Friday, 20 November 2015

The Hard Road to Recovery: Healing After Stillbirth - The Thanksgiving Service

That was something that made the harsh reality of losing one of my sons sink in for sure, organising his funeral. We couldn't believe we were going to be in that awful category of saying goodbye to one of our children - it is just the wrong way around. No parent should have to say goodbye to their child(ren) - it just isn't the natural process of life.



My husband was a superstar, sweeping in to arrange it, to take the weight off my shoulders. We couldn't set a date as we waited for the post mortem to be completed (Benjamin's little body was whisked off to Great Ormond Street Hospital to have the post mortem carried out). We didn't like the term "funeral" or "wake. We wanted to make saying goodbye to our son as bright and positive as we could, and so we called it his "Thanksgiving service". Giving thanks for his life, for our joy at having known him even if only on ultrasound scans, seeing him wrestle his brother, and cuddle him.

We kept it fairly intimate, inviting only close family, close friends and the godparents of our little boys.

Having had no sense of what was or wasn't right or appropriate for a child's thanksgiving service, we made it up as we went along, constructing the service we thought Benjamin would want. The chaplain helped us organise everything as the thought of trying to sort everything ourselves was too much to bear. We knew we wanted (being a christian family) live worship at the service, we knew we wanted prayer cover for our family, the godparents of our boys and our close friends, and that was about it. My husband worked so hard on putting together the most beautiful order of service for the service, we planned to have it professionally printed so that it could go in Benjamin's keepsake box. We organised for Staples to print out enough copies for everyone at the service the day before the service. And guess what...they cocked it up. The order of service looked awful and all of my husband's hard work seemed to be a waste. So he sorted printing it himself so that it could look as we wanted it. We included on it a message to Benjamin, albeit short as we had said our goodbyes in that delivery suite room the day after he was born (more on that in another post).

I felt quite numb on the day of the service, feeling as though I were going to any other church service. It wasn't until we pulled up and saw all of our closest friends and family stood in the car park of the crematorium waiting for us that it became a reality. They are here for us. They are here for Benjamin. This is all for Benjamin. I held back tears as friends and family grabbed us and sadness poured out of their eyes for our loss as well as their own. I remember keeping things jovial and focused on Nathanael so as not to lose the plot, it worked for a short while.

We all walked on mass to the entrance to the crematorium where the pall bearer asked my husband if he wanted to carry Benjamin down the aisle. We couldn't believe he was being asked the moment before he had to go down the aisle and we were too emotional to do it! We followed Benjamin into the chapel and "Abide with Me" played in the background. It all started sinking in. Seeing that tiny little white coffin at the front. That was my son in there. My tiny little angel. It all came down on me like a lead balloon. I sobbed beside my husband whilst breastfeeding my little survivor.

The three of us sat on that front row sobbing, mourning the loss of our little B. How could the world be so cruel. The service only lasted 30 minute. It was over so quickly, but in a way that felt better, like ripping off a plaster, the only difference being, this wound would never full heal. It was so hard to experience, but in that moment, I was so glad to rejoice in Benjamin's life and to hold an event that showed the world "Look, this is my son. This is Nathanael's twin brother. This is my blood. And although we cannot be together in this world, we will be together one day in heaven."

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Navigating What and What Not To Say Following the Loss of a Baby

It's quite amazing how good we are at speaking positive affirmation over people, be it "Happy Birthday!", "Congratulations", or "Well done!". It comes naturally to join in someone's joy or to wish someone well, perhaps because the sentiment is clear and will nearly always be received as intended. If only we were as good at speaking encouragement and support over people when times are tough, a time when those words are arguably more crucial to the person in receipt of the sentiment.

I have known friends that have miscarried babies, and honestly, I often did not know what to say to them. I would think, oh gosh that's awful, how horrendous, you must be heart broken, but all I would manage to say was: "I'm sorry" and I think I may have even said some of the things in the "do not say" list. So if you were on the receiving end of that from me, I'm sorry. I would dwell on how much it must be awful to go through that, and succumb to a deep sigh of relief that it wasn't me.

