Our second son Elliott was born sleeping on 28/10/16 at 21 weeks gestation. My membranes ruptured and I went into labour. Our perfectly healthy baby just wasn't strong or old enough to make it through. Now I find I'm in this huge space between his birth and his due date that feels like limbo. A space between the ‘was’ and the ‘might have been’. It’s a space filled with watching the calendar tick over, day after day towards what should have been a joyous time filled with exciting anticipation, waiting for our baby to arrive safety into the world. Instead the anticipation is rife with stress and sorrow. Although he has already been born, that date, his due date, hasn't gone away.
When I woke up on New Year’s Day I didn't want to get out of bed. I didn't want it to be a new year, I didn't want a reminder that time truly does go on. Days, weeks and months had passed and now a new year. I felt like he'll be forever left in 2016, never to grow up through the years. I felt like the new year reflected how I was further away from him yet closer towards the cruelty of what was meant to be. I was supposed to be big and waddling by now like I was with my other two by this stage. I was supposed to wear that maternity dress I bought on sale. Instead the night before I could have a few drinks because I wasn't carrying a baby safely inside and I could wear my pre-pregnancy jeans because he had already been born when we were just over half way there. Having a cocktail and wearing my jeans were things I looked forward to doing again, but now both just reminded me of what I no longer had.
I never cared for dates and now they meant everything to me. Every Friday echoes the day he was born and died, the 28th of every month tells me how old he would have been if he survived. And that date, the date that he was meant to be born healthy and alive is looming. I won't ever happily prepare a birthday party for him like I do for my other two. Instead we prepare ourselves emotionally for certain dates which bring a gutting ache of milestones we'll never get to witness. I see photos of friends who were due within weeks of Elliott’s due date and know that was meant to be me. I can't let my husband put his hand on my belly when we cuddle because it reminds me how he would rub my belly feeling the baby kick. Now there's just emptiness when there shouldn't be and it feels taunting to have his hand on it.
I had a great week last week- I felt productive, useful, purposeful. Then I woke up one day and couldn’t get out of bed. For three days, I didn't get out of bed until late in the afternoon and when I got up I felt like I had absolutely nothing left. Out of nowhere my grief had smacked me right in my face. I couldn’t stop thinking that we would be counting down the weeks now, preparing for his arrival. That if he was born now, even this early, chances are he'd be fine. It feels like every week that passes closer to his due date intensifies the thought of our baby whom we should have taken home. I began looking for answers to my grief, to solve it, to let me pass over the thoughts of "if only". I tried to be positive and held back from crying. Then I came to the realisation, with help from friends including other bereaved mums, that there are no answers and no ‘solving’ my grief. That no matter which way you looked at it, it was cruel, terrible, awful and unfair. I broke down to my husband and told him the things I couldn't stop thinking about. I cried that mournful cry you can’t fake, I curled in a ball and clutched at my stomach. When I woke up the next morning it was easier to get out of bed.
I'm now trying to accept my grief as part of who I now am. I’m trying to understand, live with and around it. I'm accepting that the time between now and that date will likely have many terrible days where I am temporarily consumed by those "if" thoughts. I'm going to let myself have those days, so the next ones are easier. I'm accepting that sometimes its ok to not be ok and that its normal to be angry and upset, feeling that it’s all so unfair. Because you know what, it is unfair-completely and utterly unfair. At my worst times, I do my best to bring myself back to the moments where I held him and remember that warm feeling of protective love. I do something to celebrate him and his life, because he deserves to be celebrated like every other baby. I’ve decided that on his due date we'll fly kites for him and write on more stones to put around his tree we have for him, like we did on a day we held for him after he was born. I know I'll count down the days until his due date, and have no idea what will happen after that, but I know every day before and every day after I’ll love him.
Stevie Vowles has a 7 year old daughter, 4 year old son and a son who was born sleeping on 28/10/16. Her journey led her to the upsetting discovery that there is often a great lack of understanding and awareness of pregnancy and infant loss. She has started an open and honest blog sharing her journey of Elliott's birth and the life that leads after for herself, her husband and her two other children, who also grieve greatly, as the first step in wanting to spread awareness and help other bereaved parents the blog can be found here https://elliottsstardust.family.blog/blog/
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