“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. 

Today you are nine months old

Dear Theo,

today on Monday the 13th of February 2017, you are nine months old. 

That might not seem like a long existence but already you have taught me a great deal about myself, what I am capable of, and how to deal with life’s challenges. 
Being pregnant with you was the scariest time of my whole life, I was so worried we would lose you. I had to learn how to be scared – every minute of every day – but still carry on with life, go to work, see friends and cook dinner, when all I really wanted to do was hibernate and hope the weeks would pass. I learned how important it is to keep active, to exercise and to always have lovely treats to look forward to! Every Monday, Daddy and I would go and see the doctor for a scan to see how you were doing. Every week we were sure that this would be the week we were told you were either dead or dying. We used to sit in the waiting room feeling sick, with our hearts racing, holding each other’s sweaty hands. I learned that no matter how scared I was, it didn’t have to stop me from doing something, I could be scared and still do whatever it was that was terrifying me, like going back to the maternity hospital or to pregnancy yoga. Often it actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, the power of my imagination worse than the reality. Now I can’t imagine being too scared to do anything that’s important to me; I know I can face any fear. You taught me that.

When you were born, you were so small and perfect. New to the world, you had everything to learn. I’ve watched how you’ve grown and changed, how every day you manage something that just yesterday you couldn’t do. I’ve seen that growth doesn’t happen by accident, you work so hard for every ounce of development you achieve. I watch you try to do something tricky, you can’t do it and yet you try again and again, sometimes falling over and getting hurt (when I am too slow to stop you!) and other times frustrating yourself. I think “That baby is crazy, why doesn’t he realise he can’t do it, and give up?”  But you are so determined. Every attempt leaves you that tiniest bit stronger – it’s such slow progress it’s imperceptible. But then one day you are strong enough and you manage it. Lifting your head up, rolling over, sitting up, feeding yourself, crawling, these are all skills that didn’t just arrive fully formed, you worked hard for them, day after day. I’ve realised there isn’t really a first time for rolling over, or sitting up or crawling – there are hundreds of attempts that get closer and closer and then evolve in to the realisation of the milestone. I see this is the same for me and the things I want to achieve, the ways I want to grow and change. Instead of thinking of failed attempts and giving up, I need to think of practice, and getting stronger over time until it comes with the ease you now have with rolling and sitting, as if they were things you could always do. 

Right now you are trying to walk. All you want to do is stand up and be walked around the room. You are so unsteady and need a lot of support. You keep taking massive steps that unbalance you! It’s hard to imagine how you will ever be able to balance and take those steps on your own. But I know that you will keep trying until you master it and that some day you will be walking and running and jumping as if you were never nine months old and unable to stand unaided. You are my inspiration little one. 

You are so good at living in the moment baba. This is mostly a helpful skill to keep. When something unpleasant is over and you are distracted, it is instantly forgotten, the perpetrator immediately forgiven and all is right with the world. It always amazes me how quickly you go from crying to laughing. Your little face that was so sad lights up, and the eyes that were wet with tears are now crinkled with mirth. Something I need to work on is letting hurtful things go, not holding on to resentments, and enjoying the good moments without always feeling a tinge of sadness for what has gone before. 

Sometimes though I wish you could understand that your hard times won’t last too long. You hate getting your nappy changed – especially when it’s dirty as it takes a bit longer! You hate having to lie down as you like to be sitting up and seeing what is going on! If you only knew that it would only take a minute or two I think you would find it easier. It makes me think of how the same is true for me. Often when I’m struggling with something hard like feeling sad, or worried or guilty, part of the problem is that I think I might always feel that way. I am trying to think of your nappy changes and that “this too shall pass”. I can cope better with hard things when I stay in the present and remember that I won’t always feel that way. I think of how sometimes you are so cross with being changed that you try to wriggle away, bat your arms and kick your legs! It actually makes the nappy change take longer than if you just lay there still (also it can get poo everywhere!). I think sometimes I fight back with my emotions and can make things worse than if I just accepted them for what they are and dealt with them. 

Daddy and I are learning to be playful again. That is something we lost when Isobel was born asleep. Once we thought we might never laugh again, but you are so funny though wee Theo that you make us laugh every single day. We don’t care how silly we look or how awful our singing is, if it makes you laugh we will look like fools! Your little giggle is so infectious and it’s without a doubt my favourite sound in the world. 

