When I say letting go helped me experience my daughter’s death and birth, this is probably not going to be about what you think it’s about, so let me explain.
I’m not talking about letting go of the baby, the memories, I’m not talking about the funeral or handing the baby over to the morgue. I’m talking about letting go and being in the experience. Understanding that this may be something you cannot control and recognising what is happening is beyond heartbreaking, but doing it non-the less.
In the case of many stillbirths, and in my case, my baby died before I presented at the hospital. Would I have done everything in my power to save her if she showed signs of life? Hell yes! I would have fought tooth and nail to keep my child alive – I’ve played the scenarios out a thousand times. I made myself crazy thinking of how I could have pre-empted the situation, meticulously overthinking all the steps on what I could have done to ensure she survived. But that wasn’t the case, she was dead. No life to save, no emergency decisions to make.
So, by letting go I mean understanding that I was in a situation where I couldn’t change what was happenening. I can get shitty that it’s happening, for sure! I can blame myself, blame the universe, scream like fuck until my voice leaves me, I could fall into a heap on the hospital floor and be the only one listening to the sound of my heart ripping in two. Ultimately none of that would change the fact my baby was dead.
It dawned on me pretty quickly on the day we found out she died, that to focus my energy on beating myself up with self-blame and shame was taking away precious mental resources from focusing on what had to be done next. Mentally preparing to meet my daughter, and physically giving birth. Both of those things are life changing events, even when the outcome is that you are delivering a live baby with no health problems and everyone happily goes forward with their wonderful lives. But to now be looking at delivering a dead baby is all kinds of fears wrapped up in one.
I felt the fear and knew what was coming next was to be feared, it was a struggle to look beyond the fear and into the future, and living every gut retching step as it came. Every step forward required a never before encountered mentally exhausting effort from both me and my husband. I was about to give birth to our third child, and giving birth is no small feat itself, but with the added emotional sledgehammer of knowing there is to be no elation at the end.
I wanted to remain blissfully unaware of anything called stillbirth. Unfortunately, it got us, and here we were dealing with shit we knew was life changing, and would be reverberating in our lives from the moment of stillness onwards. Our life would be before the stillness and after; a line in the sand.
Every moment would be replayed and over analysed in the future. That’s what grief does, just sits around with you, and when your alone or vulnerable it comes and takes a seat with you, invited or not. Sometimes you can sit with it and chat, keep it in check, sometimes it comes up from behind and socks you over the head.
I suppose it was really about being passive or active in a situation that you realise as you are going through it, is traumatic. More than the unfathomable experience of holding my dead baby, what I was most fearful of was being passive in the experience, to have this wash past too fast for me to see and breathe in my own child. So by default I became active: became present, became involved, became aware, became an active partisipant of the experience.
I could go round and round with the unfairness, the utter anger I felt at this ultimate betrayal of my body to not sustain my baby, and to not give me enough warning to save her life. But that perpetual roundabout of anger and frustration and blame would lead me nowhere. So I got off the roundabout and lived in each unfair and heartbreaking moment, because even feeling alone and broken in a hospital there was no choice but to accept this is my reality now and move around in this uncomfortable and terrible truth.
We seem to like to categorise our life experiences neatly in a box marked positive or negative, my stillbirth experience doesn’t fit into either, it’s an experience that is marked by both love and sorrow, and doesn’t fit into any box. An experience that requires strength and vulnerability in the same breath. An experience where things, both positively and negatively, are not the same afterwards.
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