Life after a late stillbirth of my first pregnancy.

9 months into my first pregnancy, the excitement to welcome my first-born daughter into the world was at an all-time high. A pregnancy that was very wanted and planned, a pregnancy that was low-risk. My unborn child, Sage, was surrounded by all the warmth and love I could give her in my womb, and I was ready to give her everything I could Earth-side.

I will never forget the moment my world shattered. The day I went to the hospital because it was the only day I did not feel her move. I expected to be told I would have to birth her earlier, but never in a million years would I have ever thought I would have to birth her lifeless body into the world.
To be told “I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat.” and forced to endure labour pains and birth as if she was alive. Because Sage still needed to be birthed.

How can nature be so cruel? To allow me to birth death. To allow me to go through nearly 30 hours of labour and end with a perineum tear and my lifeless daughter. To allow me to go through all post-partum changes as any mother would, but without my baby. I had to take pills to stop my milk supply from coming through, and navigate all the changes that occur hormonally, emotionally, and physically as any mother would, but with the addition of grief, loss, and the homelessness of emotions that come with losing my first born child after 9 months of pregnancy.

How do I face the world as a childless mother? How do I survive the first 12 months and beyond when my world had stopped and shattered from the moment I was told her heartbeat stopped, but somehow everything and everyone around me has continued to move with time?

I have no living children at home to hug tighter. No one to direct all my love towards after birth. I come home to an empty house and the silence is deafening. The nursery room left untouched, reflecting a world that can now only be visited in my dreams with the memories of Sage living. I was bleeding for 5 weeks after birth, learning to move with a post-partum body, and waking up through the night every night crying realising this was all my reality.

So much that I have to grieve every day in addition to the loss of Sage. A pregnancy, birth, and labour without the fear of loss. The first Christmas, New Years, Mother’s Day and any festive or memorable day. The first cry, movements, smiles, crawls, walks, hugs, eye-gaze, first day of school, and all the firsts that come with a first-born. My first motherhood journey, my identity, my body, the innocence of pregnancy, and my life overall.

I write all of this as a brief description of what this new world is to me. Where a part of me is stuck in the life where Sage is, and a part of me is forced to survive the reality of life after loss. I’m constantly battling both worlds every day, and trying to survive every day as I lose Sage every single day over and over again in this world.

Besides trying to stay afloat every day, I also have to endure the ruthless and unnecessary comments and judgements from other people. Other people who are fortunate to have never or will never have to experience what I have. I had my lifestyle questioned after losing Sage, and to this day, I am still shamed for simply grieving.

I understand that not everyone will understand the depths of this pain, and I understand that most people have every good intention to help, but a majority of the time the comments dismisses how a bereaved parent feels. It dismisses the life of the baby we lost, it dismisses our emotions that we already struggle to navigate because our love has nowhere to go, and not to mention the blame, shame and judgement from a lot of the comments.

I really appreciated those who left me messages to acknowledge my motherhood and the hurt that I carry with me always. I appreciated the messages that ended with “no pressure to reply” because I may not always have the mental time to reply. I appreciated the food deliveries that were organised for me. I appreciated those who have the ability to sit with me in my sadness rather than change the subject, project blame, shame and judgement, or even try to “fix” how I feel even though I can never fill the void and pain without Sage.

It has been just over 6 months now and it is still as lonely, isolating, and confusing as it was from the beginning. Life after loss, particularly a late-term stillbirth of my first pregnancy, is simply surviving each day with no end to the void and emptiness. It is being welcomed into motherhood but always shadowed by loss and grief from the moment Sage’s death was confirmed. It is putting on a persona to the world because not everyone is comfortable to sit with that sadness and grief, whilst having another persona at home and around those who care and are able to sit with that sadness. It is constantly living two lives, torn between two different worlds, and my heart forever being in two places.

Written by Cathy Nguyen- mother of Sage

First published online by  Mamamia – 22nd October 2022