Life continues

I just could not understand how others (both known and unknown) were able to laugh, smile and celebrate whilst I mourned my loss. I remained in hospital for a couple of days after Isaac’s departure and being in there was like being in a cocoon which I did not appreciate until I stepped into the big ‘unfeeling’ world. As we drove home, I felt like hanging a sign on my head to portray the ordeal I had just been through in order for others to stop and stop carrying on as if nothing happened. Everywhere I turned it seemed it was business as usual. There were good days and bad days. I could not understand how people could pay us a visit and after conveying their condolence then engage in mundane talk, at that point I did not care about what was happening in the world. All I cared about was what had taken place in my world. In hindsight the ‘mundane’ talk at least helped take my mind off grieving continuously and focus on other things. From personal experience and my observations, I am of the opinion that majority of people who haven’t been through a similar experience are unable to understand the ups and downs of baby loss. My previous post ‘Out of sight is not out of mind’ highlights a few issues. Hence they may be unable to provide the on – going support (a phone call to check how you are, a shoulder to cry on when you need one, remembering the birth day of your baby(ies) and giving you space/time to adjust) required even days, weeks and years after the initial episode.

The day came when we made the decision ourselves that life indeed had to continue for us. We were very conscious that both our children (also Faith, who was born after Isaac) would never be forgotten. We planned and looked forward to a future with more children. I believe each mum can sense when it is time to forge ahead and when that time comes mum may life give you reasons to smile again!

It is good to talk!

I have always been the strong one. I have always given my shoulders for others to cry on. I have always listened to others discuss their heartache and hardly shared mine, because I could handle my own, until the day I went into hospital to give birth to my first son. After 8 hours of labour with intense pain and in and out of sleep, I woke up to find the room full of medics and the Registrar asked me ‘do you understand what is going on? We cannot find a heartbeat! I nodded my head but thought it can’t be and I was waiting to give birth to my son and was positive he would be born alive. He never uttered a sound after he was born, you could actually hear a pin drop in the room. It is a scenario no one would ever wish to live again and I did nine months down the line.

So, being the person that I am, who could I talk to? I am so grateful for the relationship I have with my husband, we talked a lot and sometimes we sat quietly as words sometimes could not express how we felt and other times we cried individually and together. But we believed against hope and were confident our story would have a great ending.

Despite my secretive nature and keeping things to myself, I knew I could not handle this on my own. Yes, I talked to God but I also needed to talk to other people. I found it useful to talk to others who had gone down this road before, women who were currently in my shoes and people who had never walked in my shoes before (medics, strangers, friends and family). The interesting thing was although the people I spoke to could not reverse what had taken place nor guarantee a ‘happy’ ending they provided a platform for me to ask questions, they listened and sometimes their encouragement brought comfort and gave me a glimmer of hope. And sometimes their comments made me very upset. I certainly had mood swings. The funny thing I discovered that though my situation looked bad some other women had it worse off than me and I ended up crying for them and myself after hearing/reading their stories.

We all need an avenue to be real, to say how we really feel and that in itself is liberating.

From loss to joy!

We were made to believe that my first son’s death was unavoidable and it was unfortunate Isaac was born stillborn. As the days and weeks passed by, I spent time processing what happened and lots of questions ensued. The response we got from the hospital was unsatisfactory and we decided to take it further because I felt if we let go, the same thing would happen to another family and I was also disappointed with the level of care I had received. After going back and forth for nearly three years, some of my complaints were upheld by the Health Care Commission but due to the length of time it had taken to get to this point, we had very little time to take the hospital to Court. I found the whole thing mentally, physically and emotionally draining. At that point I was upset that after trying for so long to get to the bottom of what happened, time was not on my side.

About two weeks to go to this deadline, I decided not to proceed any further because the road to discovery was far off, and neither an apology from the hospital nor compensation would replace what we lost. Instead I decided to let my loss/pain benefit others in similar situations and to prevent the same thing happening to expectant mums. It was not an easy journey but looking back, reaching out to other women in my position presented me with the opportunity to turn my loss to joy!

My pair of shoes!