Well. Now it is me. I am a mother that has lost a baby. And all of a sudden I know exactly what I need to hear and the things that aren't helpful to hear.



I know this is a very subjective thing, so my thoughts on what is or isn't appropriate or helpful may not be true for everyone or potentially even anyone else, but this has been my experience and hope that it may be useful for anyone who knows someone going through the loss of a baby and doesn't know what to say...Also, please don't feel hurt or offended if you have said these things to someone who has lost a baby, as I'm sure you meant it with compassion and sympathy and not maliciously; I just wanted to share some thoughts on what it can feel like to hear these words...

So..things NOT to say...
                         
1. (In the case of losing a twin)... "At least you have the other one" - I'm sorry to sound ungrateful for this comment, but my twin sons are two individual people, not half of a whole, so apologies for not seeing my situation as a "glass half full vs half empty" simile. Having one does not negate the loss of the other. However, I totally understand that this is often said with the kindest sentiment and intention, and I would always receive it in the way it was intended. My view of having our survivor twin is that he is a ray of sunshine through a difficult time and loss of his brother. He has helped us mourn the loss of his brother, because he is a fighter and a reminder of our other gorgeous son. But no, there is no "at least", you wouldn't say "at least" to someone who had lost one baby in a singleton pregnancy, so perhaps don't say it to someone with twins.

2. I know how you feel...(this is only appropriate coming from you if you have also lost a baby). Again, often meant in the kindest, most sympathetic way, what it actually feels like to hear that is, "what you're going through is very common and so don't dwell on it". It can feel like it negates the suffering and the pain of losing a baby.

3. It was God's will.
As a Christian, I really struggle with this one, because honestly, I could not believe in or love a God that decided to kill babies. It was not God's will that our son died, it was quite the opposite. When we got the news, God wept with us, we could feel it. It is a result of the cruel, fallen world we live in, not the result of a cruel God who means to hurt us. Although hard to accept in the darkest moments, I know a God that is for me, who loves us, who loves Benjamin.

4. I'm sure you'll get pregnant again. 
Well yes, hopefully, but perhaps now is not the time to say this as what it feels like you're saying is, "all babies are the same and you can replace the lost one with another one". That's not the case when we lose loved ones, and I can confirm it's definitely not the case with babies.

But perhaps the absolute worst thing to do is...

5. Avoiding them completely.
I would happily take hearing all of these things over silence. Losing a baby can make you feel very lonely and afraid of any situation where you might encounter other mums. Now is not the time to back off and give your friend "space", they will tell you if they need space. Otherwise, chances are, that they need you. They need a hug, they need a listening ear. They need someone who will sit with them, and be covered in snotty tears, and listen to incomprehensible words through those tears.

Things to think about when speaking to someone who has lost a baby:
1. How well do you know them? Will they be able to hear the sentiment over the potentially clumsy words? Would it be best to keep it short and simple or to help open them up to talk about it?
2. Try to imagine how it feels and what you wouldn't want to hear. If you wouldn't want to hear it, there's a good chance your friend won't either!
3. Don't be afraid of saying the wrong thing. My comments on here are just some thoughts as to what was helpful to hear and what wasn't, but it is better to hear that you cared about and loved (even if it is through the words "It was God's will"), than to hear nothing at all and to feel isolated.

Things you definitely SHOULD say...
1. "I'm so sorry for your loss" or "I'm sorry about ... (name)"
2. If your friend has named the baby/ies they lost, use the baby's name(s)!
3. Don't be afraid to talk to them about it, they won't ever forget about their baby, and they don't want the world to either.
4. Down the line, STILL ask them about it when they want to talk about it. The pain of that loss will never go away completely, we just get a little better at managing it as time goes on. There will be fresh triggers every now and then that bring the grief home again.
5. "This situation is £$%*& (enter appropriate expletive), what can I do/what do you need/how can I support you?"

