Baby Loss Awareness Week: My Story So Far
The first year
To sum it up in a few words I would pick shock, painful, devastating, intense, heavy, unpredictable, tears - lots of tears.
The first year is full of your 'firsts'. Our first first was Mother's Day. I can say that it went by in a haze. I think I was still in shock from everything and I was even still physically recovering from what had happened. The lead up was pretty rough and I was expecting to be an absolute wreck of a person but I was still numb and foggy then. Other firsts hit harder. First time back at my doctors when the last time I was in there was to see the midwife. It was almost at panic attack levels. First time going out for breakfast and eating runny eggs and crumbling at the table as I realised it was the first time I had eaten runny eggs for months (I always ate all the things you were supposed to when pregnant so there were no runny eggs - I am a rule follower!) First time I saw a pregnant lady and literally running away as she came toward me rubbing her belly. First trip back to the school to drop my daughter off and not having the pram with me and Tabitha inside it.
I cried everyday for 6 months. I relived her birth story every Wednesday and her death story every Thursday for 6 whole months. I would check the times and I can still remember what I was doing for the first few weeks - they are that etched in my memory (I don't have a good memory!).
I became an incredibly anxious person. I was not good in crowds and I found it hard to be in groups of people and talk about normal things. I didn't have anything else to talk about for 9 months while we waited for a report to come back on Tabitha's care. It's all I could think about. The what if's, the whys. My world had become incredibly small.
I reached out for counselling about 5 months after Tabitha died. It was very helpful for me. It came at a time when I was losing people to talk to. The people around me had been amazing but let's face it, they have their own lives and struggles and I was in a place where I just wanted to talk and talk and talk about me and although I know there are people in my life that would have done that for me, I felt I needed to explore that elsewhere. My counsellor was amazing and I did about 12 weeks worth of sessions.
Other firsts came, hit hard and went. The build up to Tabitha's first birthday was very tough. I spent Christmas remembering how excited we had been before she was born. I was waddling around wondering if we were going to have a Christmas or New Year baby. Without her around was inexplicably painful. I smiled as much as I could for my daughter and those around me but it was undeniable that there was this gigantic empty hole in my life. Having to sign all those Christmas cards without her name in them was soul destroying. Receiving cards without her name in them was heartbreaking. A few mentioned her. But not enough. I bought her a present - a music box with her name on it. The same as I had for my first daughter's first Christmas.
Our bereavement midwife recommended that we go away for her birthday. I have received 3 pieces of information from her and they have been the best 3 pieces of information I have been given since Tabitha died. I was not going to ignore that she recommended going away for her birthday and getting a change of scenery would be a good thing. We went away for a week and made wonderful memories. There were times that it was simply awful she wasn't there but ultimately we created those memories with her in mind so it was as if she was there with us.
To sum this year up so far in a few words I would pick soul searching, learning to live with grief, brighter days, lighter moments, sadness.
I came out of the first year exhausted from grieving, I never knew how tiring it could be. Everything had been very raw and I remember as 2019 turned to 2020 I cried, let all the pain out and just felt very sad. Tabitha had physically existed in 2019 but she didn't in 2020. Everything was 'last year' now and seemed far away. I could still relive the day she was here hour by hour and recall it all as if it had happened yesterday and it hit me hard that time was going by so quickly. I just got sad. The shock and unpredictable nature of everything had slowed down and all I was left with was utter sadness.
I had gone back to work and I had more to remember. I was taking on more and more as my brain was allowing more in but I had to remember to take it slowly as some days I could get overwhelmed if my grief visited. It was always there still but a bit lighter now. It's like being a ball inside a box. Your grief is the ball and pain is the inside walls of the box. In the beginning the ball is huge and your feelings hit the walls of the box every time it's moved. It's beyond painful, frequently. Over time, the ball gets smaller and so hits the wall less often when the box gets shaken up. It still hurts just as much when you hit it though, so even though it is less often, it can still bring you down to your knees in an instant and hurt just as much.
There have been lighter days and brighter moments. Although I am still struggling with social gatherings that highlight that Tabitha isn't here, I am present in them and I say no to those that I know I can't get through - and don't punish myself for it.
I still find it hard to be around pregnant women, but not all the time. I think I have just lost my innocence with it all. I know it can go so terribly wrong. I just worry for them and get sad that I didn't get my happy ending.
There are still what if's but Tabitha's milestones would have slowed down now so there are longer stretches of not absolutely dreading these.
I'm learning to live with and accept the new me.
Before Tabitha and after Tabitha
I am definitely one person before Tabitha was born and another one after she died. I don't like and can't do some of the things I did before. I am forever changed. I think I'll write more about this in depth another time. For now, I'm learning to live with it and embrace the change. I'm starting to let go of those who haven't accepted my change too.
I've realised that there is no right or wrong way to do all this - just do whatever you feel is right.
What happens next?...
I just cannot believe that we will be coming up to Tabitha's 2nd birthday in a few months. I'm sure we will honour it by making more memories with her in mind but I am also mindful that as milestones loom I need to be kind to myself.
I wonder what my words for year three will be? I am hopeful that hope will be in there. Love certainly will be, as it always has been, since Tabitha entered our lives.