I wish I could go back in time and sit with myself in that hospital room. With my husband leaning against the balcony rail looking out at the blue sky and with my sleeping angel Kendra lying beside me. The cars raced along the road and yet in this room time stood still. She laid still. I wish now that I could hold my hand and look myself in the eye and tell myself that it will all be okay, even if part of me will always be broken, life will still be beautiful.
Kendra was my second daughter and was born still the day before her due date. I did all the same things I did in my first daughter Skye’s pregnancy, how on earth did we end up here? We presented to the hospital because I could no longer feel her moving inside of me, ever the optimist I thought that everything would still be fine, that she was okay, but I was so deeply wrong. The feeling of placing my hand on my big pregnant belly without a baby moving inside is the kind of emptiness that will never leave me. Thankfully the love that I felt from the moment she was placed on my chest will also never leave me, and it is the very thing that enables me to keep going. She had died in utero of fetal-maternal haemorrhage, a massive and spontaneous haemorrhage where her blood left her body, travelled through her umbilical cord and flooded into my body. We know this is the diagnosis, but we may never know the ‘why’. I didn’t know stillbirth still happened, especially in ‘textbook’ pregnancies. If only I knew what I now know.
One of my greatest fears after losing Kendra was that not only had I been stripped of my child and stripped of my innocent view of pregnancy, but that the person I once was would be gone forever. How could I possibly live a life where I continued to be my positive and happy self I once was when my daughter had died before me. The truth I would come to discover was that I would never be that person again, but I could rebuild myself to be a better person, and do so by honouring my daughter’s name and creating a legacy for her to be proud of.
Something I learned about with the birth of my first daughter was the term ‘matrescence’. The journey, similar in gravity to adolescence, in where a woman is forever changed when becoming a mother, how she changes as a person deep to her core and how biologically and emotionally we become wired differently. I had days where I would struggle with raising my first daughter, with my whole life turned upside down, no longer being able to do what I want when I want, wondering who I even was anymore aside from a sleep deprived milk machine. Over time I got used to this new life, and this new me.
After losing Kendra I think people around me saw me as a grieving mother, but the truth is there was so much more to my journey than that. Yes, I was grieving, but I was also on a journey of matrescence, a struggle of letting go of the life I once had and the person I once was and the fear that the woman on the other side of it all was not worthy enough to carry on in this life. I am a different person now because of the gifts of love, gratitude and belief in everlasting life that my daughter Kendra gave me.
The journey of grief never leaves you, it is a constant battle and it rears its ugly head when you least expect it. However once you allow yourself to truly let go of the person you once were you can finally start to heal and you will come into your own. I had to say goodbye to myself, to place her down where she belonged and to turn towards the future me, allowing myself to fully embrace her, whatever she may be. The old me is gone now. With each tear I wept desperately, my soul howling for Kendra to come back, my soul was also mourning the person I once knew when I looked in the mirror behind these now tired and sad eyes.
To begin with I felt like I wanted space from the people around me, and yet at the same time didn’t want to be left alone or treated differently. In hindsight I feel like I wanted space from expectation. From the expectation to be ‘normal’, to be able to hold space for anyone or anything else, I wanted space from my old reality. A times I felt alone, but the truth is I will never be alone again, with this beautiful soul guiding me forward. I didn’t want to be part of the loss club of mums, I did not want this to define me, but I also wanted to relate to others. I soon learned these women were crucial to my healing. I want to share with you a quote that I felt so deep to my core;
“Even as I rocked on my knees howling I detected soft breathing behind the roaring. I leaned in, listened. It was the murmuring of ten million mothers, backward and forward in time and right now who had lost children. They were lifting me up. Holding me. They had woven a net of their broken hearts and they were keeping me safe. I realised that one day I would take my rightful place as a link in this web and I would hold my sister-mothers when their children died. Then, my only task was to grieve and be cradled in their love” – Mirabai Starr.
I want you to know you are not alone.
I believe you when you say you did everything right. I know mumma.
We walk along side you as you walk this road of grief and matrescence.
We will applaud you when you arise into your newest version of you.
So to the version of me who was in that hospital room fearful of what life would now become.
And let yourself fall.
When you need us, come and find us, and we will scoop you up and help you carry on.
Written by Bonnie Jean – Kendra’s mother
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