Winnie the Pooh is such a classic children’s book, I’ve always loved the close relationships that the characters have with each other and A.A. Milne’s beautiful but simple words. Last December, when I was in need of some beautiful words, I went straight to the bear. It was then I realised, whilst re-reading Winne the Pooh at the age of 30, that the bear and his friends were very wise creatures. That they were able to verbalise the many emotions I was feeling more beautifully and innocently than I ever could. I soon found the most perfect quote:
I immediately knew this should be the quote on our son’s memorial.
The last nine months have been the most difficult and emotional months of mine and my husbands lives. Nine months is the usual pregnancy term for a woman. For us, it will soon be nine months since I had our baby boy prematurely and twelve days after that it will be nine months since we lost him. By these dates I will (hopefully) be over seven months pregnant with our second son. I always have to insert the word ‘hopefully’ as to say with any certainty that I will get to keep this baby feels too unreal.
Over the past nine months, I have learnt how personal grief is and writing this post was not easy as it meant I was sharing a large part of my grief. A large part of myself. I have redrafted this post so many times as I knew that reducing my feelings to words wouldn’t even come close to doing justice to how I feel. Sometimes there really are no words but luckily for me, the bear and his friends were able to help me out a bit.
Over the past nine months, mine and my husband’s lives have changed completely. We no longer have luxury of waking up and assuming everything will be ok. We have lost our sense of security, have been thrown in a direction we never expected and have been shown that we have no real control over our lives.
People often ask me how I’m feeling. It’s a perfectly legitimate question that I would probably ask someone in my situation. The thing is, it is probably the hardest question I could be asked. Of course, I say I’m fine. I wish I could say how I really feel but I honestly don’t know, other than I feel completely conflicted from one moment to the next.
I fight an ongoing battle as I struggle to balance so many emotions, such as the gratefulness of being pregnant again against the loss of our son, the excitement that this baby deserves against the complete fear I feel, moments of happiness against the guilt of being happy and laughter against the aching in my heart and sleepless nights.
People have told me that I’m brave or strong but I don’t feel it. They also say they couldn’t have got through this, but they could have. Going through something like this shows you how strong you can be and also how strong the human instinct to survive is. However, just because I’m not in constant tears anymore doesn’t mean I am doing any better than someone who’s grief is more apparent. As I said, grief is very personal and I am just dealing with things differently and privately.
Every day (well, every minute) I feel different. One minute I will feel Eeyore’s pessimism and the next Piglet’s anxiety and fearfulness. Occasionally I will be lucky enough to feel Tigger’s optimism. Someone told me that grief is like a dart board, which is an accurate analogy. The most intense grief is the bullseye. Although there will be times where my grief will be on the bullseye, it is not physically possible to remain there so my grief moves around the board, to different levels. Although certain events, like anniversaries, more intense grief can be predicted, there are also lots of occasions where for no obvious reason at all, my grief will return to the bullseye.
I think a lot of people sighed in relief when we got pregnant again and I totally get that. It is because they desperately want us to be happy. However, although we feel beyond blessed it doesn’t make things any easier. It may even make it harder because as we move through this pregnancy it can feel like we are moving further away from our first son as focus shifts to this baby.
I saw a quote in a SANDS article from a mother who was pregnant again after a loss. She said that being pregnant again is like getting back on a plane after a plane crash killed someone you loved. This is very true.
Dealing with people can be exhausting, especially strangers or new friends. People often ask you when you’re pregnant if it is your first baby. An innocent conversation starter, but I know that these people will not want to know the true answer to that question and I never know where to begin. It is also difficult to know where I now belong. I don’t belong with the first time mums as I gave birth and had a baby but I also don’t feel like I belong with the second time mums who have their babies with them. I know that finding my place in the world again is something I will struggle to do for a long time.
Ultimately, despite all of the difficult emotions and pain we feel, I know that we owe it to our son to try to make the best of our new reality. This is not easy and some days I can not do this. However, as much as possible I remind myself how many things in my life I have to be grateful for and and in the words of the bear: ‘How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard’.
Images by EH Shepard.