“I want to write something really profound”

“I want to write something really profound” I tell my husband. What I think I mean is that I want to write something that will make people understand exactly what it’s like to have a stillborn daughter. Not just what it’s like to have found out she was dead, or what it was like to give birth to my dead baby, or what it was like to bury her; but what it is like to be the mother of a dead child every single day for two years now. And then to know that tomorrow you will still be the mother of a dead child. To know that every day that comes, for weeks, for months, for years, for the rest of your life, that you will always be the mother of a dead child. That you will forever have a break that can’t be repaired – a weight that can’t be set down, only endlessly borne. 

I want to write something that could let people see how Isobel’s death was not an event that occurred in the past  but instead is a never ending process of loss that happens to me over and over, again and again, day after day, night after night. What could I write that would explain that feeling of having left the real me in hospital on 24th June, still sitting in the scan room waiting for a doctor to come in and check on my baby? How can I describe the sense of living life and having to function while only ever being partially, superficially present? Would people be able to understand when I say that I’m so detached at times that internally I have to remind myself to join in interactions? It’s like being a cardboard cut out of a person who looks normal from the front but on closer inspection is only propped up by a flimsy piece of cardboard. Or like being a derelict building that has been covered with a fake shop front to hide the decay inside. 

I keep thinking I want to make a list of all the times I lose Isobel in a typical day, just to demonstrate the daily impact of her absence. The times my mind returns to pregnancy or the days before she died, running and rerunning scenarios where I did something different and she was saved. How I hate myself when I return to what really happened. The times I could vomit when I think of her body rotting in a coffin. The people I see in work and still now my first thought after tens of encounters is how they didn’t acknowledge her death when I came back. The colleagues who are innocently talking about what a nightmare teenage daughters are. Listening to the parents of clients talk about their mourning and grief of having a gender diverse child. The babies that are the same age as Isobel on my Facebook newsfeed that I don’t know whether to hide or not. The questions from strangers about the make up of my family. Baby girl clothes with flamingos on them. Questioning my parenting of Theo. Sometimes loving him with a desperate neediness, sometimes resenting him because he is not her. Not knowing if it’s ok to admit that or not. Feeling guilty for feeling sad around Theo. Feeling guilty for feeling happy with Theo. Being challenged by my husband about any aspect of mothering and my mind hearing “how can I trust you with Theo when you let Isobel die?”. Not trusting my instincts anymore. Never knowing where and when or how I’ll be faced with a trigger. TV, radio, books, and conversations all being laced with danger. This is a window to a typical day’s content. If I made a tally of every moment that is affected by Isobel’s death would one go past without a mark being made? 

If I said that a part of me longs to go back to the immediate aftermath of losing Isobel would people find that strange? That if I could, I would willingly revisit that raw, uncomplicated grief – a time when there were no expectations to function, and nothing to do but sit in despair and feel how close to Isobel I could be. I remember the times I screamed, the times I cried so hard I thought I would shatter and I miss that. I need it but I don’t know how to make it come back. Crying now is brief, and unsatisfying. 

I don’t know why I feel this need to try and make people understand. Who even are people? I don’t know if it would be the same if Isobel had died after living outside my body. The belief that it’s ‘worse’ to lose an older child is one I find difficult to tolerate. Maybe I feel like I need to validate my own grief? 

I like to think that all I want as I write this is to make Isobel exist in someone else’s mind for a little while, but maybe I want sympathy or just any kind of attention? What good does it do though if I were to share what I’ve written here on my Facebook page and get some ‘likes’ and comments. Realistically 90% of them would be from friends who have also lost babies who already live everything I’ve said themselves. 

How would life be different if everyone in the world could know what it is like to be the mother of a dead child? Would it make this life easier? 

I’m still debating posting this, or a version of this on my personal Facebook page so I think I’ll sleep on it! Meanwhile I’ll leave it here. My soundtrack has been Radiohead at Glastonbury (on TV). Amazing. Epic. My spiritual home. Gutted I’m not there. 

Things I’m feeling guilty for…

I’m conscious that I haven’t written a blog post for ages! There have been times I’ve wanted to but I just haven’t made the effort. It seems like what I need to write at the minute is a list of things I’m feeling guilty for, in no particular order!!! 

Things I’m feeling guilty for 

– Ignoring my blog

– I haven’t been to Isobel’s grave since Christmas Eve. This is terrible. I hate seeing her pretty name on the grave. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do there. Am I supposed to cry? Am I supposed to talk to her? I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to picture her rotting body which is what I tend to do. Should I go more often to get over this association? Should I only go when I really want to? What if that means I never go? 

– I didn’t make any effort for Theo for Easter. I saw all these babies on Instagram with Easter outfits and bunnies and it literally never even occurred to me to do anything for him. Am I neglecting both my children?

– Theo being in nursery long days. 

