1 in 15

Every day 15 babies die before, during or shortly after birth in the UK. When Arthur was born, the rate was at 17 a day and I was 1 in 4 women affected by a stillbirth or a miscarriage.

Statistics. Number. It's cold and impersonal. It almost feels safe. It's something we talk about, something to give weight to an argument. It happens to others. Not to you. To others. Other mums who are too old or with health issues. Mums who don't look after themselves while pregnant, mums with a smoking habit. Mums who have been diagnosed with a baby suffering from deficiencies or illnesses.
It just doesn't happen to you, a young and healthy woman who stopped drinking, who doesn't smoke and whose scans show a perfect baby developing well and thriving.

Stillbirth happens and it happens to anyone. Thing is, we don't talk about it, we don't mention it. Why? It's not going to happen just because we talk about it. Is it a heartbreaking topic that makes you uncomfortable? Yes. It's the worst thing that could happen to any parent, losing your child, your baby, preparing for a funeral, saying goodbye to a little body cold in spite of the layers you wrapped around them, seeing the little white casket, watching it swallowed by the ground. Knowing you will never see, hear, hold your baby ever again. 

When stillbirth affects you, it's like you're shoved into a reality you didn't know existed and you start looking at your life before with new eyes. Stillbirth has tainted you, some people will disclose that it happened to them or someone they love and a bond will instantly be created, some people won't want to talk about it or about your baby - again, in case talking about it affects them as well. Stillbirth changes you. You meet other parents who've also lost their baby and they become friends (sort of) because they know.

Talking about it, raising awareness, saying our babies' names: it must be done so that it can both prevent more deaths and ensure that expecting parents are vigilant.Because it can and will happen again. I certainly won't shy away from mentioning it, from answering that I have two children but that my son isn't with us because he was stillborn, from saying his name, from talking about him to anyone who will listen.

Stillbirth isn't just numbers on a page. It's lives and families, it's names and photos of babies we will never hold again. It's a loss that we will never recover from and spend our lifetime mourning.


Of grief and craft

I started cross stitching a year ago, not quite to the day but close enough. Colouring had been something I would do during the last months and weeks of my pregnancy, something to do that didn't require standing and moving - plus, it was soothing and pretty to look it.
Going back home from the hospital to an empty house that was way too silent - as if it'd been noisy before - proved difficult. Daunting, even. Oddly enough I didn't want to fill that painful silence with either music or television sounds, and I'm not sure why. Perhaps because this silence was my way of being with Arthur, a path to grieving, a mean to grieving. Perhaps. Which led me to wonder: how do I grieve my baby?
There are numerous parenting books, full of tips and advice and skills to master when you're lucky enough to go home with a crying baby in your arms. There's no book, no manual on how to grieve and mourn. How do I know I'm doing this right? Should I stay in bed and cry if I feel like it? Should I force myself up? How much crying is too much crying? Should I eat even though I have no appetite?

One thing I knew for sure was that I had to keep busy. I needed it. Having something to do was what got me through one day after another. I would schedule my ironing, doing a bit of it then leaving the rest for the day after; that way I had something to look forward to, that way I could say 'I have this to do tomorrow' and that felt reassuring. Where I should have been nursing and kissing my baby, looking after him and worrying about doing the right thing as a mum, I was planning chores.Chores that ended in the evening where the hours stretching from dinner to bed frightened me. What was I to do then? Watching television wasn't an option because it turned out that there always was something with babies in it, shows or adverts or trailers, even the news. I couldn't find it in me to read because focusing my mind already wrapped around my grief wasn't possible. And colouring reminded me too much of those afternoons spent in the garden with my kicking Arthur having a ball in my womb.

I turned to cross stitching. Not sure how I ended up picking this particular type of embroidery - perhaps the fact that I had done a tiny bit of it as a teenager. Crafts aren't really something I'm good at but I wasn't doing it for any other reason than to be busy, to have my painfully empty hands do something, Make something. And it worked. I had to focus enough to be immersed in my activity but not enough that I couldn't, in the softest way possible, grieve.
I haven't stopped cross stitching still. I'm sure I will one day because life won't allow me as much free time as it does now. I haven't stopped cross stitching and I haven't stopped grieving. I will never stop grieving, That's quite terrible to hear for people around us who perceive this grief as a permanent state leaving no space to the 'moving on' bit, I won't move on. I cannot move on. Move on from my baby's death? Move on from not having a son who should be here with us? Of course I will not move on. But that doesn't mean I am not moving on with my life, that my grief hasn't changed and evolved, that it doesn't take other shapes and forms.
I cross stitch. I grieve. I make pretty things. I grieve. I live.


The best laid plans

Less than a year ago, I was complaining about my back, my huge belly preventing me from proper nights' sleep, about not being able to do much without feeling tired and out of breath. But it was all okay. Because I would tell myself that it'd be worth it, that soon I'd be way too busy taking care of our baby boy to find the time to complain, that I'd go back to my former weight and that my back would feel better.
I hadn't planned much I think. It was, in fact, surreal to picture our lives with Arthur as a baby no longer inside of me. We were excited and happy and nervous. Plans had gone as far as making sure we had everything we needed, that we were logistically (for want of a better word) prepared for him to be there. And the date was getting closer so fast. 3 weeks to go and I might be in labour. Only 3 weeks to go! How scary.

Less than a year ago, I didn't imagine that we would go to visit our son at the cemetery every Sunday morning. That we'd be taking care of his grave, of making sure it'd look tidy and loved and well maintained. That we'd be talking about how we'd celebrate his first birthday. Some balloons released in the air? Some on his grave? A picnic? A day spent thinking of him even more than we do every day? Special decorations to put with his flowers?
I hadn't made real plans about my life with my baby. It was all a blur but a blissful one. All I knew was that my baby would be in it. And even those tiny feeble little things that I can barely called 'plans' got shattered. It doesn't make any of it any less painful. If anything, it makes it all it even more real and painful and gut wrenching.
This is what our lives are now. With Arthur in it, of course, but in a way that doesn't allow what we thought we'd enjoy. We are parents and we are learning, only we're learning different things. Less common, conventional things.
How to care for a baby, a son we can't hold.
How to live without him.
How to make him a part of our family in every thing we do.


Girls who are boys who like boys to be girls

We can't listen to Blur anymore. A detail that isn't one.
On the 21st of June, I spent most of the day sprawled then curled up then sprawled again on the sofa, listening to Blur who we then watched on TV. Some repeat of a festival - Glasto or V, I can't remember.
On the 21st of June, Arthur died. He simply stopped living. Quietly. And whilst I was listening to Damon Albarn singing about kicking pigeons in the park, my baby died.

It doesn't matter that listening to any Blur song is a kick in the stomach thrusting me back to that day. It doesn't matter if I never listen to what used to be one of my favourite bands. It doesn't matter. What does matter is that I was unaware of the tragic fatality unravelling inside of me.
Of course, I couldn't have prevented it even if I had known - and in hindsight, it would have made all of it even worse. A mother - a parent - is supposed to protect her child but I couldn't. I was completely unable to do anything and if it happens again, I still will be. That's what gets me. What gets every mother in my position or every mother who has watched her baby or child die. This feeling of utter and complete helplessness.

My womb was meant to be the safest place for him.Warm and comfortable with food and room to move. It wasn't supposed to be a tomb.

Fuck you, life.
Fuck you, Blur.