My dearest (and some now not so dearest) friends.
Since losing Arthur some of you have avoided speaking his name, some have avoided me, some have tried to remove him from existence, as if because he died, he was in some way never real. Some of you have added to my heartbreak with your actions or more simply lack of them. Some of you have however, been truly amazing. Supporting me through unchartered waters, just sitting and listening and generally just showing your love and support on a regular basis. Recently several of you have contacted me, making excuses for why you haven’t been in touch, when actually its quite clear to me the reason, so please spare me the rather lame excuses, some of you have felt uncomfortable, not knowing what to say and thus have avoided me, avoided mentioning Arthur and avoiding offering any kind of support.
It’s ok. I do get it. Nobody likes to talk about baby loss, nobody wants to think about death and question their own mortality, let alone think about children and babies dying. It goes against the natural order of things and we as humans like order and the comfort that comes with thinking these things don’t really happen, that somehow they happen ‘over there’ in the periphery of life. I lived in that world once too, the world where you are not faced with the uncomfortable reality that 15 babies (over 24 weeks gestation) die each day in the UK. As I type this that is 2206 babies that have died in the UK since Arthur. That is too many. I realise for some talking of baby loss is uncomfortable, but try living that life. Try living that life every single second of every single day for the rest of your life. That is what myself and all the other parents before me must do, that is what those 2206 parents since Arthurs birth must do and that is what 15 more parents will have to do tomorrow and the day after that.
The number will not go down until we change the story and break the silence, I will no longer hide my son away for fear of people’s reaction. Arthur was beautiful and his life although far too short did and will speak volumes. These are the things I’d want to say to you all about baby loss:
It’s ok to speak his name:
Please say Arthur’s name. Yes, I’ll probably get upset but I’m upset 99% of the time anyway. You are not reminding me that he died by talking about him, I know he died. I live with the heartbreaking reality every single day. Talking about Arthur, saying Arthur’s name and including him in things isn’t reminding me that he is no longer here, it’s telling me that you remember him too and that my dearest friends is the one thing I would ask you to always do for me.
One child does not replace another:
Loosing Arthur is not made any easier because I already have a daughter, one child does not replace another. Yes, I am grateful for my daughter, whom I love more than life itself. Yes, she gives me a reason to get up each day and continue even when I’m at my lowest, but no, having my daughter does not make the fact that Arthur is not here any easier for any of us. If anything, it adds a different layer of complexity as we have had to explain death to a 3 year old who is wondering where the little brother she was expecting has gone.
Children are unique and do not replace each other. Just as if we have more children in the future, a new child will not mean we love or miss Arthur any less, there will always be one empty seat at our table, one missing stocking over our fireplace. We will always be missing a member of our family. No amount of time or babies born afterwards will change that simple fact.
Yes, you do have to give birth, babies that die do not magically vanish:
I’m truly amazed by the ignorance of some people that they appear to think full term babies miraculously somehow vanish and that you do not have to give birth to these babies. People somehow fail to understand that you have been through labour, you will have all of the normal things happen to you after you have given birth, your hormones will change, your hair will fall out, your body is stretched and bloated, larger then it was before, your breasts will ache, producing milk. Your body does not know that you have lost your baby and as such will function in the exact way it would have been should your child be in your arms rather than your heart. This is also true for earlier losses, ladies who lose a baby at 20 weeks, although classified as a ‘late miscarriage’ will still have to go through labour. Ignoring this simple fact only adds to the heartache and isolation felt by parents.
No amount of time will ‘heal’:
Please don’t use the words ‘heal’ ‘closure’ or ‘get over’. No amount of time will heal the pain, no amount of time will provide closure and certainly ‘getting over’ the loss of your child is something I know I will never do. Nor, do I expect to or want to. I am perfectly fine always having a piece of my heart missing, that piece belongs to Arthur, no one else, ever. Telling me that time will heal is truly hurtful and to be honest slightly ludicrous as you are telling me that my Son is something to that I should be moving on from. We will never move on, yes our lives will move forward, but they will never move on, nor will we ever find closure or heal.
