Editor’s note: This post deals with sensitive content that may be triggering for some readers. If you too have lost a child to stillbirth, and are looking for support, please visit this website.
I’m not a normal mum.
The normal joy surrounding a baby’s birth involves squeals of excitement and happy-tears, followed by the standard questions:
“Is it a boy or a girl?”
“What did you name him/her?”
“How much does he/she weigh?”
Normal parents proudly answer these questions in a tone that says….“Not only did we have a boy; but we had the BEST boy, with the PERFECT name, at the PERFECT weight.” And so they should. A newborn baby is absolute perfection as far as any parent is concerned. The baby could have a squished-up face, a mis-shaped head and a mop of black hair that it’s yet to grow into. But a new parent sees none of it. They see the best baby of all the babies that ever were!
I know, because like every other new mum, I feel the same way.
In my opinion, Xavier Rocket is a cut above the rest – the cutest, with the coolest name at an impeccable little size. I can answer all of the above questions with pride, but unlike normal new mum’s I often miss out on bragging rights because people are too scared to ask. Once they realise our little guy died, they are frozen into a helpless state. They let out a gasp, instead of an excited squeal. They tilt their head as sad-tears come in the place of happy ones. And then – silence. As if the silence weren’t already deafening enough.
I’ve tried to break the silence. Many times.
I’ve tried to encourage a normal mum conversation with a hairdresser, a beautician and the lady at the bank. None of which went well. I think this is because I was inflexibly committed to never denying my son’s existence. When he was born, I made a pact with my husband that if I was asked, “Do you have kids?” I would respond with the truth. Every other new mum gets to. So why can’t I? I was ok with the fact that my answer might make people uncomfortable. I felt that was their issue. But what I didn’t realise was that people’s awkwardness and ensuing silence would actually make me uncomfortable. And incredibly hurt.
I’ve realised that our ‘modern society’ is not so modern when it comes to talking about stillbirth and grief.
But I don’t think it’s deliberate. People freeze because they are scanning their brain for something good to say and very quickly realise there is nothing. There are no words. For me, I would like to replace the pressure people feel, with the knowledge that they can ask me the normal questions – “Did you have a boy or a girl?” “What is his name?” Just like every other new mum, I want permission to talk about my world – my son. The pain that comes from being denied this opportunity is unfathomable. I would love to shout about my son from the rooftops and have everyone know about him, but instead I have to sit with the painful notion that our society isn’t quite ready for Xavier Rocket. And I’m not a normal mum.
But I’m still a very special mum. And if I narrow the view to my inner circle, I see that I get to play out the role of special mum all the time. If I focus on this, then I don’t need validation from the whole world.
My husband and I talk about our son and what he means to us. We each have a unique and ongoing relationship with him as we imagine the kind of person he would have been. We have special songs for him and places to visit where his presence is strongly felt. He is part of our family.
I also get to daydream and talk about Xavier with a few extraordinary people who understand the importance of my role as his mum. People who acknowledge Mother’s Day and Father’s Day; people who call on the six month anniversary of his birth; people who visit his graveside; people who text just to say they are thinking of him, my husband and of me. Some special people even help break the silence by fundraising for the Stillbirth Foundation in Xavier’s name, or by spreading the word to family and friends.
To my husband, and to these extraordinary people, thank you for letting me be a special mum.
And to the rest of the world: It’s a boy. Xavier Rocket Imrie, born 31.01.2015 at 2:18pm. Weighing in at 1.14 kilograms and measuring 40 centimetres in length.