I can’t quite believe that it has taken me a whole year to write Esme’s birth story. Maybe it was due to me finding those early months so incredibly overwhelming; maybe it was PND. Or maybe it was because I have found it difficult to reconcile my feelings towards birth since losing Orla.
The thing is, I was so prepared for Orla’s birth. Not only was I prepared, but I was excited. I had planned a home birth, had practiced hypnobirthing for months and every detail had been planned with love and hope. And whilst I am proud of how Orla’s birth unfolded, I mourned the birth I didn’t get, which has left me with many complex feelings. Anger. Shame. Guilt. I mean, how could I talk about feeling sad for not birthing in the way that I had hoped when really all I should feel sad about was the fact that my baby died?
But I did. And I continue to feel sad, because even if I ever feel brave enough to try for another baby, I don’t think I will ever get the birth that I had so dearly wished for. My anxiety will never allow me to wait for spontaneous labour, and my knowledge of what can go wrong will always prevent me from birthing in the comfort of my own home. And I’ll be honest and say that I always get a pang of envy when I hear these stories from others. I am happy for them – genuinely happy. But I am sad for me. And maybe that makes me selfish, but it is the truth. 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
- 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.