Sunday 15th October marked the end of Baby Loss Awareness Week. An amazing week where the topic of baby loss received great mainstream publicity. It really felt like the message for getting out there that we are not alone. This was also evident at the memorial service held at St Mary’s church in Banbury. Over 75 people came together to remember our babies and light a candle as part of the global Wave of Light. It was a very special service – the first of its kind in Banbury. I spoke at this event what I hope was a message of hope for the future so here are my words for those of you who were unable to attend on the night.
I’m a survivor. I’m a survivor of baby loss and often I feel I wear that badge with a heavy heart. You see your world stops when you loose a baby. It slams into a wall with the full inertia of all your hopes and dreams, expectations and love you have for your baby. We loose a lot when we loose a baby.
Having children is the craziest, richest part of life. Full of highs and lows, it’s ridiculous and sublime, testing, fulfilling and purpose-giving. But for parents like us it is so much more – there is more pain, more sadness, more grief, more regret, more tragic memories, more difficult decisions regarding our babies, funerals, post mortems, spending time with them or not. We know how precious life is.
It is also less – less an entire person, the lifetime of the baby/child/adult that we lost, loss of friends, relationships, time, loss of innocence, loss of a sense of peace, loss of faith perhaps, loss of what could have been.
Those first days, weeks and months, even years can be a dark place, a lonely place, a frightening place. We gathered here today know all about those days. We recognize the weariness of those days, the longing for happier times, for joy. But we can feel robbed of turning our minds to the future when our hearts are in the past. Frozen in time, when the clocks stood still and we laid our babies to rest. The thought of turning forward, to hope, to plan, can feel like turning our backs on our babies, leaving them there as we move on. But I want to say to you today this is not true. We carry our babies in our hearts with us into the future. They are ever present, as we remember and honour them. Their future is with us and we must have a future.
When you lose a baby you do not lose the right to happiness, joy, purpose or fulfillment. Your future does not have to be ruined by your past even if your present still hurts like hell.
It is a truth for all of us here today that we can still go to lead joyful, happy, purposeful and fulfilled lives. It will take time and we survivors of baby loss will feel like it’s a fight for joy after loss. But it is possible.
I want to make you a promise today, wherever you are in your journey of grief, however long ago you lost your baby, you will find happiness and joy again. You will find hope. Fragile, wisp in the wind hope that will become stronger and clearer until you can grab hold of it to wear as armour as you forge ahead, your baby in your heart, to dare to hope for better days, a family, life again, a new normal.
In the rich tapestry of life there is sadness and there is joy, there is anger, regret, excitement, anticipation. They all go hand in hand but for us, we can feel heavy and full with these emotions, thoughts and feelings.
I feel I’ve felt that full spectrum of those emotions, you see I’m now a mum looking after 2 children. Florence is only 5 months old, Poppy is nearly 5, and my oldest Evelyn would have been turning 6 at the end of this month had she lived. I’m like every other parent in the sense that I have children that I’m actively caring for and yet I am not like them. I am alone, separate, different, changed. I am a parent of a baby who died. Who has seen things, experienced and felt things, gone through things that most will never know.
So one of my fights is the joy of life with children, just as I fight to minimize the sadness. And even for parents like us there is joy to be had – not that I would have believed it for a long time after Evelyn’s death. The bittersweet quality of our lives is ever present. To begin with more bitter than sweet and we have to fight to swing that pendulum further away from the bitter and more towards the sweet. And what a fight it is. When you have had thoughts of ‘I’m sorry I couldn’t save you’ about your own child everything else can pale into insignificance. But there is still joy to be had like the wonder of nature, a rowdy football match, time with friends, a favorite film watched on repeat or a personal best at the gym; we don’t want to be robbed of that too, to loose that too.
Also I think some of being a parent after loss is having to fight for the right be a ‘normal’ parent who is tested and gets tired and gets annoyed at their children and who gets down from time to time from the daily grind of family life. It can feel complicated when you are faced with the normal challenges of parenthood when you’ve lost a baby.
For me, honesty time, I’m finding it hard having a 5 month old and a 4 year old, juggling their different needs, lack of sleep or time for myself, worrying I’m doing a good job. But for me, it’s really hard to admit to myself that I’m finding it hard. Harder to admit to others that I’m finding it hard and hardest of all to admit to you fine folk that I find it hard.
You see I don’t want to appear in any way to be ungrateful for having these children with me. I know how lucky I am to be doing this at all. I know how I longed to be looking after a baby after I lost Evelyn. I would have given anything to be up all night with a baby crying. And yet I’m finding it hard. I found our recent holiday hard – juggling a beach day with heat and a very fussy baby who wouldn’t feed well and a four year old who wanted to go rock pool exploring and got grumpy with tiredness and hunger.
But all this can reside side by side – being grateful to be a parent but finding the challenge of it difficult. Feeling excruciatingly sad that our baby died but also fantastically happy and joyful at a first word, first day of school, first dance. All this is life, real life. It’s ok to feel overwhelmed by the very thing you longed for. It’s ok to laugh and feel joy even though you lost your baby. It’s ok to embrace life and look to the future. Take you babies, nestle them safe in your hearts and look to the future and see what wonderful things come of it. We all stand together, bravely piecing our lives back together, we understand our loss, we understand our fight for joy.
Until next time, do what you can to find your smile