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.

Out of sight is not out of mind

Baby loss is an individual thing and the grieving process I have discovered varies from person to person and is not time bound as the loss is multidimensional. I find it interesting to note that some people indirectly felt I needed to forget about my past and ‘move on.’

On one hand there came a time when the initial pain I felt when we lost our babies was not an integral part of my life. However my babies are a part of my history and their handprints are all over my future.

Why I cannot forget my babies

  • Each time I come across another Isaac or Faith, I am reminded that these babies were once a part of our lives
  • Each time the time clocks 11: 12 am or 11:23pm, I remember the moment these precious lives made their entrance into our world
  • Each time I am asked how many children do you have? I remember the ones that once were
  • Each time it is my babies’ birthday, I remember that things could have been different
  • Each time I become pregnant and have a hospital appointment I have to recount my past medical history
  • Each time I come across children that were born around the same time as Isaac and Faith, I remember once more
  • Each time I hear another baby has departed, I recall being in the same shoes some years back

I am of the opinion that anyone who has experienced a baby loss does not remain the same. For some it breaks them and for others they metamorphose in various ways. My outlook of life after my loss is totally different.

What keeps me going?

  • The assurance that I would see my babies in the near future
  • My purpose in life
  • The fact that something good needs to come out of my pain
  • Others do not need to go through what I went through
  • My family
  • There are many in the same position I can reach out to
  • The presence of God

My loss has not disabled me but it has enabled me to fulfil my life purpose and hopefully to bring laughter, faith and optimism to many lives.

You are not alone!

When we lost our first son Isaac, despite a full term and straightforward pregnancy, I felt abandoned, alone and at that moment nothing else mattered. Like Gideon I asked ‘’if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?’’ It seemed no one understood and felt my pain.

As the months went by, I discovered that thousands of women before me have walked that path. As I reflected, numerous scriptures began to dawn on me.

  • Psalm 23: 4 (even when I walk through the darkest valley … he is close beside me)
  • Isaiah 43: 2 (When I pass through the waters, he is with me; and when I pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over me. When I walk through the fire, I will not be burned;  the flames will not set me ablaze
  • Heb 13:5 ( he will never leave nor forsake me)
  • Psalm 86:7 (I will call to him whenever I’m in trouble/difficulty, and he will answer me).

Isaac went home over five years ago and indeed I can confidently say I know without a shadow of a doubt he loves me, his thoughts towards me are good and surely he has given me the future I hoped for and more.

God understands your pain, he is with you and your end would be full of joy. Let me leave you with this scripture he gave me as I lay on the hospital bed five days after we lost Isaac: do meditate on it till it sinks into your spirit.

So don’t worry, because I am with you. Don’t be afraid, because I am your God. I will make you strong and will help you; I will support you with my right hand that saves you (Isaiah 41:10).

If you need to talk, or just want a listening ear, I am here for you.