How do you parent a child that has died?
What do you say when people ask how many children you have?
How do you carry on after the first, or the second or even the third loss?
We are that family. We are that couple.
We got married in September 2011, on the most gloriously warm late summer day. Surrounded by our closest family and friends, pimms, Ice cream, a bouncy castle and a barn dance. Our future was ahead of us!
We had no idea.
I’m glad we didn’t know what was ahead. I’ll always have that blissfully innocent happy day. But I’ll also know I’ll never have that innocence and ease and happiness ever again.
We found out in December 2011 we were expecting our first child. At our 12 week scan all was good and we excitedly planned the coming months. Our world came crashing down at the anomaly scan at 20 weeks. Our baby wasn’t growing as he or she should be. The long bones were too short in non medical speak. After numerous scans with a specialist, I was diagnosed with severe placental insufficiency and IUGR. We then were told I also had blood flow issues, the blood was clotting and the nutrients just weren’t getting to the baby.
We still didn’t think for one second the baby wouldn’t get here, we were prepped for a very premature baby and hard months ahead. We still had no idea.
At 26 weeks I went to hospital, without my husband Ben as he wasn’t feeling well, for one of the weekly routine scans. Proof of the fact we didn’t have a clue.
I’ll forever remember hearing those words.
‘I’m so sorry there is no heartbeat’.
A trapdoor opened and I fell. Into a different world.
A busy packed antenatal unit at Kingston hospital in Surrey, hearing a woman screaming and sobbing. That woman was me. It was like an outer body experience. Our baby had died. I couldn’t understand the words being spoken.
Our baby was born naturally after 9 hours of labour two days later on 10th May 2012. A little boy. We called him Dylan Benjamin Seabrook. He didn’t even weigh 1lb. So very tiny. But so perfect. Skin so delicate.
We left hospital empty handed but for a birth and death certificate. Dated the same day.
I can only describe the days and months that followed as black. Dark. The sun did not shine. I was so angry. So utterly broken. Tears that never ran out. My arms empty, my heart so heavy. For me it was the anger that was uncontrollable. And actually nearly 9 years later, often still is. Diazepam and a high dose of citalopram barely touched the sides in that first year. I didn’t want to carry on. I wanted to be with Dylan.
The same year, on Christmas Eve 2012, we lost our second baby. At 11-12 weeks, a missed miscarriage. A miscarriage that hasn’t started naturally. No symptoms.
The way I dealt with this loss was basically to just carry on. That little one helped me more than I realised, it was the first time I’d gone under general anaesthetic and for the first time since May, 7 months earlier, I wanted to wake up and live. A fire ignited in me at that moment.
Shortly after, in early 2013, Barney joined our family. Our labradoodle. And he saved me quite frankly. He made me get up, get dressed, he needed walks and he needed me. He is so protective of me, so many hours sobbing into his fur, his love unconditional.
I started running. And didn’t look back. I started fundraising for Sands that first year, and then Tommy’s as I became more determined to try and help fund research and stop this happening to so many families. We have raised over £32,000 to date and are currently planning Dylan’s 10th Birthday Ball for May 2022.
I finished my first half marathon in 2013, the Great North Run, and sobbed and collapsed over the finish line.
My god I was angry I had to do this. The weight of loss is heavy.
Happily our rainbow, Jenson, arrived in October 2015. Blood thinners may have saved the pregnancy and got him here safely. He certainly is our sunshine, now a happy 5 year old and full of life. We adore him.
Recently, we’ve sadly lost our third little one. At the end of October 2020. Of which I’ve written about on our website (www.runyourownmarathon.com). A loss that has hit me hard, a baby too poorly for life. A baby gone too soon through TFMR. The baby’s heart had major defects and the bowel was growing outside of the body.
Termination for medical reasons. The taboo within the taboo of baby loss. The guilt is on another level. Why us, again?
So my questions remain.
How do you parent when three of your four babies are dead? How do you smile and carry on with life? How do you cope with days like Mother’s Day?
Well, right now so soon after our third loss I am not sure how to answer. It’s thrown me so much deeper and so far down in the world of grief. I didn’t need another lesson, I didn’t need to learn anything else from loss. Did I?
But what I can tell you is this. Our rainbow doesn’t deserve an unhappy mummy. And this thought is how I have to live because if I even stop for a moment, I break.
I will forever talk about my children. But I will forever feel guilt and failure as a mother.
Life after loss is a constant battle and parenting after loss often means painting a smile on. But please don’t judge me when I fall, please don’t judge the bereaved mother.
They are heavy shoes to walk in.
As Bryony’s mother the pain of seeing your daughter go through such a loss is indescribable. As a parent you are here to make everything right for your child and take away pain and protect them. Once a parent , always a parent. I felt hopeless and the scream and crying will haunt me forever. All we could do was support and provide meals and comfort . She needed time to come out of a dark place. We were grieving too and as a teacher going back into the classroom seeing younger babies was hard knowing Bryony and Ben had suffered such a loss. As a parent I advise you to be there, listen when you are needed and provide unconditional love and support and listen , but also give some time and space to the sad couple to bond in this very hard time . Allow yourself time as a Grandparent to grieve too.