It’s the time of year where my mood tends to go a bit lower. Life is a bit harder and me and my husband tend to relive events in our mind of the week before our son died inside of me. The week itself was very mundane – we went to a gig and out to celebrate a friends birthday. I was very tired and felt big at 34 weeks pregnant. We’d invested in a large fan as the hot summer sun was zapping my energy. I felt a bit anxious about childbirth and life as a new mum.
We didn’t know that our world was going to fall apart on a hot July day. That Jack’s silent entry into the world would mark the beginning of a journey of grief we had never envisaged. Stillbirth was a terrifying word I didn’t even want to acknowledge when pregnant but suddenly it was our reality. I was scared whilst I was in labour that I would not be able to look at our son and love him. Death is scary. But as soon as Jack was born I held him close and knew my love was deeper than any I had known before.
Physically I felt destroyed after birth – the usual symptoms of having a baby compounded by stress and mourning. I had a painful stye in one eye and could barely walk. The midwife told me how to stop my milk from coming.
The next year passed very quickly. Thanks to the love and support of family and good friends we were able to grieve and honour Jack’s memory. We were surviving, carried along by the tide of a grief as wide and deep as the ocean. Some days I felt numb, sometimes I thought I would never stop crying and anger stabbed at me. I began to smoke again, painted and played computer games.
When I felt strong enough, I started going on long bike rides with Stevo. This was the first step towards thriving rather than just treading water and as I got stronger and healthier I was blessed to become pregnant with Ethan.
Suddenly our lives were full of purpose again and a year after Ethan was born I began childminding and set up a local Sands support group for anyone affected by the death of a baby. During the befriender training I was introduced to the concept of the gifts of Grief and I was at a point where I could acknowledge them.
I never wanted entry into this club of ordinary people who were forever changed by having to organise a funeral for their baby but since this happened I am able to understand the value of holding someone’s hand and saying “I don’t know what to say. I’m so sorry for your loss” without adding anything after. I know how much a sympathy card, a hug or a home cooked meal can mean in a time of crisis. I can help people navigate grief by explaining it is completely normal to feel nothing at times and it doesn’t mean you don’t care. I have been able to help friends manage the fear during pregnancy after loss. I have been able to talk to health care professionals to improve services in the local area and due to a fantastic fundraising team we were able to buy a cold cot so families can take their stillborn babies home and have more time to cuddle them.
No-one would ever choose these shoes to walk in but I hope that by living my life in a positive manner and using the gifts my grief has given me, I am keeping Jack’s memory alive.