My name is Tasha and I am a mum – just not in the way that I hoped I would be.
In the last 12 months, I have had two early miscarriages and more recently on 11.01.18, lost my son Kaspar after going into premature labour at 23+3 weeks.
As the days and weeks (and months) have rolled by since losing Kaspar, I have found myself wondering how my life would have been different if he hadn’t have come so early. If he’d been less impulsive (unlike his mum), and more cautious (like his dad) and stayed put until he knew it was safe to come out. Aside from the obvious of him not being here, I thought it might be helpful for people to know what these initial months have been like as a mum with empty arms (again this is just my experience, we are all different but I hope it helps when going through or supporting others who are going through the loss of a pregnancy, baby or child).
Being a mum with empty arms:
I had to give birth to my son. Now I know this might sound like I’m stating the obvious as the majority of people would understand this, but there have been a small collection of comments that have led me to feel like some people just assumed Kaspar magically appeared (and then disappeared). But, the reality is, like any other mum, I had to go through the labour, the pain, the grunting, the gas and air, the hilarity of having a wet (unused, I might add!) sanitary pad attached to my head to cool me down, the exhaustion, the fear of pushing, and the beauty of giving birth to Kaspar. I did this, not knowing whether he would come out with a heartbeat or not, but ultimately knowing that we would not be taking him home. The pain of labour is just the same, regardless of whether your baby is full term or not. Whilst I imagine most mums towards the end of labour are desperate (images of women screaming ‘just get this baby out of me’ spring to mind) for their baby to make their grand entrance into the world, my mind was fighting against my body, was fighting every urge to push, because I so desperately needed to keep him inside for longer. But with the love, support and amazing cheerleader style skills of Owen, I did it. I brought Kaspar into this world and I am so incredibly proud of that.
I had all the horrible physical symptoms that come after bringing life into this world. I bled, bled, and bled some more and I was sore. I had surgery to remove my placenta as it wouldn’t come away itself (another common and cruel aspect of premature birth). I had constipation, and that horrendous fear of going to the toilet the first time (thankfully my bottom didn’t fall out like I worried it would). My tummy sagged (but not for long as I was given medication to help my uterus contract). My milk was suppressed with a single pill, and my breasts quickly returned to their pre-pregnancy size (gutted!). I had the hormonal crash, the post-pregnancy blues. I had all of these symptoms but no baby in my arms to distract me from them. Now, all that is left physically is my linea nigra, a beautiful line that runs down my tummy, gently reminding me of how it once was home to the most precious baby boy.
I had to say goodbye to my baby boy. But this wasn’t just one single moment, this was a collection of many over the days and weeks that followed his birth and death. There was the initial goodbye when it was confirmed that his heart had stopped beating – when mine felt like it would too. Then the moment when we had to walk out of the hospital, empty handed and broken hearted, flanked by my family so we wouldn’t feel quite so alone. More goodbyes followed during our visits at the funeral directors, and finally at his cremation, a beautiful private ceremony with just the three of us. Here we laughed, we cried, we danced, we sang, we loved. And the truth is, I didn’t really say goodbye because he is forever a part of me, as I am of him.
The silence is deafening. And nothing prepares you for it. From the silence in the room when I birthed my baby in to the world willing the air to be filled with a piercing cry to only be met with a peaceful quietness, to the silence in the house, which suddenly seems bigger, emptier, and lonelier somehow. It is as though every part of my life knows what is missing from it, and it is only through talking about Kaspar that I can start to fill the emptiness, to break that silence, to fill my world with noise and love and song again.
My house is full of cards. But they do not say ‘Congratulations’. They are all beautiful, all heart felt, all coated with love from those around us, but they are cards of condolence. It’s only now that I realise that Kaspar’s death supersedes his birth in many ways and I don’t judge or blame others for that, as I know I wouldn’t have done any differently if this would have happened to someone else. I would have been the first to say ‘I’m sorry’. It just makes me think that this (being congratulated on becoming a mum) is just another thing that I missed out on.
