You are so brave. Four words I hear so often now. I’m not going to lie to you; I don’t think I am. I know that when people say those four words to me they are simply expressing, in the only way they know how, that they don’t quite know how they would react if they were faced with the loss of their first born child. Let me ask you this though; what do you ordinarily do when life throws something your way that you weren’t anticipating? Something that is entirely out of your control. I can tell you now that you deal with it; you might not like it, but you face it head on. Why? Because you have to.
When Teddy died I quickly realised, within days as I recall, that although I was sitting in my house, in my dressing gown, surrounded by family and afraid to leave; that life goes on. I heard footsteps of people walking to the station in the early morning for their daily commute, and builders shouting and singing from the roof of the house opposite as they continued the loft conversion. Why? Life went on because they had no idea what had just happened to me. I can remember that moment, when the penny dropped, so clearly. I could sit in the house, terrified of the outside world, alone in my grief; or I could choose to let the light back in. That was a conscious choice; and one I knew I had to make if we were ever going to create some kind of happiness in our lives again after losing Teddy.
In the weeks that followed I remember very vividly a conversation between my husband and I; it went along the lines of, “This will not define us.” On this we both agreed. What we meant by this was that neither of us wanted Teddy to be the reason we didn’t succeed at something, or the reason we didn’t carry on building our home and pursuing our dream together. We wanted him, if anything, to be the reason we did. One of my worst fears is that people will look at me and talk about me in years to come as “Poor Elle; her baby died.” I honestly cannot think of anything worse than Teddy being the reason I ever held back from anything in life. It is this that drives us; this that enables us to carry on; and this that makes me truly believe we will find happiness again.
It also becomes frequently apparent to me that we are now the benchmark for other peoples version of “When sh*t happens”. I have to say this isn’t a fabulous place to exist. What I mean by this, for example; friends will be talking and explaining something bad that has happened to them or perhaps a friend; they will then quickly interject in their own dialogue with an emphasised “Of course it’s nothing compared to what you’ve been through.” There we have it; losing a child instantaneously makes you the benchmark of sh*t. Fabulous. I think people feel guilty; they feel bad for saying something is bad or unfair when they see what we’ve been through. I don’t want people to ever feel guilty for that; sh*t happens, that is life (trust me, I have waded through it for over 8 months now). I guess, for now, I will remain that benchmark until time begins to heal the rawness and people begin to see that some kind of happiness is returning to our lives.
The other scenario that frequently plays out for me these days goes as follows; person follows me on Instagram, likes a few of my home interior pictures and perhaps a pug picture or two. A week later I post something in reference to Teddy; or better still, I totally lose my mind and think it clever to start a blog. Said person contacts me via comment, Instagram message, email or perhaps sends a pigeon (I made that last one up, just keeping you on your toes.); generally with a line that reads similar to “I am so sorry, I cannot believe what you have been through. Your positivity amazes me, you are so brave” (Please feel free to insert other words such as heartbroken or phrases such as “My heart aches for you” where you deem appropriate). What strikes me from each and every one of these posts and messages (although I quite obviously appreciate their sentiment) is this; people see a few photos of my “perfect” and “desirable” home on social media and they come to the conclusion that I have a wonderfully perfect life. Then the sh*t part hits them; that’s when they can’t compute. How is she so happy? Why is she smiling? How is she still standing/ breathing/ getting up each day? Surely none of this can be possible when your baby has died? Well let me tell you my friends, it has to be. If we didn’t let the imperfections of our life help us to become stronger, better people; where the hell would we all be? Of course, it goes without saying that I appreciate every single one of those heartfelt words that people send me, I truly do. Sometimes it just feels as though their shock and sorrow for me weighs me down as much as those early months of losing Teddy did. I’m ok guys, I promise; I mean I’m fighting for survival some days, but I’m pretty sure I’m nailing it.
I have friends who have fought (and overcome) cancer; I have friends who have gone through or are going through IVF treatment; friends who suffer with illnesses that affect their day-to-day lives that they have to live with; I have friends who have lost their parents suddenly or perhaps after a prolonged illness. Guess what? They are still here; still carrying on, still learning to smile again. As the late and wonderful Leonard Cohen wrote “There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.”
So if you are reading this and you too have lost a baby; perhaps you’ve experienced miscarriage at any stage of pregnancy, or like me you were lucky enough to meet your babe. Or if you are reading this and conceiving a baby actually seems like the most unachieveable dream in your life right now for whatever reason, or you’re struggling with something else going on in your life right now that makes you feel like you’re the only one. Remember that we all have our own unique journey, don’t compare yourself to anyone else (I’ve had to learn not to, to save my own sanity!). Do not be fooled into thinking that perfect world of social media is real (It really isn’t; I mean I trick people into thinking I have a great life every day?!). Just know that if, like me, you’re on a not-so-simple road to motherhood, that’s ok. You will get there, in the end. You’ve got this.
After all, it’s really pretty cool to be perfectly-imperfect.