Life after Stillbirth A Mother’s Journey Through Grief Tess Woods, HarperCollins Australia author
As an author for HarperCollins, I was approached by Kid Magazine to write a short story for their readership. The brief was for a light and humorous fictional short story about being a mum. I apologise for not delivering on that. Firstly, my story isn’t fictional, it’s real. Secondly, it is anything but light or funny. But it’s a story I feel compelled to share in the hope that it will reach other mums who may find comfort in it and that it may spread awareness and understanding of what so many of us go through but is rarely acknowledged. My story is about my third child, my beautiful perfect precious son Lachy, who was stillborn in 2006. This is the first time I have ever spoken about him because I feel a responsibility as someone with a platform whose voice can be heard, to speak up. I remember sitting crouched on the floor beside the toilet, having just done a pregnancy test, and sobbing into my hands. I didn’t want this. I didn’t want another baby. My youngest was three and a half years old and starting kindy the following year. I was just starting to feel excited about heading back to work and I was tasting the beginnings of getting my life back after eight years as a stay-at-home mum. And here I was pregnant again, thanks to a major condom fail. My husband, Paul, comforted me as best he could, but he was in shock too and no more ready for another baby than I was. Financially, this was the last thing we needed. I rang my mum and dad and my brother and I cried when I told them, not because I was happy but because I was upset. I text messaged my closest friends and told them I was “accidentally “ pregnant and that I was devastated by it. kidmagazine.com.au/subscribe 52
That shock and disbelief lasted one day. One day. Then I got over it. I was having a baby! The things that seemed so important the day before – going back to work, having time to myself, not having to wake up at the crack of dawn to hit the gym, having more money from my income, having coffees with friends without a toddler hanging on – all those things slipped away somewhere into my dreams that night, because I woke up the next morning and the first thing I did was touch my belly and cry fresh tears, but tears of joy this time that I was blessed enough to have been given another child to mother. ‘I’m sorry little one,” I said out loud to my baby. “I’m sorry I wasn’t happy like I was with your brother and sister when I found out I was pregnant with you. I love you and I want you.” Mother’s guilt kicked in that I had told all and sundry that I was unhappy about being pregnant. I considered sending out a group text saying “Hey, I love my baby, I didn’t mean any of that stuff I said yesterday” but it seemed like a stupid thing to do so I didn’t do it. I figured everyone would eventually see me anyway and realise it was the idea of all the upheaval of having a third child that was the reason for me being upset, not the fact that I didn’t actually want my child. We told our children and they were beyond excited, their joy brought out ours and as a family we started happily planning for baby number three. I did my usual pregnancy thing and got violently ill for three months. I was vomiting upwards of ten times a day and by my second trimester I was already retaining a heap of water and looked like a blimp! But I was happy. This unexpected surprise bundle changed my outlook on life. I saw that you can have what you think is a perfect life plan but then that plan can turn to mud and it can be the best thing ever. I loved being a mum. Nothing had ever satisfied me more and I was getting another go at it!