As soon as we saw Benjamin we thought he was absolutely perfect. His little button nose, his beautiful little eyelashes, his huge hands and feet… the list could go on forever.
While I was pregnant with Benjamin I would say to my friends in work, “Now once you meet Little Merv you don’t have to tell me he’s cute if he isn’t. Both Merv and I were not attractive babies.” (Our in utero nickname for Benjamin was Little Merv, as we expected a little but large version of his Daddy!) The girls would laugh… my lack of maternal instinct pre-Benjamin was not a well hidden secret. I used to look at babies that were not traditionally attractive and wonder how everyone was looking at them as if they were the offspring of Brad and Angelina. It was a genuine mystery to me. That was until we met our own gorgeous little bundle. The mystery was no longer.
Through my tears I told my friends with great pride that they wouldn’t have to lie when they saw the pictures of our little guy, that he was truly perfect. My husband, Merv, is always one to be objective so I asked him one day in the first week after we lost Benjamin whether he thought I was being biased in talking about our “perfect” child. He reassured me that Benjamin was in fact perfect. So there it was, it must be true – we had created a beautiful, perfect little human. So how was it that this perfect little human wasn’t wrapped up in his mummy’s arms? How was it that we had to say goodbye at the same time we said hello? How was it that we had to wrap him up in his tiny little white coffin and never hold him again?
These were the thoughts that ran through my mind over and over again in the weeks after losing him.
Why does this happen?
How does this happen?
Had I done something wrong?
Had the doctors missed something?
Should I have gone into the hospital the day before?
Would anything have made a difference and meant that I would now have a 7 week old baby?
I would Google endlessly trying to find answers. Merv would come up to the bedroom to find me in a ball, weeping and shaking, convinced there was something different we could have done which meant that he didn’t die. He would manage to eventually calm me down and help me to see that we did the best we could for Benjamin, that Benjamin knew we loved and cared for him with everything that we had. This would work for maybe a day or two and then the dark thoughts would wind their way back into my mind and the sobbing would start once more. This was the pattern… lather, rinse, repeat.
Listen: Rebecca Sparrow on love, loss and empty arms. Post continues after audio.
So this week all of the waiting and what ifs came to an end. We got the post-mortem results. In the days leading up to the meeting I couldn’t sleep. I was lying awake for most of the night wondering what they would say. I had a nightmare that the doctor told us Benjamin was perfect and there was no cause of death. In the nightmare I cried and cried… why would our baby be taken from us if he was perfect. It just didn’t make sense. How could life be so cruel?
I organised to meet Merv outside the hospital so we could go in together. I knew that this hospital was the high risk maternity hospital in the state, however, in my haze of emotions about the meeting, it had completely escaped me that there would be pregnant women and babies everywhere! I know while I am writing this that it makes no sense that this wouldn’t have dawned on me but still, there I was, completely taken by surprise with my worst triggers surrounding me from every direction. What made it worse was that the majority of them were smoking. Talk about adding insult to injury – I have to walk through all of the smoking pregnant women to get to my perinatal loss clinic. The irony was not lost on me.
We were eventually brought into a room to get our results. At this point I was so nervous I thought I was going to vomit. It didn’t take long for the meeting to start resembling my nightmare… Benjamin was perfectly healthy. No cause of death, just one of those things, an act of God the doctor said. It didn’t feel to me like God was present at all. We went on to discuss implications for the future. The doctor explained that it would be very likely that we would be able to go on and have a healthy, live baby and there is very little they would do differently in the management of a subsequent pregnancy. But of course, it would be very stressful for us given what happened with Benjamin.
What happened next was the strangest thing of all. I had expected to be distraught, to go back into the depths of despair but instead I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. Relief that Benjamin didn’t suffer, relief that there was still hope for the future, relief that I could finally be unchained from the shackles of “what if”. We had done everything we could for our boy. Nothing could have changed his path. He is at peace and in a way, so are we.
If this story has brought up any issues for you, Mamamia urges you to contact SANDS on 1300 072 637.
Catherine blogs about her experiences of stillbirth at www.benjaminslight.com after her first son, Benjamin, was born sleeping in April 2017. She is inspired to write in her spare time in order to bring awareness to the much ignored topic of pregnancy loss. Catherine also volunteers with Bears of Hope, a pregnancy and infant loss support charity, to improve support services for other bereaved families.