All I’ve ever wanted in life was to be a Mum. Having experienced infertility, miscarriage and stillbirth, maybe I should have been more specific in asking the universe to allow me to be a mother to a baby that is alive.
I am a Mum, just not in the way I had ever imagined.
Imagine someone saying to you, ‘In a couple of hours, everything you know and think about life will be gone. Your whole belief system and soul will be ripped out of you – physically and mentally, yet you will remain.’ You’d say they were crazy, but this is exactly what occurs with the loss of a baby.
Baby loss is multi-faceted, complex and messy. The pain is indescribable. The moment I heard those words ‘there is no heartbeat’, it felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. Your worst nightmares seem mild, and to live this one is horrific. How can you recover when you are constantly having flashbacks and reliving the trauma of this over and over?
Separate to the physical pain of your baby being taken, your core being is stripped from you. Your belief system, thoughts, feelings, relationship with yourself (never really knew I had one before this), friendships, lifestyle, work ethic, morals, support systems and strategies, in fact your whole entity – gone. And to top this off, society treats you like a leper.
Welcome to the world of baby loss – it’s not a club we ever wish to join. Interestingly though, I’ve found this club is also an amazing place to be. When you meet another loss Mum; you don’t even need to speak. Instantly, you connect with an unspoken mutual understanding. You fight and build resilience over time and you do survive because the others who endured this before you, they survived. They are living proof life goes on passed this catastrophic blow to our spirits, our lives. In baby loss, we accept, we adjust but we never get over it.
Life philosophies and all parenting approaches fly out the window when a baby dies. (Yes, babies die – but people don’t want to talk about it). Your entire being is deconstructed in ways you never knew were possible. It is superious that anyone can survive the aftermath of baby loss; living on without your child is doing the unthinkable, and continuing to function, is doing the impossible.
Just because your baby isn’t here doesn’t mean that you are not a Mum – you are Still a Mama and you will continue to parent your child every day, just not in the way you had hoped, or planned.
I am and always will be Still a Mama to Gracie Rose, stillborn on 7 July 2016 and always still loved.
Losing Gracie meant everything I thought I knew had changed, but even in the extreme pain of loss, the decaying of everything you thought you knew is quite liberating. There is strength in being vulnerable. It takes bravery to be open to the hurt; to let it matter. This remarkable loss is the most agony I’ve ever felt, yet it holds the most love I’ve ever known. It also has been a new definition of self, an alteration of being, a new way of seeing and a new love – one so strong that it made saying hello and goodbye in the same day worth all the pain.
What I have learned along the way
- Just Breathe – this is all you can and will do for a very long time. This is ENOUGH.
- Do not let your suffering become a measuring stick of your love – oh, how I punished myself in those early days – relief from your grief is allowed. Punishing yourself isn’t helpful.
- Your mental health is a priority, self-care is a priority and your existence is a priority.
- You can still be a kind person with a good heart and say no. Do not expect yourself to be the person you were before. This is the new you. You will be getting to know yourself for the next few years. Know that, giving yourself timescales particularly in the early months; regarding when you think you’ll feel better are not helpful (I did this and set myself up for the biggest fall of my life).
- You will lose 80-90% of your support network. This is normal in baby loss. People will do things that hurt – it is okay to take a year out and re-assess relationships and friendships. It is okay to distance yourself from people who are pregnant and to unfollow people on social media. You are not a bad person for doing this.
- It is essential that you speak with another loss mum, it confirms that your thoughts that feel crazy are normal in baby loss. You will share many similar experiences in how society deals with this tragedy.
- Motherhood seems like some cruel joke taunted in your face and there are reminders everywhere; protect yourself as much as you need to. You would not put a soldier suffering from PTSD back in a war zone. Same rule applies for each of us for life in general. Reminders still hurt, you just don’t feel the pain as often. However, be aware that grief stings and stings when you least expect it. Do not fight it. It will always win.
- Your relationship with your partner will be tested beyond belief. On top of everything else my marriage ended – my Husband decided he didn’t want children in his future – sometimes you just have to accept things with as much grace as you can by choosing love over fear in any situation.
- Live each day to honour your baby. They are never more than a thought away. You will learn a new love that can only be experienced to be understood.
- Self-Care – You cannot pour from an empty cup. Self-care isn’t selfish, it is necessary. When you are overwhelmed, tired or stressed, the solution is almost always…less.
Get rid of something, or lots of somethings! Simplify your life and try to live slow, you will be getting to know the new you over the next few years. Therefore, be gentle to yourself; you are doing the best you can and if you could be doing any better you would.
Try to seek calm in the chaos by re-discovering joy in the ordinary and by simple things such as listening to the birds when walking, cooking a meal, listening to your favourite songs and reading.
Cut down the noise by reconnecting with yourself creatively and spiritually – try to enjoy the things you love. Follow your bliss.
Live minute by minute if needed, hour by hour if so, and day by day when you can.
More about Lisa and Still A Mama
Lisa Sharrock is the founder and owner of Still A Mama, which she founded after her daughter Gracie was stillborn in July.
Instagram at: @still_a_mama
Still A Mama has been created to break the silence of baby loss, honour all babies taken too soon and to help loss mothers on their journey of building a new normal. It also provides an environment to open up about the tragedy that is parenthood after baby loss and enables loss parents the opportunity to be proud of their babies and the love they have brought to their lives. Still A Mama is creating a blanket of love and awareness across the world; this has been achieved via the power of social media, leaflets in bereavement suites and by shipping items globally – no woman should ever walk this terrible path alone.