stillbirth journey. I really hope that these posts can be of help to someone.. I mentioned how important it is to hold your baby - you wouldn't want to miss that - but there are of course times it won't be a good idea. If the baby is in a bad way then perhaps it's best not to and that is a very very tough call to make. It's important to take photos - even just to keep in case the mom ever wants them. I took many photos of my neice (her name is Lily) and sat with a friend who helped me edit them to soften the colour etc. I printed them and my folks bought a special album on which we engraved Lily's name. Well I only chose the very best of the photos for the album (want to play with the others a bit more) and every time I see my SIL the album is either in her hands or nearby. It is utterly precious to her and I'm so glad I did it. In some of the photos I placed one of Lily's toys, a bunny, and my SIL now has that bunny to keep forever. I also helped the nurses take hand and footprints - not always possible to do - but it is another precious keepsake for my SIL. The hospital room is a safe place. People who visit are there briefly to pay their respects and the nurses, hopefully, would be caring. But once you leave that hospital the world will confront you. In my case, we stopped at a chemist on the way home to collect my prescriptions. I stayed in the car while The Band went in. Sitting there, I saw a woman walk past. She had her baby to her chest in a kango pouch, covered in a blanked. All I could see was a little pair of pink-clad legs. It was all I needed to see. I will never forget the searing pain of that sight. Once you are out of your hospital room, in 'normal' contexts, people feel the need to act normal. I remember going to dinner with my folks (we were all staying in a hotel in Plett when it happened and so dinner out was a given). I remember my folks making conversation and seeming very cheerful and having a drink or whatever and by the time we walked into the hotel I lost it. I could not take the normalcy, how quickly they returned to normal, how quickly they could laugh again, how quickly they could forget, how quickly they could move on. I broke down and said it was all just a bit much. Last night - my SIL's first night out the hospital - was the same and I feel sick for not preempting it. There were too many of us there and we were chatting. OF COURSE none of us had forgotten and of course I now know that my folks were doing their level best that night in Plett to try cheer me up and had not at all forgotten - but that is how it felt and that is how my SIL felt last night. It is an agonising thing. People - even your very closest family - WILL forget. They WILL move on. but it won't be in the first week. The other thing that happens by about day 3 is that you start to be able to have conversations yourself about other things and even to laugh and have pleasant moments. Unfortunately, the aftermath is fierce. You feel sick and guilty and like a bad mom for forgetting for a moment that you have lost your child. It is a sickening awful feeling which makes you want to guard your grief almost jealously to avoid feeling that way again. TBC

The journey of stillbirth - what to expect part 1

I am reliving so many of the things I'd forgotten. I am recognising so many of my sis-in-law's emotions and feeling them myself for her. One of the first things you feel when you lose a baby at the end of a pregnancy is "how can I possibly start all over again". You feel exhausted and utterly defeated at the thought of starting from scratch. You have worked so hard to get this far and it's all come to nothing. "What was the point of all of this?" But soon - like within the same day - you feel desperate to start again. Basically life has been concentrated down to one miniscule, utterly focused point - having a child - and it seems to have very little point beyond that and so in those moments the only thing that seems to have any glimmer of hope or value in it and the only reason there seems to be for bothering to go on is the prospect of still being able to have a child. With both her and I, we lost our first. I guess it might be different if we had already had children. I remember not really speaking about it too much as people think you are loopy and should just focus on getting through the days ahead. They may be right, but so are we, because really, the only possible thing that gets you through those days, when a massive, gigantic all encompassing baby shaped hole takes up your heart, is the possibility of another child. Basicaly you need that hope. I remember saying something like "I will have a baby by next christmas or else". Else what? Else I would throw a tantrum? Hate the world? Top myself? No idea. Basically I don't think I'd have been able to breathe without a baby. That's more or less how it felt. Of course, at the same time, there is nothing more terrifying than the prospect of another pregnancy - naivete gone now that it is - but still, despite that horrific, choking fear, the prospect of NOT being pregnant is even worse. Rock and a hard place of note. With your first baby, your first pregnancy, the prospect of a child remains a bit abstract until you hold him or her. Of course you love that child and dream of her and all that, but only once you hold her does an entire shift in you occur. That's true either way. Many moms would be nervous or reluctant to hold their stillborn - of course they would - but part of why it is so important is because that mother's love envelops you when you do and so you can then mourn her wholeheartedly. And what an utterly bittersweet moment it is, to hold your child for the first and last time. To feel all the love in the world for a child who has already left the world. For the mom of a stillborn you feel much bitterness ahead of the time. You feel angry and victimised by life. But seeing and holding your child softens you. It's as if, for a while after that at least, that pain is distilled into something very pure and sweet. The simple sadness of a mom who has lost her little girl. That sadness must be the most agonising pain on earth (ok one of them at least), but it is such a beautiful thing. So much of the grief that follows is tainted by offence and bitterness and fear and all muddied emotions, but that sadness is just you and your girl. When I felt it again a while ago I treasured it. A friend offered to pray for the pain to go and I said something like "don't you dare. It is too precious and rare to feel that untainted grief". ***side note: I just overheard my dad saying to someone "now we know why caz had to go through this herself - so she can help others". Meh. Yes and no. MEH! That doesn't answer why others have to go through it. ugh. I mean I agree and I disagree and it all just sucks. Ok I have to go. there is more, much more, and perhaps this will be helpful to anyone else who has to support and try to understand someone going through this.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Lightning strikes twice

It's a funny thing. Just yesterday, mother's day (which I still hate), I was missing Sophia and wondering at how I have taken to avoiding grief and even this blog. I've meant to write often but always found a reason not to. The reason has largely been that I've wanted to avoid being sucked back into the awful world of grief and loss. I've wanted to deny my membership of this club of angel mommies. Not that I've wanted to deny Sophia - never. But I've wanted to avoid the raw pain of this world.

Today life dealt us another vicious blow. My brother and sis-in-law who we are very close to and who live in the same town as us tried for a long time to fall pregnant. The pregnancy has gone well and I've told all who would listen how much I love my niece. Ive marveled at my love for this little girl - how could I so love a child who wasn't even my own? I've been privileged enough to go to two of the scans and have seen my niece wink at me onscreen. I've helped talk through the endless decisions of planning for a baby - prams and monitors and nursery colour schemes and baby showers. Painting curtain rails and washing clothes and preparing hospital bags. And I've moaned about how long the next 5 weeks are going to take and how I can't wait to meet this little girl.

This morning we got a call. Bad news. No heartbeat. Time warp back to September 2009 - the worst thing a mom can hear. No heartbeat.

My SIL had had pains for the last week. Random, undistinguished pains. Upper back. Here and there. She'd been to the doc 3 times. All looked one each time. She'd had extra scans to check blood flow and she'd been on the ECG. All fine.

This morning no movement was worrying her and so she went in. 4th time in less than a week. No heartbeat.

Tonight we are at the hospital. My SIL has had a Caesar and I've just taken photos of my precious little niece. She is beautiful. I'm not just saying that. She is. The marks of death are not yet on her and I am so grateful for that.

Tonight I rejoin that club in support of my SIL and for the first time I feel some gratitude for having been there myself. I can support her and understand her in the dark months to come.

I'm so very sad for them and our family and her family and for me. For the niece I love so much and for tandi who would have been her BFF. But I'm glad that she'll have a guided tour of Heaven with Sophia and a BFF up there.

Rest in peace precious treasure. Your aunty loves you so very much.