So there are my thoughts. Don't overthink or worry if you've ever said any of the above to a friend that has lost a baby through stillbirth or miscarriage, I'm sure they will have received it with the kindest and love with which you intended. But if you are reading this before talking to your friend, maybe have a think about the best thing to say and how she will take it.

At the end of the day "That's crap. I'm so sorry. I'm here for you", goes a really long way.

Thankfully I was blessed with family and friends who said just that, but not everyone is!




Monday, 19 October 2015

The Hard Road to Recovery: Healing After Stillbirth - A Mother's Perspective Part 2 (Managing the grief in the day to day)

To any mothers that have lost a baby by miscarriage, stillbirth or early infant death, I cannot profess to have any sense of being able to manage the grief any better for having been through stillbirth grief myself. I have always fancied myself as a bit of a "fixer" - helping those that wanted some kind of advice, to come up with some fix to their problem (whether the advice was wise or not). But as I stand in the mirror, tracing the stretch marks with my fingers, feeling the scar roads that show how far my boys would each journey within me, I am lost for any kind of fix. The roads don't stretch as far on the right hand side of my tummy as the roads on the left hand side do. It is a bittersweet image. Benjamin's journey would not be as long as Nathanael's journey.

I remember the midwife looking at my caesarean section scar, and commenting that it was very neat and well hidden and that I would be able to enjoy wearing bikinis again in no time (not that I ever wore bikinis before pregnancy!). Looking at my tummy, I just thought, it isn't my section scar that would be the scar to worry about, it is the network of country lanes that track across the front of my stomach. And yet, I cannot bring myself to improve these scars in any way. All throughout my pregnancy I would moisturise with bio oil, trying to avoid any kind of stretch marks. As the pregnancy advanced into the third trimester, a few stretch marks appeared and I suddenly felt quite proud. They were a rite of passage, physical evidence of my motherhood. When we received the devastating news about Benjamin, these scars meant even more to me. They were storylines about the lives of my boys. Nathanael's story would continue on beyond the journey reflected in the purple, shining tracks across my stomach, though Benjamin's journey would continue in the heavens. 

Every time that I look in the mirror, I am reminded of Benjamin's short lived journey, I am reminded of the searing pain and grief, that sorrow and devastation I felt on that scan table when they told me that my son had no heartbeat. I can see the pain in my eyes sometimes. My face has matured in a way that only grief can facilitate. And yet I welcome it. I long for any sign of the journey I have travelled myself, proof of the lives and legacy of my sons, proof of the sadness and the loss, proof that this life in its way has been cruel but that I have survived and can continue to live in strength with my angel looking on. 

I feel that sorrow and loss afresh every time I see a twin buggy, twins, or even hear the name Benjamin. I just think, that's my son. That should be the image people see when they look at our family, but there is an invisible member. I feel on the verge of crumbling into a teary mess when people look at my gorgeous Nathanael and say "Oh gosh, 11 weeks? He's very small". I just think, if only you knew. Sometimes I tell people, I slip it into conversation when they comment on Nathanael, I remind the world that Nathanael has a brother. I remind the world that they cannot negate Benjamin's life by being ignorant of it. Sometimes I make people feel awkward because of this, they feel as though they have overstepped some kind of line, or stomped on my heart. This is not why I mention it though, it is not some attempt to feel hard done by or to incur people's sympathy or attention. It is purely to remind the world that I have two sons. I feel true to our family and Benjamin to tell the world about him. 

That is one thing that has really helped me in this process that I know women who have miscarried may not get the option of, and that was to hold Benjamin. My parents, parents in law and sister in law all had the opportunity to hold Benjamin when he wasn't in his cold cot, and this was invaluable because as a family, we made memories that incorporated Benjamin. Even though it is not the kind of memories that we should have been making, it helped us as a family to grieve together and to have time with Benjamin together.

