Thursday, March 29, 2012
the shadows in the early hours
"The mention of my child's name may bring tears to my eyes, but it never fails to bring music to my ears. If you are really my friend, let me hear the beautiful music of his name. It soothes my broken heart and sings to my soul" - Author unknown
It occurred to me that this blog is largely about healthy babies and children, and hasn't really touched upon unexpected events or problems. Today I want to reach out to those parents and friends of those who face difficulties and sadness along their path of parenthood; for I am in awe of you.
I find your strength inspirational.
A few years ago, I went to see my friend, a week before her third baby was due. We had lunch, chatted in the sunshine, laughed at our children playing together in the garden. As I hugged her goodbye, I clearly remember saying, "the next time we meet you'll be holding your baby in your arms! Good luck for your labour!"
Several weeks went by, and I didn't hear from her. I thought she was probably snowed under with 3 under 4's on her hands, so didn't contact her until about six weeks later, when I left a message for her. She phoned back a few days after to tell me that her son had been stillborn. She had given birth to him on her birthday. I was so shocked I didn't know what to say. We were both crying and I wanted to see her and hug her, to share her tears. She needed that precious space and time to grieve with her family, and I understood that. I gave her what she needed. But I felt devastated for her. She later moved away with her family. For the first couple of years I would send a card or email on his birthday, but then I began to wonder whether it was somehow inappropriate. Happily, they had another baby and settled into their new life. I have all but lost touch with her. I think of her often, wondering how they were able to deal with the heartache.
I know of close friends who have lost a baby, too. As someone who has been fortunate enough not to have suffered this kind of loss, I cannot begin to imagine how it feels, and all I can do is give them love and time.
I try to think about how a bereaved parent must feel to know that the baby they love is gone. Their baby will never know how it feels to experience the sand and the sea, the sunshine, ice creams, the swings. They will never have the emotional first day at school, the day their child learns to ride a bike without stabilisers, the first lost tooth and the fairytale of the tooth fairy.
They will never face a day where they feel like they are at breaking point with toddler tantrums, or trying to teach their child to go back to sleep when they awake in the early hours. They will never experience the cold toes and fingers as they creep into bed with their mummy and daddy and wriggle around all night, keeping them awake.
Instead, they will sleep, and wake in the early hours, to a brief amnesia; before it is replaced with the flooding grief, the shadows of the darkened room engulfing their hearts, the silence of the hours deafening them.
To anyone who has been bereaved in this way or another, I am so sorry for your loss. I can't take your pain away. I can't bring your loved one back. But if you know of a friend or loved one going through this pain, you can be there for them.
Say to them: "Tell me about your baby. Tell me everything you can remember. I will listen, and laugh with you. I will share your joy. I will comfort you. That person has left an imprint on your life, so show me what they looked like, the colour of their hair. Tell me how it felt to hold them in your arms, if only fleetingly, not for the lifetime you had dreamed of. I will cry with you, I will celebrate their life and I will love them with you. And when you feel ready to take the next step, I will support you in the next part of your journey." Don't shy away from talking to them about their baby, but be respectful of their need to grieve and have the space, the time to come to terms with what has happened to them.
You can't make them suddenly better. But you can give them your love, compassion and time. You can give them space and give them the opportunity to talk if they want to. Take their cues, and listen.
- Nikki Harman
- I am a mum to two children, a registered nurse, a trainee breastfeeding counsellor, reiki practitioner, photographer, and generally into keeping things natural. Going back to the basics in life, respecting nature, the planet, and each other. Teaching this to my children and others who are interested. This blog comes from a good place, and is intended to give the reader an opportunity to look at things from a different perspective, and make an informed choice. I welcome constructive comments and would like it if you could share (acknowledging me as the source) and follow the blog. Many thanks!