Grieving the loss of your baby is a very, very lonely road. It is long. It is slow. It is isolating. At the beginning you cry endlessly, you are in complete despair. This is what people expect. It makes sense to them. The funeral is the pinnacle of this public expression of grief and considered by many as an act of closure. After the funeral everyone else moves on with their lives. You, however, do not. You are forever changed. With your life in tatters you return to an empty, silent house that is so different from what you had imagined. You try your best to drag yourself through the days but you know you will never be the same again. You are quiet, sad and withdrawn and it feels like it pushes friends and family away. As the days turn into weeks, people expect you to improve but the longing for your baby never leaves. You feel like no one understands, but how could they?
Our baby boy, Benjamin, was born sleeping at 35+2 weeks after a normal, low risk pregnancy. In the weeks after losing him we were inundated with beautiful flowers and cards. We had amazing support from family and friends.
As the weeks now pass by, however, the flowers die off one by one as do the phone calls and house visits. Everyone else moves on but we do not. The awful day arrives when my husband has to go back to work, leaving me to face each day on my own. I had spent the previous 9 months adjusting to the fact that I was going to become a Mummy. Now my reality is so very different. Feeling lost and completely adrift from everything I previously regarded as normal I have to try to live life again.
I do a lot of the same things that new Mums do – go to cafes, walk to the beach, talk about my baby, try to work off my little baby pouch and try to make it through the day the best I can when I am completely exhausted. Because I have sleepless nights too. I am not up in the middle of the night because I am feeding my new baby. I am up in the middle of the night because I am not feeding my new baby. I have to carry my baby in my heart while other Mummies carry their babies in their arms.
Sometimes it is hard to differentiate between the sadness and the loneliness. I guess I feel like I just don’t fit in. I am on maternity leave but I’m not. I am a parent but I’m not. I have no children here on earth with me yet I can’t enjoy the freedoms that come with being childless. I don’t know where my place is any more. My husband is amazing. He is the glue that keeps this broken old heart of mine together. We are both on this journey of grief yet there are still big parts of it that I have to work through on my own, as does he. It is scary. I don’t want to do it, but I know I have to.
I am 3 months down the road now and I am starting to feel like some people are sick of hearing me talk about Benjamin. I feel like they would love for me to move on and start loving life again. They don’t know what to do when months later I am still sad and not my old self. They don’t seem to understand that I will never be my old self. Too much has changed. My grief seems to become more and more awkward for people and as a result I feel myself starting to drift away a little. Isolation feels easier than dealing with the awkwardness and pity. While I have my good days, I have more bad days. I am sad all the time. I am lonely. I miss my boy. I would love to be up to my eyes in dirty nappies but I am not. I would love to hold Benjamin in my arms but I can’t. I would love to go to one of those mothers groups that I had been dreading attending when I was pregnant. I would love to just be normal.
I feel like my bereaved Mummy status now overshadows everything else in my life. It’s all I think about. It’s all I talk about. So what do I do now? I’ll try to embrace my feelings and hope that tomorrow will be a good day. I don’t want the loneliness to win. I don’t want sadness to define who I am. I need to try and not push people away. I need to be gentle on myself. I need to live in the moment and everything else will hopefully come with time.
Catherine Travers blogs about her experiences of stillbirth at www.benjaminslight.com