As we end 2020, I wanted to offer my ‘resignation’ to a ‘role’ that has consumed and saved me in equal measure over the past five years; speaking openly and loudly about my own personal experience of Baby Loss, whilst advocating for others as part of the bigger picture of it all.
I have attempted this in various forms several times over the past few years, trying to step back or say no more. Inevitably, the bigger picture has kept me in. However, as we approach Leo’s fifth birthday, it really is time to draw a line and channel all the unspent love in a different way. For the first time, it feels right to say that.
I am so, so touched and grateful for those who spent their own time and energy in listening to me over the years, reading my words and finding an ounce of comfort or understanding. In trusting me. In getting involved in various projects. I never set out to be heard, just to have a space to speak, regardless. In those early days in 2016 after Leo died, it saved me. It was essential.
Along the way, I found people who understood and that is a beauty to never be taken for granted. The collective voice of others who say me too is powerful and as life-altering as Loss itself. I really am not sure what our journey would have looked like without that. And I’m hopeful that many of those connections can and will transcend an app.
We have been afforded so many incredible moments, memories and opportunities and they will forever be part of Leo’s legacy, and something that we are very proud of.
Yet, the balance lately and most noticeably this year, has been less about helping and comforting us and more about the fight. And whilst that’s a fight I feel deeply passionate about – that passion is exhausting and draining and triggering in so many ways. I found this to be the case in October quite significantly. Something about this year’s Baby Loss Awareness activities shortly after such intense chatter around a subject so personal made me realise how easily I can get pulled in, invested and left exhausted as a result with little gain.
The challenge with baby loss; is it’s an endless fight. There are few tangible, visible wins. There is so much anticlimax, so much bereft resolve that change is slow, there is just so much fight. This doesn’t take away that wins do exist, that support is offered and gained and highly valuable. Nor do I wish to undermine the wins that have and continue to happen due to sheer tirelessness from so many people. Just a fact that overall, the fight can’t be fought by people who no longer have the energy or resilience to fight with. Whilst I wish I could stand here and continue to fight, to shout, to demand more from the world… for me right now, it’s right to step away.
Every single person touched by loss and grief will and should be able to explore it in whichever way that they need to. It’s therefore important for the world to remember that actions are not correlated directly to feelings, emotions and thoughts. Stepping away is and will never be about reaching closure, or moving on from Leo or being over it or okay with giving birth to my dead son. If anything, it’s a reflection of not being okay, of still being deeply affected by our own experiences and that of others, and the inadequacies of a struggling healthcare and societal response. It is a reflection of perhaps, just once, needing to not meet grief with action but needing to respond to grief with… well, grief.
We will continue to parent Leo in that quiet way many, many parents who loose their children and carry on day-in and day-out without a blog do. We will continue our rituals, our ways of remembering, of visiting him and talking about him. We will continue to be pained by his lack of being, and by all that he misses. We will continue to love and wonder. We will continue his legacy. This is simply a new chapter. A less public one.
I have struggled in the past to get to this point. The thought of ending or closing anything so entwined with Leo’s memory is deeply painful. In the past, the mere thought has bought me to tears. It’s hard to know what or who he is without it. It has become so much of his memory and his achievements and his being – what is left, if I stop that? I now know that nothing changes; not for us. And that’s the important thing here. As much as I cherish the opportunity to support others, and as much as I know how needed opportunities for support and advocacy are… We are Leo’s parents, and his memory and impact for us is and will always be the most important version of him.
For whatever reason, we both always thought that we would do something big for his fifth birthday. Something of Everest proportions. The world right now means that we aren’t. Quite the opposite. Yet this feels big. For me, this is actually quite a big deal. And I appreciate for some that probably feels like the most trivial, first-world dilemma to have. For five years, every ounce of emotion has been funnelled into this blog and all that it touches, and as such has become a significant part of who I am and how I have parented for five years.
I wanted something posted here for those who may venture on to this website in years to come. I wanted an explanation for them – because I have discovered people’s journeys and they’ve just become silent and I always wonder what that meant and why they stopped. So this is for those who discover Leo in 2021 and beyond; I am so sorry if you have personal reason to be here. I hope you find something of comfort here, or elsewhere.
For those who have found support in Baby Loss Hour; a key part of my decision was finding a comfortable way to enable it to continue without me. And so in 2021, organisations will run monthly takeovers. I hope that you can continue to help it thrive. You can follow here: www.thelegacyofleo.com/babylosshour
For those who have enjoyed taking part in Advent to Remember, please know it’s a project that is, by design, unique and personal to you and so as such, can and should happen with or without me popping up on social media feeds. I hope to see everyone in December though.
I fully intend and expect to pop up now and then; but I will not be on social media or here as a rule, nor will I be volunteering to add my voice to the fight as I have done previously. I find social media an incredibly positive place, (and owe Instagram in 2016 a lot), yet equally negative and all-consuming at times. Wanting to step away from that place is my main desire in all of this. My accounts however aren’t going anywhere, and I hope serve as a useful resource as and when needed, by whomever needs them.
I set out to write this blog in 2016 as a way to evidence our survival for our future selves. I think through it all, we’ve done just that and so I hope it helps those who are in the early days know too, that you can survive. The first day, week, month and year feels like an impossible milestone and I’m still unsure how we got there. Yet, we did. And somehow, we are five years on. One day at a time…
So for now, until whenever, I’ll be signing off. Thank you to everyone who has taken a piece of Leo into their hearts. It means the world.
Look after yourselves,
Jess, one of Leo’s mothers
PS – for January, we will both be taking part in the Miscarriage Associations Step Up initiative as part of Leo’s birthday month. If you’d like to and be able to donate, you can do so here. Thank you!