There is no denying that when your baby dies the likelihood is you will loose friends, I’m yet to find someone who hasn’t so apologies if I’m wrong in this statement. I don’t want to dwell too much on the negative because I find it has a habit of bringing you down quite quickly but I realise now that the friends I lost were in fact not real friends. Some people just stopped. They stopped texting me and some who meant a lot to me I never saw again and now it has been years. I don’t miss those people, I feel it reflects badly on them and perhaps shows their level of understanding. Perhaps if they they had realised that although I felt broken a simple ‘how are you’ would of sufficed. I didn’t need a lot I just needed people to be there even if you don’t know what to say showing up is better than doing nothing at all. At the time they made me feel ashamed of what had happened to me. They made me doubt myself and there is no going back from making someone feel like that.
Now that is out the way I can talk about all the real people in my life, the friends I had before Betty died and the friends I have made in the last 4 years have all been wonderful. They have been my rocks – along with my family they have held me up and kept me going. We have cried together but most importantly we continue to laugh and have fun. I no longer feel guilt to enjoy myself and have fun and when I am with them I know how much Betty means to them, if I want to talk about her we do and if she doesn’t come into our conversation it doesn’t matter because just knowing that she isn’t my sad secret is the best thing.
The biggest thing was that my friends didn’t change. They didn’t change how they acted they were the same with me, I guess it just highlighted to me that they had always been good people. Not changing, it was all I wanted, I didn’t want them to treat me differently, they listened if I needed it and that was the same as before she died. They knew they couldn’t understand fully how I felt, but they felt Betty’s loss too and they cared and it showed.
It wasn’t just the closest people, it was all the other people who I knew, some well and some not so. Some showed up and left gorgeous home cooked meals on our door step, some sent thoughtful gifts with beautiful heartfelt cards. None of them knew what to do I know they didn’t, I wouldn’t of done, they were all probably just as shocked as we were.
Archie had been at Primary school where he had started in Reception for about 6 weeks when Betty was born, we had barely forged any friendships, just ‘hellos’ in the corridors, obviously everyone knew I was pregnant there were only a few of us that were and I dreaded going back to the school run empty handed, I thought I would be ostracised. How wrong I was, one group of mummies who are now some of my closest friends took me under their wings and treated me in a way anyone could hope to be treated under the circumstances. There is no handbook for this stuff but I should ask them all to write one because somehow they just knew how to act, what to say. Most importantly rather than ignore what had happened, even tho at this point they didn’t know me that well and it would of been so easy to do they told me they were sorry in the playground, they invited me for coffees, they asked me about Betty. This was just so special and if you have lost a baby you will understand that. As we arrived home from hospital in the days following her death they arranged for a huge bouquet to be sent to us I will never forget the card it said ‘from all your friends at Avonwood’, I remember crying when they arrived because it just showed how much they cared, I barely knew them but they were telling me I was their friend and we were part of something. One of the mums had also had a baby, a girl a couple of weeks before, again I didn’t know her that well, I dreaded seeing her and the first school run I did on my own she was the first person I bumped into. I thought I would never be able to be friends with her (obviously I have told her this story) but she went on to be such a close friend and still is. I found it hard seeing her baby, but at the same time it wasn’t mine. It was different and she would always come round and see me and we would meet up and in the end seeing her baby became so much easier and I was ok with it.
Three of my best friends came to see Betty in hospital – I still don’t remember that day properly, I don’t know if I text them or called them on the phone but somehow they turned up together and they saw her and I really wanted that. I know they would of been worried about what it would be like, I don’t know if they have ever seen a dead body let alone that of a baby. But they came and I will always cherish the fact they were and still are my best friends. Not many people got to see her so to know that we share that is so special to me. They were amazing before, we have had so many adventures as we have been friends since Archie was born and we all have our eldest children who are the same age, but after this they somehow just got the situation and again I think it’s because they didn’t shy away from what had happened. They acknowledged it and still do. They ask me if I’m ok, they talk about her and that is the best thing anyone can do in my opinion. Although this changed me as a person it didn’t alter these friendships, any of them.
Even now when I speak to another parent who’s child has died I worry if I’ve said the right thing, I worry if I’m wording things right, if I have said anything that could upset them and it’s happened to me so I should have the words. I try to think of my own encounters with people and friends I always ask myself would I be happy if I read this or heard this. It’s not easy but it’s better to say something than just ignore it completely.
Death can be isolating, but it shouldn’t be and it doesn’t have to be. As much as some days especially in the beginning you want to shut the world out, you should in fact let it in. If you have the right people around you wonderful things happen. It’s important to be mindful of someone who has experienced something traumatic, it may not be baby loss, the death of a relative, an injury, they may have depression or had a breakdown in a relationship. It could be anything, anything that has an impact on another persons mental health. That person may turn down your offer of going for coffee, or they may arrange it and then cancel on you. The sign of a good friend is one who doesn’t give up. There have been times when I have simply not felt I could do things and my friends still invited me the next time and that I feel is very important.
It’s not just about receiving gifts but the ones I have received have really meant a lot, however a text can equally mean just as much, but it is nice that everyone shows their love and support in different ways. Some of my friends have given me the most beautiful keepsakes that I will always cherish. One of my friends from secondary school who was the only person I knew of who had experienced baby loss at the time turned up on my door step – she was the first person I thought of when Betty died but I didn’t know if I should contact her, believe it or not I was actually worried I would upset her hearing my news. She showed up, she brought me a gorgeous pebble with Betty’s name and date of birth and the words in her card just showed me how much she understood. We were close at school and then lost touch but now I consider her to be one of my best friends and I will forever be thankful that she is there by my side even if I do live on an island now!
I have made online friendships since loosing Betty, some are other mums who have been through a similar thing to me, some are just people I have met through my little squares on Instagram but I message most days and I very much class them as my friends. They are understanding and so kind and caring. Social media has its negative points but there is also so much good to it. Initially when Betty died I felt very alone as I didn’t use instagram back then and I didn’t know where to look for other people like me, but as time moved on I found my people and I love that everyone is there for each other.
I have to point out that when I say ‘I felt alone’ it was not because of anyone of my friends it was how I felt internally, as I’ve explained in this blog post my friends were fantastic, but I also felt I needed to find people like me, I needed proof that I was going to be ok, I needed to know someone else who had been through this had survived it. No one other than someone who has been through it can reassure you of that.
Since moving to the Isle of Wight I have met a handful of people who I now call my ‘friends’ but those people know about Betty, it’s very daunting telling someone new such an important life event thankfully I have Instagram so most of them have been able to see our story before I had to explain it in person which is always a help! They have all showed me so much support and love in their different ways and I am very lucky for that.
I owe so much to all my friends, they shone a light when all I could see was dark and above all they just showed up, wether that was in the physical sense or just in my text messages, on my voicemail. The greatest gift you can give anyone is kindness, to me the second greatest are these friendships. I can never repay them for what they have done for me but hopefully they will read this (I know they will) and know they truly mean the world to me.
Thank you for your kindness wonder women I love you all.