I wrote so much yesterday (and then got really angry and upset, but I think that’s good). After months of mostly silence in my head, things seem to be a bit shouty in there.
I can now look back at the last 5 months and realise that I’ve largely been frozen in my grief. The first few days after my operation (which ‘removed the product of conception’, a phrase that still haunts me) I did feel crushing grief. It really was crushing though. I remember crawling to the back door to get some fresh air (in November) and look out at the garden as I was so sick of being on the sofa/in bed. And then the realisation that my womb was empty took over. I was shaking and crying, and my partner came down (who was working from home to be with me) and lay next to me and cried too. But the sound that came from me mouth – it was that deep, guttural cry that starts from the bottom of your lungs. The wail of grief. It was frightening to hear, and to know it was coming from me. And after I was all cried out, I didn’t feel any better. It hadn’t helped.
I don’t have any relationship with my mother – haven’t had since I was 22. That was a good decision for me. One of the things I remember about her is that, although she had 3 healthy children, she had a stillborn in between my second and third sister. We were never really allowed to talk about it. I remember asking her about him – it was a him, different to the three girls she had and perfect in her head for many reasons including that – when I was around 15. She started to cry almost immediately and then my father got really angry and started shouting at me. Her grief for him was unhelpful, to put it mildly, for the rest of us (all good kids you know – none of us caused any trouble). We never measured up to him and I was always confused that having 3 children to raise couldn’t take the pain away of the death of a baby.
So the fear I have – of doing that to my own children – is huge. They were with us when we saw the scan that told us the baby had stopped developing. We were all sad together on that day. After that they have asked me about it from time to time. They have been worried that I’ve been ill. They thought it was a good thing for us to try again. But I have wanted to move the grief on so that I don’t affect them the way my mother affected me. I was crying the other day because I was just really tired. ‘Mummy, have you lost an egg?’ my daughter asked, concern all over her face. My heart broke – I don’t want her to be worried about me, or tiptoe around me. I want her to know nothing but love.
When I was first told I had PTSD and I had to answer lots of questions, I realised how much I’d been blocking things out – avoiding thinking about it. But then in the last few weeks, perhaps because I have allowed myself to see things, babies are EVERYWHERE. Every time I turn the radio on, go onto Instagram, watch TV, go somewhere – pregnancy and babies are mentioned every single time. Every single time. I explained this to a colleague in an email (still only teaching 1 day out of 4 at the moment) and she said ‘It must be hard to see them when you’re out and about’ and I thought, No! You don’t get it! It isn’t just when I am out, it is EVERYWHERE. I can never escape it. Never. And that makes me realise why I’ve blocked it out because, how AM I supposed to cope with it? I don’t want to break down every 5 minutes – and if I did, would it even help?
But also – I can see why I won’t often allow myself to grieve, and this is because of other people. My partner didn’t tell many people that we were pregnant, but he did tell a few friends. Then he had to tell them what happened. We have met those people for a few occasions – one was the first birthday of a friend’s child. I prepared myself about that – about seeing a beautiful, happy baby. What I hadn’t prepared myself for was the pregnant woman at the table, a family friend. I caught my breath when I saw the bump and then locked the pain away. And only one of my partner’s friends has even spoken to me about what happened (and he was actually wonderful, and held my hand and let me talk and cry). The others – some of them I had last seen when pregnant, and the next time I’m in a pub but without a bump and no sorry at all? No ‘how are you?’? Really?
My son has a friend who goes to a different school so doesn’t see him much. His mum saw me the day before the scan, when I was sick, and so I told her I was pregnant. She took the kids home to look after them a bit, and then we had each other’s kids over, once at Christmas and a few weeks later. Then I had him over during February half term, along with 2 other children – so 5 children to look after for the day. She had sent me texts every now and then to check how I was. So when she turned up on the doorstep and was very obviously pregnant, I went into complete shock. The whole time I was pregnant, then lost the baby, then was ill….all those times I had seen her, she’d been hiding her own pregnancy. Now – I can understand why she might have found it difficult to talk about it, but telling me just before I had a day of looking after children was NOT the time to tell me. I had nowhere to put that grief. She sat there, going on about she’d had PND with her other two and that this baby was for her, that it was a girl and so I’d need to help her as she didn’t know anything about girls….and while she was talking, I was going the calculations and realised that my baby was due 3 weeks after hers. My eldest is 11 and I’d comforted myself in knowing that none of the mums I knew were having kids anymore – but no, one of my son’s best friends is now having a sibling at the same time my own son would have had one. Because she thought it was OK to tell me all this – to not recognise my grief, to not think that perhaps I might want nothing whatsoever to do with her baby, and that whenever I see it my heart will break and I will always, always, always think of my own baby – because she thought about none of that, it’s made me think that I should think about none of that too. In fact, the grief was too much with her revelation and I had to message two super good listening friends about it to just get it OUT so that I could then function. But what I wanted – or needed to do – was cry, and pause, and think, and I could do none of that – and then the moment was gone.
We went out for a meal last month – again with these same friends of my partners – and again there was a heavily pregnant woman on the table. My partner knew she was going to be there, but hadn’t thought about it – he thought he’d told me before. Maybe he had told me about her in the past but telling me just before I was going to have to be up close and personal with her 8 month bump, that I *did* need to have mentioned. Again, what I wanted to do was run into the toilets and sob and then just go home. But I didn’t because you just don’t do that kind of thing, and we were there for someone’s birthday. And so the grief gets pushed further down.
It feels like I am walking around this world, full of grief, but that no one – sometimes not even my partner – will recognise or take into account. It is something that I have to force myself open to feeling – but it would be so much easier if people around me could just acknowledge it, and think about it, and make allowances.
As I said to my partner the other day – I want to tell everyone I know that a baby died, that I am still grieving, but that I don’t want to talk about it with them at all – I just want them to know. But I know that even if I said that, people would still offer their opinion and I can’t handle that.
Why is it so hard for me to recognise my grief? Because I am worried it will destroy me. Why can’t others acknowledge I might be grieving? Who knows? Maybe it’s too uncomfortable for them. Whatever the reason though – it makes everything that much harder.