– My friend told me last night she is pregnant with twins! It was a huge surprise as she hasn’t been with her boyfriend for that long and I thought they might get engaged first. I am happy for her and really excited…but I’m also jealous of her naïveté, her excitement and honestly some part of me almost wants something bad to happen so that she knows how it feels. She was saying about how she has to tell our other friend separately as she has been through cancer and it looks like her fertility has been negatively affected. It didn’t seem to occur to her that I would have complicated feelings to a pregnancy announcement now that I have Theo. But I do. 

– We’re planning Theo’s first birthday. I want to be excited and happy, and I am, but I feel sick about it too. As Theo gets older, Isobel’s death and absence gets starker. Why is she not here? 

– I’ve barely even thought about Isobel’s anniversary. 

– I still haven’t printed out never mind framed, any photos of Theo. 

– Simon and I aren’t getting on as well as I would like. Sometimes we’re fine but other times we are really horrible to each other and that’s more often than I would like. I love how he is with Theo, he’s the best dad ever, but I don’t feel like we have much fun together anymore. This worries me. He’s quite insecure at the minute and says he gets the feeling I’m not ‘in love’ with him anymore. I probably should be making more of an effort to make him feel loved but I kinda can’t be bothered either which makes me worry if he’s right? 

[ Related ]

– Theo was sick and Simon wanted me to take him to the doctor again, I didn’t think it was necessary. Simon said “We have a habit of thinking things are ok when they’re not…”. I took this to relate to Isobel. The night before she died I had a little pain while out for a walk. I was excited thinking it was the beginning of labour. Simon said we should go to hospital, I brushed it off thinking there was no need until the pain was regular / worse. It went away. The next day there was no movement and she was dead. 

– Isobel died. 
– I let Isobel die. 

– I didn’t prevent her from dying. 

– I did this to myself, to Simon, to our family, to Theo. 

– I’m letting it affect me. 

– I’m letting it affect me too much. 

– I’m not letting it affect me enough. 

– I don’t know what to do with this. 

The Crushing Weight of Responsibility 

  
I’m feeling a lot like this Spidey at the minute but without the benefit of his superpowers or muscular toned thighs! 

Since our lil rainbow baba’s movements have been more definitive, I feel such extreme pressure to know at all times if he is moving or when he last moved. I’m feeling like I can’t concentrate on anything else. There have been times in work when people have been talking to me and I’ve just been superficially listening, with my main focus of attention being in my tummy! It’s getting in the way of everything I do, including trying to sleep, and I’m quite probably going to go insane with it all! It really doesn’t help that I have an anterior placenta so depending on the baby’s position, movement feels vastly different on different days but very often is pretty gentle and ‘internal’ rather than big tummy wobbling kicks. I haven’t started to do official kick counts. The guidance around this is so confusing and has moved away from counting a specific number of movements but I think maybe having three (?) set times a day that I specifically pay attention might help me rather than trying to do it all the time.

So far I’ve gone to hospital twice outside of my normal weekly appointment with concern about movement, once at 23 weeks and this weekend past at 27 weeks. Both times I felt that the baby hadn’t been as active as usual that day. Because the process of going to hospital is so traumatic, I actually find myself putting off going rather than going immediately – which is how I thought I would be. The first time I waited and waited, and got myself into a really horrible state of panic and was convinced the baby was dead. The second time, I went sooner after I became concerned so I was still pretty calm which was a much better experience. Both times if I’m honest I know that I was having particularly hard days on an emotional level. I suppose it makes sense that when my mood is generally worse, I’m more likely to worry about the baby and then if he’s not very active, or is in a bad position, the whole rocky ‘holding it together’ act falls apart! Luckily we don’t live too far from the hospital and so far the staff we’ve met have been very understanding. 

We got a report back of a file review of my antenatal care with Isobel. The opinion of the reviewer is that my antenatal care was adequate. She wrote that MPFD is known to be associated with sudden foetal death with no warning signs. On the one hand, we get this message that there were no signs that there was anything wrong with Isobel’s placenta but then they try to reassure us saying we’ll be monitored so closely this time. It doesn’t make sense. How can monitoring be reassuring if there are no warning signs??!! I have some questions about that to ask, but I’m sure that reading the report has not helped with my fear that this baby will suddenly die one day like his sister. As much as I trust my doctor and am grateful for the close monitoring, it feels very much like it’s up to me alone to know if something is not right with the baby and to quickly respond to that. Isobel’s postmortem stated that she was deprived of oxygen over a six hour period. If MPFD strikes again, it could happen that quickly and what if I notice too late again?

  

The feelings of responsibility for keeping this baby alive, have made me think more about my ideas of responsibility for Isobel’s death. I have tried not to get stuck on thoughts of being to blame for her dying, or feelings of guilt. I know these are not fair or helpful. However on  a factual level, if I had noticed a reduction in movement in the hours during which she wasn’t getting enough oxygen and had responded immediately to this, there is a chance that she could have been saved. I know there are a million more ‘what ifs’ that relate to things other than me but that one still stands out and I can imagine it’s one I will struggle with more or less for the rest of my life. I will continue with my process of noticing it, reminding myself that it’s not helpful, and letting it go.