All of a sudden another month has slipped by. Next week we would have been celebrating Poppy's half birthday. It seems impossible it's been almost 6 months. I feel like I always start with that, but seriously, I am overwhelmed by the feeling of time galloping on, and life passing me by. But I'm learning to live with it.
So, how does a bereaved mother feel 6 months on from the death of her baby? I wonder that myself, actually. I feel...numb. Still numb. I guess if I really let myself feel everything, I worry I would become catatonic and you'd have to visit me locked up in a padded cell somewhere 'restful'. Everyone in my position is different at this point. Many people who lost babies around the time we lost Poppy are already pregnant again. Some can't even fathom the idea of trying again. But I still feel shocked that it happened to me. Dubious that the whole pregnancy, her birth and death, all of it, even happened to us at all.
I live, though. I've started working again, and as much as I find it hard I have great support there. People who were there through my whole pregnancy, some who helped me through my previous losses, and who stand by me as I make the very difficult transition back to the real world. My beautiful kids I've taught over the years who always say hello with such excitement that they got to see their Prep teacher. Parents who go out of their way to come and say hello. But on the flip side, there are those who go the long way around to avoid me, and the kids who blurt out, "Did your baby die, Rebecca?" with such innocence that I usually just say, "Yes, sweety," and walk away. At work I switch off to all of my home stuff, and that includes my grief most of the time. I have my game face on. I call it 'surface living'. Going through the motions like life hasn't completely changed. Then at home, I am free to just be. Frequently that includes crying. Also, shouting. And a bit of insomnia thrown in for good measure. You can imagine how much Xav and G love being around me.
Many times, however, I find myself gazing at nothing and thinking about things. Trying to find some reason in the madness, some calm in the chaos. Trying to learn the lessons I'm hoping I'm meant to learn from all this.
I reckon having kids is the hardest thing we women do. Probably the hardest thing for men too, but probably in a different way. I always imagined I'd be the mum of a brood by now, with structured play activities, menu plans with balanced dietary requirements, encouraging creativity and diligence and a desire to be kind to others. Some of this I am, but I am not the mum I thought I would be. I am more the harried, time short, stressed out, full time working mum. There is nothing wrong with that. It's just not who I thought I'd be. Over the past 6 months, I guess I've had time to evaluate my performance as a mother, and sadly I've found myself noticeably lacking. I always thought it would be me shaping the lives of my children, but in reality it is me learning from them.
What lessons have I learnt? There are many, and some aren't yet complete. From Xavier I've learnt that I can't protect him from everything. Buy a safety trampoline and he still falls off and breaks his arm. Try to protect him from the worst the world has to offer and then introduce him to death and grief at 5 years old. I've also learnt that he will be who he is, no matter what I say or encourage. He's a joker, and a hyperactive boy, and I can't force him to not be. He will play rough, and enjoy lemonade on the odd occasion. I am not his mother to force him into a mould that I envision for him. I am here to help him discover what is acceptable in society and what isn't. I have learnt that I am not the calm, collected, patient mother I thought I would be, and that he still loves me. I have learnt that he can break my heart with just a few words, and I can break his just the same. I have learnt that he likes hanging out with me, even if it doesn't include a doughnut for him.
What have I learnt from Poppy? How could I have learnt anything from someone so sweet, small and silent? I think the lessons I learnt from her are far deeper. I discovered that pregnancy is joyous from beginning to end. I learnt that joy can be found in the worry. I realised that I needed to stop and enjoy life now instead of planning what will happen 6 months from now. I became aware of my shortcomings as a mother, and most importantly, I learnt to accept the kind of mother I am. I learnt that Xavier was and is a miracle, and I had to have and lose Poppy to really know that. I learnt to take nothing for granted. I learnt that I have lots of amazing people in my life. I learnt I have an amazing husband, who is also a great father. I learnt that bad things happen to good people, too many bad things, but also that good things can happen at bad times. Like the people who have come into my life, or become more important in my life, because of Poppy. Overall I learnt to live better because of her. I learnt that life doesn't need to be long to be important. I've lived 32 years and not touched as many hearts as Poppy did in 9 months growing inside me.
I guess you could say that Poppy taught me to be a better mother to Xavier. She taught me that, no matter what, life is precious.
Where is a bereaved mother six months on from the death of her baby? She is looking forward to the rest of her life, with a child in her hand and an angel on her shoulder. And glad that, however awful, she had the chance to see her life for what it is; blessed in so many ways. The lesson was hard. Hopefully, she'll get an A+. Because, let's face it, she's still a perfectionist. That's a lesson for another day.