Time is so often revered as the healer of all things; ‘it takes time’; ‘all in good time’. Yet in life after loss it can be cruel and confusing. We wish for it to turn back so that we can in some way re-write history. We wish for it to stand still for fear that moving away from our loved ones will destroy the precious few memories we have. We wish for it to speed forwards, to a time when we may smile spontaneously and sing out loud again.
In this letter to Time, Jess @the_maeve_effect perfectly captures the complexity of our relationship with the one thing in life we cannot change.
Jess became both a mother and a bereaved mother in April 2013, when her first baby, Maeve died during an induced labour. She has since survived two further pregnancies, both fraught with worries, but worth every anxious second to bring Maeve’s siblings home. Since losing Maeve, Jess has found solace in writing, and healing in the power of finding words to capture her struggles with life after loss. She hopes that by sharing her grief journey, she might be able to offer some comfort to other grieving souls, as she has found such great support within the inspiring community of warrior parents. Jess lives in Ayrshire, Scotland, where life is a beautifully chaotic and complicated ride of parenting all three of her children. Continue Reading
I often wonder how I would have coped if I had needed to parent other children when Orla died. How would I have managed my own grief alongside theirs? How would I have explained what had happened to their sibling? Although it may sound strange, I sometimes feel lucky that I had the opportunity to completely immerse myself in those early weeks and months; with no one else depending on me, I had the freedom to just be with my grief. Yet so many bereaved parents have other children to protect and support at a time when they too need the same.
In this letter to her sons, Lucie articulates her experiences beautifully. I am sure that the intensity of love and protection in parenting after loss will resonate with many.
“I’m Lucie a nearly 40 year old mum of five. Beau was our fourth child, our fourth boy and he was stillborn in June 2016. I pine for him every day and I don’t think that will ever change.
We had our rainbow, Seraphina Hope, our only daughter in August 2017. We call her our little heart healer as she’s helping to heal us all.
I’m married to my soulmate and we live a happy, simple but boring life surrounded by our family and friends.
And just like that, she was one.
Except, when I really think about it, it wasn’t ‘just like that’ at all. The first year of parenting after loss has been a complete rollercoaster; a Big Dipper, with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows and one that I have desperately wanted to escape at times. Because, despite what I had hoped, having a take home baby did not fix everything. It did not take away my pain. It just made the hardest job in the world that much more complicated.
Parenting a live baby has changed me. I am not the person I once was, and at the same time, I have come to accept that I am not parent I thought I would be. It has shattered my sense of self and I am slowly piecing the shards back together and getting to know the cracks that exist in between them. Some of those crevices have been deep, dark and quite unnerving to expose myself to, whilst others have acted as a prism and shone the full spectrum of colours.
I thought that when Orla died that I was well and truly broken, but looking back, I had just built up an even stronger wall than I had before. My own emotions have always scared me and I have run from them; finding solutions or ways in which to numb the pain. Working harder. Finding another project. I would bounce from one thing to another as a way of blocking out what was really troubling me, because I feared that my emotions would destroy me. I couldn’t trust that anyone else could hold them; the terror that they would either become overwhelmed by them or would reject me was paralysing. So, I denied that they existed and continued to build my armour of strategies, that enabled me to run away from pain. Continue Reading
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
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Today marks my first Mother’s Day since Orla’s birth. I am a mother to a beautiful daughter who would now be almost 11 months old. I am also a mother to a baby growing inside of me. Yet, sometimes it is hard to show the world my status as a parent. I do not have a pram to push or a baby to carry in my arms. I do not go to baby groups or have playdates with other mothers. Yet I feel different to the person I was just last year, as having Orla has changed me irrevocably from the woman I was once. I feel a love and responsibility that I didn’t think was possible. My heart feels infinitely larger and fuller and it aches with pride. Yet I don’t have new photos to show, or new stories to tell. I can’t speak of milestones that have been met or new stages reached in development. But I still have the innate need to parent. It is a natural urge that doesn’t go away even when your child isn’t able to come home with you.
As a result, I have had to find my own way to parent; to parent a child who lives in my heart but not in my arms. A way to parent that isn’t included in any manual or book and in a society that isn’t always quite sure how to respond. I have learnt from other mothers who have bravely shared their stories; I have seen how they have honoured their precious children and kept their memories alive. I parent based on gut instinct, doing what feels right and whatever brings comfort, no matter how different or strange it may look to the outside world. The ‘non-loss’ world. I parent in a way that involves developing a thick skin, in a way that it courageous and brave. I battle against barriers and opinions of what is acceptable and not, of what is right or wrong. I may have to justify my choices, to explain and help others to understand. And in some ways, I see many similarities to the challenges that all mothers face. Continue Reading