Today I am on a podcast called Birth Stories, where I share my account of Orla’s birth. Whilst I have shared aspects of our story previously, talking about it is pretty different to writing about it. There is an element of reliving the experience in more detail when you say it out loud (and for this reason, I do appreciate that it may not be right for everyone to listen – follow your own instinct on this one, but know that I do approach it sensitively).
I’ll be honest that when I was first asked to be a guest on this podcast, I was a bit hesitant – would people want to hear me talk more about Orla and her arrival into the world? Knowing that she died is one thing, but really connecting to the reality of what it means to birth a baby who is no longer alive is something very different. When birth and death collide so forcefully, we want to turn our heads the other way. We do not want to face it – I certainly didn’t – because it is intolerable. The ending of a life before it has even really begun.
I have asked myself many times since recording it, what is my purpose and intention in doing this and sharing our birth story? Why did I say yes, particularly at a time when I am trying to share less on social media? And I guess it really comes down to wanting to help people understand the reality of stillbirth. That it is still birth. That, however you birth your baby, you birthed your baby,and this story deserves to be told and to be heard. Continue Reading
Significant dates have a way of making you stop and reflect. To think about what has been and what may be to come. Setting intentions and hopes and remembering what you are grateful for, as well as acknowledging what causes pain and suffering.
It was unfortunate that the flow of reflection that May brings from me was well and truly intercepted by my first real experience of what I have come to know as trolling. For it to happen on that date of Orla’s death, on a post that described my feelings about that, was not ideal to say the least. At first it didn’t bother me, but as the interactions continued and became more personal, I felt that I had no option but to block and delete. I was never going to be able to have a fair and balanced conversations with someone who saw fit to minimise and criticise my grief and my parenting.
Yet some of the messages underpinning the actual words were important and I feel they are unspoken within social media communities. I sometimes wonder if I am protected from receiving more criticism because my baby died; because people are potentially more likely to jump to my defence and say that it is unfair to say things to a bereaved mother that could potentially cause pain. But does this leave me in a particularly dangerous position? One where I think I can get away with saying and posting what I want without fear of being called out?
I’m not sure where you even start with a post such as this; it’s hard to know whether there even is a beginning, and I certainly haven’t reached the end yet, so I guess it’s a case of starting from where I am now.
I have been experiencing postnatal depression.
If I’m honest, these are the most challenging, the most shaming and gut wrenching words I have written since Orla died. They are possibly more riddled with shame because I feel terrified of being judged, blamed and seen as selfish, weak and inferior. When your baby dies, you know that many people will feel sad for you. Of course, you fear that there will be a multitude of other thoughts and emotions, but overall, you know that people will feel sadness and regret. When it comes to mental health however, you can never be so sure.
And when this occurs in the context of parenting a rainbow, the fear of being viewed as ungrateful and unworthy is paralysing. Which in itself becomes a self-perpetuating cycle of self-loathing and inadequacy.
After Orla died, I became a ‘doer’. I got up every day, I showered, I cleaned the house – I even cooked (damn you Gusto for signing up a vulnerable heavily pregnant woman who thought she’d spend the first weeks of maternity leave cooking nutritious meals!). I made keepsakes to treasure memories of Orla, I wrote and set up a blog and we planned our fundraising trip to America. Three months after Orla died, we flew to Canada. Two weeks later I feel pregnant. We spent the first trimester of my pregnancy travelling down the East Coast of the US and then Canada, and when we returned to the UK three months later, I went back to work for five months. I did yoga, I completed a mindfulness course, I saw friends. I was coping so well. Continue Reading
Today, Tommy’s release their new campaign, #SleepOnSide, which aims to empower women to change their sleep position in order to ensure safer pregnancies and to reduce the rates of stillbirth.
When we found out that Orla had died at 37 weeks, we were told there and then not to expect any answers as to why. I don’t think I had even had the opportunity to wipe the gel from my stomach following that devastating ultrasound before we were being delivered this blow. We were advised that it was ‘just one of those things’, that sadly babies can die suddenly and without any known cause. The initial hours that followed those moments in the labour ward triage room were a blur, but I will always remember the utter confusion that this could happen to healthy babies; that they could die – just like that.
And although Orla’s post-mortem did indeed find no answers, I did not believe, and continue not to believe, that there was no reason for her death. There must be a reason, but sadly medical science has yet to find out exactly why babies die and therefore why the UK stillbirth rates remain atrociously high. Coming from a healthcare background, I understand the political issues that underlie funding for services and research: those who shout the loudest are the ones that catch the attention of government and therefore the money. And because stillbirth remains shrouded in silence and shame, the amount of funding is limited and therefore the questions remain unanswered. Continue Reading
Humans are social beings; we like to belong to a group. We need to feel included, connected and to have people who we feel allied with. Friendship, work, social and hobby groups; we find comfort and affiliation with those who have common ground, those with similar likes and dislikes and those who we feel will ‘get us’. People with whom you can be yourself and share your thoughts and feelings on a subject, and whilst they might not necessarily always agree, they will likely understand at least where you’re coming from.
We all want to belong.
And it is this sense of belonging that I have struggled with since the moment that Orla died. In which group did I sit? I quickly exited the NCT WhatsApp group chat because I couldn’t bring myself to share our news in the midst of other joyful live birth announcements, and we were never in contact again. I was clearly no longer part of a group that was going to be my ‘mummy crew’. I had no friends who had experienced a similar loss, so I felt somehow distanced and separated from those I loved the most. I could no longer even look at pregnant women in the street and share a knowing smile, because I was no longer in their team. Baby loss is excruciatingly painful exclusion that permeates almost every aspect of your life. Continue Reading