18 weeks pregnant
The last few weeks I’ve noticed a shift. I’ve heard myself speak about Nieve and the loss almost as if these things happened to someone else. Her name and her story have weaved into my everyday dialogue and I talk about them as if they were like any other part of my life. It’s still this huge, astronomical thing that happened to me but when I speak of it, it doesn’t threaten to drown me anymore. I speak of the loss and I acknowledge what a tragedy it was and how hard it has been but there’s becoming an element of past tense to those raw emotions. It no longer defines me. It no longer consumes me.
At school today a parent asked about how the baby was and I found myself explaining about the loss once again. I find I can now speak candidly about what happened and how it affected me and I can do it without breaking to pieces. I can speak of Nieve and the loss as a factual recount. I wonder if I’m on the path to accepting what happened.
I think I’ve begun to move out of the very raw stage of grief. I can talk about the loss without every word forcing me to relive and reexperience the depth of that pain. A part of me feels guilty for that. But I don’t care less, I just hurt less. I’m letting go of some of the anguish, pain and hurt and these things aren’t Nieve.
When I first lost my baby, I surrounded myself with medical professionals and other people who recognised the importance of acknowledging Nieve’s identity. I was continually asked what I had named her and that was instrumental in allowing me to acknowledge her and process what wasn’t just the loss of ‘a pregnancy’, but the loss of my daughter, Nieve. It acknowledged that she was here and that she was real and that the mark she left on Matthew and I was that of a child and not just an ‘idea’. It validated my grief.
Since returning to work and the ‘real world’ I have noticed that there are some people who do regard Nieve as ‘a pregnancy’, ‘an idea’, but to do so undervalues everything I feel and the significance of what we lost. I realised that not many people at work thought to ask me her name. Is it out of fear? Or from lack of regard for her significance? I’m not sure. All I know is that most people who have walked with grief themselves tend to understand the value of acknowledging and honouring your lost baby by name.
I will not hide her though. I speak her name freely as it is a badge of identity that I gave to her and it was meant to be worn. Yesterday a work colleague remarked, “Nieve? Is that what you were going to call her?” I was struck by the past tense-ness of it all. No, that is her name. I thought it but never said it, deeming this colleague to fall into the category of people who don’t fully understand.
At the time that they pronounced she had died, I remember thinking that since I had lost the baby that maybe it’d be somehow easier if the whole pregnancy just ‘disappeared’. Couldn’t the Doctors just take it all away and then I could pretend it was never real in the first place? As a first time parent it had always been hard to imagine that the image on the ultra sound, or the tiny flicks and kicks that I had experienced had actually corresponded to a real life baby. In some ways I wondered if the best thing was for me to just ‘undo’ the idea that I was ever going to have a baby at all. I considered that if it was ‘over’ then maybe it’d be less painful to just pretend it was never really real in the first place.
I see now that the whole process of birthing my daughter and meeting her, as well as holding her funeral were all important facets of allowing me to process my grief. Grief for Nieve, who was very real and who ‘was’ rather than grief for a ‘pregnancy’ and an idea of ‘what could have been’.
Making decisions for our baby’s funeral seemed incomprehensible to me at the time. Still in such a state of shock, Matthew and I were being asked to make decisions that seemed unimaginable. Did we want a cremation or burial? Where did we want the service to be held? Who did we want to lead the service? Were there any particular clothes we wanted Nieve to wear? Did we want flowers for her casket? Did we want any readings for the service? Any particular music? Again, there was a part of me that didn’t want to face up to the idea of a funeral, maybe it was the part of me that wanted to believe that it wasn’t really a ‘death’ at all. Again, it proved to be a very important part of processing the loss for me. The funeral was attended by our close friends and family and I felt like it validated the significance of what Nieve meant. It was an opportunity to acknowledge Nieve, to celebrate her. To recognise her as our daughter, a grand daughter, a Neice, a cousin.
We decided on a cremation for Nieve in the end, but we haven’t yet made a decision about what to do with her ashes. We’re reluctant to scatter them in a place that we may not be able to visit regularly so we’re keeping them at home for now until we make a decision. Sometimes I listen to the wonderful things that other loss parents have done to commemorate their children and I feel guilty; grave plots that they’ve decorated beautifully and visit daily, intricate tattoos that they’ve had done to commemorate their child, jewellery that’s been specially designed and made. Some ladies on the Sands forum make time to write to their baby’s everyday. Some parents do amazing things in name of their babies; climb mountains, run marathons and jump out of aeroplanes. Some raise or donate money to the number of wonderful charities that support bereaved parents. Some knit blankets and hats for babies born too soon. I sometimes feel guilty that I don’t do enough to commememorate Nieve… but I guess that guilt is all just part of being a parent. Guilt appears to be a facet of motherhood that you get to experience whether your children are with you or not.
I just sometimes think I should do more. More to demonstrate the depth of the love for my daughter. Something so monumentous that it matches the enormousness of what she means to me. I doubt such a thing exists. For now I’ll write, and I’ll hope that in writing I can help others, even just one ‘other’. I want to help other people to feel less alone in their walk with grief or in a subsequent pregnancy. I want to help to validate all the mixture of feelings that this journey brings and to help people to know that they are not alone.
Dear reader, I hope I can help you in some small way, and I thankyou for reading. Thankyou for helping me to commemorate my daughter.