Friday, February 20, 2009

A gift from William

The truth about me is that I am not a mother of two but a mother of three. Thirteen years ago my second child was stillborn at term. That phrase 'stillborn at term' , so bleak and matter of fact , doesn't begin to describe what this experience is. It remains the single most devastating experience of my life and one that I will take to my grave.

Pregnancy should be a time of nervous but happy anticipation and so it was when I was pregnant for the second time. Never for a moment did I expect that right at the end of my pregnancy I would be faced with delivering a dead baby. Nothing in my life had prepared me for this moment, nothing in any book told me this was going to happen to me, nothing in the experience of my family had made this even the vaguest possibility.

The baby I delivered was a beautiful boy who to all intents and purposes was perfect. He looked like my other two; wide high cheekbones, deep set eyes and a beautiful, deep pink rosebud mouth. We always have lovely babies in our family even if we don't all grow up to be oil paintings.

I never saw the colour of his eyes as they were gently closed as though he were sleeping deeply Both my remaining children, unlike their mother, have dark eyes so I assume his too would have been dark although initially blue. I held him in my arms for as long as I could and slowly his body became cold and I felt that he was really leaving me. I longed to take him home with me but I knew I couldn't, leaving his little body at the hospital was agony.

The post-mortem found nothing wrong with him and I have been left with nothing to explain why my beautiful boy died. Inevitably you blame yourself, you search for answers everywhere. I have spent many nights trawling the internet looking for 'unexplained stillbirth at term', hoping that one day I might find the answer and knowing that if I do the answer in itself might be painful. I've come to the temporary conclusion that stillbirth at term is a bit like a cot-death in the womb.

So why after thirteen years am I going over this ground again, which never ceases to be painful. Well it's for a positive reason. I've recently been able to help someone else who has had the same experience. One thing I said to her was that I didn't want to forget my son or the grief because he is part of what I am. I don't feel the grief as painfully as I did thirteen years ago, I get on with my life and don't think about it constantly but it is absolutely, fundamentally part of who I am - for better or worse. Just as my living children are flesh of my flesh and blood of my blood, so is he.; I embrace the grief and loss now. I didn't want it in the first place but it is what I have and if I reject it, I reject my lost baby.

My baby left me one gift, the ability to speak about grief and loss in a way I never had before. If I can use this gift to help one other person then I'm honouring his memory. Sorry if that sounds mawkish and sentimental, for I'm not a sentimental woman in most senses, but that's the only way I can explain it. I was deeply moved then to find that someone else has found some comfort and inspiration in my experience, inadequate though my explanation of it feels.

PS: The picture is of Sweet William, appropriately the flowers that were out when my Sweet William was born.

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