Our lives were forever changed on November 10, 2013. Our granddaughter, Sophia Grace, was silently born.
We questioned the midwives, who acted like it was another day “at the office,” and the doctor, who said our daughter could go home for a day or two to prepare herself to give birth to a dead baby.
We questioned and blamed ourselves – how could we not have known? The baby had been quiet before, and we had gone to the hospital to check on her … all was well. It is believed by many that the baby quiets down prior to birth, but that is not necessarily the case. Slowing down might be normal, but it could also be a sign of problems and should be investigated right away.
It was a mind-numbing experience, with the world and other families growing around us. While other women had a stork on their birthing room door, we had a leaf with a drop of water.
These other women moaned, groaned and laboured to hear that first cry – we heard nothing when Sophia slipped into the world.
Our daughter bravely laboured and birthed according to her plans, bravely birthing her child and silently embracing her.
They discussed weight, fingers and toes, heard more cries and coos; we had to find a funeral home that would pick up Sophia.
While families around us prepared a car seat to take their beautiful bundle home; we bundled our daughter into a wheelchair, holding only a pink blanket, leaving the labour room with empty arms.
The surreal experience left us bewildered, wounded, and in shock. How do we tell everyone that was awaiting the news that we don’t have a baby to share with the world? The other families from the hospital that night were sharing birth announcements and photos … we were preparing our daughter to cremate her daughter and write a death notice. We carefully asked people if they were comfortable seeing photos of our beautiful baby girl.
As the numbness wears off, and life moves on around us, everyone goes back to their lives – A common experience for anyone grieving. Our grief and mourning at the loss of our granddaughter, daughter, hopes and dreams is real and raw. Grief is a gravely misunderstood emotion, we are not really prepared to support a person that loses a loved one. We offer our sympathy, we cry and hug when we first hear the news; we don’t truly know what to say or do, especially as time passes.
For those of us in mourning, we keep feelings inside, not knowing who will be “okay” with hearing us talk about our loved one. Some days are easier to manoeuvre through; we manage the day with smiles and even tears as we remember. Other days, not so easy, hard to get out of bed, tears of anger and frustration. Why did you leave us? Why did we deserve what feels like a cruel punishment?
Sophia was an unexpected part of our future, joyfully anticipated, and sorrowfully missed. She may not know the impact her short life had on our family, expecting her brought us closer together, losing her has made us stronger.
There are no timelines when grief stops, it may feel like we have moved past the depth of emotion that is holding us back from getting on with life. Then we will read or see something that brings a fresh feeling. I struggle to walk past the diaper aisle, if she was here I would be in that aisle buying diapers. I also try my hardest not to go near the infants section of a store, I can picture her in those little girl clothes and wish with all my heart that I was spoiling her with cute little outfits. I get teary eyed and stop myself from showing the emotion, I don’t want to create a scene. Sometimes, I do just want to yell out that I miss her and my heart hurts, but I don’t. I weep silently when I get home.
“Life won’t get better, it will get different”. This phrase has helped our daughter as she picks up the pieces and tries to figure out where she belongs. She is a Mom, forever a Mom, however there isn’t a child here to hold, and nurture, like other Moms. We have photos, a lock of hair, and her ashes; for that we are grateful, the times we live in have changed how stillbirth is handled in hospitals. It used to be that the baby was whisked away and you were told to forget. Now parents and grandparents are given time with their babies, photos are taken, hand and foot prints made. A memory box is prepared and delivered to the family.
As we move through our day to day lives, Sophia is remembered with so much love; we see butterflies often and know her spirit is close.
This experience will forever allow me to support mother and fathers, nanas and papas, aunts and uncles, friends, midwives, doctors and nurses who have had to bear this experience on their souls and in their hearts.
Supporting a person in mourning is not easy, often you don’t have to say a word – just be close, offer a hand to hold or a shoulder to cry on. Allow them to share stories, memories, feelings and it may be the same stories, memories and feelings. That is okay, they are processing and doing what is right for them. We often forget that the impact of losing a loved one is a life-long experience. Sure it gets easier to talk about them or think about them, it is forever in our hearts and what we truly need are people who also want to share in those remembering moments with us. Without judgement or words that fall flat, instead share smiles and loving touch.