Already we know you are a very clever boy little monkey. Another thing you are very good at is seeking help. If you can’t do something or get somewhere you want to get, if you’re hurt or upset, you cry out straight away. Now you also know to lift your arms up and yell when you want to be picked up. I don’t know why we lose that skill as we get older. Sometimes I’m so sad or lonely and all I want is to let someone know that I need help, what I should do is cry out straight away like you do, and lift up my arms to the people that I know are there. For some reason I stop myself from doing this, maybe because I don’t want people to think I’m not coping. I think I should take my lead from you and call for help at the first sign of trouble! I love that you are so confident that someone will come when you cry. I hope you always know that I and others will drop everything to help you when you need it, all you need to do is shout. 

Daddy and I are not the Mummy and Daddy we would have been to Isobel if she were here. We are different in some bad ways but maybe in some good ways too. We try and appreciate every moment with you little one, even when you are being a little terror or it’s 5am and we still haven’t been to sleep! We know we are so lucky to have you. 

We love you so much precious Theo, not just for coming along at a time we were sad and bringing us joy, but for your smiley sweet stubborn snuggley little self. 

You are now crying upstairs as Daddy is putting you to bed so I better go and help!!!!

All my love,

Mummy. 

P.S you’ve been saying ‘dada’ for months now, I think it’s time to say ‘mama’! 

Lost Levity 

Simon and I took Theo to a ‘Baby’s First Christmas’ baby sensory class at the weekend which was lots of fun.

At one point, a couple beside us were playing with a balloon. The dad bopped the mum on the head with the balloon and laughing, she grabbed it and bopped him back. Something I really notice when we’re out with (what I perceive to be) normal/non-loss parents is that Simon and I have lost a lot of our lightness and playfulness that we once had with each other. 

Although we really try to interact with Theo in a fun and joyful way – Simon is a lot better at this than me – I don’t think we make the same effort with each other anymore. Silly things like play fighting, tickling or teasing each other which we used to do would just seem really alien now. I feel like we’ve become an old married couple years and years before our time because of the weight of grief and everything we’ve been through. Sometimes Simon makes me laugh and I notice how strange it seems and unusual even though I laugh at Theo all the time. 

I don’t really have anything profound to say on this topic! It’s just something I’ve noticed and I wonder if our levity is something we can ever get back?  

We Keep This Love In A Photograph 


These are some of the photographs of Isobel that we have in our living room, there is another single one on the TV unit and another in the hall. So far, we don’t actually have any pictures of Theo printed out or on display! 

My mum asked me recently if I could print her this picture of Theo as the ones she has up in her house aren’t her favourites and she liked this one. I found myself feeling really angry, and not understanding why until I thought about it later. My mum and dad only have one picture of Isobel in their house and mum deliberately picked the one below that you can’t really see Isobel in. My dad has said before that he doesn’t feel comfortable seeing pictures of Isobel so I think mum has avoided putting one up because of him and maybe other visitors too. 


Even though I understand why, I am cross that one of my children is good enough to be displayed by their grandparents and one of them is not. To me, they are equal, but this photograph issue and so many other things remind me constantly that to the eyes of others, Theo matters and Isobel does not. 

I feel angry and sad that we don’t have more pictures of Isobel. Even though we took literally hundreds of pictures in the four days we had with her, if there aren’t already more pictures of Theo, there soon will be. Our house will be filled with images of Theo, in different poses and clothes, different places and seasons, getting older and older (I hope!), but there will never, ever, be any more pictures of Isobel. Those hospital photos, that one babygrow, that look of pure trauma on our faces, are all we will ever have. I think I’ve resisted putting up pictures of Theo because I don’t want him to overtake Isobel on our walls, in the same way a mother with two living children wouldn’t have significantly more pictures of one than the other. I also have more of a need to see Isobel’s face in pictures, as I can see Theo’s adorable wee face any time. 

We are moving house soon, we are buying our first house (how I feel about moving from this one may be another post). I am definitely going to put up some pictures of Theo when we move. I just don’t know how I will feel when we have more of Theo than of Isobel.