October is a beautiful month in my family. There are many celebrations and we make it a point to spend more time together.
Five years ago, life gave October a new meaning. It will also be a month that i wonder how things will be like if my second child was born healthily and lived on. This year this month, my second child would have been five years old.
I have been blessed with two beautiful children – my firstborn, Phoebie, and my youngest, Breyen. Above and beyond their daily quirks and mischief, they are wonderful.
Yet, having the two of them doesn’t mean I don’t wonder what it would have been if my second child’s heartbeat didn’t stop when I was pregnant. I still miss the child I could have had, and I still wonder how he or she would like been like.
Losing a child is painful. Whether the child was lost during pregnancy or after birth, it is painful.
Five years after my miscarriage (I don’t like this word), it is still painful to think about the child I could have embraced, fed, and nurtured. In the first few months after I had to go through an evacuation procedure to remove the foetus from my womb, I could barely function properly. It didn’t help that not many people understood the pain, and what was spoken out of concern only rubbed salt to my wound.
“So are you feeling better now?”
I was asked this when I went to the beach one day and wrote some words in the sand, words that were meant for the baby I had lost. The answer was no. No, I don’t feel better just because I had written a message in the sand for my baby. I get that it is a genuine question of concern, but no, writing in the sand doesn’t make my pain go away. It is merely a coping mechanism.
It may sound like i am oversensitive, but a better question would have been, “So how are you feeling now?”
“It was early in the pregnancy and the baby was still an embryo, so it has no heartbeat yet, so it’s okay.”
This was not spoken to me but about another friend, but i simply could not believe anyone would say that. No matter how early in the pregnancy, once conceived, even that tiny embryo is a life. The stage of the pregnancy at which the baby was lost does not make the loss less painful.
“You didn’t know the gender. Why did you give the baby a name?”
Because every child i have ever conceived, born or not, deserves a name. Some people even name their cars, for crying out loud. So why can’t my unborn baby have a name? This baby I carried but never to full term was a baby we were all looking forward to, so yes, it deserves to have a name, just like the sister and brother. And yes, I named the baby, Billie.
“You are still young, you can always try again.”
The truth is, conceiving a child and carrying it to full term is nothing short of a miracle. Some people conceive easily and never experience any complications. But for others, trying to have a child requires so much more. Not every one conceives easily, and no, it isn’t as simple as “still young, try again”.
“It’s so common nowadays.”
Way before I became a parent, I found out about a friend’s loss. The baby was almost full term but had umbilical cord issues. Eventually, the baby was born, but a stillborn.
While talking to someone about this, the person said, “Oh, but this is so common nowadays.” And that is the sad truth. Miscarriage is more common these days.
BUT! Please don’t say this to someone who has gone through a miscarriage. Just because it is more common now doesn’t mean there is no reason to mourn the loss or feel the pain. Common or not, the loss is real and the pain does exist.
“You have another child now. You should be okay and happy now.”
Oh the joy when we eventually had Breyen. I still think it is a miracle that we have Breyen. But even then, it doesn’t take the loss away. No, Breyen is not a replacement of the child I lost months before.
Even though I eventually managed to conceive and carried Breyen to full term, giving birth to him safely, it didn’t mean that the loss before is forgotten and taken away. Breyen is Breyen, and Billie is Billie. Breyen is the miracle and restoration after our loss, but we will always miss Billie. And Breyen will be told about the brother or Sister mummy had before him.
If you know someone who lost a baby and eventually managed to have another, please don’t ever expect the parents to forget the loss because of the new baby.
“It’s been so long, and you’re doing okay now.”
For me, it’s been five years. It’s not exactly long but it’s enough for a child to grow from an infant to a preschooler. Often, I would look at Breyen and wonder what Billie would be like at five years old. Would Billie be cheeky and love the same toys as Breyen? Or would Billie be artistic and a bookworm like Phoebie?
Years can pass, but the loss remains real. It is something that I went through and it doesn’t go away with time. I may learn to cope and move on, but it doesn’t go away.
October is still a month of beautiful celebrations in my family, but it is and will always be a month of remembering my Billie.
October is the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
My heart goes out to you, if you have ever lost a child, whether during pregnancy or after birth. A big hug to you as you learn to cope with the loss and carry on living.
If you have never experienced such a loss but know someone who has, go on and give the friend a hug. That means more than saying anything at all.
And don’t forget the fathers who have gone through the loss. They feel the pain as much as the mothers do.