People often ask me how I do it.
They hear I have lost all 7 of my children, and they tell me I am brave.
They wonder how I can carry on.
They tell me they could never do what I do.
There’s no secret to it. I carry on because I have no choice.
I never set out to have all my children die before they could be born.
No one who gets pregnant wants their child to die. The truth is, I’m not brave.
Every day is a struggle. Every day brings new challenges. Every day is a fight to survive.
I wish I were with my children.
This does not mean I wish I were dead, far from it. But I do wish that my children and I were together, wherever they are.
When people tell me they could never do what I do – it makes me feel guilty.
What do they expect me to do? Curl up in bed forever and stop living?
Because some days, that is precisely what I wish I could do. Do they expect me to be a constantly sobbing mess on the floor?
Because I would also like to do that.
I would love to let my emotions truly show what I am feeling because then maybe they will get a small peek into what it is like to live with the constant crushing feeling of having outlived all my children.
Instead, every day I put on a mask, the same way some women apply make-up.
Some days it slips, and I can’t face the world.
Other days I take it hour by hour, and other days could even be considered normal.
There’s nothing brave or special about these acts. It’s just what I do to survive in a world that prefers not to see the realities of grief.
So, what does the life of a bereaved parent look like?
It is smiling when you want to cry at seeing a child that same age as yours.
It is smiling when you want to cry.
It’s being invisible at children’s birthday parties.
It is looking at the ground, so those around you don’t know how hard you struggle.
It is pretending you’re ok while sobbing into your pillow at night.
It is choking on your sobs so no one can hear them.
It is being given pregnancy news in hushed voices or a text so you can both pretend it news isn’t upsetting.
It is seeing other people live the life you always thought you would have.
It is lonely. It is isolating. It is feeling your heart crack a bit more, bit by bit, day by day, year by year.
It is being barred from the mum’s/dad’s club.
It feels like you can never catch your breath.
It is carrying on when all you want to do is never get up.
It’s remembering important dates alone. It is losing part of yourself forever.
It is losing friends and family.
It is questioning the will of God.
It is always dreading the small talk questions.
It is hating yourself.
It is seeing yourself as a failure.
It is living a life you deliberately chose to leave behind.
I am luckier than most. My friends see and acknowledge my losses.
They talk to me about my children. They include me in their lives and those of their children.
They recognize the joy and sadness that this brings.
They do the best that they can, and for that, I am grateful.
For that, I can take off my mask for a bit and be the new me.