Written by Danielle Pollock for Still Aware.
I just wanted to be a normal mum. One who didn’t have to navigate the general rules of conversation and what is appropriate. I sat in that pregnancy fitness class with other pregnant mothers, all of us rubbing our bellies with a sense of pride. I sat there with a small amount of self-satisfaction: this is what it feels like to not know any fear in pregnancy.
For a brief second, I forgot.
I had forgotten that I am high risk. I forgot that no matter what happens or what I might wish, I am forever a bereaved mother.
This brief moment of satisfaction (and somewhat joy) was shattered when I realised that the instructor, in a completely innocent way, had started asking everyone in the room that deadly question. The one that sparks a sharp breath to all bereaved mothers.
She asked; ‘how many children do you have?’
As everyone in the room so calmly answered, I felt my eyes widening and my breathing starting to quicken with rising panic. I counted how many women were before me and then realised I was next. I stammered, which to many would appear to be the symptom of an overtired mum, and said… ‘I have one child.’
The instant wave of guilt of denying my daughter came to me, and I became unfocused. Why did I lie? Why could I not be honest? It became further complicated when she asked for further information about my child and discussed the joys of raising a toddler. I denied my daughter just to feel those sweet moments of normality. I ended up with a sour taste in my mouth and a growing pit in my stomach that made me feel I needed to start practising the act of confession with a priest.
What feels like a denial of our babies is a common occurrence amongst bereaved parents. One which acts as a protective blanket in a world that still does not accept our babies and chooses to remain silent in the face of figures that have not changed in over 20 years. When navigating a world of bereavement, it is never a simple journey or stage, but one that lulls you into a false reassurance that you are okay. It is only until a seemingly small statement or date comes up that it feels like a hard punch to your guts. One so powerful that crumbles you to the floor. But then you have to remember how to get up, how to crawl and then how to walk again.
I will admit, instead of the months that it felt like to get back on your feet, it can now only be a couple of days as the time has passed since my daughter’s death. But that aching pain that I cannot freely discuss my daughter with others is one that I think causes the most ache. I am forever challenged with wanting to be normal, with accepting my situation. A constant internal tug and pull that I feel will never leave me as long as I cherish my daughter in my heart. So, just as I have learnt to walk again, I will need to learn and accept this new normal which comes with a side of pain.