I'm writing this not to be morbid but to show that things do move forward, even when you can't ever move on. Even when you expect the world to end. When Olivia died I went online and tried to find others who had lost babies as a way to understand what was happening to me. What I learned most of all was that I wasn't going crazy, I was normal. So here I am bearing my soul today, it's painful but if one other parent finds this and realises that they're going to be ok, my job is done.
The good stuff
I have mentioned before that I have lovely memories of labour and delivery. It really was amazing. Adrenaline still takes over, your body knows it still has a job to do. It felt natural and normal somehow. It was too late for an epidural so I gave birth the old fashioned, pain-free way. It was lovely. I also have nice memories of spending time with her over the following days and the day of her ceremony was beautiful. Being able to hold her, have our family and friends see her, my husband dressing her, I am so grateful for all those memories.
The worst times
I am going to list the worst things I remember, most are too painful to talk about, before I go on to the moving forward part. I do this because I know some of you will relate and also because people are afraid to talk about this stuff. For the most part I now feel differently about the things on this list.
*Confusion over feeling movement when I moved against the bump after the news and before delivery
*My husbands pain
*Having her in my tummy but knowing she wasn't alive
*Milk coming in - nature can be very, very cruel. Terrorising.
*Looking pregnant for a few days after delivery - people giving you that knowing smile but they were wrong.
*Instinct - my body telling me I should be looking after my baby, hearing phantom cries etc. I cleaned the house like mad the day after I have birth. My body was telling me to take care of her but I had no baby.
*Feeling like I killed her. I knew it, I didn't think it. She was perfect and my body killed her. I've always felt my body, mind and soul together make me who I am and each one affects the other. This lead me to blame myself.
*Leaving the hospital with my pillow and a memory box instead of a baby like everyone else.
*Walking through the front door with said pillow and memory box instead of our baby
*Seeing her clothes in the press
*Cancelling the order for the double stroller and the lady asking why.
*Not looking pregnant any more a week after delivery, back in pre-pregnancy jeans; I had nothing to show for what I went through. No baby, not even a stretchmark or a section scar. That was difficult.
*Seeing baby sisters together for the first few months
*Babies with dark hair for the first few weeks, as Eve is blonde and Olivia was dark
*Cremation. Can't say more.
Empty arms, empty arms, empty arms.
Have do you go on?
I don't know. But you do. For me the first three weeks were a blur of horror. I screamed over and over again, I want my baby, I just want my baby - even thinking about the pain I was in has made the tears come. That was my darkest time. After 3 weeks the unbearable days became every second day. Then a few good days followed by one bad, back to a few good ones. After 8 weeks had passed I had an unbearable morning or afternoon or night but never all day. By 12 weeks I was having a bad hour here and there during the week. Now 6 months on I still cry, I still grieve but I mostly smile and I'm mostly happy.
Everyone is different. Let it happen whatever way it happens. My husband and I decided together before I gave birth that we would let the agony flow in, however unbearable it was we weren't going to hide from it or try brush it under the carpet. It was torture. We got through it.You go from surviving one minute at a time, to one hour, to one afternoon, to one day. The loss never goes away I hear, you never stop missing your baby, no other pregnancy or baby can replace what you have lost but you do move forward somehow and life does get better.
How do I cope?
* On bad nights I slept with her picture frame in my arms.
* I keep a journal. I don't write in it all the time, only when I need to. Every few months they say you can look back and see how far you've come. They recommend not reading it too close to the time you wrote it as it can drag you back.
* I wrote a list of every single positive thing that came from having and losing Olivia. Every detail. It was three pages long. I read this list any time I'm consumed by the bad memories.
* I spend time with her by doing things like going through her memory box, holding her bunny or blanket, looking at photos.
* Scrapbooking - I would never have thought of this if it weren't for the A Little Lifetime Foundation. My favourite way to spend time with her is to make her scrapbook. That being said, some days it's too hard. Other days I enjoy it. You have to go with the mood you're in that day.
* Accepting that life in bitter-sweet. Eve and my husband make me so happy. Despite the sadness I feel I am still happy. Every event we experience has a bitter-sweet edge. For example, Christmas was so fun watching Eve but I know in your heart that my other baby was supposed to have a place at the dinner table this Christmas.
* At the beginning I accepted what happened after reading about early onset severe pre-eclampsia. The science of what happened offered me comfort - my baby wasn't singled out. It's nature, it can be amazing and it can be cruel. This also helped me deal with the feeling that I was to blame. My body was sick and it let Olivia down but the reason it happened couldn't be helped. Nothing I could have done would have changed it.
* Knowing that had they delivered her when I was admitted to hospital and not waited she might not have lived long. The blood supply had been cutting off slowly for a number of weeks. It was not a sudden thing. Her growth was being restricted before my symptoms showed.
*Knowing that she has brought us all closer together.
*Trying to look for the good in every little thing. It's there.
*Seeing a counsellor to deal with grief. I can say things to her I can't say to my family.
*Mostly I cope by taking one day at a time.
I have been contacted my so many mothers and fathers who have lost babies. I'm no expert but my only advice to anyone who has lost a baby is - Let it come. It's the only way to move through it. However horrible and unbearable it is, let it come.
Take care of yourselves,