Wave of Light......... **Disclaimer: This will probably make you cry**
I am a little late with this post. Apologies for that. But I did light my candle at 10pm Dubai time and left it overnight (probably not so safe so maybe don’t do this).
I lit my candle in memory of all those babies who couldn’t stay with those who loved them so dearly. I lit my candle for all the mums and dads who have felt the unbearable grief at the loss of a baby, at any gestation. I lit my candle for all the unspoken losses. Those people who cannot talk about their loss because it doesn’t even make sense to them, or because they think their circumstances were not worthy of grieving. For those who went through it alone. For anyone who has experienced this. I mean anyone. I wrote a few thoughts down about my experiences and thoughts on baby loss awareness from a midwives point of view. And some words of some others too.
I am always a woman first and a midwife second. I understand loss. I understand your body betraying you. The confusion and anger you feel when your body cannot do the one thing that it is apparently ‘made for’. The shame you feel. The guilt. I truly believe that loss is loss. The gestation is irrelevant. If it hurts you, it is because it mattered to you. Losing the hopes and dreams that came along the second the test reads pregnant is unbearably painful.
With an early loss you sit in the shower watching that future literally go down the drain in the most awful of ways. No one tells you it will be like this. No one prepared you for what it feels like as your body empties of something that filled you with so much happiness you were practically floating. The physical pain is almost welcome as it cuts through the emotional numbness you deploy as a coping mechanism. It can destroy relationships. Can change how you interact with the one you love. You often feel like you have failed them. You will often go through it alone to spare them the pain.
All loss makes you stronger. It is the nature of the beast. Not that it makes it any easier when you are struggling through it. But I also see differently with my midwife eyes. It is like that is one personality that comes out when I am present in that capacity. One version of me. But it works with all the other versions that allow me to do this job. As midwives you have to have millions of different ways to work and adapt. Otherwise your emotions would destroy you. Every single time.
As midwives we are really privileged. We see women at their finest and strongest. Our daily soundtrack is the galloping noise of a heartbeat on a CTG machine. Emergency buzzers. The noises of a labouring woman. The screaming of a newborn baby. Exclamations of absolute joy and tears of happiness. Phone calls in the corridor. The cheers when tea and biscuits grace the midwifery office. Laughter and chatter of our colleagues. This is the part we so often talk about. And it is true, there are generally more happy times than sad times.
As midwives we are also privileged to care for those babies who make their entrance in a quiet and peaceful way. Slipping in to our world but not as we expected them to.
We hear your silent screams. We hear you. We cry with you. You may not always see it, but we have all found a stock cupboard, closed the door and slid down cradling our head in our hands when we have mourned with you.
We say we are sorry. And we hate it. We hate that it is all we can say. It isn’t enough. It isn’t fair. We know. There isn't a word that exists that describes this.
We have the difficult conversations. We want you to be as prepared as possible for what lies ahead of you. Its one of the only things we can do for you. We know nothing we do will remove your pain. Will bring back your baby. We just want to take some of the weight of your grief, which you should never have had to carry in the first place.
We hold your hand, we sit on the floor and hold you whilst you cry. We do whatever you need. Every single person is different. Our needs change minute by minute in these situations so we try to be what you need, when you need it.
We have taken your partners, your mum, your dad, your siblings outside so that they can break down. They don’t want to cry in front of you. Often thinking they have to be strong and pragmatic about these things. Often just not knowing how to be. They mourn with you. For your loss. It is a loss for them too. But mainly they cry because they want to take away your pain. And they can’t. We can’t. We all wish we could.
We know what you have lost. We know you had names, visions of which of you your baby would resemble. Which buggy you would buy and what colour the nursery would be. We know you had chosen a football team for them to follow. And thought about a school. Dreamt of the things your baby would achieve, of the magnificent person they would become.
We know that when you pee on that stick and ‘pregnant’ flashes up that you have a new role and a new connection. Whether planned or unplanned. Something in you inertly changes. We know that if you choose this to be your future, that this baby is supposed to stay. You seldom think they won’t. Because that happens to other people right?
We know it is all too common. We know that 1 in 4 women experience the crippling loss of their child. We know people do not talk about it. We know that needs to change.
We draw our strength from your strength. When we have to guide you through that quiet labour. No horse galloping heartbeat noises. No screaming baby at the end of the most physically challenging part of your life. When your beautiful baby is in your arms but the silence is deafening and the tears are silent. Your strength as a mother. As a father. It is palpable and we draw from that. And from the love you give to your baby.
We know it is scary. To see your baby, so tiny and delicate. Arriving before they were supposed to. We know it is terrifying to hold them, to talk to them and love them for the short time they are here with us. We hold you whilst you hold them.
We know it is heartbreaking when your full term, perfectly grown baby doesn’t vigorously scream because they are suddenly on the outside world. They don’t open their eyes and rest their head on your chest. We know that these are the times when we need to hold you a little longer. Talk to you a little softer. And shed a tear with you.
Because your baby is a baby. Your baby. They lived. They are cherished. They are loved. They are a mix of the best parts of you.
We know their names. We use them when we talk to your baby. When we dress them. When we swaddle them in their blankets. When we take pictures of their delicate features. We treat your baby like our baby. They are precious to us too.
Because we are not just midwives. We are also women. We are mums. We are someone's family. We are friends and daughters and sisters. We have had losses ourselves. We can empathise because we have struggled too. We have been where you have been. We learn from you. Every time we learn something new about ourselves, our compassion, our role. We willingly bear the burden of your grief because we all wanted someone to help us bear ours too.
I apologise if this makes people sad. Emotional, yes, that is normal. But not sad. I certainly don’t want to invoke any negative feelings regarding baby loss awareness. But for me. This is cathartic. A type of therapy. And it is a positive thing. Talking about our experiences is what creates a safe space. It can undo the stigma attached to talking about loss and grief. And I am one of so many health care professionals who feels this way about bereavement care. And that is truly happy news. To have such a rich community of midwives and doulas who feel that it is a privilege to support people through this time.