Stillbirth is part of our family now: Part 2
Decisions now need to be made. Autopsy is our choice, not a requirement by the government for research, but a must for us, as this is where our answers will be. WRONG again. After a cruel 6 months of waiting, the autopsy results reveal that no cause of death can be determined, he was a healthy baby. BUT WE KNOW; SOMETHING WENT WRONG
Next funeral arrangements. Which coffin? There are 3 choices. All look bad, and all cost $300. We want to buy a cot not a coffin! Finding a cemetery, we had no idea that there was a section for the small coffins. The area was called ‘The Garden of Innocence’. $1000 for the plot and $2,500 for the stone and plaque. Our new reality and another place to shed our tears.
Next, off to the shops to buy a small blue outfit to bury Beau in, with a matching hat to cover that beautiful head for eternity. We choose the softest, warmest blue blanket they have to wrap him in, and a small toy perfect for his size. His gender was unknown until the ultrasound that revealed he had died. Normally a cheer would go up when you find out the sex of your baby, instead all the things he would have done, and could have been flash before your eyes, knowing this will not be.
That sadness that follows in unbearable, I had to watch my daughter and her husband lower his little coffin along with all their hopes and dreams into the ground forever.
The bills that follow are relentless; it costs more to have a stillborn baby than to have a live baby. There are all the out of pocket pathology costs, the obstetrician, the epidural, funeral costs, psychologist costs. The list goes on. There is no discount when the baby dies. It’s all business, very cold, there is no sympathy.
The months after stillbirth, your new life begins, your mental health is challenged on a daily basis
My daughter and her husband join a group where they can talk about the loss of their baby with other families. After a few attendances it gets too much to see new faces come in to join the group, each new face carries another story of unbearable sadness.
My daughter now needs to see a psychologist every 2 weeks as the grief and the search for answers is relentless. She is not coping. Her arms are empty, and she needs answers. She knows through autopsy and countless blood tests, that there was nothing wrong with Beau, so what went wrong? She is never going to know because no one is looking for answers except the families of other stillborn babies.
My daughter now avoids friends with babies, baby showers, pregnant women, the baby aisle in the supermarket, family gatherings that may have a baby or a pregnant woman at them. All are a painful reminder that her baby died. These are all triggers that start the waves of grief again.
People come out of the woodwork and start telling us their stories of stillbirth. They feel safe to talk to us now, as we now know their pain. The pain that will never go away. They have told us how nobody wants to hear about it after a while, so they go quiet, some for years. The subject is taboo. This cannot be good for anyone’s mental health.
We find this out for ourselves. After about 6 weeks most people seem to feel like we should have moved on. I often get asked. “When is your daughter going to try for another baby?” I want to scream, “When she is ready to trade her grief for 9 months of fear”, but I don’t. It’s not their fault. They are also uneducated about stillbirth, just as I was.
A new baby will never replace the baby you lost or what you go through during stillbirth. It may distract you, but you will never forget.
Stillbirth challenges your mental stability every single day.
Going back to work after stillbirth:
My daughter was just about to go on maternity leave for 12months when her baby died. What do we do now? There is no way she wants to go back to work and face the world with the awkwardness that surrounds stillbirth. No one knows how to deal with it. She doesn’t even want to get out of bed, she is so sad. There are no guidelines at her workplace for stillbirth. Maybe society thinks you should just go straight back to work and forget about what happened. I don’t know. I can’t believe it’s 2018, and the fact that stillbirth happens to 6 families a day in Australia, and there are no plans in place in the workforce. These girls need so much tender loving care at this time.
My daughter is broken. I want to wrap her in cotton wool, put her in my pocket and carry her everywhere with me. Even though she is 33, she is MY child, and I can’t fix this.
I also struggled to go back to work after Beau died. I work as a florist; and Beau was stillborn just before Mother’s Day (the biggest day of the year in a Florist shop). I did not want to go back as I knew I could not bear to hear anyone talking about Mother’s Day. It was going to be another level of pain for my daughter.
My daily routine can consist of many calls from people excited about the arrival of a new baby, wanting to me tell me all the details, which I used to love to hear about their new little family member, what flowers they would like to send to the new parents, the details of congratulation that has go inside the card. I found this unbearable. I still find it unbearable but have learned to deal with it. It’s not their fault this happened to us, and I’m certainly glad it didn’t happen to them.
On Mother’s Day my daughter crumpled in my arms, not sure if she was a mum or not, not knowing how to deal with this day that celebrates being a mum. So cruel. I want to change careers now.
For the rest of my life I will always wish I had been educated about stillbirth before it became part of my life forever. Stillbirth is frightening to talk about. I know. I was that person. I wish I had been prepared to deal with what stillbirth looks like.
My wish is to find answers and educate women. Raising funds for research will always be part of my life now and hopefully one day we will not be saying 6 families a day in Australia have had their lives changed forever.
Susan Bruyn is grandmother to baby Beau.