I love Christmas. I still get as excited as I did when I was a child. Nothing has changed, it has always been the most wonderful time of the year (queue Andy Williams playing in the background). But as the shops begin to unpack their stock into the display windows, I feel a sense of dread. A sadness. This was going to be our first christmas as a family with two little boys. We even had the christmas outfits planned, it was going to be so ridiculously cute. I will have to process afresh what Christmas actually feels like when we get there but for now a part of me, perhaps the right hand side of me, dreads it.

We have photos of Benjamin and Nathanael together, and photos of the four of us as a family. My heart sings and cries simultaneously when I look at them, but I feel so grateful and glad that we had those photos taken. So I that I can see my family as it should be.  The other day I had them printed, a huge one of us as a family that will go on the wall, and little wallet versions of all the ones of Benjamin so that I can carry him with me. They keep me going, keep me strong.

When we went to the crematorium to collect Benjamin's ashes, I was getting into the car and asked my husband if "he had Benjamin" (obviously meaning the ashes). I was not prepared for how grateful I would be to my husband for the words he uttered in response; "Yes" he said, "but these ashes are not Benjamin, Benjamin is alive and well in heaven". I brushed over it at the time thinking yes,yes I know. But those words were profound. I could remember Benjamin as the healthy, gorgeous, hilarious boy I saw on those scans, an identical image of his brother, not as some ashes in a pot, or even the tiny quiet body I held in the hospital. One day we will all be together as a family.

That thought gives me such strength and though I don't mean for it to sound morbid, I no longer fear death. I don't by any means welcome it, but the thought that I will get to be reunited with a member of my family that I could not be with in this life, gives me such joy. There is hope, there is light at the end of all of this. There is no longer any fear in death. Love trumps all. I should know that as a Christian, but I'll admit that it has been hard to quote those kind of hopeful, life changing comments when this life has thrown such a curveball.

I lost my grandfather "Bikey" several years ago. It was the first family tragedy I had experienced. He passed away after a 5 year battle with Pancreatic cancer. I remember feeling such pain throughout my body, resonating mostly in my stomach when I saw a hearse with a coffin drive through the crowds of family and friends that had gathered for his funeral. I lost the plot. I just burst into tears and sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. There was such a harsh realisation, that cut through my reality like a knife, that the loving, fun, warm grandfather I had was in this box. I wish sometimes that the pain of that image would fade, but to this day it hurts afresh. My granny was incredible, she held me as I sobbed, even though I should have been strong for her. I sobbed through the funeral, uncontrollably. All kinds of things over time have been triggers for those memories, particularly stories of people's battles with cancer. It felt desolate, life without Bikey. Every family gathering, every christmas just felt incomplete without him. But one day my granny and I were catching up over FaceTime, years later, and she told me about this picture she had of Bikey. She pictured him on a beautiful, quiet beach, walking along, happy and healthy. I had such a renewed sense of hope and peace. He was okay. He wasn't here, but he was okay, in fact, more than okay. That picture has given me strength in those difficult moments when I miss him.

After we received the news about Benjamin and our time with him on this earth had come and gone, my granny told me that she had had another picture. She had seen Bikey on that beach, healthy and happy as she had seen before, only this time he was holding Benjamin. Bikey was telling Benjamin all about the ocean and they were healthy and happy together. I sobbed. Even as I write this, I sob. That image is so painful because it reminds me that neither of them are with us here, but so hopeful and assuring that we will all be together one day.

I am grateful for my faith, for the relationship I have with my God, who pours out His love and grace on me daily and reassures me that this world, this life, is not the end. There is so much more beauty to come. There is wholeness to come. We will be whole and restored again. Together. Again.

I am daily so grateful for the family and friends that have stuck by us through this whole process, for the people that refer to my "other son" as Benjamin, and for the acknowledgment that I am a mother of multiples, whether I have them both with me in this life or not. I am and always will be a twin mum.  





