Baby loss impacts everyone differently, yet there is a sense of similarity between us all, not just from our shared experience but maybe because the subject is still very much a taboo. Since I lost my son Jayden Ashley in September 2019, I have seen so much unity and support for bereaved parents – but only because I went looking for it, and fortunately found lovely blogger Elle who introduced me to the Tommy's community.
Grief and loss
At my 20-week scan, there was no heartbeat. Everything happened so quickly that I think I lived in a state of shock for quite some time. The very next day, I gave birth to Jayden, and my husband Ricki and I spent an afternoon with our angel baby before going home to our two little boys that evening. The funeral was a week later, with just the two of us attending. I remember feeling like I was in a whirlwind, a storm that was not going to end... ever.
Ricki is an introvert and I'm an extrovert, so we both dealt with our loss differently, but learnt to respect each other’s ways of coping and support one another. He just went with the flow – right or wrong, good or bad, whatever it was, it didn't matter. We have now come to believe that grieving is a process in which anything goes.
Silence, tears, screams, sobs all day, closing yourself off or opening yourself up, sharing or not sharing the pain of your experience, anything goes. There is no right or wrong way to grieve your baby.
My husband and sons kept me going but support was not strong from wider family and some friends, as they were in a tough situation with my sister's wedding just five weeks away. Traditional belief in our culture is that grief and happiness can’t co-exist, or it’s seen as a bad omen to speak of sorrow during a joyous occasion like a wedding. So, feeling alone, we had to seek help elsewhere.
Help and support
A real pillar of strength for me was my amazing bereavement midwife. Her time and care - such limitless compassion - was something I just never expected. She helped our family members understand what we were dealing with, and how they could become the support network we needed. And she's still always there if I need her, only a phone call away.
Finding the words, having the courage to ask for support, let alone managing to find it… just figuring out your next steps in life can be overwhelming.
I have a handful of friends who are great, and this helped as they can just be there and take everything in their stride – no judgements, no questions asked. Yoga also helped me a lot; my teacher was so warm and understanding.
Love and hope
Children are a huge distraction and my sons were a blessing in an otherwise unbearable situation. I can see why Rainbow Babies help the healing process for many, although I fear that may never be the case for us. Mothers who have lost their baby are often just expected to have another one; as harsh as that sounds, it's very much a reality.
People often feel that grieving is somehow measured with the amount of time spent with the soul that has been lost – so if you spent a lifetime with someone, you grieve harder or find it more difficult to overcome than the loss of someone who you may have only known for a few years, months, weeks or even days. I see this measurement as inaccurate.
Love is love, limitless and everlasting. Attachment is a different thing altogether. They can and do become entwined, but attachment is built over time, while love happens in a heartbeat.
For me, that love began the very moment I knew I was having another child. My experience of motherhood only made everything feel more profound, as I had already known a love like this and how precious it is.
When someone grieves, out of love or attachment, no one knows how it will affect their heart, as well as their mental and their physical well-being. I still have a long way to go but my faith has strengthened, and hope gets stronger with each passing day. As the saying goes, "Adversity and loss make you wise."
Jayden will always be my favourite ‘what if’ but I am determined to use this pain as a tool for good, to continue supporting other families like mine and raising awareness so that nobody feels they have to suffer in silence.
Jag is fundraising in memory of her son Jayden and aiming to run 50km. You can donate to support her, and Tommy’s, here.