Okay so as the title suggests I’ve not actually been hit by a bus, but it feels like it. Remember last week I said how great I felt. I was happy, coping and feeling productive. Well this week grief and exhaustion has hit me like a double decker. I wish I could say what triggered it but there wasn’t anything in particular. Perhaps an accumulation of bad luck and lack of sleep. Or maybe I’m finally starting to properly grieve after spending some time in shock and other times blatantly refusing to even think about what has happened. Last week was maternal mental health week, something close to my heart since I have struggled with mental health for over 10 years now and in both pregnancies have suffered prenatal depression. Over the past few months my mind-set’s have changed drastically, sometimes I feel almost okay and sometimes I’m at my lowest point. It’s hard to distinguish what might be normal grief and what is a mental health issue which requires treatment. Mental health is spoken about more widely nowadays but still not nearly enough, especially maternal mental health which is usually dismissed as hormones, or low mood after the loss of a child dismissed as grief and not taken as potentially depression.
Before I go into this post though I’d like to first share a photo of exactly what grief looks like. I want more people to be open about mental health and bereavement. More parents to tell their child’s story and more parents to say when they are not okay or when they really need support. I actually shared this on my Instagram already (@rainbow_and_angel_mummy) but I feel this is such a powerful image. Its an image where I look awful but I’m not embarrassed because that is exactly how I look like a lot of the time at the moment. I had been crying hysterically in the bath and was then hugging the shampoo bottle that smells like Silver. I am a woman with a broken heavy heart, I feel hollow inside and lost without my baby girl and this is exactly what that looks like!
So let me tell you about how the last week has panned out. Firstly, not only did I recently have the hemiplegic migraine due to the stress and grief but now I’m really losing my patience with the lack of sleep. I’m not sat awake crying all night anymore but I can’t sleep at all. Insomnia began through my pregnancy which was fair enough, hormones are a bitch. I know its probably the stress of life and dealing with the grief at the moment but I haven’t had a good night sleep in over 8 months. I have found my best way of coping has been to keep super busy which helps with my avoidance of reality. But I can work myself to exhaustion and I’m still waking up more than a new born baby would! The last week however, I have felt so drained and have no motivation. I am sure its all normal but its made life pretty hard. I’m finding managing a toddler with tantrums extremely frustrating and my patience is wearing thin at times. Meal times are hardest. I don’t have the energy to cook and neither does Fabian and while its okay if we don’t eat (not advisable) we do still have to feed Beau! Of course, I could easily feed him something like meatless sausages or something out of a packet but that goes against everything I believe in. Despite being vegan it is so easy to still eat a heavily processed diet which I try to avoid. Its so important for us to have fresh home cooked meals but seriously who really has the energy to do that every day!
I’ve found I don’t even have the energy or patience to do the things I enjoy. I’ve lost interest in actually sorting my garden out and as Fabian would tell you, I’m a book worm. But I just can’t sit still and read at the moment. I get restless on an evening because usually the house is a mess and needs sorting which I don’t have the energy for and before you know it its late and we’ve not done anything nice together before doing the arduous slog all over again the following day. I’d like to say I’m not getting depression but even I know the more I write this and the more I reread it I know it sounds like depression. I am really hoping this is something temporary and just one of those phases of grief. I can imagine however a lot of what I’m saying is relatable from other parents dealing with grief. The day to day grind is tough to accustom to when the whole world around you carries on as normal and yet your life forever changed despite everything looking the same. We have to learn a new normal.
I know some people may distance themselves and almost seem unaffected, but this is simply a way of erecting a barrier because allowing the pain in would be all consuming and too unbearable to be healthy. I want to say I’m guilty of this but that’s the whole point of this blog, no one should feel guilty for any coping mechanism, myself included. I know deep down putting up a barrier and showing a brave face was not an indication of how much or little I loved her. It was a protective coping mechanism knowing that allowing the pain in would be putting my own mental health at risk. Due to my borderline personality disorder I do have a lot of suicidal tendencies and thoughts and quite soon after the shock wore off (about a week), I then started to cope better than expected because I shut it all out. I almost convinced myself nothing had happened, after all we were now back at home and nothing at home had changed. My life around me was exactly the same. I started to worry that I wasn’t coping in a healthy manner, I knew at some point it was going to hit me.
