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  • Sharon Tootill 8:58 am on May 7, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , birth, , loss, , , , ,   

    Expectations 

    Every now and then, a turn of events or set of circumstances, or even a few words will jump up unexpectedly and knock you sideways.

    I’ve had a few of those – my Dad’s death after I thought I had convinced him to live, the moment I saw my house after our tenants had completely trashed it, and the moment I knew my twins were dead.

    My other miscarriages were all around the 8-10 week mark, discovered at the 12 week scan to have passed away silently a few weeks before.

    But I carried my twins to 14 weeks. At the 12 week scan it was clear that they had ‘just’ died. I had felt a lot of pain a few days prior to the scan, but had subsequently felt movement so I assumed everything was ok. (In later pregnancies, you feel the ‘quickening’ much earlier than first pregnancies.) I knew before the scan that it was twins because I felt so much movement.

    But it wasn’t ok. My twins were suffering from Twin-to-Twin Transfusion syndrome – a not uncommon complication of identical twin pregnancies. Some survive with intervention, many do not.

    I refused to have the D&C, (Dilation and Curettage) or the EPRC (Evacuation of Retained Products of Conception) that they so tastefully call it now, and which the sonographer tactlessly suggested I have right away, preferring to let nature take its course.

    I needed more than an afternoon to process this reality – that the babies I had waited and prayed and longed for so much for seven years were not going to be mine.

    I delivered my babies at home – two perfectly formed tiny little girls, Rachel and Leah.

    Rachel was much larger than Leah, having been receiving more blood and nutrients in the twin-to-twin transfusion process. But they were both perfectly formed and still.

    Fast forward two more years, and I am now over 40, and I conceive again, a surprise ‘last chance’ baby.

    But I lost this ‘rainbow’ baby too.

    Grief in our society is not really tolerated. It is swept away and hidden in the same way that death is quickly swept away and hidden. If you are grieving for more than a month, or three months at the outside, you can expect to be offered anti-depressants. The idea that you would be in ‘mourning’ for the traditional year or more is frankly unconscionable today.

    But I am still grieving 3 and 4 years later, and that is normal and natural. I am grieving for the babies that I lost but I am also grieving for the lost future I thought I would have. Life may look bright, but it’s not the shade of brightness I had envisaged.

    As much as I would still love to have another baby, the chances now are pretty much down to zero – unless God decides to intervene.

    Can you imagine how it feels to end your family on recurrent loss? Do you think it matters if you have another child or two, or six or ten?

    I still, after all this time, have to – for my own sanity and equilibrium – avoid pregnant women and babies (and especially twins) at all cost.

    Babyloss mums, it should be noted, routinely ‘hide’ friends on facebook who announce pregnancies or post baby photos.

    It is a necessity, because until some healing has taken place, it is a gaping, weeping wound that won’t heal over, and which is easily re-opened.

    I knew that my friend’s wife was expecting a baby and was due around this time. I’ve known him for almost 30 years, and her for around 20. I decided I would be brave and have a look, only to find that she had ‘unfriended’ and ‘blocked’ me on facebook. I sent a message to my friend, and he announced their joy and I wished them well. I thought I was very brave, facing my fears, but now I dearly wish I hadn’t.

    I then received messages from my friend telling me that his wife had blocked me because she was disgusted that I hadn’t ‘liked’ or commented on her facebook page during her pregnancy. It was apparently a ‘difficult pregnancy’ and she had to ‘dig deep’ to get through it.

    How ‘deep’ do you think you need to ‘dig’ when your babies die?

    She was apparently very disappointed in me and had “expected more” of me after being friends for so long.

    Does it really need to be said that to expect a babyloss mum to support you through your pregnancy is wholly inappropriate and unreasonable?

    Really?

    I guess it does.

    The conversations I’ve had with other babyloss mums tell me that I am not the only one who has received insensitive and thoughtless comments from unthinking friends who are unable to see past their own need.

    I’m sorry I wasn’t able to ‘be there’ for my friend or his wife, but I was totally the wrong person to look to.

    If you have a twisted ankle, you don’t go to somebody with a permanently broken back for help with walking. I know it’s not a perfect analogy, but it bears thinking about. Your twisted ankle will heal and you will walk again. I may never have that joy.

    My 12 year old son heard me crying last night and asked why. I am so very grateful that I have surviving children. I am very blessed, I know that. But I have also lost five babies. As Rick Boyer said in his book on large families, ‘Yes, they’re all ours’,

    “which of your children would you not mind losing?”

    My young son’s reaction was so insightful, he said “it must feel like they’re teasing you.” I hadn’t thought about it that way, but yes it does a little bit. I know that there is probably no malice involved – it’s just insensitivity. From their perspective, her need for support is more important than my inability to give it. But from my perspective, they are flaunting their joy in the face of my grief.

    The difficulties of a pregnancy that leads to a live birth are very, very different from the difficulties of a pregnancy that leads to a loss. They cannot be compared.

    And you cannot expect sympathy for your pregnancy (or breastfeeding, or child-raising) difficulties from mothers who would give anything to experience those difficulties again for the chance of holding – and keeping – their baby.

    I am sad to have lost my friend. I am sure he will make a good father. I wish them well. But even if there was no animosity towards me, I wouldn’t be able to be around them anymore. I truly wish it were possible, I would have loved to share their joy; but it isn’t possible. It’s just too raw and too painful, and sadly that is the reality for babyloss mums.

    It’s cruel, it is an additional loss and grief on top of the original loss and grief.

    Please try to understand that, and be grown up enough not to ‘block’ and punish them with insensitive words when they don’t live up to your expectations.

