Silence is more than 'okay'
Most people expect you to take some time to grieve when you lose a baby. They expect that for some time you will be sad, you won't reply to messages and will keep yourself to yourself. You will be silent. But it comes to a point where some people expect that the silences will last less and become less frequent.
I have experienced this expectation from people. In the last month or so I have been called rude for not replying to messages when my daughter died. I have been called self obsessed for not replying to people and I have been called unsupportive and inconsiderate in not replying to friends problems right away.
People seem to expect that you reach a certain amount of time after your daughter has died where you should be able to get back to normal and act as you did before. What people don't understand is that you can never go back to normal. Your normal has changed, and as I recently found out physiologically changed after experiencing trauma. The change is a deep, soul altering change.
It is very hard when your grief comes under attack. I have gone on weekends away, been to parties and had nights out since losing Holly. All which comes with its own level guilt as how can I be doing this whilst my daughter will never do these things? I spent time messaging a 'friend' throughout her labour whilst my own daughter was dying but still in some peoples eyes, all of this is not enough of an acceptable behaviour.
Holly's death has been used against me. I have been 'told off' as people were there for me and yet I can't always be there for them at that precise moment in time. Sometimes it takes a few days to respond to a friends problem. It doesn't mean I don't care, it means I am trying to get through the day. I am trying my best. However, my daughters death is not a weapon. And friendship isn't giving to then be owed something back. It's giving because you care.
After I had received some of these messages, I spent ages going back through every single message on FB, IG and text to check I had replied to everyone who sent me a message when Holly had died. I became paranoid. I became worried that I had upset people and that everyone saw me as this rude, uncaring person. I didn't not reply to people because I wasn't grateful for their messages but quite simply, I had just given birth. I was registering Holly's death and I was planning a funeral whilst trying to be as normal as I could for my eldest daughter. I was trying to hard to just find the strength to get up each day, strength which is still required and will be needed for every day I am living.
Some friends have had their own hard times and sometimes I still can't reply right away. I have always responded though, albeit days later. For most, they understand but for the rest this isn't good enough. This was when I realised that some people 'get it' and some people just don't.
If Holly was alive, would I be attacked for not replying to a friends message if I needed to spend time with my daughter as I was worried about my parenting? I very much doubt it. This should be NO different just because my daughter is dead. At times my grief takes over my entire being. But that grief is Holly's time. And she deserves her own time with me, just as my eldest daughter physically deserves her's. Of course I feel bad that I can't always reply to people right away but its not out of spite and neither is it done on purpose. I have two children and they BOTH need me.
I am not rude. I am not self obsessed. I am not unsupportive and I am not uncaring. I am none of those things and my behaviour does not need to be excused anymore than if I was silent over time due to me spending time with my living child. I am so grateful for the people that understand that. But I am not sorry for those who don't and neither will I try to change anyone's mind.
In 2014, my best friend lost one of her little baby girls. It would never have been in my soul to have had such thoughts about her, whether I 'needed' her support or not and whether it was then, now or in 10 years after her daughters death. I quite simply would expect that sometimes, she would need to be alone with her baby and that would ALWAYS be okay. But I guess that's the point isn't it? Some people get it and some people don't. People change when they lose a baby, people's priorities change and people's self care changes. I get that.
I will never excuse my silence. My silence is my time with Holly and so I will embrace it, I will not rush it and neither will I be condemned for it.
They say your phone book changes when you lose a baby, I now know this to be true. Thank you to those who understand that I have changed and sometimes I need time. I wouldn't be a midwife if I didn't care and I wouldn't be trying so hard to share Holly's story to help others if I didn't care but sometimes Holly needs me too.
My silence is Holly's time and that will always be okay.
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On the 7th September 2016 at 25 weeks gestation, Holly was born, still after a battle with complete heart block.