In the early months after Miles was born I was given the opportunity to write a letter for @from_the_other_chair’s incredible blog. It could be to anyone, about anything; so I decided to write to my sister. So Sophie this is for you.
Not a week goes past where someone doesn’t comment to me that it must be so hard being surrounded by so many babies. I don’t deny that sometimes it really is – they can ignite our grief, make our arms physically ache a little more than they already do, stir up all sorts of emotions and a kind of jealousy that feels very foreign to me. Why isn’t my baby here too? It just doesn’t make sense and doesn’t feel fair at all.
But for me personally they provide a source of comfort, love and immense joy at the very same time. I have so much love to give and I feel so blessed that I have two perfect nieces in my life to be on the receiving end of this. With every encounter my heart grows a little bigger and a little stronger.
I know from speaking to other bereaved parents that this isn’t always the case, with some losing family or friendships due to them finding it too difficult to be around new babies – and this I can completely empathise with. I read something today that stated ‘when a stimulus triggers extreme feelings of pain or anxiety this is in fact a result of trauma, NOT jealousy’ and the trauma caused by the death of your child can take years to overcome. I can completely see how the trauma and grief for your own baby can overpower every other emotion you would normally feel and make it impossible at times to be happy for anyone else.
I guess I have just thrown myself into the deep end spending so much time with all the babies that Miles was meant to grow up with. I had a choice; to hide away and avoid them or to embrace them in my life and not allow grief to completely takeover and darken things more than it already does. Everyone has different coping mechanisms for dealing with trauma and grief and these should not be judged by anyone else.
When your baby dies you are still a mother; you still mother them but in a different way to how you would do if they were alive. Being a bereaved mother is more about keeping their memory alive, including them in everything you do, doing things you hope would make them proud, loving them and loving others around you. These motherly instincts don’t fade as time goes on, in fact they grow stronger. So for me, being able to channel some of this into looking after my nieces has been a real blessing.
So thank you to my sister and sister-in-law for giving me the wonderful gift of being an auntie. And thank you to Michelle @from_the_other_chair whose blog posts have been invaluable to me over the past 6 months whilst I have started to navigate this heart-rending journey through baby loss.
Thanks for reading 🙂
I’m Lucy, proud mummy to Miles who was born sleeping at 39+5 weeks on 6th December 2018. His daddy, Martin and I have never felt a sense of love or pride like it. His name means warrior and he certainly was that. He fought very hard until the very end which meant we sadly had no idea that my placenta had a rare condition (Delayed chorionic villous maturation) as there were no real warning signs that Miles was unwell until he just stopped moving one morning. He was perfect in every way and always will be. I became an auntie three months earlier and again a week later to two beautiful nieces. I decided to write this letter to explain how I feel around the new babies who have joined our families and friendship groups. I also wanted to take this opportunity to thank the new mummies for being so sensitive and understanding around us.
To the sister who has recently become a mother,
I know we didn’t always see eye to eye growing up. But I guess this is the norm for many sisters so close in age. There was always a little competition surrounding everything we did together, which often ended in tears or one of us feeling defeated. In some circumstances our opinions couldn’t possibly clash anymore, but in others, such as wanting to become mothers and start families of our own, we were two peas in a pod.
When I discovered I was pregnant shortly after you’d announced my first niece or nephew was on the way I felt so excited to be able to share this journey with you. We spoke on the phone most days and compared notes, you gave me advice and put my mind at ease and we became closer than we’d ever been. As our bumps grew side by side we made plans for how we’d spend our days on maternity leave together and our hopes for the future as one big family.
In early September you gave birth to my first beautiful niece. I had never loved a baby more. I was honoured that you were so eager for me to meet her so shortly after she was born even though you were feeling exhausted. You are such a natural and beautiful mother and I was completely in awe of you. We were both so excited for me to join the club and be able to watch the cousins grow up together.
When I phoned you at 39 weeks to tell you the worst news I’ve ever had to break, that my baby’s heart had stopped beating, the pain we both felt was palpable down the phone. You wanted to do all you could to be there for me and asked if it would be okay to come and visit us in the hospital. You were a new mother yourself as well as a midwife in your profession and suddenly all the differences we’d ever had dissipated and you understood my situation now more than anyone else. You visited soon after I had given birth to Miles and brought a present and a beautiful letter for him from his cousin. You spoke to him and held him and for a moment it felt as though everything was normal and we were one big happy family. From your professional experience you ensured that we were getting the best possible care and that we had precious memories of Miles to take home with us. As a mother you were so sensitive around the fact that it might be hard for me to see a living baby and you didn’t bring my niece up to the ward, but when I asked to see her you didn’t question it and I can honestly say that holding her that day helped to heal the very first tiny piece of my broken heart.
I will be frank when I tell you that it’s not been easy seeing friends and other family members fussing over my niece, especially at Christmas time and when she reaches each milestone. I feel a heavy pang in my heart sometimes when her name is mentioned or I’m looking at her. It doesn’t take away from how much I unconditionally love her though; it’s a channel that helps to release some of my grief and connect with my emotions when so much of the time I feel so numb as everything is still so raw.
You once mentioned to me that you have felt guilty around me for having a healthy baby but please never ever ever feel this way. It is your beautiful and innocent baby who is often able to help me through the darkest of days and look towards the future. In time each milestone my niece reaches will be a joyful reminder of what Miles would be doing which enables him to grow in my mind alongside her. It really means the world to me that you talk to her about Miles and have his photo up in your home.
To my sister-in-law and friends who have also recently become mothers, thank you for trying your best to understand how my husband and I might be feeling in the presence of a living baby. What I’ve come to learn through grief is that there is no rulebook or predictability when it comes to these situations. Whilst it might temporarily comfort our aching arms to hold and look after a baby, I am conscious that it can often be too painful to witness each other do so at present.
To everybody in our lives, thank you for your unconditional love and support. As our minds can only just start to comprehend the weight of what has happened, you have allowed us to speak openly about Miles and keep his memory alive. Thank you for helping us to feel that he was very real, he is important, he will never be forgotten and will always be part of our family.