26 weeks + 3 days pregnant
9 months after loss
“Is this your first baby?” The supply teacher in the class next door to mine asked. There it was. The question I’d dreaded being asked. The question I’d spent time agonising over how to answer. But now that the situation had presented itself, the response came easily to me. “No,” I said “I lost a baby last year, so this is my second child.”
I let that information sit with her. I didn’t feel the need to provide extra details, though I was open to talking about it if she had wanted to. Like most people, she didn’t choose to enquire further. And like most people, she apologised for seeming to ‘remind’ me of my loss.
For the first time, I didn’t feel a need to ‘compensate’ for sharing this difficult news. I didn’t follow it up with a positive slant in a way of adding that silver lining to my dark cloud. I just let it be and I recognise this as progresss for me.
I was recently chatting to a colleague from work who lost her first baby five years ago when he was eight days old. She asked me how often I thought of Nieve, to which I replied that I did every day. She told me that she coped with her loss by not thinking about it and it suddenly struck me how different we all are. We take these tragedies and we have to mould them in such a way that allows us to go on living. For her, it was to block the truth, for me it is to immerse myself in it. We all do the best we can.
Ever since I lost Nieve I have felt compelled to talk and write about her. Most people approach me tentatively about it but I relish the opportunity to speak of her. Nieve has shaped my whole world, she has changed the person that I am today and so I feel that to deny her existence would be to deny who I really am.
But what I’ve realised, is that it isn’t this way for everyone; not everyone wants to share. I guess I kind of thought I had bereavement and grief all figured out. I believed that everyone would follow the same kind of grieving pattern and be helped by the same kinds of things that I am, but I now see that this isn’t the case. To believe that grief is a ‘one size fits all’ deal was naive of me.
During my conversation with my work colleague, she also told me that she never fully comprehended the depth of the loss of her first baby until the second one came along. I have considered this. I have wondered whether my son’s life experiences will be shadowed by the fact that my daughter will never have them. When he smiles for the first time, takes his first steps or attends his first day at school, will I relish the moments or will it be bittersweet and fill me with sadness that Nieve never got to have those experiences?
I look back at the nine months since I lost my daughter and I can see the progress I’ve made. Grief isn’t something I’ve learned to get over, nor do I ever expect to, but it’s a part of me that I’m learning to carry. In the first months the weight was unimaginable and as time has gone on that hasn’t changed. The only thing that has altered is my strength to bear the burden.
Having said that, the words of my colleague now echo in my mind and I wonder if my son’s arrival will add a whole new layer to my grief as I mourn for the life that my daughter will never get to lead. I guess only time will tell and in my bid to adopt a ‘mindfulness’ approach to life, I guess I should consider this a worry for another day.
Although Nieve remains firmly lodged in my thoughts, I have found lately that I am choosing to spend less time among the baby loss community. I used to visit the baby loss forums daily and regularly read updates from parents in the Facebook groups. However, lately I’ve felt a desire to detach a little. I have felt a need to normalise this pregnancy as much as possible by avoiding filling my vulnerable mind with more accounts of pain and suffering. The baby loss websites are filled with frightening stories pervaded with anguish and heartbreak and in my bid to remain positive in this pregnancy, I recognise the need to take a step back and distance myself from it.
The distance is really helping my mental state, though I do find myself straying back to these websites from time to time and I notice the impact that that then has on my emotional wellbeing. At the beginning of my loss, these websites were my crutch but now I feel that my world is beginning to grow again. In some ways that makes me feel guilty but I remind myself that I am not letting go of Nieve, I’m only letting go of some of that pain.
And so on I go, learning to carry my two children; one physically, and one in my heart.