Ode to the social media 'loss mums'
This post is best read while listening to 'Kimberley' by Patti Smith.
I am writing this on day 26 of my six-month maternity leave. The maternity leave I never in the world thought I'd be experiencing - with empty, aching arms and the longing for a baby that never arrived safely.
I am writing this while sipping on a glass of Malbec and feeling vaguely tipsy. Please bear with me: I've never been a heavy drinker and, of course, I haven't touched any alcohol since January.
I am writing this while my husband is playing 'Call of Duty' on the PlayStation, because, as he puts it, "Killing Nazis makes me feel better." You gotta love men dealing with grief (jokes aside - Daniel is one of the most open and honest humans I know, never afraid to talk about his pain or his vulnerabilities. Just one of the million reasons why I love him more than life itself.)
I am writing this because, through the loss of Luca, I discovered some pretty astonishing facts - about myself, of course, but also about people. Women, particularly. I discovered that there is a parallel universe of women who have experienced baby loss - through miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death, termination for medical reasons, and more - and are actively trying to challenge the taboos surrounding this very delicate topic by being raw, open, and vocal on social media.
In this beautiful, colourful, courageous universe, you can find women who saw their world falling apart after a painful miscarriage; women who terminated a wanted pregnancy because of a shocking prenatal diagnosis; women who fought until the very end to keep their babies safe inside their bellies but went into labour too soon; women going through IVF after experiencing devastating stillbirths or miscarriages; women whose babies died unexpectedly and for no apparent reason before, during, or soon after labour. The list is way too long, and I will never be able to fully capture each and every story. This saddens me - partly, because I wish I could give each single one of these women a voice, partly because I wish that no-one had to experience the loss of a baby, in its multiple, cruelly diverse forms.
Now, I belong in that universe, too.
We all have such different stories, such complex griefs, such painful journeys ahead of us. Still, we are all especially good at something: supporting each other. We do that by checking on each other on an almost daily basis; sending each other motivational quotes and messages when grief hits hard; cheering each other when one of us announces she's TTC (that's "trying to conceive") after yet another devastating loss, and celebrating any new pregnancies; helping each other to feel less alone during our unnatural, childless maternity leaves.
After my miscarriage in 2017, I closed up a lot and it never even crossed my mind to reach out to other women - especially not on social media, a place that I'd always associated with useless arguments and people 'shouting' at each other. During my pregnancy with Luca, however, I began to slowly explore this parallel universe - a task made much easier by the use of hashtags - and connect with an increasing number of 'loss mums' from all over the world. It gave me unexpected strength and empowered me in a way I'd never even remotely envisaged. The 'virtual' presence of these women in my life gradually became so crucial that, the night before Luca was born, I found myself messaging one of them. It was the middle of the night in London, but she lives in the US and was awake and happy to chat and support me through those hellish hours. She didn't know me, yet she was painfully aware of my grief, having been through a similar ordeal. I'll be forever grateful to her words of love and encouragement during one of the most surreal and physically demanding nights of my life.
In this parallel universe, 'loss mums' are out there doing something every-single-day. Talking. Opening up about their grief. Giving power to their lives and the lives of their lost children. Renovating their homes. Learning new skills. Sitting in the sunshine sipping tea or a glass of wine. Planting flowers, or entire gardens, in memory of their sons and daughters. Visiting the graves of their sons and daughters. Planning their baby's funeral instead of their baby's nursery. Crying in the shower. Rubbing their flat bellies and wishing for a new life to blossom in them. Putting their beautiful, strong bodies through yet another round of IVF. Commuting to work every day. Loving and loved by their partners. Loving and loved by their living children. Spending entire days in bed, hating every minute of their new lives. Wondering how on earth it’s humanly possible to come out of this hell alive. How it’s humanly possible to survive.
But not only do they survive. They bloody thrive. I imagine them emerging from their tear-soaked bedsheets, putting some uplifting music on, dancing by themselves in their late-summer, sun-washed living rooms, smiling, knowing life will be good again. Because it just will. I imagine them sitting at their desk, cup of coffee in hand, writing about their losses - to inform, support, and remember. Learning how to live, love, and laugh after the loss of a much wanted baby. They are here, they are everywhere around us – fierce and daring and beautifully vulnerable.
To all these women - I salute you, I thank you, I love you.