I was reassured by my mental health worker that denial was a completely natural part of grief. It doesn’t mean you are denying their existence or the love you have for them. It doesn’t mean you have forgotten. It’s completely natural, because in all honestly who really wants to come to terms and accept their child has passed away? Its not natural and you never expect it to happen, so its harder to comprehend. I knew she was ill yet logically my brain told me I should die first and yet my body was still producing milk because it didn’t know any different!
People say it gets better with time. I agree I will learn to live with it and hopefully find happiness in the future, perhaps even conceive a rainbow. I have decided the best way to look at it is to acknowledge the facts and the reality but not accept them as just. There will never be a reason good enough for a couple to lose a child. There are many people in the world dying from preventable lifestyle induced illnesses yet I did absolutely everything to ensure I grew a healthy baby and the universe took that away from me with no known cause or reason. I feel hatred towards the universe, I feel so angry this happened to me and so many other parents. I can already tell the anger I feel is driving me to want to do something to help make sure others do not go through the same as we did and to also make it less painful for the unfortunate ones who do go through this. We shouldn’t be accepting babies dying, we need to work towards a future where this doesn’t happen. My head, heart and body does not know how to cope at all.
I feel one thing I’ve been doing recently is clinging on to Silver things. It gives me a sense of comfort you could say but in some way is still enabling me to not move forward. My problem is that others expect you to move on in life and the healing process actually takes a lot longer than most outsiders get to see and I think it is actually okay to move at whatever pace suits you. At my lowest points I’ve found it soothing to snuggle Silver’s blanket, hold her clothes, cuddle her Minnie Mouse teddy and smell the shampoo we used to bath her. Her time on earth happened so fast I want to hold on to everything that makes it feel real. Every room in the house I have tried to make sure she is somehow a part of and there is evidence of her existence. Because our car got wrote off recently due to the damage with the pothole we have had several long days of travelling to see cars to buy and her blanket has accompanied me on those journeys which is a new thing I’ve been doing. I think everyone copes in their own way, some people will want to put away all the painful reminders but I want Silver to be everywhere I look so I know she’s real and still here with me.
On that note I want to talk about my desire to talk about Silver, another thing that makes me feel better. It’s a topic I have been internally debating recently. There have been a few occasions I’ve wanted to mention her but feel I will make people uncomfortable so I haven’t. I hope in the future I won’t feel this discomfort. Its taboo of course to talk about deceased babies and I really want that to change but I also don’t want to upset people to the point I am comforting them instead of them comforting me. I don’t want pity either, I want people to share the same mindset I have tried so hard to maintain, of feeling I am truly blessed to have got to know an Angel.
Let me tell you exactly what happened so you can see what I mean. I went to the Harrogate flower show with my mum, her friend and Beau last weekend. There was a hall with craft items and I noticed there was a few jewellers. I searched desperately hoping I would see a silver rose and I did. It was a cheap £5 ring. I decided to buy it. Of course, the stallholder was happy to make a sale but the thing was I desperately wanted to tell him why it was so special to me. Why it was important I was only interested in the silver rose and why to me it was worth so much more than a mere £5. But I didn’t. Truth be told this is something I aim to change soon. I understand it makes people uncomfortable but its still my daughter and I vowed I would never let people forget her and would always say her name. I know she didn’t survive but she’s still my miracle baby and that’s a story I want to share. I’ll be sure to let you guys know how I get on the next time I feel the urge to share her story with a stranger.
I feel kind of embarrassed over the next thing I’m going to tell you. I wasn’t sure if this was normal or not, perhaps even slightly delusional and unhealthy? I recently bought Silver two outfits. One was a vest with “little sister” and the other was a set of two unicorn sleep suits. Fabian had gone to look at clothes for Beau and I drifted to the new born clothes and found I couldn’t help but buy them for her. Of course, I completely understand she isn’t here but it made me feel good to still include her and let her know she is still a part of our life. I did start to well up as I was putting the clothes in the trolley but at the same time it felt good to be doing something for her. I then walked around the corner to see a woman with a new born baby and hysterically cried in the middle of the supermarket. I’ve always wondered if they realise why I’m crying seeing their babies. Do they think I’ve had a miscarriage, or suffer infertility (when Beau isn’t with me) or do they realise some women will have gone to term before losing their baby and that’s why it breaks their heart seeing other babies? I’d love some feedback on this, if this is something you have done or if its too painful to even go near baby clothes and what you think other people think if they see you crying at their babies?
