Book smart (adjective): Used to describe a person whose knowledge greatly derives from book-learning, as opposed to practical experience
My brothers have always said that I have no common sense. A decent degree, yes. Common sense, no. They’re not wrong. I like to read and I’m pretty book smart, but I’m really rubbish at practical things. I also never know which way north is. And common sense? From my experience, it’s not so common.
What’s my point? Well, this is going to sound so obvious, but when I left the hospital, it would have been helpful for someone to have said – or for me to have realised – THIS:
“Your baby lived and your baby died. You now have to figure out how to carry this child in a different way”.
Honest to goodness, I really thought I was going to come home and be able to sweep this under the carpet again. In the run up to Summer’s birth, I text a friend to say “for me this is no different to any of my babies, so I just have to grieve again and find a way to move forwards” – how stupid of me to think I’d fully grieved my first two losses. I’ve now come to realise that I had barely scratched the surface.
When Summer was born, I was so in awe, I didn’t cry. We spent an hour with her. Then Summer died. I still didn’t cry.
I am so pleased that while she was here, I said to James: “Look, we did it! This is our baby. Even if we never have another, we’ve done it!” I’m glad she got to hear that. (She was also made to listen to Taylor Swift’s, Love Story. A couple of months after she died, I realised that the word ‘summer’ was in the first verse, so she would have heard her name. That made me cry happy tears. I don’t know why, I just think that’s really special, because we didn’t name her until much later).
The morning after she died, I woke up, still completely elated – we’d met our child and it was so unexpected and so special. I turned to James and said “I think I’m going to be ok!” and he just looked at me with such sad eyes, because he had common sense. He knew, as he often does, that I wouldn’t be. He knew me better than I knew myself, and he knew that he was going to have to slowly, then suddenly watch his wife fall apart. Again and again and again. He still bears witness to this.
Living with neonatal death has been hard, entirely different to what’s gone before. So here are some things I wish I’d have known in the earlier days of loss. This might all seem obvious to you, but this was not at all obvious to me. As I said: book smart, but absolutely no common sense.
|C||However unwanted or how much you resist, you will be forever changed by this.|
|O||Time will help, but only a little. Not as much as you would think (or hope).|
|M||You are going to understand a mother’s love, without being able to call yourself a mum.|
|M||You will have to mourn more than your baby.|
|O||You are going to have to figure out how to ‘mother’ your baby’s memory.|
|N||You are going to need help.|
|S||So many people are not going to know what to say.|
|E||You do not have to worry about forgetting, you will think of her every day.|
|N||You will not be able to bury your feelings anymore.|
|S||This is a significant life event.|
|E||You are not going to be able to control the pendulum of emotions.|
There are so many things I wish I knew, but this would have been a good starting point. As always, feel free to add any of your own to the list.
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