Grief is a personal and very isolating journey. With the loss of a child, it's even more so. I am the mother to a stillborn daughter and the process I went through almost killed me. However, I'm here today, I have 3 beautiful children and a loving fiance, but it wasn't like this only three years ago.
There is a huge stigma surrounding baby loss. No-one wants to talk about it, it is feared, and rightly so. It is a club that no-one knows they don't want to be a part of until it is too late. Eleven babies a day are stillborn in the UK, which makes it fifteen times more common than cot death. There are 3,600 stillbirths a year in the UK, and one in every 200 will end in stillbirth. It is the most gut wrenching, heart breaking thing to ever happen to a person - to have to bury their child. Even more so if you never got the chance to meet them.
How did I become a member of this dreadful club? It started in 2009 when my third pregnancy went from an almost perfect dream to a nightmare overnight. At 27 weeks, we discovered we were having a girl again. Her dad was so happy as he never thought he would get one daughter, let alone two!! Then at 30 weeks, I started getting back pain along with the Braxton Hicks. A quick visit to the hospital soon proved everything was fine and that she was kicking away happily as anything. Eight days later, on Bank Holiday Monday I realised she hadn't moved in a long time. We rushed straight to the hospital and at 10.30pm, we were told there was no heartbeat.
I'd like to say I was devastated, but in reality, I didn't really feel anything. It could have been as though I was told I had broke my arm. I talked with the midwives and the doctor matter-of-factly. It didn't seem to sink in at all. Looking back now, I can see I was in shock, but at the time I couldn't understand why everyone kept asking me if I understood what had happened.
The following day I was induced and given strong morphine. I remember a midwife sitting with me for hours, just chatting. I can remember wondering why she was there, and that I was sure she had other patients to see. However I'm truly grateful for her being there, even if I didn't quite realise until years later. Listening to me babble while high on morphine about how it "will be hard, but that I suppose it's easier doing it this way than having to say goodbye to a baby you have already met, one you have gotten to know, one you have spent days, or weeks, or months caring for, holding, loving". That's not to say I didn't love my daughter, quite the opposite, but I look back now and I cringe at what I was saying.
My daughter was born that afternoon, weighing just 3lb 4oz.
It wasn't until that evening that it really hit home what had happened. I was sat in a quiet room, holding my daughter, when the tears began to flow. Once it started I couldn't stop them. I told her that I was so sorry that I didn't look after her as well as I should have done. I would never get to see her fight with her brother and sister, I wouldn't get to kiss her knee when she fell over, nor would we see her walk down the aisle, or bring home her best friend, or introduce us to the one she loved. I cried for all those missed moments, for the life that had ended before it was given the chance to start.
Every grief journey is personal; no two people will ever grieve the same. You could be surrounded by people, but the overwhelming loneliness is burdening. People will try and tell you how to grieve, how it worked for their neighbour's daughter's friend. Listen to them, take in what they say, then carry on and grieve the way you feel is best for you.
After a couple of weeks I tried to bottle it all up, I didn't want to become a burden to anybody. Besides, I had two children to look after; they still needed their mum. I wasn't their mum anymore though; I had changed, become a different person. This was to be brought up many times in arguments years later before my divorce went through. The next five years were spent becoming further and further isolated, blaming myself every day, losing friends. I hated myself, I hated everyone around me, yet I still wanted to reach out and just be hugged. I drifted away from him, hating him more and more by the day. Friends would stop coming over and I would be told that it was all my fault. The more I retreated into myself, the worse things became. Then one day in the middle of 2014 he told me he wanted a "break" from us. Women's intuition told me that it was as simple as he was making it out to be. Neither of us had wanted to be in the same room as one another for over a year and I was at the point where I relegated myself to this life until the day I died for the sake of our children. I stood up to him that day. I told him no, I wasn't going anywhere and he was not taking the children away from me.
A few days later my world fell apart once more when I was arrested in front of my three year old son for ABH (Actual Bodily Harm). All because the day before he had fallen down the stairs. I later learned he had planned it all, along with various other things, to get rid of me, including telling people I was more than happy to hand the kids over if he asked. In actual fact, those kids were the only thing keeping me alive some days.
I sat in that jail cell, my walking stick taken away from me - I had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and I was at the point I needed a wheelchair to get around outside; on the days he would allow me outside that was - and my shoes in the custody of the prison officers in case I strangled myself - standard practise I was told - and all I could do was cry. I must have let out five years worth of tears that day. I knew in myself I hadn't done anything wrong, but everything was pointing at me. That was the lowest point for me. That was when I hit rock bottom.
I had been near rock bottom before over the years, where I had put a belt around my throat and tightened it, or I had walked out in front of busy traffic in the hopes it would hit me and end everything. This, however, was different. My life was being ripped apart and I had no control over it. I sat in that cell, curled up in the corner, sobbing until I could cry no more. I hadn't been to church in years, in fact I had fallen out with God when I lost my daughter, but I sat and prayed and prayed that things would turn out well. I'm not religious, but I do believe there is a force of some sort out there because I was offered the chance to speak to the prison doctor.
I don't remember her name, or even what colour her hair was, but she was an angel in disguise. I don't think she will ever realise, like the midwife, what she did for me, but I will never forget it. She asked me a few questions and then she asked about my family, my children. I told her about my three children and that I had had a baby girl who was no longer here. I told her it was my fault she had died. I told her I hated myself and that the world would be better off without me, that I should just end it all so I could be with my little girl. I must have gone through half a tissue box that day and I doubt she had ever seen someone with so much snot and tears, but she was wonderful.
It was hard, and I did have help from friends, but I managed to build myself up. I realised that she hadn't died because I was a bad mum. My placenta had come away from the wall of my womb. That was the pain I had felt that night. I am a strong woman and I could do this.
I look back at that time in my life and its the little things I remember - needing a wee when I was in jail and having to pee with a camera in the room, the angels who came into my life at the right time, getting to meet my youngest son a year later. If it hadn't have been for her leaving us, I would still be trapped in a verbally and emotionally abusive relationship. Today, I am a strong and proud mum to three children, I have a fiance who loves me so much, and I him, and I am happy. I am a proud mum to a little girl in heaven and I know she is looking down on me, hopefully just as proud of me.
Remember, you are only given as much as you can handle in life. This isn't one of those "I did it, so you can too" posts; they p*** me off. This is me posting in an attempt to reach out to even just one person. Wanting them to realise they are worth it, they do deserve to be here, they have the right to be happy and it is not their fault. You are always loved by someone right now. Don't push them away. Reach out. You may be surprised at who reaches back. I know I was.