grieving without fear

A few weeks ago I cried at the hospital.

It was the end of a prenatal class where we’d been talking about the birthing process. We were all lying on our sides, propped up by a mass of pillows, spending some welcome time in relaxation before the class ended.

I’d felt the tension in me the whole class. I hadn’t realised that husbands were allowed to come so I was one of the few women there sitting alone on the floor mats. And as I lay there, “relaxing”, unbidden my eyes filled with tears.

I am confident, I am safe, I am secure.

I hurriedly whispered one of my favourite mantras from our hypnobirthing course to myself and blinked back the tears. My hand lay across my belly and I felt our baby roll and wriggle and I smiled to feel it push back against me as I rubbed it’s back underneath my skin.

I am not scared of giving birth. That seems to surprise a lot of people coming from a first time mama, but I feel calm and prepared. I’m looking forward to it.

But I have been scared of the hospital.

The few times I’ve crossed that car park towards the peach coloured maternity building, I’ve felt my body tense up, my palms sweat, my stomach turn. My body remembers this place even before my mind has caught up.

Last time we were here, we lost a baby. Last time there were screens filled with unbearable silence. Last time it meant waking up in a crowded recovery room, kind French-speaking nurses wiping away the tears as I wished and wished for everything to be different.

Everything is different this time.

I’m days away from my due date. This baby is seemingly healthy and chubby and incredibly active. It claims extra body space from me each day, kicking me in the ribs if I sit still too long, doing happy somersaults when I lie down to sleep.

I am so looking forward to meeting this child. I am so in love already.

This second pregnancy has been healing in the most beautiful of ways. I’m lucky (if that’s the right word) that we had no further problems – no infertility, no repeat miscarriages. I’m the picture of health, apparently. And yet. There will always be a gap. There will always be a child missing.

I came home that day two weeks ago and told Rasmus through angry tears, This should be our second child. People should be tutting at us for having children so close together (it would be 17 months). There should be a busy toddler distracting me from last minute preparations.

Grief is a strange animal. Most days my focus is entirely on this new child, my heart brimming with joy rather than sadness, the thought of that first baby a distant memory that no longer stings in the same way. And then there are moments when the tears suddenly well up in response to some deeply felt, intricately remembered moment. And I recognise the grief is still there.

And I’m ok with that. “It’s good you cried” my best friend texted me afterwards. And it is. That first baby was a part of me and I lost that part. It will never be fine.

But healing comes. Moment by moment. And joy shares space with sadness until you learn to bear it.

This week healing came in the face of a kind midwife who walked us through the hospital corridors, showed us in and out of rooms, explained every aspect of how this will work. And I stood in that hospital room, imagining my baby in the cot next to the bed, my husband in the corner armchair. We walked the corridor and he pointed out the poppies growing wild on a building site outside (he knows I love them). And I felt the fear slip away a bit more.

Here’s what I’m learning – that the grief can exist without the fear. The grief I will somehow always carry with me, even as it changes and shifts and diminishes over the years. But the fear has no right to exist here in me. Fear is not part of the memory I wish to keep.

A wise man once wrote that perfect love drives out fear. So I focus on that. Focus on loving this little one about to make its big entrance. Focus on the love that I share with my husband, who has been the best support I could ask for. Focus on the love of a midwife I barely know who saw my tears and offered me what she could. Focus on the love I still feel for the little one we lost when its life had barely begun.

And focus on the Love that will keep carrying me through, that has taught these feet to dance again…

I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
I will build you up again…
and you will go out to dance with the joyful.