“I know exactly how you feel.”
It’s a phrase I have heard countless times over the years, when we lost our first baby to miscarriage, when our second son Joseph was stillborn, when we lost one baby after another and wondered if we would ever hold our rainbows.
“I went through exactly the same.”
A comment made by many, when I told them of our pain at never making it past the first trimester, during our agony at having to give birth to a baby whom we would never take home, discussing the ways in which those losses impacted on our family and our future.
I always found those phrases difficult to hear, however well meaning a place they came from, because the truth is you couldn’t know exactly how I felt, and you couldn’t know exactly what I went through.
Our losses did not compare.
You couldn’t possibly know how it felt to be me, aged 23, pregnant for the very first time, planning a future for a baby who was so loved and wanted. You couldn’t know how we had poured over catalogues and traipsed around DIY stores, hunting down the perfect shade of magnolia for the nursery, the animal themed curtains, the soft cotton bedding, the nursing chair where I imagined we would sit at night after night with our little one.
You couldn’t know how it felt to go for our scan that day, my bladder fit to burst, thirteen weeks pregnant, my stomach just beginning to round, outfits picked out, names chosen, a future planned, to be told that our precious little one had died.
You couldn’t have known our joy at falling pregnant with our second son, of making it through our first scan, our second scan, feeling a sense of relief that at long last our family would be complete. You couldn’t have felt our shock at hitting the third trimester and the back to back appointments, two, three, four times a week, the fortnightly scans, the worries for a baby who no longer seemed to be growing as he should, the fears for a son whose life suddenly seemed to be at risk.
You couldn’t have felt the way that we did that day, so close to my due date, hearing that our baby, our little boy, would not be opening his eyes, taking his first breath, or coming home to live a long and happy life with us. You couldn’t have known what it was like to go through 35 hours of excruciating labour, to hear that deafening silence as he came into the world, to feel my heart breaking as I held him in my arms, knowing he was not ours to keep
There is no way on earth you felt the way that I did during those 24 hours we spent together. You couldn’t have felt that over whelming sadness as I said our first hello’s, nor known how saying goodbye was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. It would be impossible for you to feel the devastation as I did, just six days later at his graveside, watching in complete disbelief as my little boy was lowered into the ground, covered with dirt, and gone forever. Nobody on this planet has ever felt the way that I did right there in that moment.
You couldn’t have known the heartache I went through in the following years, when every positive test, or every beautiful flicker of a heartbeat, resulted in another loss, another devastating blow, another hit to a marriage which was already failing. You couldn’t have known just how hard it was when my mental health suffered, my marriage ended, my hopes and dreams crushed, my losses all consuming.
You couldn’t have known how unfair it felt to meet a new partner, a new husband, and have history repeat itself with multiple losses, an over-whelming disappointment, the fear that we would never have the baby we so desperately wanted. You couldn’t have known the agony of carrying a baby who you fully expected to lose, or having your son cry himself to sleep each night for fear that his baby sister would not make it home like Joseph. You couldn’t have felt those nine long months of worry, nor my sadness that the joy of pregnancy was completely over shadowed by the fear of loss.
And those stories you told me, about how your neighbour lost a baby at six weeks, and how it was exactly the same as losing our son, that wasn’t helpful. The account of your cousin who lost twins at full term, or your childless friend who had multiple miscarriages, the implication that our loss could have been worse, that didn’t help me either. Your claims to know exactly how I felt because your Grandma died, or your Mum died, or even your baby died, that didn’t take away my pain or make my loss any easier to bear.
Because, in the nicest way possible, you were wrong.
Those experiences I went through, they were mine. Those losses I suffered, those fifteen little babies I said goodbye to, they were mine too. That beautiful baby boy who I held in my arms, with his mop of black hair, his ruby red lips and perfect little fingers and toes, he was all mine.
Those thoughts and emotions, an over-whelming sense of disbelief, of anger and grief, of complete and utter loss, those feelings were just mine. Those moments where time stood still, where our world turned upside, when we wondered how we would ever find a way to survive such a loss, all of it was mine.
And whilst you can sympathise, you can empathise, you can relate on every level; whilst you can share your stories, your similarities, your feelings and your fears; whilst you can offer your love and support and your own personal experiences that are so very similar on the surface, your loss will never be the same as mine.
You didn’t lose the joy of hearing my babies first cries, their eyes squinting in the daylight, their hands wrapped around my little finger. You didn’t lose the day we would have brought them home, watched them grow, first smiles, first teeth, first steps. You didn’t lose their first day at school, their birthday parties and Christmas mornings, the Mothers Day kisses and night time cuddles.
You didn’t lose the sound of their laughter, the sparkle in their eyes, the good days, the bad days, the holidays and every days. You didn’t lose the person you were before, the life you can never go back to, a heart that will never be whole. You didn’t lose my firsts, my future, my hopes and dreams. You didn’t lose my baby.
You see, your loss can never compare to mine.
And mine shall never compare to yours.