My sleep went to shit. And whilst this is something I know that all new mums go through, for me, the endless nights are not caused by constant feeds, nappy changes and a baby snuffling gently next to me. It is a product of my permanently active mind, constantly filling with thoughts of ‘what if’ and ‘what might have been.’ Whilst the world around me is quiet and still, I relive the moment of Kaspar’s birth over and over, and fears for the future suffocate and exhaust me. “Can we have another baby? Will I be able to carry them to term? Will they die too?” – these thoughts are all-consuming at times, so if someone you know shares thoughts such as these with you, please acknowledge them, support them and understand how real and scary they feel. You can’t fix them or make them go away, but just being there and listening can help so much.
I am part of two clubs now. The exclusive ‘mum club’ that I so desperately wanted to be part of. And I am, but in truth I feel like I’m a token member because to the outside world there are no signs that I belong in it; there is no pushchair, no toy filled living room or milk stained t-shirt. I am a bystander, a spectator, I cannot join in the conversations about family cars, nappy rash, birthday parties, or nursery runs. In fact, it is these conversations that make me aware of all that I have lost, and all that will not be. I am a mum without a baby in her arms and so instead I find myself a member in the club that no one wants or asks to be part of; the ‘babyloss club.’ But in it I have found warmth, strength, bravery and love. People like me, who are just trying their best every day to put one foot in front of the other whilst keeping their babies memories alive. Warriors in every sense of the word.
I have become ‘that mum’ who wants to show pictures of her son to everyone. Yes, that mum that I swore I would never be. Kaspar’s pictures will never change or be added to. He will remain frozen in time, constantly thawed out by our love for him and brought very much into the present. For me, Kaspar’s pictures are one of the few ways that I can share him with others. That and through telling our story, fighting to raise awareness, to break the silence, to have those uncomfortable conversations; these are the ways in which I hope to keep his memory alive.
The smallest things crush me unexpectedly. Seeing a tiny lost glove on the side of the road. A robin sat on a wall. Having to tick the ‘no dependants under 16’ box on your car insurance form. Seeing a pregnant bump and happy smiles. A toddler feeding the ducks. Having a glass of wine when in your mind you should be 32 weeks pregnant. Seeing your husband holding someone else’s baby. The pain in his eyes. All these things can catch me unaware, pull the rug from under my feet, and make me feel as though I’m falling into an endless black hole. But what I am learning is that these feelings are only temporary. They do pass, and I am slowly surviving them.
I am on maternity leave. Which is a strange, lonely and confusing existence when you have no baby to care for. Initially, it was just endless days of eat, sleep, cry, repeat. I would wander the streets (whilst praying that I wouldn’t come across a mum with a pushchair), or simply just sit in the house and let my mind drift to thoughts of Kaspar. Now, as time moves on, I find that I am breathing more easily, doing more, being more, feeling more. There are still frequent moments when I feel beaten, broken, but I am fighting, I am not giving in, and slowly I am winning.
I have been overwhelmed by the love and generosity of others. In those early days when we could not think clearly, or face the outside world we were saved by food parcels, dinner invites, and takeaways. We were sent flowers, a tree to plant in Kaspar’s memory, beautiful books, pictures, candles, and poems. Most of these were from our family and friends, but there were also beautiful gifts from complete strangers, including two beautiful knitted outfits (one for Kaspar to wear at his funeral and one for us to keep in his memory box), a rainbow blanket to keep him safe and tiny teddies to be by his side. By making myself vulnerable and opening up to people, I have been offered support, and friendship by several women who have also lost their babies; when in the company of other babyloss mums there is an understanding in the silence, things that don’t have to be said and others that can be without fear of judgement or upset – this is something that I am so grateful for.
Most importantly, and what I think makes me no different from any other mum is that I have a son. One whom I love so very much. Who I am so proud of. A son who has made me a better person – more patient, more loving, more willing to take the time to stop, breathe and take in the wonder and beauty of the world around us. A world that is more beautiful simply because he was part of it.
* Since losing Kaspar, I have started to share our story on instagram under the name love_amongst_the_stars – I want to help break the silence surrounding baby loss because I believe that in whatever position you find yourself in, this is a conversation for us all. Please follow me if you wish to find out more, and to access my blog.