Sunday, 11 October 2015

The Hard Road to Recovery: Healing After Stillbirth - A Mother's Perspective Part 1 (My Story)

Honestly, I never thought I would find myself after 8 months of pregnancy, writing a blog about what it feels like to lose a baby. It however feels important to do so, perhaps to aid my processing of this tragedy, but also to shed light on my experience for other women that may find themselves in a similarly devastating situation (though I seriously pray that stillbirth and miscarriage becomes a thing of the past and that we find some way to prevent it)...But perhaps, in the meantime, our shared experience and processing will have to be what helps us through this.

I had a textbook pregnancy. Having been on the pill for a few years, my husband and I decided it was the right time to try for children - we were both so ridiculously excited. We were prepared (despite the fact that we are statistically quite young to be parents) for the process to take a while, we knew friends for whom it had taken years to fall pregnant, and so we were prepared for it to take a while. Six weeks later though, I became pregnant, and on the 2nd January 2015, I saw that magical second blue line. I didn't believe it, so took another test to be sure. I still didn't believe it. So I waited a day and then took another test before work the following morning. I didn't believe that one, so I took a digital test too. All of them told me I was pregnant, and perhaps also that I was being ridiculous for taking so many tests... On the second morning of test-taking, I went in to see my husband at 5.30am to tell him.

I was honestly so worried about my ecstasy about the news overwhelming my husband's chance to tell me how he honestly felt about the news, that I went a little bit deadpan when I told him the news. He couldn't tell how I was feeling about it, so he too tried to contain his joy. It was such a funny moment given how we had both chosen into starting a family. However, after both having a day at work, unable to think about anything else, it hit us. We were going to be parents. How blessed we were to start 2015 in such a wonderful way! 

The first trimester was surprisingly straight forward. I had already been training to do a Half Marathon for months for Macmillan Cancer Care and wasn't going to let a little thing like pregnancy stop me from doing it! I felt tired and bloated, but other than that had no other complaints. (Excusing the horrendous hormone induced migraine that spiked on the second day of those pregnancy tests). At 11 weeks pregnant, I completed the Brighton Half Marathon in just over 2 hours, despite telling myself I was only going to walk it! (Unfortunately competitiveness is a weakness of mine). 
Following my smug sense of achievement a week after the race, my husband and I attended the all important 12 week scan. Unfortunately for us, the date that had been set for the scan there had been a terrible road accident and we got stuck in the aftermath of traffic. The hospital dropped the appointment and in the hormone flurrying state I was in, I burst into tears in front of the entire Women and Children's waiting room. The tears were driven from the fear that I didn't feel pregnant, the last 12 weeks had not at all been like they are in movies, there was no crippling morning sickness, or emotional breakdowns, at least prior to this moment. The only slight give away was that I had noticed a bit of a bump forming. I remember speaking to my mum on the phone and saying, "Mum, I feel like I have a bump developing but I know it's too early for a first pregnancy". She teased me and said "Maybe it's twins". With no history of twins on either my husband's side or mine, I just laughed disparagingly...AS IF right? Well, when we finally had that 12 week scan, our sonographer asked after about 30 seconds of scanning my tummy, "Catherine, do you have a history of twins in your family?" I looked at my husband, laughed and said "No??" followed by a quick "Are you serious?". My husband and I laughed (a bit maniacally I might add), and the laughing quickly turned to tears of joy as she showed us each of our babies developing in my tummy. I was so in love. I wanted to tell the world. We kept it to ourselves though for a little while, we wanted to get a little bit further along before sharing our wonderful news. We had identical twin boys! (In medical terms Monochorionic Diamniotic Twins).

And so the pregnancy continued, with scans every 2 weeks, each time showing our wonderful babies growing side by side. It was then time for the 16 week scan, where we would find out that we were to have two little boys. My heart was singing in my chest, two sons!!! 

