It was still a birth!
I was 24 years old, newly married yet had been with my partner for many years, he was my high school sweetheart. We were eager to take the next big step into parenthood and were incredibly excited about it, as was our extended family, as it would mean my parents were going to be first time grandparents.
I had a wonderful pregnancy internally although I was exceptionally big and although I was agile enough, it would always demand comments from others about my size, yet that didn’t worry me as I was bonding so spiritually with the baby growing inside of me. I was in a magnificent and accepting head space. However, a few days before my due date, I stopped feeling movement. Being a first time mother I put it down to the fact that the baby slows its movement so close to delivery. We wanted to be safe and since it was the Easter weekend we thought we would make a quick stop to the hospital to be safe. We were light hearted and told the registrar doctor not to tell us the sex of the baby. His response was ominous and with a dire look on his face informed us that we might have a bigger problem than finding out the sex of the baby as he can’t find the heart beat. He phoned my obstetrician who came over immediately. On arrival, he delivered the news with tears in his eyes. I remember feeling numb, shock and disbelief whilst silent tears cascaded down my face. All my hopes and dreams of the future crumbled and blured before my eyes.
There was a palpable hole in the pit of my stomach and heart. I remember wondering if this would ever pass or even if I wanted it to pass? The next couple of days was a vague blur, I remember people coming to visit with dinner dishes and good wishes. I just wanted to hide under my covers and escape the reality around me. I tried to put on a brave face but not sure how well I managed that. I was polite and thankful to them but even more thankful when they left. I know my friends who came to see me found it as hard. Firstly not many people know how to be around death however worse than that, the majority of my friends were themselves pregnant, some in the very early stages and some just about to give birth. This was awkward for me because I felt that with what happened to me would unnerve them and make them anxious about their upcoming births.
Furthermore, they felt uncomfortable in front of me, almost like a survivor’s guilt. I tried to alleviate some of their fears by assuring them that what happened to me is about a one in a thousand chance of happening and that their baby is totally different. I tried to reassure them that despite what happened to me, I was unbelievably happy for them. As time moved on, I had to go to the hospital to visit their newborns, this was always quite confronting. It was taking me back to a place of negative memories and I tried so hard not to cry when cuddling their new-borns. I was truly happy for them however I would undoubtedly crumble and cry when I got to the comfort of my car.
Life for me was a constant battle of dealing with my overwhelming emotions and the will to make others as comfortable as possible in my presence. This was the case especially with regard to our extended family. I felt their loss too. I knew their dreams were tarnished as well. They were not to be the first time grandparents or the first time aunts or uncles. I also knew how much they hurt for us. Therefore, both my husband and I tried to assure them that we were ok and tried to get back to a sense of normality as fast as possible.
However, shortly after the death and bitter birth of our child, my husband and I escaped to Byron Bay to grieve in the comfort of anonymity. It was there that we could come to terms in our own way without having to put on the brave face for others. Whilst away, I still had to go to the hospital for physical checkups as I was still feeling the afterbirth and the cramping were a rude reminder of the pain I was in, internally and externally. Furthermore, for people who did not know us, it looked like I was still heavily pregnant and it was not uncommon for some caring stranger to ask when my baby was due? All these extra added wounds that added insult to injury was unbearable yet I knew they were coming from a good place. All in all it was a trying and testing time in our lives.
I never chose to do counselling although many people on both a personal and professional nature encouraged me to do. I don’t know why I chose not to. I think I felt this was too sacred for me. I did not want someone’s pity, advice or for them to distort my beautiful picture I had created for myself. I did not want to hear that I am in denial or that there is no such thing as a guardian angel or that I should get my head out of the clouds and come down to reality. I had never been to a therapist before and I had a distorted idea of what counselling was. I was therefore left with my disenfranchised grief. Life went on and people forgot, but not me and so I suffered in silence or at least tried to navigate my feelings in a cocoon of silence. I cut my support network off so that I did not upset them. I did not speak to my friends who I felt I needed to protect from their feelings of survivor’s guilt. I did not want to upset my husband who I could see needed normality as his coping mechanism or my parents and sister who hurt so much for me.
If only someone had told me about the benefits of counselling, the fact that I could talk uncensored about what was truly going on with me. That it would be ok to be angry, happy, sad or whatever the hell I wanted to be feeling, without thinking of who it would affect. If I had only known that therapy was the opposite of advice giving and that counsellor’s never advise and that I would use the counsellor as a sounding board to understand the random thoughts going on in MY head, so that I could understand MY thoughts and start making sense of MY life on MY terms. If someone told me that counselling was all about making sense of My world, my true authentic self would be allowed to be shown instead of navigating this difficult time rummaging through my sedimented beliefs that I was not sure were even mine. If someone had told me that counselling was a powerful space that the counsellor holds with no judgement, a place where profound realizations happen, if someone had told me, I believe I would have gone to counselling and benefited immensely from it. It wasn’t until years later that I actually studied counselling that I grasped the power of it.
It seems, I went on an emotional journey and discovered many aspects of myself I did not know existed. This time gave me a blue print of how I authentically see life. It gave me an understanding, an appreciation and an incomprehensible compassion. It taught me never to say this time next month I will be ….. because there are never any guarantees. It taught me to appreciate the moment and live it whole heartedly because you never know when it can be swept up right from under you. It gave me extreme gratitude for the beautiful healthy kids I now have. It taught me to live and love like there is no tomorrow and for that I am forever grateful.