Emma and Conor’s story

Being a midwife I have been witness to grief and loss during pregnancy, but never did I think I would be one of those statistics. 

My darling boy Conor was born still at nearly 24 weeks. Three days after our wedding, one of the biggest highs of my life to one of the lowest lows. Never did it enter my head that I would be delivering my child sleeping so early nor so close to my wedding, the ripple effect it had on all those who attended our wedding and were so excited for us was devastating. Their heartbreak was as hard to handle as was our own. You actually felt as though you had let them down by Conor passing away. It was quite the burden to keep.

Everyone thinks the big events like funerals and calling people to tell them the horrible news are the deep heartbreaking parts of the grief. However I must admit there is so much more to it then you can ever imagine. The heartbreak of seeing pregnant friends, getting groceries and seeing that the world didn’t stop when your sons heart beat did, driving along and hearing the song played at his funeral come on the radio, having anniversaries come and pass all while the world still goes around.

Then comes the gruelling decision to return to work, the place where everyone knows your sorrow and look at you with a bit more sadness in their eyes, a place where you have to go and help other women have their miracles born into such love while somehow trying to not turn bitter by having such envy for their healthy babies. Truly deep down in my heart I never wanted this pain to happen to anyone EVER, but it is such an isolating feeling to desire so deeply a healthy baby and have it taken away from you.

Through writing this piece is not to label any parent who is going through grief but to let them know you are not alone, this happens to other parents too and that doesn’t make it okay, but it makes it a little less frightening to know you are not alone in this journey. I can say although it may not feel like it right now, but, you will laugh again, you will find joy in moments, you will not envy every pregnant lady you see, and you will be ok. Nearly seven years on the pain is still there and some days are diamonds, some days are stones – but I can find joy in knowing Conor is and always will be a part of our family.

Autopsy

After losing our son Conor at nearly 24 weeks, knowing he was our first it was hugely important to us to ensure that we knew exactly why he might have passed.  With lengthy discussions with the Bereavement Midwives and Doctors they explained our options and elaborated on how respectful the whole process was despite being invasive. We wanted to know what happened to Conor so we could do our best to prevent that happening again for us, and if it was something that could help another family not have to go through we would do it. In our eyes we were one of the lucky ones as we got answers from our Autopsy. We knew going into it that there was a risk that we might come out without answers, but the risk of having another pregnancy and not knowing 100% what might have been wrong with Conor was too great. The whole process of the autopsy was quite efficient and we able to get Conor home for a funeral service to lay him to rest. The biggest thing for my husband and I was to leave no stone unturned, we didn’t want to regret any of our decisions and this allowed us to know his passing wasn’t in vain. 

Returning to work

Returning to work after losing Conor was very confronting–for me being a midwife I had to distance myself from the patients I was caring for. Something I normally took to be such an intimate and privileged time with parents to be, and now I had to step back slightly to be able to tolerate being at work. In time I started to feel as though going to work was my time to be with Conor, and from a spiritual perspective that was something I couldn’t get from anyone else.

The biggest thing I allowed myself before returning to work was time, after Conor had passed I returned to work at around six weeks. For me it was more a case of I needed to occupy myself and let myself get out of a constant thinking mind. Initially I was overwhelmed when I returned, but things settled and I adjusted to a new “me” at work. Yes, there were sympathetic responses and the usual comments of someone who has suffered a loss, but that calmed and there was some distance between “Emma who lost her baby” and “Emma the midwife”.

Internally I will never be distanced from Conor but the stigma around my loss faded. I will never forget the first day of people trying to find the words and ultimately comforting them for my loss–it was a strange thing, however I found myself frequently comforting other people for my own son’s loss. I believe for most people human instinct asks us to try and fix things for other people to take away their pain–this is one instant where there is no way to fix a parents pain.

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