Pretending they never existed is hurtful
Never speaking their names and forgetting them in cards or even just the inability to acknowledge they were once here is also hurtful. Arthur along with all the other babies lost before or after him are someone’s precious much wanted son or daughter. Those children were not given the chance of the life they should have had, that is truly heartbreaking but what makes each and every day harder for bereaved parents is being forced to constantly have to remind the world their child existed. You do not stop being a parent when your child dies and I know so many strong amazing Mums and Dads that are fighting every single day to have their child’s name spoken and remembered. Please help them out, they are struggling enough, SAY THEIR NAME, show them you too remember their child. Its really not that hard and believe me it can make all the difference to a grieving parent.
I know you may not know what to say, but just try….
Please try and show some compassion, I understand you may not know what to say but if that is the case just say exactly that. Say “I’m so sorry, I don’t know what to say” Say “I’m lost for words, its just too heartbreaking to comprehend” and if all else fails, Say “I’m sorry, it’s shit, I really have no other words”. Saying something is always better then saying nothing.
The holidays are hard
Christmas, New Year, Halloween are all going to be hard, they are huge reminders that a member of your family is missing. They remind us of what should have been and what is not. There are times when you will feel sad, lonely and extremely mad at the world. Please offer out a hand of comfort, please try and show you are thinking of them and their child. A simple line of ‘Thinking of you all, especially Arthur at this time of year’ is enough. Just something, anything, just say something.
Any sentence that starts with ‘at least’ is generally not an ok thing to say.
I can’t believe I’m actually having to write this one, but with baby loss, it seems to me that common sense and basic human decency also disappear out of the window for some people. As a general rule, although I have said “Say something, anything”, I would avoid any sentence that starts with the words ‘At least….’. There is no at least, when your child dies. There is no silver lining. I know its human nature to offer hope, but seriously, this is not the time to be trying to find the positives. I’ve lost count of the number of ‘At least’s’ I have heard. They make me want to scream. I’ll list a few below just so you can see how they play out, see what you think….
Them: “At least you have a daughter”
Me: “But I should have a son too”
This one drives me particularly insane as you wouldn’t tell a child who had lost a mum or a dad that ‘at least they still had the other one’.
Them: “At least you know you can have more children”
Me: “Do I know that? And I wanted the one I had, the one I carried to full term”
Again, taking this example would you say to a man whose wife had recently died ‘at least you can get married again’?? No?? Didn’t think so. So please don’t say it to people who have lost children, for a start you have no way of knowing what hoops they went through to conceive that child, they may not be able to have more children and also it’s just a stupid thing to say, it’s a very British Enid Blyton ‘Oh well, you can get another one’ attitude and to be quite frank its crap and people should think before they say it. Also, people who have lost children, especially at full term may not ever be emotionally ready to think about having children again. Don’t presume, don’t say silly things, maybe just listen.
There are so many other ‘at least’s’ that I’ve heard myself or that other mums have told me people have said to them, generally speaking they are all pretty hurtful and although probably said with the best of intentions, generally they are unhelpful. Maybe just avoid those two words ‘At least’, like I said earlier, there is no silver lining and there is no at least when it comes to a very much wanted child not being here. Maybe and as harsh as it may sound, Close your mouth, open your heart and just be there in whatever way you can be.
And to those that have whole heartedly supported me through each and every one of the 21 weeks that have passed since Arthur died, Thank You. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, I am now and always will be truly grateful for the love, support and compassion you have shown me. At the age of 35, I may no longer have as many ‘friends’ as I once had, but the ones that remain are the ones I know will be around for next 35 years. These are the ones that I want to share my happy times with, these are the people who have held my hand whilst I’ve cried, sat with me in silence when there have been no words and these are the people that I truly treasure. There will never be enough words to thank you for the support you have given me, all I can hope is that you these people recognise how wonderful they have been and how much I adore each and every one of them.
It seems strange to write a whole letter and not dedicate any of it to Arthur, all I will say is I have Arthur to thank for showing me the value of friendship, for holding a mirror up to my life and showing me who I can rely on and who I cannot. This is not the way I ever anted to find this out, but I am glad I have done, So Arthur, my beautiful boy thank you for that and I love you, every second of every day, always.
The loss is great but the love is greater