The term “loss mum” is absolutely a phrase I never knew existed. There is so, so much we have learnt. The biggest being that stillbirth happens. To the point that it’s ten times more common than SIDS. That healthy babies die, and making it to full terms gives you zero guarantees. That it’s the biggest taboo.
Yet, there are some things I don’t think I really expected to learn. They aren’t the full compendium of stillbirth lessons, but they are just a few things I’ve been thinking about lately.
Number One : Baby funerals come with discounts.
So, whilst anything wedding themed doubles in price, anything dead baby themed tends to give you massive discounts! Smaller-than-you-imagine baby coffins are sold at cost, plots are about a fifth of the price and funeral directors tend not to charge you. All bonuses when organising your baby’s funeral.
I’m not sure if this is a square metre ratio reduction, or a moral compass pointed at the unfairness of baby death, or perhaps an awareness that you’ve already spent your office-whip-round on a fancy Moses basket. Either way, it’s a much appreciated smack in the face about how ridiculous it is that baby coffins exist.
If cemeteries couldn’t get sadder, you then discover that there are actually baby gardens because that.many.babies.die, it’s worthwhile.
Number Two : Not all windmills are baby grave friendly
Rather quickly you discover that windmills are the in thing. A baby garden full of colour and windmills actually becomes a sight to make you smile. Seeing those windmills spin, is like all the babies saying hello. You soon realise though, not all windmills are worth their price tag.
Firstly, a baby dying in January does not help with windmill purchases. It is worth stocking up through summer for the non-windmill winter season. Especially, at a seaside resort. Foil windmills will fade quickly in the sun – although silver windmills look equally as nice once they have faded, it’s good to note when buying. Traditional wooden windmill designs are the absolute best (see second pic). Fabric and wire petals aren’t ideal (as in the first pic). We saw some already broken in the shop the other day. Leo’s lasted longer than this, but he managed to break them within a week and a windmill with half the petals missing makes a baby grave that little bit more depressing.
Oh, and novelty windmills massively win the baby’s windmill competiton, especially if your novelty windmill is in fact a windmill-windmill.
Number Three : Sharpies have magic powers
Never before have I looked at a pebble thinking oh, that’s big and smooth enough to write on. From placing in baby gardens, to writing on stones in tourist locations – anything to make it feel like they are there. Sharpies have a magical way of giving you a smile and making you pretend your baby is with you.
Nowadays, we leave the house going : Phone, check. Keys, check. Sharpies, check.
Number Four : Your sadness isn’t just for your baby
Very quickly you realise that baby loss and stillbirth are not words just for your baby. There are some days that I wish no one else knew this pain. Or better yet, I didn’t either. There are babies and stories that speak to your heart, and you sob for those babies just like you do for you own.
I will always wonder who the other babies that day were. The dozen or more families who lived that day like we lived that day. When you learn one of them was also called Leo, well, that takes your breath away. The power of that is huge. ‘The other babies’ will forever have a place in your heart because you know the love they had waiting for them and you know the pain their parents feel.
This world is huge and that’s a horrific, horrible and tragic thing. Yet, we never knew it existed.
Number Five : The physicality of death isn’t at all scary
For most people the thought of a dead body isn’t one that would make you smile, yet when that is all you get of your baby, you really don’t mind. Dark lips, thin skin, fragile head and leaking nose. These are things you wouldn’t usually discuss with affection.
Yet, the unconditional love for your own baby floods over these things and you realise death isn’t scary. Grief, forever, and loss is scary. But the physicality of death isn’t. All these things are part of them, and whether you saw them for ten minutes or ten days, they are yours and yours alone.
The small, large, deep or frivalous lessons will always be learnt. It’s changing every day. Discovering who can’t handle the world of baby loss, or finding out who can. Seeing ways people honour your baby, or virtually falling for the people who know the right thing to say without even thinking. Realising that every single day is an uphill battle through the fog of grief, but that hope still exists – or at least, the hope that hope still exists. Knowing that for some, lightning strikes twice or thrice or.. Well, it keeps on striking. Accepting that your sons legacy isn’t in fact ending stillbirths, like you wish. Knowing how hard it’s going to be to make a difference. Being humbled and touched at every stranger that reaches out to you.
Above all else, the hardest lesson will always be knowing how to breathe again.