On the subject of including Silver and how I’ve personally found this to be helping me cope I wanted to share some pictures below of what we bought at Blackpool yesterday. I had planned getting a picture printed of Silver and taking photos of it wherever we may go. To document her journeys with us around the country and hopefully one day the world. Only I hadn’t got around to doing this yet so when we saw a little elephant ornament we knew it was a perfect way of including her in our little family day out. Elephants were Silver’s special animal and this was yet another occasion where I wanted to tell the shopkeeper just how much the ornament meant to me. I promise you this will be the last time I back down from sharing her story. But it made our day feel complete, as much as we could we felt like a family spending a lovely day together.
I mentioned before I have borderline personality disorder and, in some ways, Silver helped show me I am much stronger than I ever thought. I learnt how to be truly selfless, completely in love and fearless. I was always a mum to Beau but Silver showed me just what being a mum meant. I had to overcome my social fears- there was a lot of people in the delivery room and a lot of neonatal staff I got to know and admire. I had to come to terms with not having a pool birth and accepting a C Sect as my best option and approaching it fearlessly. The biggest lesson she taught us however was how to love. True love means no matter what you may face in order to protect someone, you would do it anyway because they were more important than any fear.
For my last point I simply want to remind people to recognise and acknowledge paternal mental health too. When me and Fabian found out Silver was unwell it had a drastic impact on our marriage for the better. It was like falling in love again and we actually learnt how to be patient with the other person whilst comforting and supporting each other. Since Silver passed away unfortunately we have slipped into old ways and I think a lot has to do with the anger we feel at the situation which is transgressing into our relations with each other. We have had a social worker supporting us however and have had help making a plan so that when we get upset or angry we know exactly what the other person needs. For the first time this week we put this plan into action and I can’t tell you how much a difference it made. A situation which may have led to an argument instead led to Fabian comforting me as I broke down, ran me a bath and generally took care of me. I can’t stress enough how important it is to support each other and remember that the dad is suffering too. Not only that but in many cases, such as stillbirth, the father may never have been lucky enough to bond with the baby as much as Fabian got to. Whereas us mothers are very lucky getting to feel every kick and wriggle and get to build a strong bond before birth. I have never seen Fabian so despondent and deject since losing Silver, something he has recognised and is trying to fight to get help through the NHS to ensure his stability and wellbeing. It is never weak to ask for help, and it certainly take a strong person to actually fight to get help with the NHS! (But please do try)
I know I haven’t touched too deeply into my mental health in this blog, I’ve spoken more about how I’ve been coping and what has helped me but hopefully you will forgive me for not wanting to delve too deep and dig up emotions that are best laid buried. I have contemplated and planned a suicide since losing Silver, Mother’s Day in fact. It is those thoughts I can imagine all too well have run through other parents minds too, especially if they have no other children. And although I don’t want to talk about this too deeply I do want to emphasise again the importance of supporting each other through this ordeal and having the patience to realise whilst there is only so many stages of grief it does not mean you will both go through the same stages at the same time. I read that many marriages break down after child loss which is another reason I feel we need to be more open, talking and getting support. Please seek help if you do feel suicidal, losing one child is enough but for a family to lose a mother, a daughter, a son, an uncle or whatever you may be… I can’t imagine the pain that would be so outspread within a family of a parent of a lost child if they too passed away and left a family missing two precious lives.
Hopefully this has shed some light onto the effects of child loss on mental health and maybe even given you some ideas of what could help you cope. I hope this gives reassurance that grief is very personal and there is no set way each person deals with it which is totally okay! You deal with it however you feel best helps. I have found self-care and being kind to myself the best way of working my way through this most awful situation.
Until next time
(For info on prenatal depression check out this previous blog)