A guest blog by Lisa, founder of Still a Mama.
Imagine being told, ‘In a couple of hours, everything you thought you knew about life will be gone. Your whole belief system and soul will be ripped out of you – physically and mentally. You will experience indescribable loss, yet somehow, you will remain.’
Baby loss is multi-faceted, complex and messy. The pain is indescribable. The moment I heard those words, ‘there is no heartbeat’, I left my body. Nothing seemed real.
What it feels like to lose a baby
Your worst nightmares seem like daydreams; reality is too much to bear. How can you move on with your life when all you see is them; when the memories, the trauma, remain?
Separate to the physical pain of your baby being taken, your core is ripped out of you. Everything you thought you knew: your belief system, thoughts, feelings, relationship with yourself (never really knew I had one before this), friendships, lifestyle, work ethic, morals, support systems and strategies, in fact your whole entity – gone; and to make it worse, society treats you like an outsider.
It’s not a club I ever wanted to join, but it’s an amazing place to be. When you meet another mum who experience of loss, you don’t even need to speak. There is an instant connection, an unspoken mutual understanding. You fight and build resilience over time.
You survive because you know others have endured this before you and lived to tell the tale. They are living proof that life goes on. That we can recover from this catastrophic blow to our spirits, to our lives.
In baby loss, we accept, we adjust, but we never forget.
Still a mama
All your life philosophies and parenting approaches fly out the window when a baby dies. Your entire being is deconstructed in ways you never knew possible. It is unimaginable that anyone can survive the aftermath of baby loss. Living on without your child is unthinkable; continuing to function, is impossible.
Just because your baby isn’t here doesn’t mean you are not a mother – you will continue to parent your child every day; just not in the way you had hoped or planned.
I am and always will be ‘Still a Mama’ to Gracie Rose, stillborn on 7 July 2016: always loved, never forgotten.
The most agony, the most love
Losing Gracie meant everything I thought I knew had changed; but even in the extreme pain of loss, the decaying of everything you thought you knew is quite liberating. There is strength in being vulnerable. It takes bravery to be open to the hurt, to let it matter.
This remarkable loss is the most agony I’ve ever felt, yet it holds the most love I’ve ever known. It has also given me a new definition of self, a new way of seeing, and a new love – one so strong that it made saying hello and goodbye in the same day worth all the pain.
What I have learned along the way
- Just Breathe. This is all you can and will do for a very long time. This is ENOUGH.
- Do not let your suffering be a measure of your love. Oh, how I punished myself in those early days. Relief from grief is allowed; punishing yourself isn’t helpful.
- Your mental health is a priority, self-care is a priority, your existence is a priority.
- You are still a kind person with a good heart if you say no. Do not expect yourself to be the person you were before; this is the new you. You will be getting to know yourself for the next few years. On that note, do not give yourself timescales, particularly in the early months, regarding when you think you’ll feel better. I did this and set myself up for the biggest fall of my life.
- You will lose some of your support network. This is normal in baby loss. People will do things that hurt, and it is okay to take a year out and re-assess relationships and friendships. It is okay to distance yourself from people who are pregnant, to unfollow people on social media. You are not a bad person for doing this.
- It is essential that you speak with another loss mum. It confirms that your thoughts that feel crazy are very normal in baby loss. You will bond over your shared experiences of how society deals with this tragedy.
- Motherhood seems like some cruel joke taunted in your face. There are reminders everywhere. Protect yourself as much as you need to. Be aware that grief stings when you least expect it. Do not fight it. It will always win.
- Your relationship with your partner will be tested beyond belief.
- Live each day to honour your baby. They are never more than a thought away. You will learn a new kind of love that can only be experienced to be understood.
- Live minute by minute if needed, hour by hour if so, and day by day when you can.
I am happy to say I’m now a mother to Gracie’s sibling Archer, who is 8 months old. Throughout my pregnancy, I was supported by the Tommy’s Rainbow Clinic in Manchester. Archer has brought so much light to my darkness; Gracie is forever my irreplaceable firstborn
Lisa Sharrock runs the blog Still A Mama, which she founded after her daughter Gracie was stillborn.
Still A Mama has been created to break the silence of baby loss, honour all babies taken too soon, and to help loss mothers on their journey of building a new normal. It also provides an environment to open up about the tragedy that is parenthood after baby loss and enables loss parents the opportunity to be proud of their babies and the love they have brought to their lives.
1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss – and most parents never find out why due to a shocking lack of research. It doesn't have to be this way – and Tommy’s research is finding the answers. But research into pregnancy loss is currently seriously underfunded compared to other medical conditions.
We believe that every parent deserves answers. Let us know if you agree.