This week is baby loss awareness week. It’s kind of ironic that every year I forget the dates for this. But then again maybe it isn’t; you see for me I am reminded every single day that Oscar isn’t here. That I lost a baby. My son.
For me, a week where it’s “a special thing” well, it just isn’t. Every single day I miss my son. Every single day I hate that he isn’t here. Every single day I wonder how I am supposed to survive the rest of my life without him. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think of him.
But maybe this awareness week isn’t for me; maybe it’s for all the people who have never experienced the loss of a child. Maybe it’s for all those people that have never had to plan the funeral of their baby. Maybe it’s a week to make them aware of just how life changing this is.
So, it’s for those people I write this post. For the people that say: “never mind, you can try again” or “it’s better this way” or “everything happens for a reason.”
You know what? Three and a half years later, I promise you I can find no reason that it was better that Oscar died. And as someone who hasn’t been fortunate enough to have another child, I promise that “just trying again” isn’t that easy either. Losing the one person that you care about more than anything in the world, losing a part of yourself is never and will never be ok. It will never be something that you can just “get over.”
I’ve heard grief being described as feeling like your heart has been ripped from your chest, of feeling like you cannot breath. I can say this, as Oscar’s Mummy, I find this incredibly ironic given that Oscar died because he only had half a heart and his lungs didn’t form properly. His heart literally couldn’t beat and his lungs couldn’t breath…Andy times that is what grieving for him feels like. At times grief literally feels like you will not survive it. That there is actually no way to go on. And yet you do, not because you are brave or strong; literally because you have no other option. Because your heart keeps beating and your lungs keep breathing, even when you aren’t sure you want them to. And you know, it doesn’t get better or easier. It just gets different. You cope, not because you are getting over it, but because you figure out how to go on with that huge part of you missing.
No-one plans a pregnancy thinking about it ending with a tiny white coffin. Yet, for so many people it does. It isn’t spoken about and it isn’t supposed to be the end result; yet sometimes it is. And when you are in the hospital and it happens you get moved to a quiet room out of the way. I wonder, is that really to give you your privacy or to protect all the other new mums from seeing the horror you are going through? To keep them in their happy little bubble where the world is perfect? This actually isn’t a bad thing; I don’t know of any grieving parent who wouldn’t rather they were in that happy bubble.
When Oscar was born, we were put into the SANDS room (which some of my family ironically misheard as the “sad room” and thought the name was inappropriate.) This room was designed for parents to be with their dead babies. Now, Oscar was supposed to die at or just after birth. We were told he would and it was what we expected. But, well as was Oscar’s way he had his own plan. He just chilled out in the room for a day and a half being the centre of attention. I often wonder if Oscar was the only baby who left the Stillbirth and Neonatal death room alive? Of course, he did die at a later date, but I still felt like a bit of a fraud at the time. Like we weren’t really entitled to be in that room, like maybe we should have been in that happy bubble room instead.
When Oscar first died, I tried to avoid mentioning him. I didn’t want to upset people by talking about the dead baby. I found that people would look at me differently, I found that people didn’t know what to say and I found that it made people feel uncomfortable.
I’m not really sure when the change occurred, but these days I will mention him whenever it is relevant (and sometimes when it isn’t!) I will tell people that he died. I will tell people why he died. I will do so without feeling guilty. Yes, people are still shocked and yes, people still don’t know what to say, but you know what; they’ll get over it!
People are quick to say that I will “get over” losing Oscar. I know I never will. So, let’s turn the tables; either you will “get over” hearing about the dead baby, or you won’t. And if you don’t, if you remember my son for just a bit longer; well it just so happens that I love talking about him! And people talking about, hearing about and remembering Oscar will never be a bad thing. And if what people feel is sorrow on hearing that a baby died; well they should. Baby loss shouldn’t happen. It is a bad thing, it is a sad thing. But, that doesn’t mean it it’s something that shouldn’t be talked about.
Did you know 1 in 10 babies are diagnosed with a heart condition? Did you know that congenital heart defects (CHD’s) are the most common birth defect? I had no idea until I had a baby that became part of those statistics.
Oscar wasn’t just a statistic though. He wasn’t just another baby that died. He was MY baby. He was this baby:
and even now, living without him for over three years, I don’t think I can accurately describe what that grief feels like. I cannot explain what it feels like to lose a child, and I hope that those of you who are living in your little bubbles will never know. I hope that you continue to make misguided comments and I hope that you will continue to believe that “it will get better” because I would give anything to be in that little bubble with you. To not be the mother who cuddled her dead baby and to not be the mother who had to chose which toys were to be buried her baby in that tiny white coffin with her son:
I have stretch marks (they are still pretty spectacular 3.5 years on!), I went through labour (admittedly you would be jealous; it was quick and easy!) and 41 and a bit weeks of pregnancy. Oscar was supposed to be “incompatiable with life” yet he lived for 23 days. Whether I need a special week to be reminded that pregnancy and infant loss happens or not, you can bet I’m going to take advantage of it to mention Oscar!
If baby loss is that subject that we are not supposed to talk about, then sorry I’m pretending I didn’t get the memo. I refuse to pretend my son didn’t exist. I refuse to worry about upsetting people by mentioning that babies die. I am so incredibly proud of my son and I don’t care who knows it!
*note; I considered both a warning and/or apology for the two black and white photos, but in the end I decided on neither. Yes, I had photos taken of me holding my son after he had died and yes, I took photos of my son in his coffin. They are a huge part of my memories of Oscar and his story. I’ve never posted them until now as I imagined other people may find them inappropriate. I don’t and that is what matters.