 I am wearing a pair of shoes.
They are ugly shoes.
Uncomfortable Shoes.
I hate my shoes.
Each day I wear them, and each day I wish I had another pair.
Some days my shoes hurt so bad that I do not think I can take another step.
Yet, I continue to wear them.
I get funny looks wearing these shoes.
They are looks of sympathy.
I can tell in others eyes that they are glad they are my shoes and not theirs.
They never talk about my shoes.
To learn how awful my shoes are might make them uncomfortable.
To truly understand these shoes you must walk in them.
But, once you put them on, you can never take them off.
I now realize that I am not the only one who wears these shoes.
There are many pairs in the world.
Some women are like me and ache daily as they try and walk in them.
Some have learned how to walk in them so they don’t hurt quite as much.
Some have worn the shoes so long that days will go by
before they think of how much they hurt.
No woman deserves to wear these shoes.
Yet, because of the shoes I am a stronger woman.
These shoes have given me the strength to face anything.
They have made me who I am.
I will forever walk in the shoes of a woman who has lost a child.

Author Unknown

Lean on me

 I have come to the realisation that no matter how ‘strong’ a person is, there comes a time or season in every one’s life when we all need someone to lean on. And it is okay to be vulnerable and to ask for and receive whatever support is required.

Personally I found the texts, phone calls, cards and prayers from friends, colleagues, my biological and spiritual family very encouraging. More so the visits and embrace from certain key figures (mentors) made a world of difference by bringing hope, peace and comfort.

Just as I have benefited from the care and love offered by those mentioned above, it is imperative that I am available for others to lean on in their ‘trying’ time. I am always perplexed at how we as humans indirectly withdraw our support to the bereaved and can carry on with business as usual a few weeks/months after their loss. This may be due to not knowing what to say/do and the belief that the bereaved needs to get over it and continue with their lives.

Sometimes it is difficult for people who have not walked in these shoes before to understand the full implication of baby loss.  Hence they may be unable to fully comprehend your actions, anger, frustration, disappointment, pain or guilt. However there are many others who can identify and walk with you on this journey.

 You don’t need to walk this road by yourself, there are people you can lean on!

Making sense of what happened

The best advice I received from one of our mentors was not to sit at the junction of questions. So I did stand and walk past that junction many times just to get my head around the events surrounding my first son’s death (I had to do something if you know what I mean).

The benefit of asking questions in my opinion enabled me process what really took place, placed me in a better stead to support others, provided me with insight on how to deal with medics and respond to friends and family, it gave me the opportunity to discover God’s take on my predicament, instigated my healing process and served as a form of closure some time down the line.

Of course I did not get answers to all my questions but my time of reflection (both a one- off process immediately after my first loss and a on and off process subsequently) was adequate to keep me sane and enabled me go forward despite the uncertainties and anxiety. But despite the unknown, the peace and comfort I received from God was very real, soothing and assuring that my future would be just fine.

When things make no sense, you are frustrated, fed up and perhaps feel like giving up. Remember the word of God to you in Jeremiah 29:11

I say this because I know what I am planning for you,” says the Lord. “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future.

A loss is a loss

 I found out from personal experience and from chatting with some mums that it does not matter when and why a baby died, the fact still remains that a precious life was lost and the mum needs time and space to grieve.

The when

Six weeks, sixteen weeks or a thirty seven weeks pregnancy, few days old, few months old, a year old …, It absolutely does not matter what stage the pregnancy was or age the baby was, from the numerous accounts I have read on baby loss, each woman irrespective of the ‘when’ has lost what she had spent days, months and years anticipating and the loss should not be trivialised no matter the stage or age of the baby.

The why

I have sometimes heard people say perhaps the baby died because he/she may have brought the parents much headache in future, may have developed some disease or he/she just was not meant to be. But the reality in my opinion is no one on earth is perfect and despite our imperfections or challenges most if not all of our parents would still want us despite the ‘buts’ in our lives. During my last pregnancy I was told during one of the scans my baby had a chance of developing down syndrome or some form of a chromosomal abnormality. We were given a choice of doing an Amniocentesis and attend counselling. We chose not to go for either as we were not going to terminate the baby if the results confirmed our baby was going to develop down syndrome or any form of chromosomal abnormality. We just prayed and trusted God that all would go well. Babies die for various reasons ( i.e. medical issues, negligence, poor health care, a lack of knowledge) and some would still be here if these avoidable reasons were tackled.

Although I have experienced baby loss, I am very careful what I say when I come across another mum who is just bereaved for the following reasons:

• No two losses are exactly the same, there will always be common threads but the loss is personal to the bereaved. Hence I avoid saying things like I know what you are going through or what you are feeling

• Time will heal. From my own experience what healed was my faith in God and the comfort he gave me. Time only gave me the opportunity to reflect on what had happened.

• My loss occurred over five years ago, and where I am is a long way from where I was then. Therefore I reach out to other women now initially by first walking in their shoes before offering any comfort or advice.

Each new life… No matter how brief… Forever changes the world of those involved.