J’écris en ce texte en anglais parce qu’il présente des réflexions que j’ai eues à la lecture de textes et de blogues en anglais…
Since Paul died, I’ve searched the internet looking for online resources and spaces that did not involve angels. In the weeks following his death, I travelled to Columbia, taking refuge at a friend’s house, far away from all the spaces that reminded me of Paul. I had had a strong urge to leave home, to be away from the river banks where I had taken my last walk with Paul, away from the store we were in when his heart stopped, away from the birthing centre, the hospital. Away, away, away.
I ran away. And found myself removed from the tight support network that had carried me through the first few weeks.
I had been added to a facebook group for parents dealing with the loss of babies or pregnancies. It helped me get a sense that i wasn’t alone but the form most of the messages on that group took was leaving me wanting more. It didn’t really help me to know so many women were taking comfort in believing their baby had become an angel. I didn’t want an angel. I don’t want an angel. I want my baby. My baby, his flesh, his smell, his cries, his sweet face. And then, i wanted to hear from other parents who weren’t satisfied with angel imagery.
I remember when i finally stumbled upon a website that offered just that. It was like a breath of fresh air. How amazing to find this community of parents who were all learning to grieve for their child. I was amazed to finally find this space, especially since we had not been offered any specific support when we left the hospital, after Paul’s death. And i had not contacted any of the resources that were available in my city. I spent a few weeks only reading through posts written by babylost parents in the last six years. Eventually, i started interacting with the parents who are currently writing on this site.
Despite the geographical distance that exists between most of us, i found a sense of community around our shared feelings. It was very much the case when, a few days ago, a mother wrote of her feelings of guilt. I have been struggling with guilt since the second i realized there was something wrong with Paul. As i ran through the pharmacy where he had been nursing, i felt this horrible feeling that i had failed at my job, that i had failed my son. These feelings come and go and morph. Two weeks ago, i wrote:
For me, these days, guilt is …
… wondering why i was so concentrated on small future things — washable diapers, early reading, baby-lead weening — instead of the huge mission i had been given — keeping my son alive and well.
… asking myself why i wasn’t looking at him for a few minutes as he was breastfeeding in the sling, feeling that maybe i could have done something, if only my eyes were on him.
… not being able to respond to « why did my baby die » because i feel so responsible, no matter how many times the doctor says it wasn’t my fault.
… having to live while Paul isn’t here anymore… going out instead of being home, caring for him.
… and so much more.
That hasn’t changed much. But i feel even more strongly that i am so so lucky i do not feel guilty about the time i spent with Paul.
I didn’t particularly enjoy being pregnant (i mean, i liked the idea of it, i loved feeling my baby move, i was excited about it, but i wasn’t feeling overjoyed with being so slow and heavy and tired). I had a difficult delivery, with more than fifty hours passing between my waters breaking and the moment Paul was born, via emergency cesarean. During the time after the delivery, when i couldn’t meet my baby because he was temporarily under observation, i got scared i wouldn’t be able to form a real bound with him. I was scared, yet when we finally met, everything went so smoothly. Over the next 24 hours, i fell in love more and more deeply. And over the next few weeks, as we adjusted to this new family life, i felt so lucky. Lucky to be caring for a healthy and happy baby. Lucky not to be dealing with conflicting feelings towards him (with the exception, maybe, of this one night when he kept waking up and feeding him was hurting me.)
And now, now that he is gone, i feel even more lucky i was able to spend those weeks with Paul enjoying his presence, and loving him without asking myself too many questions. Now i have plenty of time to ask questions. But i am so grateful i was able to spend as much time as possible enjoying every minute of Paul’s life.
I read this article on maternal mental illness after i saw it featured someone i know. Reading these stories or thinking back to other less intense experiences of postpartum depression i have heard about, my hearth sinks. I think of how terrible i would feel now if i had had to deal with even a fraction of these feelings toward Paul. It could have been me, it could be anyone else. Just like the death of a baby doesn’t happen just to others.
It seems crazy to me that in societies where we care so much for the well-being of pregnant women and their future babies — to the point that most people feel perfectly fine commenting on a pregnant woman’s body and her every decision, from her caffeine intake to whether she takes the stairs instead of the elevator — we care so little about what happens to them once those babies are born. There is so little information available, so little screening done, so little support offered…
I feel like we need to speak up about the shortcomings of the support we offer to mothers, to parents, once their babies are born. We need, collectively, to care for each other. So that in trying times, when we are dealing with these immense hardships — postpartum depression, mental illness, intense grief — we find more than online boards to help us survive.