I read that some women feel ashamed after a stillbirth, that it makes them feel like less of a woman. My first reaction was this did not apply to me. But now, from our hotel room in West Virginia, I realize that I have been feeling ashamed. I feel like everyone is looking at me, wondering why it looks like I just gave birth to a baby but they don’t see me with a baby, wondering why I only have one child, who is already 3 1/3, and don’t have more kids, wondering why I am zoned out and unable to focus, not smiling, not paying attention, and most of all, why I don’t have more kids. Why I only have one child, when many people my age have two or three. Does she not want them, they might wonder. “No!” I would scream, “I do want more kids.” Is it that she can’t handle them, or is devoting too much attention to her first, feels too tired from just one, or can’t afford to have another? What is wrong with her? I imagine them thinking. I want to scream out, I do want more, I was going to have another. He was growing healthfully inside of me, and then suddenly his heart stopped. And I want more! I long for more! I ache for more! And most importantly, I long for Sidney! I know feelings of shame are not productive, and that I shouldn’t be worrying about what other people think. I know that I should be focusing on grieving Sidney and caring for myself, Eli and my husband. Other people’s thoughts are inconsequential. But I guess this is where I am. It is hard to be in West Virginia, around a lot of other people, with their multiple children, and aspects of the lives I want. The place we are staying is a ‘resort’, although it is in a state park in West Virginia, and actually rustic enough in a good way. But it is hard to be here, trapped, feeling like everyone is watching me, with no one who knows what happened, no outlets, not even much time for myself, since we don’t have help with Eli, and I barely get any time to myself (I am writing this while my husband gives Eli a bath). I want to tell everyone. I want them to all know, and understand, so that they can be sympathetic and not judge me (although realistically most of them are probably not really paying much attention to me at all). It is still draining though. Aching heart, aching body. Grieving for me manifests itself as stress (and heart ache), and it is taking its toll on my body. My neck, shoulders and chest have been in perpetual pain for six weeks now. I will try to make an appointment with my primary care physician, but I doubt they will be able to do much to stop the physical drainingness of grief (it of course doesn’t help for me to think that this may be taking years off my life).
Since some people have inquired, I did have my six week follow-up appointment, where they told us they would give us autopsy results. But when we got there, they only had preliminary and partial results. They told us that chromosomally, Sidney was perfect. This means that there was no reason he should have died. Eli thinks his heart stopped working, but his heart was just fine. It was something in my body that failed him, and my inability to react quickly enough and go in. They don’t know yet what happened since they haven’t analyzed the placenta but it could have been an infection or it could have been something wrong with the placenta, like a clot of some sort. So I need to somehow accept that there could have been a different outcome, if I had gone in earlier, Sidney might have been alive, that I failed him. I don’t know how to forgive myself for that.
The doctor asked me if I am experiencing periodic bouts of weepiness….Umm, does he mean do I still cry? Yes. Does he mean do I still cry hysterically sometimes? Yes. I don’t have melancholia, walking around weeping in a long white nightgown. My son died. I am grieving. What kind of question/check box is the doctor trying to fill? What would he be doing if his child had died during labor? I don’t like doctors, not just because of this, but I don’t like people who think everyone fits into a box, that things are black and white, and don’t pay attention to connections between emotions and the body or some of the grays. Many stillbirths are unexplained, but the doctors don’t ask questions or collect data on the moments leading up to the birth, that I lost my mucus plug, that I had contractions that stopped, and then a few days passed, and I don’t know if I felt Sidney move much in those days. These details, if they were all collected in a data base, might be important. Or they might not. But I still want to be asked. I want my story to matter. I want Sidney’s story to matter.
Eli asked me if he was still a big brother. I said yes, that he had loved Sidney, felt him kicked, talked to him and sang to him, and imagined all the things they would do together, and how he would share his toys and play with him. So yes. I told my husband that I said this, and he said that he would have said it was complicated. I asked but wouldn’t you think you were still a father? If I didn’t have Eli, he said, I don’t know, probably not. This hurts me. I am 100% sure that I would still be a mother, even if I didn’t have Eli. I am Sidney’s mother. If my husband can’t recognize that, than a whole lot of other people won’t recognize that either, and that hurts me. I read a quote about how mothers protect their children when they are alive, and protect their children’s memories once they are dead. This partially resonates with me, except that I failed to protect Sidney when he was inside of me, which makes it especially important to protect his memory.
Eli told me that he doesn’t want me to have more kids. This hurts me, that he has somehow become disillusioned with the idea of being a big brother, that something he was so excited about, has somehow become something he no longer wants.
Yes, I tell the doctor. My heart is still broken. I still have my ‘periodic bouts of weepiness’.