Regret; the sense of sadness or repentance for having done or not done something.
I carry an overwhelming sense of regret in this life I live after loss, and it is something that can be a heavy burden to bear. After all, there is no going back, no changing what has been done or not done. Orla has gone, there is no way of getting her back and no way of making new memories with her physical presence in place of ones that we were not able to do. Death is final.
There are many things that I feel incredibly proud of, maybe more so in what we have undertaken since Orla died; her letters, the fundraising, the blog. Yet there are so many things that I wish I could have done differently. One of the biggest regrets will always be the overwhelming sense that I failed Orla and potentially could have saved her. This undoubtedly goes further than regret and fast tracks to heart crushing guilt and shame. This is not just a tinge of sadness or sorrow, this is full blown rage at myself that I can only sometimes allow myself to unleash, through fear of how it will consume me. This is mum guilt at its absolute extreme: the feeling that I could have, should have, saved her and in not doing so I am not fit to award myself the title of mother. Mothers protect their children and I somehow allowed mine to die. Continue Reading
- Having the power to move heavy weights or perform other physically demanding tasks
- Able to withstand force, pressure, or wear
- Very intense
After losing your baby, this is something that many people seem to say: ‘you are so strong’ or ‘I don’t think I could be as strong as you’. I know this can be frustrating for some people, because being strong isn’t a choice, it is the only way to survive. Baby loss didn’t choose us because we are strong enough to bear the pain, baby loss does not discriminate and it could happen to anyone.
Yes, you have to be strong when your baby dies, because the pain is intense and all-consuming and you need to learn to live alongside this force. Every single minute of every single day. Yet I sometimes worry how this may be perceived by those who have lost a baby – what does it look like? Does it mean returning to how you were before? Does it mean going back to work and carrying on as if nothing happened? Does it mean not needing to seek help for your emotional wellbeing and ‘just carrying on’? Is it good old British stiff upper lip?
And what if you can’t do this? What if you don’t feel able to go back to work or engage in fundraising or something equally challenging? What if you can’t get out of bed each day? Does that somehow make you weak? Does that mean that you aren’t doing this whole ‘surviving baby loss thing’ very well?
Today marks the start of Baby Loss Awareness Week; every year from the 9th – 15th October, bereaved parents, their families and professionals unite to remember and commemorate their babies as well as raising awareness about the issues surrounding baby loss. Babies can die at many different stages in many different ways: miscarriage, ectopic and molar pregnancies, stillbirth, life limiting conditions, incidents in labour, illness, accident and prematurity – all equally valid and all painful and life changing in their own right. And this week is for all of those affected by baby loss. But it is also for those who have not been directly affected by loss too, because you never know when you will meet someone who has.
But what do we mean by awareness? It is something that I think every single bereaved parent will say at some point in their life post loss – ‘I just want to help raise awareness’. And almost 18 months down the line, I still feel passionately about this too. However, I have had to stop and think about what this really means to me and what I want to achieve. And to do that, I have had to pick apart the many functions of awareness raising.
A letter to the woman who has just been told that her baby has died
As I prepare to give birth again, I look back to just ten and a half months ago and wonder what advice I would give to myself now. The person who had just been told that her baby had died at 37 weeks gestation, without any warning. Her baby who was healthy and perfect in every way, who she had seen wriggling around at the 36 week scan just five days before. Whose heartbeat she had heard just two days earlier.
That woman, who lying on the triage room bed, had just seen her baby’s still heart on the ultrasound screen. Who was surrounded by doctors and midwives, being told that she had no choice but to labour and give birth, that she had to start the process that evening; that all she was allowed to do was to go home and pack a bag before returning for induction. The woman who wanted to be put to sleep and never wake up, who couldn’t fathom that she had to go through the process of birthing, something she had so lovingly prepared for, knowing that the outcome would be silence and leaving the hospital empty handed. Knowing that she had to break the news to her family and friends that she had let them down in the worst way possible. That she had failed to protect her much loved and longed for baby.
As the festive period and 2016 draws to a close, it feels like a time for reflection, taking stock and thinking about these last twelve months as a whole. I think it is fair to say that it has been a tough one: the toughest I have faced so far. But I refuse to see it as all bad and I certainly do not want to turn my back on 2016 at midnight and write it off as the worst in history. This was the year that I became a mother, the one that I got to meet our precious daughter, who has changed me and my life beyond all recognition. It is the year that I have learnt more about myself personally and professionally than I have in all the 34 years that came before. And I hope that it is a year that has made me a better wife, friend, psychologist – I guess, just a better person.
Certainly, globally in 2016 there have been many challenging, saddening events, and some downright disasters; political madness has prevailed with Brexit and the election of Trump, there have been many high-profile deaths of much loved and talented celebrities. But sad things happen every day all over the world, many life altering and devastating but not national news worthy. This won’t stop in 2017; people will still die and wars will continue to be fought. When the clock ticks over to a brand-new year, all of our difficulties will not fade away and we will not be new and revived as if by magic. But maybe it is a time when we can think about how we hope to set new intentions, to find gratitude and strength in order to face, and learn from, the curveballs that life can, and will, throw at us.