At the 18 week scan however they had spotted a decreased amount of fluid around "twin B". The hospital referred us to Kings College Hospital London to assess whether this decreased amniotic fluid was a sign of Chronic Twin to Twin Transfusion (TTTS). We were terrified, how could we have had so much joy from a scan two weeks prior and so much fear two weeks later? What would we do if they found evidence of TTTS? But Kings were more than happy with both boys. They acknowledged there was less fluid around twin B and that he was smaller but he always had been, and both boys were tracking as they should. What a relief, our boys were okay.
We would continue to pray and dwell in the hopes that we could cross the third trimester threshold to rule out TTTS and that the safe arrival of our boys would come. Each scan showed good health, strong organs, no signs of TTTS. Work threw me a wonderful baby shower, kindness and generosity in abundance surrounded my husband and I as we eagerly anticipated meeting our sons. We had chosen and ordered the nursery furniture, two baby baths*, the car seats, and the tandem buggy! So much thought and contemplation at how our life was going to change, it would be our family squared! 

My commute got tougher as I got more and more tired, and people continued to share their best wishes for the safe arrival of our boys. The world knew and would share our joy, we were sure of it! 
I finally finished work after what seemed like the longest 7 months of pregnancy, and felt thrilled at having a few weeks of maternity leave to sort the house and get the nursery ready (we had completed on our house purchase only a week before). I knew I had a scan on the Monday where we would also meet with my consultant to discuss birth options. I had asked my husband to be there for the conversation so we could process and work out the best way forward, together. 

Thankfully, my husband was able to get the morning off work, and so off we went to the 9am 32 week appointment. They saw us on time and I confidently climbed up onto the scan bed like I had done so many times before, confident that our boys would still be fighting fit. 

Our sonographer started the scan, looking at "Twin B" first. She was more quiet than normal but I didn't notice at the time, expecting it was due to her concentrating on the scan. She expressed that twin B was lying beneath Twin A and so it was difficult for her to see what she needed to. I couldn't recognise the image I was so used to being able to see. She then informed us that she was just going to call a colleague to help with the image and positioning. I suddenly felt a surge of nerves, this was the most experienced sonographer that we had, why would she need help? A few moments, some whispering and a sobering silence later, the sonographer said "I just needed to call my colleague to confirm as a second opinion, but I'm sorry to say that there is no heartbeat for Twin B". 

It was the worst moment of my life. It remains the worst moment of my life. 

I completely crumbled on that scan chair. I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. I gripped my husbands hand as he sobbed beside me. The sonographer apologised. The twins midwife who I had seen every two weeks, came in and held my hand while I screamed with devastation and sorrow. They had to continue scanning to check on twin A whilst I sobbed. It felt like forever. I wanted to erase that moment and start again with the news that both twins were doing well and that we would be able to meet them both happy and healthy very soon, but it wasn't to be.
My husband and I were put in the room that we would later refer to as the bad news room. My husband and I just cried on each other, how unfair, how horrific. What had we done to deserve this? Eventually our consultant came in and discussed the best plan of action going forward. Before she had even uttered a word, all I could think was, get twin A out before he dies too! After she had spoken in depth with two of the best consultants in the country, they all agreed that I should hold out for the 34 week mark in order to give the surviving twin the best chance. And so that's what I did, living in fear each morning that little twin A wouldn't make the next day, living in the devastation of carrying my dead son inside me. 

We all believed that it seemed like Acute TTTS had been what killed Benjamin, which meant a possible risk of brain damage for our surviving twin, Nathanael. 

We were utterly blessed to have a friend in our lives who happens to be both a midwife and a counsellor who specialises in baby loss/stillbirth. She spent time with us each day in the lead up to the elective caesarean, helping us to prepare for what Benjamin would look like, what to think about in terms of spending time with him, keepsakes we wanted... It was all so overwhelming and hard. I hated the nights because I dreaded waking up the next morning to the realisation afresh. It was another day without Benjamin and further away from when he was alive and well. I dreaded my caesarean delivery because all of a sudden I didn't want them to take Benjamin away- he was in my tummy, with me, with his brother. I wasn't ready for him to become a memory. 
But the days ticked on, and my husband and I spent every day from that dreadful day until my section, in the hospital, having scans and CTG monitoring. The sonographer that had shared the news with us that awful day was very kind to us and came in early each day to scan me so that we didn't have to walk through a waiting room full of people. 