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  • Sharon Tootill 12:35 pm on January 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , loss, , , , post-natal depression, reconciliation, social   

    Open Letter to My Former Friends 

    For over ten years I lived and worked as a home educator in my former town. I worked tirelessly to run the Christian group, organising events and activities (mostly for free) in friendly co-operation with the secular groups. It is a deep regret that the group I set up did not continue after I left.

    For a few years, it was absolutely great. Additionally, I started and briefly ran a home education learning co-op, and I ran several websites supporting, helping and encouraging people who wanted to start home educating.

    I am told that ‘nice people’, and voluntary organisations in particular, are prone to infiltration and harassment from Dangerous People: twisted, troubled, manipulative individuals who may even have mental illnesses such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Fair enough. I’m sensitive, I hope, but I was also a fairly tough cookie, a good judge of character, and really not about to be troubled by That Sort of Thing because I’m basically pretty strong, I have a solid foundation, and I have a great circle of friends.

    So far so good. Crazy person attacks, I fight back (with love to begin with, as much as possible, but make it clear that I won’t be walked over), problem solved.

    What I wasn’t prepared for was how dastardly, cunningly clever the crazy people were (and we’re talking multiple crazies). Neither was I prepared for how easily my solid circle of friends could be swayed, poisoned against me and end up making the lies their own.

    Character assassination is alarmingly easy to achieve. Social isolation, mental breakdown, even physical breakdown, easy-peasy. (It was at this point that my ME became much more serious, and I’m sure that stress is a major part of my health puzzle).

    It obviously helps if your audience is slightly naïeve and a bit gullible, and perhaps prone to preconceptions and prejudice. (Not quite middle class? Not quite respectable? Must be suspect!)

    But You – my friends – listened to the lies, believed them, maybe agreed with them (she is an insomniac, she is up all hours of the night on the internet, she’s can’t be looking after her children properly, easy couple of mental steps to “her children must be being abused”! She had post-natal depression, she must be mentally ill!)

    You held a secret meeting to discuss me.

    You lied to my face.

    I hoped and prayed that the Truth would out, but it took years to do so; and finally, when the crazy people were revealed for what they were – manipulative, trouble-making liars (on a scale that would make you weep with laughter if this were fiction), you turned around and unapologetically laid all the blame for everything you had done at the feet of the crazy, disturbed, probably mentally ill person who actually, on reflection, had an excuse.

    You had no excuse.

    Three years ago, when I lost identical twins in miscarriage, my friends (and a couple in particular) – instead of supporting me emotionally or making any effort to understand how devastating it was (at my age, after so many years of hoping and longing and praying) – said the most appalling things to me. Amongst other things, they accused me of being selfish, self-indulgent, oh and a whole host of other things that I choose not to remember. “It’s not all about you!”

    Wow.

    I guess not.

    I am told that the gossip ran along the lines that “she was never pregnant at all, she made it up.”

    WHAT THE.

    At this point we decided as a family to turn our backs on the whole toxic, bitchy, gossipy scene. This kind of constant battle really isn’t conducive to raising kids, or to home education, or to family. We left the city and moved away. Way away.

    It has taken me three years to even begin to feel as though I am recovered.

    Not once have I had a single apology.

    Not a single one.

    I tried my hand at reconciliation before we moved, but it really doesn’t work when a relationship is unbalanced with one side refusing to acknowledge their faults.

    I am not twisted, and I’m not bitter, however easy that would be. I choose to walk in forgiveness whether or not you can acknowledge what you did.

    But I sure do hope that you learned from the last few years – not only how twisted and dangerous the crazies are (that’s a given), but how vulnerable and easily persuaded and fooled you were. Because you were had. Not only did you contribute to emotionally damaging a friend and potentially destroying a happy family unit (remember how close you came to allowing the Crazy Woman to report us to Social Services?), you allowed lies to destroy a happy, supportive, stimulating social circle and home education group.

    I presume the group itself recovered, moved on, has new people now. But what we had for those few years, that beautiful supportive, happy group of parents and children – is gone forever.

    I mourn what I have lost.

    I miss you.

    I loved you.

    I don’t do gossip, and I have always made it a rule to not say anything about anybody that I wouldn’t want that person to hear. I am still a nice person, I still volunteer and organise, and I always try to look for the good in people. (But I’m a little wiser now)

    I know I’m not faultless in this, I know I said unkind things. I know I made bad decisions. I lost my temper. I hurt people. I apologised. I hope I have come out of this a little bit more mature, a little bit of a better person.

    If you are willing to put your hand up and say, “Mea culpa”, I would be more than happy to reconcile.

    There it is, an open door.

    But if you want to argue, if you want to gossip and prevaricate a little bit more (I didn’t mention any names, you know who you are and which portion of this applies to you), I really don’t want to hear it.

    I’m done.

    Post-script

    The night after I wrote this, I took it down after receiving some strange phone calls. It may have been an excessively paranoid reaction. I have re-read the post and decided to put it up again (minus the identifying locations). At the risk of possibly making me sound a little bit pathetic, and also possibly of upsetting and offending people, it is a chapter of my life that deserves not to be swept under the carpet. Lessons need to be learned, ultimately, and I feel that the best way for me to put this all behind me and move on is to make it public.

    And so these three things remain: Faith, Hope and Charity (love) and the greatest of these is Charity. Love and forgiveness are paramount. I won’t waste my time bearing grudges.

     
    • Mishayah 10:05 pm on February 6, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      I suppose one of the hardest lessons we ever learn is this ‘You’ll know them by their fruit.’ This is all about actions rather than invisible attributes that can not be observed.

      Like

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