** Trigger : This post speaks about pregnancy/parenting after loss**
When Ieuan was 3 weeks old, I took him to a local Mum and Baby group and realised one hour in that it just wasn’t for me. Ieuan was a Summer baby with both colic and reflux and an impressive ability to scream for up to six hours without stopping for breath. I sat on a chair in the corner of the room, sweat dripping down my back from the heat and milk dripping down the front of my dress where Ieuan had brought up most of his bottle. Outwardly, I politley smiled at the other Mums but inwardly my head was chanting don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry.
The other Mums made it look so easy. They spoke about their births which all seemed less traumatic than Ieuan’s entrance into the world. They spoke about how well their babies were progressing and I watched in awe as some of them even managed to finish their cup of tea whilst still hot – something I’m still trying to achieve even now Ieuan is 5-years-old!
These Mums were amazing. But they made me feel inferior because I seemed to be struggling and they weren’t. With hindsight, I have come to realise that this is probably completely untrue. But at the time, my PND was telling me that I was anything but perfect.
I never went back to that group. In fact, I stayed away from Mum and Baby groups altogether. But I was lucky enough to meet other Mums through friends of friends and then my own friends started having babies and we became our own little club. And I just told myself that maybe, just maybe, I’m not a group person.
“Here’s a list of all of the baby groups in the area,” my Health Visitor told me, passing me a piece of paper. I took it from her with one hand whilst holding Iola with the other, “It’s completely up to you whether you want to go or not. Sometimes they’re good to meet other mummies but, of course, I don’t know if that’s something you would feel up to after this past year. And I know everything’s still quite raw for you. But if you do decide to go, the mummies are always helpful and supportive.”
I really like my Health Visitor. And she’s given me alot of support. But what I heard when she said these words was, Your baby died, It may be an awkward topic in the Mum and Baby groups but I’m sure they’ll be nice to you.
But it really got me thinking. . . .
How does a loss mum with a living child get through a baby group? How would I actually navigate my way through that? I’m not naive to believe that I would be the only Mum there who has lost. But I also know that the averages would make me one of few. Especially when it comes to stillbirth. I’m that 1 in 200, after all.
I can imagine the conversations. . .
“Is Iola your first?”
“Nope, my third.”
“How old are your others?”
“My oldest is five but my middle child was stillborn.”
“Oh. . . . . “
I love talking about Evalyn. It’s my way of keeping her close. Of keeping her alive. But I’m more than aware that not everyone in the general public likes my chosen topic of discussion. The ol’ babies-do-die (but-let’s-not-talk-about-it) taboo. I don’t know whether being a loss mum in a Mum and Baby group would be beneficial to my state of mind or not. Because on the flip side of the coin, what if a group in turn becomes a trigger for me?
“There’s also a weighing clinic and a babies’ health morning on Wednesday’s at the community centre,” my health visitor said, “Come along to that too if you wish.”
So, I did. Because it’s one thing to have a situation play over and over in your head.
It’s quite another thing to actually test it. . .
I wasn’t really sure what to expect, to be honest. I usually try to avoid these places at all costs but Iola hasn’t been weighed for a little while and I had a couple of questions about some eczema she’s developed. My plan to turn up at 9am in the hope to make it a quick experience back-fired when I saw that the other Mummie’s who obviously knew the drill had turned up early too.
“She’s really cute,” a Mum said as she turned to face me and Iola, “Is she your first?”
“Errr,” I replied as my mind went into overdrive, “No. She’s my third.”
“How lovely,” she smiled, “You must have your hands full!”
I laughed politley and nodded as I prayed the door would open and we could go in.
Thankfully, some prayers get answered.
I’d like to say that the next half hour of my life proved to me that I can somehow fit in and that I would be ready to go and sit amongst other Mothers in a group and chat about our babies and drink cups of tea that are still hot. But instead, it proved to be the complete opposite.
I’m just not ready.
Because depsite being a Mum to two beautiful, living children who I am forever thankful for, I will still always be a loss Mum. And that’s Ok. Because as a loss Mum, I am Evalyn’s Mummy. And I’m so proud to be her Mum. . . .
It was the sound that became a trigger for me. Within five minutes, there were over ten Mums in the hall and half of those babies were screaming.
And that’s OK, because that’s what babies do. But it does takes me back. It takes me back to that room. It takes me back to the moment my heart broke into a thousand pieces whilst women in labour gave birth to their babies in the rooms around me. . . .
“Ok Iola,” I told her as she looked up at me from the changing table I’d placed her on, “Let’s do this!”
Trying to weigh Iola was like to trying to fumble my way through an obstacle course. Because by the time I’d laid her down, my trigger was already affecting my ability to function. It took me a few attempts to undress her as my eyes burned hot behind the lids and Iola looked up at me in amusement like her Mummy had lost the plot.
I was in labour for four hours, I heard from somewhere behind me, Honestly, I thought I was going to die!
My labour was amazing, another voice piped up, Honestly, it was just so calm and perfect. I want another already.
But you got to KEEP your babies, my inside voice screamed at them, followed by instant regret at feeling frustrated at them. It’s not their fault that I didn’t get to keep mine.
“Lyndsey?” I felt the hand on my shoulder before I saw her face, “Do you need a hand?”
I have honestly never felt so happy to see my health visitor. Not only because I was struggling to figure out what on earth I was doing with the self-weighing system but because suddenly there was someone there who understood why my face was flushed and my eyes were glistening. I didn’t need anyone else in the room to understand how much I was crumbling under a task that could otherwise be deemed simple because at least one person did. At least one person knew everything I was feeling without me having to explain it.
And I think that’s the thing. I tell Evalyn’s story and our family’s story as it is. I tell it as it unfolds. Yes, sometimes I take myself back but that is on my own terms. To find myself in a situation where I find myself going back because it’s been sprung upon me is something else. Because those questions from stranger’s – Is she your first? How old are your other children? Does Iola/Ieuan have any other siblings? – those questions take me back to the beginning. Because when you start a story, that’s where the first page falls . . . . .
Would you believe, I somehow don’t think I’m ready for a Mum and Baby group quite yet? 🙂
It was on my walk home under the February sun that I realised something very important. Composure brings clarity and as my triggers faded and I brought myself back to reality, I realised something I perhaps knew all along. . . .
I’m already a part of the best Mum and Baby group in the world.
Since having Ieuan, I have made friends and kept friends who I know will be friends for life. I have watched my long term friends become parents themselves and i feel blessed to witness the amazing people their children are becoming as they grow. I have met other Mummies and Daddies since Ieuan started school who didn’t even know me that well when we sadly lost Evalyn, but who still took Evalyn into their hearts and me, Nick and Ieuan into their arms.
After Evalyn, I have met so many amazing loss parents and followed their own stories. Some have gone on to have rainbows of their own. Some are still on their own pregnancy after loss journeys and some know they will never have siblings for their babies. But each and every one of them is amazing and inspires me and makes me realise that it is not the living child you hold in your arms that makes you a parent. It is the love you have for your child that makes you a parent. It is how you parent your child – whether on earth or from a distance – that makes you a parent.
Yes, we’re all different. Some of us have living babies, some of us don’t. Some of us have Angels, some of us don’t. Some of us have triggers, some of us don’t. Some of us have photo albums that will continue to be filled, some of us don’t.
But what we do have is far more important.
A shoulder to cry on.
And from these people – this beautiful group of people – I have had all of this in so many different ways. And that’s what I realised . . . . . . . .
I don’t need a group right now.
Because I’m already a part of the best one I’ve ever known.