A Feeling of Shame 

  

I work in a service that offers specialist consultation to other mental health services working with young people. It means that I meet a lot of different staff from all across the region. We also do direct work with some young people and families but only see them every 6-8 weeks. The point of this introductory ramble is to explain that I meet lots of people through work, and even now, having been back in work for three months, I’m still meeting people for the first time who last saw me when I was heavily pregnant with Isobel. And here I am heavily pregnant again (I’m 28 weeks but flipping huge). 

On meeting people for the first time, I’ve repeatedly become aware of an emotional experience that I’m finding it hard to make sense of so I thought writing might help. 

It feels like shame. 

I’m conscious that people will see my rather unmissable bump and have some level of judgement about my second pregnancy. I notice that I try to hide my stomach behind a file or cross my arms – as if that would even disguise my obvious pregnancy. I actively avoid small talk before and after consultations, swiftly exiting after meetings are finished. For someone who delighted in showing off my bump and talking about my first pregnancy, this is such a change. I’m not explicitly aware of caring what other people think about my personal life, and I don’t rationally believe I have any reason to be ashamed…but the feeling persists. 
  
One of the difficulties is that I’m never sure who knows that Isobel was stillborn and who is not aware. For those who don’t know, maybe I’m worried that they will ask about her or make a comment about my having a second baby so soon. When asked, I am always open about the loss of Isobel but this can make me feel vulnerable and unsure of myself which in a professional setting (where I am supposed to be the ‘expert’ being consulted) is uncomfortable. For those who do know about my bereavement, I’m not sure what I fear people think. Maybe that I mustn’t have been that affected by losing Isobel if I bounced back so quickly, or that her loss has been cancelled out by this new baby and I must be fine now. That getting over losing my daughter was as easy as ‘trying again’ but more successfully this time. Incidentally the phrase trying again really angers me, like my daughter was a failed attempt at life, like I’m a failure. The idea of losing another baby and coming back to work to face all these people again, having failed, obviously, again, is more than I can bear. 

The rational part of me knows that firstly most people are so self-involved as to spare me little thought at all and secondly that any sensible person will understand that pregnancy after loss is a much wanted but difficult experience that does not soothe the grief for the child that is gone. I know that Isobel wasn’t a failure, that I’m not a failure. But it’s not the rational part of me that feels the burning, shame feeling and wants to hide the outward sign of life in my belly. 

If I’m honest, I do feel guilty that I got pregnant so soon after Isobel was born. I worry that I haven’t dedicated enough time for pure grief, for just missing my daughter, without simultaneously giving headspace to her sibling. I notice already that other people expect me to be more comfortable with pregnancy and babies because I’m pregnant. I’m not. They mention Isobel less, preferring to look ahead to our second baby, to indulge in more pleasant conversation. I think I have concerns about how to keep Isobel’s memory alive for others, when a memory is such a flimsy thing to have to compete with a living baby. It’s almost as if by having another baby I feel like I am killing Isobel again.

This post has gone somewhere I wasn’t expecting and I’m probably more confused than ever so I’m going to leave it there! Welcome to the wonderfully disorienting world of life after stillbirth… 

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10 thoughts on “A Feeling of Shame 

  1. The mix of emotions is so tough isn’t it? I wanted to hide my bump a lot to begin with but like you I’m absolutely massive so there’s not really any chance of that! I hate it when people ask when I’m due, expecting me to say next week and then I tell them I have another three months! You know that these are all anxieties bubbling to the surface. People probably aren’t judging at all. I know how you feel though and you’re not alone xx

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    1. Thank you! I feel so huge too and three people in work this week commented about how I must be going off work soon, I’m sure they thought I’m further along than I am! Hope you’re doing ok and managing to keep the anxiety at a manageable level! We’re getting there xx

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  2. I have a friend who had a stillbirth and became pregnant 3 months later with her sibling. Every night she talks to her daughter about her older sister. I know it’s not a lot, but it’s one idea to make sure she’s always a part of your family.
    As for people judging you or feeling like they are- fuck them. You deserve to be proud of Isobel’s brother and show him off without feeling people’s judgment. He also deserves be celebrated just like his sister was. I’m so sorry you’re experiencing all this emotions on top of typically pregnancy woes.

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    1. Thank you, you’re so right! It’s an emotional rollercoaster as if pregnancy wasn’t hard enough! I want this baby to be celebrated and then I’m so scared to even talk about him! I hope when he arrives lots of things will get so much easier. I definitely want him to know all about Isobel and she will always be included as part of our family in some way xx

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  3. I remember these feelings myself. While happy and proud to be pregnant again I knew it would open discussions of it was my first pregnancy (and still if Owen is my first child). Second pregnancy also doesn’t erase the pain of the first baby and there are people who think you’re now “ok” because this new baby is filling the void of the first. But that’s far from the truth.
    Pregnancies after the death of a first is very complicated for everyone. And complicated once you’ve had the baby. So many emotions and some of them you just can’t always rationalize.

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    1. So many emotions! I think for me I like to be rational and I’m so aware I can’t be rational at all right now!!! I guess it’s just accepting the whole emotional experience and riding it out! I’m sure there will be a lifetime of triggers even when this baby comes, losing Isobel is something that will always be present no matter what else happens and it’s hard sometimes to accept that. Hope you and your little Owen are doing well xx

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      1. Thanks Hun, Owen is great! And yes there are still triggers for me nearly 5 years later. But time and life move forward and I’ve moved on and I’m living so much more in the now so there’s less time for the death of my daughter to be the forefront of “this is my life”. It’s part of my history but my life right now if my boy. It’s nice to be on the other side of grief. But absolutely there are times I just cry. Some thing triggers a memory or emotion. And I’m sure will be with me until the end.

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  4. 😦 You are not a bad person for getting pregnant ‘so soon’ after Isobel died, you’re dealing with the most devastating grief of all. As far as I’m concerned you should do WHATEVER it takes to survive each additional day without your beautiful little girl.

    It isn’t wrong that you’re pregnant again, it’s what you needed to do. I can’t imagine how much emotional anguish you are in right now, but you have a right to feel happy not guilty. I hope that one day I also have the strength to try for my little boy Max’s rainbow sibling xxx thinking of you, Isobel & Rainbow xxx

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    1. Thank you so much George. So sorry for your loss of Max. You’re right, there are no rights or wrongs in grieving, just what gets you through it! I hope you get your rainbow when you’re ready, I am sure Max will have given you all the strength needed xx

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