What I found additionally hard through this process was that people kept asking me if I'd noticed a decrease in movements- don't you think if I had I would have come into the hospital?? How do you tell when it's your first pregnancy and you have twins so don't know what should feel normal? It made me feel responsible for Benjamin dying, like I could have prevented it. I still feel sometimes as though maybe I could have prevented it.
All this time I avoided social media like the plague. We had shared our joy with the world, I felt not just devastated but ashamed as well. I don't know why I felt ashamed but I did. Perhaps it was because sharing our joy about our twin boys seemed like showing off? It probably was, who wouldn't want to show off the excitement of 2 children at once? 

Friends and family encircled us, prayers uplifted us and peoples outstretched arms caught us and carried us through those dark days. My husband was a rock for me, the most wonderful man. Not only was he the perfect support through all of this but we could cry and process this together. I love that through all the hardship we've endured in the last 9 months, he is the wonderful father that gave me two beautiful sons. 

By the time the Thursday came around that I was to have my caesarean, I felt strangely ready to meet my boys. We had been assigned a midwife to look after Benjamin and us as well as a separate midwife to look after Nathanael (twin A). We had been given a tour of the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) in anticipation of the fact that Nathanael, being born at 34 weeks, would likely be admitted. So we had imagined that during surgery, the births of both our boys would be silent. Nathanael because he would need help breathing and would need to be whisked off to special care, and Benjamin because we would not hear his cries in this life. Imagine our overwhelming surprise when at 9.24am we heard a gurgle and then a loud cry as our little Nathanael burst his way into the world. Those cries were the most beautiful sound I had and have ever heard. Our little boy was a fighter and would prove to everyone that he didn't need the SCBU. A deafening silence followed him though as they delivered his brother. 

We had arranged for Benjamin to be brought into us in his cold cot once we were out of theatre. Our wonderful midwife dressed him in the matching hat and sleepsuit that we had bought for him and his brother. I sobbed over his tiny lifeless body. He was only 2lbs9. It was weirdly joyful being able to hold him though. It felt healing to hold him with his brother, and for me to cuddle him. We had photos taken of us as a family of four and I'm so glad we did. 
I look at them daily, they break my heart but somehow comfort me as well, seeing my family with all its members. 

It has been 10 weeks since I held both my sons in my arms. I cry at least once a day, more when the world throws all the triggers that it can at me (more about that in future posts). I see twins everywhere. It tips me over the edge when people talk about premature babies that survived at 2lbs. All it makes me think is, "Why didn't they take Benjamin out sooner?"

A few weeks ago we had the post mortem follow up with my consultant. We would then find out that there was no discernible medical reason for Benjamin's death. TTTS both chronic and acute were ruled out. I wasn't prepared for how angry or devastated that would make me feel. I think I had found some peace in having a reason for his death. This seemed somehow more ridiculous and unfair. But the silver lining was that it meant his brother wasn't medically affected by Benjamin's passing, and nor was it due to my physical health that Benjamin passed away. I suppose I find it difficult to ever fully believe that it wasn't in some way my fault. Even though everything and everyone say that it wasn't. I struggle to completely shake the "what ifs", and so they haunt my quiet moments, my low moments, times when I'm by myself. They don't get me anywhere, but I think it is part of me trying to make sense of something that just does not make sense. Not logically, not medically, not conceptually. We should not be in a  world where we still lose babies. 

I will try to unpack more of the aftermath in future posts and talk about how I am learning to live with the grief and the loss on a daily basis. 

For now though, Nathanael is sunshine to me, a wonderful hope and ray of light in this time. He reminds me daily of his brother and how precious they both are to me. I don't think the grief will ever get easier, but I find comfort in that, because it does not negate how precious Benjamin is and what a tragedy it has been to lose him. 

I hope that for any women facing similar circumstances, that you are able to find the strength and hope you need each day to treasure your little angel in whatever way you can and to go on with them looking on.