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Lessons in love and Loss by Claire Scott

Lessons in Love and Loss

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Losing a baby at any point in a pregnancy is too often a silent, and unacknowledged, loss. The sense of isolation compounds the grief. I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned over the past four years, and I wanted to share some of my story.

I am a mother of four. I have a gorgeous and feisty toddler, adorable infant twins, and an Angel baby. My first-born. A little girl. My daughter. Keira Kate. November 25th is her birthday. She would be four years old this year. November 25th is also the anniversary of her death. She had a complex heart defect that would not allow her to live outside my womb. We chose to let her go, and she was born at 21 weeks. Her dad and I held her. We breathed her in. We counted her fingers and toes. She was perfect. She was so small and so beautiful. We took photos. We held her little hands. We kissed her forehead. We told her how very much we loved her. And we said goodbye to our baby girl.

I was in love with Keira Kate before she was born, before she had a name, before she was conceived. I wrote letters to her each week that I held her in my belly. I imagined the life she would have, the love she would know, the joy that we would share. I was so excited to get to know her and to share in her adventures. I lost all of that. I never even felt her move inside me. I don’t know what colour her eyes would have been. I don’t know what her laugh would have sounded like.

There is no word to describe a parent who has lost their child, because the loss of a child is unspeakable. It is a loss that alters the very fabric of your being, to the point that it is hard to recognize yourself. It is a compound loss. You lose not only a precious and much loved person, but also the life you have dreamed for them and the possibilities of their being. It is a far-reaching loss. It changes your outlook, your relationships, your way of being in the world. And it is a lonely loss. There is no one who remembers your baby. There is no one who even knew her. There are no funny stories or happy moments to hold tight to. There may be a handful of photos, one or two ultrasound scans, and a small box with a blanket and teddy that were meant for her.

The hardest part of this loss, is that you survive. Your body keeps breathing where every particle of your heart and soul explodes in anguish. It is a physical pain, but your body is fine and functioning. You continue to exist despite yourself. And in those early weeks and months, the grief is all-consuming. But it changes. You learn to live with a piece of yourself missing. You learn to weave the loss and the memory into the fabric of your everyday life. You learn to breathe and not just swallow air. It doesn’t get better, you don’t “get over it”, and you don’t forget and move on. But it changes. And you learn to live in the world again.

We chose to celebrate our daughter and to allow her memory to bring us joy, despite the heartbreak. I celebrate her because she made me a mother. She taught me the hardest lessons of being a parent, how to love and how to let go. She transformed me. And I honour her memory by celebrating my rainbow babies, and remembering to be grateful for each moment with them. We celebrate Keira Kate every year with a Cake Day on the 25th November. We keep photos of her up around the house. We talk about her. And our children will know about their big sister, their special guardian angel.

If you know someone who has lost a baby, please be kind. Please be gentle with the shattered pieces of her heart and soul. Please don’t tell her “you’ll be okay”, “you’ll get over it” or put her on a deadline to have “moved on”. Tell her it’s okay to hurt, to grieve, to come undone. Tell her it hurts because it matters, and remind her that grief is the mark of great love. Please don’t be dismissive of her loss by saying “these things happen for a reason”, “it’s part of a bigger plan”, “at least you know you can get pregnant” or “at least you can try again/have another baby”. Please remember that even though her baby had not yet been born, that baby was loved and is worthy of remembrance. Please acknowledge her as a mother whether or not she has living children. Please be sensitive to how she wants to speak about her loss. Respect her loss no matter how early or late in her pregnancy. And remember that dads hurt too, so show the same kindness and gentleness to fathers who have lost a baby.

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What I Do

I am living my dream while working with mums and babies. I see mums when they are 34 weeks pregnant and then go to their homes once they go into labour. I stay for the full duration of the labour and after the birth I assist them with breast feeding. I do another visit after the birth to see that all is well and to help where I can.  Mums are always welcome to call me in the event that they have any questions, whether before or after the birth. I am passionate about my work as a doula and I care and love all the families with which I work. Once you have been present at a birth you feel part of the family and it’s wonderful to hear news of the new baby’s life as he or she grows.

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