“I’m sorry there’s no heartbeat” – the worst words you can hear at 41 weeks pregnant. It happened to us and the next morning I delivered our beautiful stillborn daughter Elsie.
They say that when a mother loses a child they lose a part of their self too, no truer word is said. I became engulfed in a pool of guilt, grief and depression and I was a shadow of my previous self. When I lost a part of me due to losing Elsie, I wasn’t the only one affected though. My husband Russ lost the wife he had married, as well as his child, my parents and in-laws lost a grandchild and lost me too. I’m still not back and doubt I ever will be, but I’m closer to rebuilding myself and rebuilding those relationships than I would have been without the help of Footsteps Counselling and Care.
Three months after losing Elsie we became pregnant with our son James. The pregnancy was difficult, not only with the fear of experiencing another stillbirth, but also accepting that another baby was on the way when all I wanted was to have my little girl with me. I began staying at home more, especially when my bump began to grow, as I was terrified of what people would think of me getting pregnant again so soon. I imagined that people would be saying “blimey she’s got over losing that baby quickly, she’s moved on.” I found it very difficult to bond with James during his pregnancy. People spoke to me about grief counselling services but I didn’t want to admit that Elsie had gone and I knew I wasn’t ready.
James arrived two weeks before Elsie’s first birthday and he looked just like her – absolutely gorgeous! I waited for the rush of love and pride which I had felt when I first held Elsie to come but it didn’t. I put a smile on my face for the first pictures and the weeks and months plodded on with visitors saying how lovely he was, how proud and happy we must be…but I wasn’t. Instead, when I put him to bed at night, I was apologising to him for ending up with me, a fraction of the mother he deserved. I knew something wasn’t right and I wanted with all my heart to love and cherish James guilt-free so I got in contact with Footsteps Counselling and Care.
I received a course of counselling sessions with a lovely, approachable counsellor at Footsteps Counselling and Care. From the first appointment, I was made to feel at ease and I just openly talked about anything and everything. We discussed not just Elsie, but how my work life was, how my relationships with James, Russ and my family were and how I felt about myself. I did a lot of beating myself up in the sessions as the guilt I felt was so strong and I felt like a failure as a woman. However, week by week, I was beginning to come to terms with what had happened and, most importantly, I began letting myself love again and allow myself to get close to James. We now have an amazing little boy who talks about baby Elsie and is starting to understand that he has a big sister who isn’t here with us but will always be part of the family, and I don’t feel bad about letting myself love him and telling him so.
We are currently expecting a little brother or sister for Elsie and James and this time I’ve allowed myself to enjoy it, be proud of my growing bump and when people ask if it’s your first baby etc, I tell them proudly about Elsie and James. The anxiety is naturally there but I’m now able to think more rationally about things rather than jumping to the worst-case scenarios.
This is just our story of how Footsteps has helped us, one family. The one thing I was so surprised at when we lost Elsie was how many people came to us and said “it happened to me or my wife, my sister, my daughter” and I can now see how valuable this service is to other families.