Nine months of pregnancy; nine months of excitement. For me those nine months were a time when I was utterly bursting with anticipation to meet our little bundle, and blissfully unaware of the path that our lives were about to take. So as we approach this coming week, and the 16th February, I am reflecting on nine months since the day that Teddy was born; nine months of loss.
I have spoken about those first days and how I dragged myself back into the land of the living; but what happens then? What do you do when the rest of the world recovers from the initial shock of your loss and you are quite simply left to live it out each day? I’ve built an armoury of coping mechanisms; ones that deal with the day-to-day blows that life throws your way, and others to just get me to face real life on the tougher days. Some mornings it is all I can do to pull my sorry-self out of bed, shower and put my make up on. I find myself walking around the house repeating to myself the things that I do have. I have my parents; so does my husband; both sets have been happily married for over 40 years; we have our health; so do the rest of our families; we own a lovely home; I have great hair (come on now, we are being real here) . It’s things like this that make me feel more lucky; reminding myself that it’s not all bad and that some people would want nothing more than the list above (let’s face it, some people want nothing more than great hair?).
The other day-to-day blows can be a little harder to stomach. I think I am only just at a point where I can see the endless pregnancy/ birth/ milestone announcements of Facebook (or Babybook as I have come to call it) without feeling that familiar burn in my throat as my eyes begin to well up and my stomach flips. It’s that feeling you get when you think something is about to go horribly wrong; except your subconscious hasn’t quite caught up that the unthinkable has already happened. It’s not jealousy, nor is it anger or upset at other people for sharing their happy news; it’s quite simply the knowing of what we have been through and what we are missing out on. A brutal reminder of a whole nine months of missing out.
Another daily event for me often happens when I am out with Boris for my daily walk and we encounter the endless throngs of Mummy gangs with prams that frequent my home town. I usually smile or try and make chit-chat (whilst chasing Boris and reassuring them that he isn’t about to maim their precious toddler; he’s a pug, again let’s be real here). Sometimes I am met with a smile back, but ordinarily I am met with an awkward smile, or worse, nothing at all; after all I am not in their Mummy club, am I? I think this is one of the things that hurts me the most. I am a Mummy, but the rest of the world can’t see it? Why would they? Let’s face it, unless you are carrying/ pushing/ walking down the road with a small child you’re not very likely to look like a mother are you? There is not much I can do, short of running up to them and screaming “I have a pram too you know, except mine is in the loft at the moment, because my son died. I am a Mummy too.” Yep, totally mental; and I am fully aware I would probably be arrested for harassment or sectioned in no time if I ran about town doing that. So I’ll just continue to face the forced smiles and unknowing glares until they start to hurt a little less.
Note; I shall also add here that I’ll never stop smiling or making chit-chat with those people; after all, we all have our own sh*t going on, and you never know what that person has had to face that day. Sometimes all you need is a smile from someone.
I often wonder what it would have felt like to push Teddy around town in his pram; how we would have looked strolling along together. I only got to push him anywhere once; and that was the night he was born. I walked from the delivery suite to the hospital ward and pushed him along in his little crib. As we walked along that corridor I wanted to show him off to each and every person who passed us. I can remember thinking “Look what I made!” and feeling my heart burst with pride. I wonder if it would have felt that way a little more each day as he grew?
Nine months have flown by if I am honest. It is strange to think that the end of next month marks an entire year since my final day at work before starting my maternity leave. Oh how I left with such a spring in my step; full of anticipation for the adventures of motherhood that lay ahead. There goes that blissful naivety again hey? In another breath those nine months have felt like an eternity of missed milestones. No firsts in this house; nine whole months of silence while there is no baby crying; nine months of waking up in the morning and feeling like there’s something I should be doing, something I must have forgotten; then realising what that is.
How do you continue to be a mother to a child who isn’t here? Well I am not ashamed to say that I talk to Teddy every day. I sit in his room often and tell him what our plans are and how loved and missed he is. I often hold his little box of ashes that we are yet to sprinkle at his namesake beach and I put that box on my lap as I tell him about my day. I want to be the best Mummy I can be to him, but that’s quite tricky when there is no benchmark of whether you are doing a good job or not? They aren’t growing, reaching milestones; most importantly they’ll never tell you that they love you back. Knowing that I will never hear that or hear my little boy call me “Mummy” has to be one of the hardest things to overcome in your mind.
So as we approach the end of these first nine months; in the knowledge that Teddy will have been gone for as long as he was “alive” inside of me; I ask myself, what comes next? What will the next nine months feel like, or the next nine years; or indeed, the rest of this lifetime?