Of all the feelings and emotions I associated with baby loss, jealousy was never one of them. Of course I imagined sadness and anger, an overwhelming sense of loss, of disbelief that our world as we knew it had cruelly been turned upside down. But jealousy? I just never thought that I would associate such an emotion with the baby we kissed goodbye all those years ago.
I’ve shared my feelings on jealousy many times over the years, writing how I struggle to see others enjoy a carefree pregnancy, to hold baby showers and pick out babygros, to have spontaneous births, hear the sound of their babies cries, and take them home to watch them grow. I’ve spoken of my jealousy at those who live their whole lives never experiencing such loss, never knowing such grief, living each and every day with all of their children safe in their arms.
And that’s normal isn’t it, to feel that sense of jealousy, it’s only natural given what we went through, and what we still go through? I have been nothing but supported by those who tell me that they too share those feelings, comforted to know I am not alone in feeling that way. But what I haven’t shared, and what I’m very afraid to say out loud, is that not only am I jealous of those who got to keep their babies, but I’m jealous of those who lost them too.
I’m well aware of how completely abhorrent that sounds, given that we lost Joseph, and fifteen much wanted babies to miscarriage. I can imagine how such an emotion is unthinkable for many of you and, believe me, I loathe myself at times for it, but hear me out…
Last week I saw a comment from a fellow mama whose beautiful daughter was born sleeping, and she shared how sad she was that she has just one hundred and fifty photos of her daughter to treasure.
And I actually felt sick with jealousy.
Because I have eight photos of Joseph. Just eight, all blurred, all grainy, all taken on an ailing camera with the battery light flashing red. I can still remember that moment of panic as the screen went blank, the sense of despair when nobody brought us a camera or lent us a charger, that nobody told us how in years to come the lack of photos would simply add to our disbelief that Joseph was ever really here at all.
So when I read about those who had professional photographers come to the hospital to capture their babies firsts, and lasts, who freeze framed the moments that can never be recreated, provided them with an album which, undoubtedly hard to look at, would be a huge comfort in years to come, it absolutely kills me that we don’t have that too.
When I look back at our photos, the blurred images of me holding my son, they simply remind me of how my ex husbands hands had shaken with every sob, how the tears had poured down his cheeks, how those moments were filled with nothing but grief and sorrow as we felt our hearts breaking. And in that way, I’m jealous, completely and utterly, insanely, jealous, that we didn’t have an outsider with a sturdy hand to expertly capture the moments we were lost in our grief, an image of the three of us, of the four of us, of his little hands in ours, of the precious moments that have blurred with age.
Its funny because when we lost Joseph I thought that we were lucky. Not lucky to lose him, but to spend twenty four long hours with him, to bathe him and dress him and sleep beside him for the first time, and the last. And yet over time, reading more about other other parents experiences of baby loss, it doesn’t feel that we were very lucky at all. On the hottest day of the year, at 28 degrees in mid July, without a cuddle cot to preserve our sons body, our time together was limited. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye and yet I wasn’t ready to see my babies body start to decompose, and that’s the brutal truth of it I guess.
And so hearing about those who kept their babies in a cuddle cot for days, even a week long, who created as many memories as they could, held them without fear, kissed them over and over, and had the time to begin to process the enormity of what had just happened, I’m incredibly jealous of that.
I see photos of siblings and Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, breaking their hearts as they hold the baby they had hoped to see grow over the years, and, although I am thankful that they have those precious moments with their loved ones, I’m jealous that we did not. We had no family, no friends, not one person who came to meet Joseph after his birth. It was just the two of us and, when our marriage ended just two years later, I had nobody else to speak to about my memories of those twenty four hours with our son. I’m still so very jealous of those who do.
I’m jealous that when I look at photos of other babies born sleeping, when their parents share them with such love and pride, that they look utterly perfect, their little faces untouched, their tiny features perfectly proportioned. Because, whilst should you ask me about Joseph I will tell you that he was completely perfect, the truth is, he was not. I won’t go into the details, it’s horrific to remember, and even harder to share, but due to hydrocephalus and prolonged infection, his body showed physical signs of distress which makes his photos hard enough for even us to look at, let alone to share with the world.
And I’m jealous that whilst most parents were tucked away on a bereavement suite with their babies, cocooned in gentle silence and treated with such love and care, I was in a room with paper thin walls, on the maternity ward, lying awake listening to babies cry knowing that mine would not.
I’m jealous of those who held their babies for longer than I did, more recently than I did, whose babies remain at the forefront of other peoples minds; I’m jealous of those who hear the sound of their child’s name spoken daily, whose babies are not simply forgotten as a tragic loss, a moment in time, an unfortunate event since lost in an expanse of memories.
And, ironically, I’m jealous of those who aren’t jealous, of those who managed to keep it together when their world turned upside down, who clawed back a little normality, held on to the people they were before, whose grief made them stronger instead of tearing them apart. I’m jealous of those who, like me, went on to have other children but still found a way to live without the constant fear that, any minute now, one of them would be taken away. I’m jealous of those who survived with far more dignity, far more strength, and far more acceptance than I could ever dream of.
And whilst I try to remind myself that we are still incredibly lucky to have had those moments, when so many parents have nothing at all, believe me when I tell you that they will never be enough. Just in the same way that having hundreds, even thousands of photographs, would never soften the blow of our loss, would never take away the pain of losing our baby, would never be enough to make up for a lifetime without our son. None of it will ever be enough.
But perhaps I’m not the only one?