Stillbirth just doesn’t exist for me.
That’s because in my experience it was anything but …
My pregnancy was normal. The joy of sharing our news with friends and family once we’d passed the first trimester (because that’s the risky time – they say), a gorgeous second trimester with festive outfits (a snow globe) and some fun at the beach with those first kicks while swimming in cold water. Third trimester being busy with work and preparations, my daughters getting super excited about their new baby and asking daily if baby was here yet.
All the normal stuff – including hitting the last week of pregnancy (that feels like a year), and consulting every single wives-tale to get things moving. To my disappointment, the due date came and went, but she was still kicking away happily. Then being woken in the early hours the next day with a hard and fast labour, straight into the hospital … the excitement was there as we all prepared for the delivery.
I vividly remember the last kick I felt, during my last pushes before she arrived, the midwife had her hand on my tummy and we both exclaimed at the strength and then focussed back on the task at hand – delivering my large headed child. In a moment she was out, just like the others and we waited for that gorgeous first cry …
It never came…
She never took breath
The excitement and joy left the room as quickly as the many emergency staff ran in. It felt like I was watching the slow motion car crash scene of a movie, except this was my world falling apart before my eyes as I lay hemorrhaging on the table.
I continue to have deep admiration for my husband who on that day, summoned the strength and words to go home and tell our daughters that they would never get to hold the little baby sister they had been so excited for and introduce them to concepts I would never wish to explain to children so young. Instead they got to lay a rose on her coffin or ‘tiny box’.
In the weeks since, one of the hardest things was actually building up the strength to make the phone calls and tell family and friends. Even now I think of people who don’t know about Alyssa and feel bad that I haven’t been able to contact them yet … because every phone call brings me back to that delivery room … every phone call reminds me of the news I should have been sharing, every event reminds me that she should have been there with us, the shoulds are the killer.
These moments are less frequent now, and often only bring a tear or two instead of ripping my chest apart. But the phone calls are also less frequent. I now understand how uncomfortable this topic makes people feel, so much so that friends stop calling, some even cross the road to avoid me. The invites slow (I’m not as much fun as I used to be) but that hurts even more, because amongst the mire of losing a child, it also hurts that I am mourning the fun-loving, cheeky, life-of-the-party person I used to be too.
A part of me died with her that day – yet I know another part has also been awoken. My life will be forever changed and although her memory brings me sadness, it also brings gratitude and reflection, on what is important in life. When something horrendous happens, you have a choice … to curl up, withdraw, isolate … or to connect or re-connect. It is the community around you (physical or virtual) that helps you through the darkest moments, and I have some amazing new and/or strengthened friendships that have blossomed with often unexpected people who stepped up. What amazes me is how so many people cannot handle other people’s grief, yet grief is something we will ALL encounter in varying ways and forms during our lifetime. At a time when many peered down into my pit of grief and stood at edge waiting for me to climb out and ‘get better’, a small few jumped into the pit with me, held me and said ‘so how are we going to get out of here’??? These people have been amazing and I am so very grateful for them!
If you know someone suffering who is on your heart, don’t stay silent for fear of foot in mouth, consider reaching out and simply asking ‘How can I love you best right now?’ – even if they don’t respond that simple question may be just what they need. Often for me it was the people who were just willing to come sit with me, in a safe space and let me talk if that was what was needed that really helped through some of those ugly days when I was just broken. Know that in time they will pick up more and more of the pieces, but trying to speed that up, or fix things, is impractical. Your dear friend will in time learn to laugh again, have fun, organise things and like me perhaps do a pivot and change much of the direction of their life. Please give them that time and space, and be there beside them as they do, it will be a journey of re-discovery that you may never fully understand… I know I don’t really understand it either, but it’s kind of like going to a shop you never wanted to go to, and trying on all the outfits – even the really weird looking ones – to see what might fit now.
Tomorrow is International Stillborn and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, and I encourage you to think about this… My story is not-uncommon – in fact there are over 3000 stillbirths or infants lost every year in Australia alone. People you know may be suffering sometimes out loud, but more often in silence. At 7pm tomorrow night wherever you are, please join us in lighting a candle for an hour and participating in a Global Wave of Light – igniting the darkness of those affected by Stillbirth and Infant loss. Posting a photo of your candle will let people know they are supported and not alone and may just make the little bit of difference that helps them keep going for another day.
And to the daughter I had, but never had and yet will have forever – Alyssa we will love and treasure you until the end of time.
Georgia Findley (www.instagram.com/georgia_findley www.facebook.com/georgiafindley) raises much needed funds for Stillbirth related causes including Heartfelt the Not for Profit organisation that took many of these photos. Should you wish to fund a photography session for a Family like the one we received by the gorgeous Jade Wisely please donate $65 to https://www.mycause.com.au/page/177000/alyssa-findleys-gift
Feel free to message, friend or follow Georgia to support her journey as a Still Mother getting back to health & love.