I’m sure we’ve all seen the comparison pictures on social media, or perhaps you’ve even done one yourself; ‘9 months in; 9 months out’, marking the special time spent with baby growing inside and the same amount of time with baby growing on the outside. I remember seeing many of these milestone pictures while pregnant with Cora and being so excited, wondering what the little person inside me would look like at 9 months old. Would they be a boy or a girl? Would they have Joe’s hair (something we seemed to talk about a lot for some reason)? Would they be calm or full of energy? Giggling all the time like I apparently did as a baby?
Having my baby not here is something I never could have imagined.
9 months since Cora came into the world and 9 months since she left too soon.
Thinking back over the past 9 months, at first glance, it’s hard to see anything but wasted time. Especially in the early days, it felt like we were simply surviving, not living, with our heads barely above the surface surrounded by an ocean of pain and nothingness.
While the shock of your loss eventually seems to ware off for everyone around you; you’re left behind, feeling stuck to the same spot wondering what the hell has happened and how you’re meant to just carry-on living.
We spent the first few weeks in a paradox of what our life should have been, celebrating a new life; instead, we were organising a cremation and funeral, sorting out paperwork for our daughter’s death certificate, answering questions for investigations into her death and all-in-all just feeling shell shocked and heartbroken. Our main role and purpose in life that we’d been so excited for, for so long, was just gone. Everything in life seemed insignificant. My mind and body were fully aware that I was a mother and had the most important job to do…yet my baby wasn’t there for me to care for.
Many people say the first year after a child dies is the hardest. You’re hyper aware of all the milestones – like you would be if they were alive – ‘1 week old today’, ‘1 month old today’, ‘1st Christmas’, ‘1st Mothers Day’, ‘9 months today’ and so on. It probably goes without saying that your loss can be magnified by those big events and milestones. But what I’ve found is that sometimes the milestones aren’t the worse days. Friends and family can be so thoughtful that you receive messages, cards, sometimes gifts – all telling you that you and your baby are being thought of and it makes your love as a mother feel valid. You feel like the world sees you and your baby on those special days. It’s actually the ‘nothing’ days (as I call them) that are sometimes the hardest. The random Tuesday that has no significance to anyone: where a whole day can pass and not a single person will utter Cora’s name; where you pass a group of mums in the park that you know you should be walking round with and they just look straight past you, not even knowing you’re a mum; where you feel like you’re the only person in the world wondering what you’d be doing if Cora was here like she should be on just another Tuesday.
Nine months seem to have flown by. I seesaw between feeling like every inch of Cora’s beautiful face is etched into my memory, to feeling like I can’t remember what she smelt like and what her soft chin felt like. A few months after Cora died, I saw a post from an Insta mum of her beautiful newborn baby which went along the lines of, ‘How can a face change so much in only 48 hours.’ It winded me; knowing how true it is that babies change so quickly and knowing that at 3 months old, I had no idea what my daughter would look like. Her newborn face the only face we’ll ever know.
Even 9 months on, on my daily walks, I still catch myself looking at babies in their prams and slings. Actually, it’s more like staring! It took me a while to work out why I was staring. Was it jealousy? Pain? Confusion – not knowing what it must feel like to carry your baby around?
I eventually worked out I was trying to find Cora in each and every baby – do they have the same hair? Eyes? Cheeks? Would she look like them when she giggled? Maybe that sounds a bit crazy. I know she’s gone and while I accept that to a certain extent – the mother in me will never stop searching for her. Sometimes it’s in the beautiful nature around us; sometimes it’s for recognition in the face of other children.
But enough of the doom and gloom (which of course, there is plenty of in the first 9 months as expected). I have so much pride for how Joe and I are doing and what we’ve actually achieved.
That feeling of wasted time I mentioned earlier, will always apply to a certain extent as we have lived Cora’s first 9 months without her. And to be honest, I don’t think I’ll really feel like we’re living again, with a real purpose in life until we have a living baby to take home with us. But when I actually think about what we’ve achieved in 9 months, during a global pandemic and the aftermath of the trauma of losing a child; I think it’s rather amazing.
Here are just some of them:
- Raised over £6,200 for our NICU.
- In the process of organising a charity event with friends for Cora’s 1st birthday.
- I’ve connected with many amazing loss parents, 2 of which are now best friends, Beth and Hannah – it’s the type of friendship where we talk pretty much all day, every day and have no boundaries! We have that deep understanding of what we’ve all been through and how it impacts our lives.
- Joe finally qualified to be an accountant (which takes years and he managed to complete shortly after Cora died).
- We sold our home in Sheffield and decided to relocate back to my home of Chester.
- We’ve had an offer accepted on a beautiful 1930s doer upper.
- Joe got a new job in the North West which he’s really enjoying.
- I started back at work full-time.
- My relationship with Joe couldn’t be stronger or deeper.
- And I’m reminded of the amazing friends and family I have supporting us.
I don’t write this for a pat on a back (although that’s always nice). And if you’re a loss parent and all you’ve done is wake up each morning, then that is enough to to be proud of – you’re living without your baby which is one of the hardest things to do. Give yourself credit and be kind.
I hope this reaches those who need to know that it does gets better.
Life gets better.
It’ll never be the same and the grief can be just as intense when it hits, but your good days increase and you learn to live with the grief as a part of who you are. After all, as the quote goes, grief is just love with nowhere to go, so I see my grief as part of my love for Cora. It’s okay to feel the joy and happiness that life brings alongside the heartache. With the right support around you; you’ll begin to breathe a little easier again, one step at a time.
And now we’re left wondering where the next 9 months will take us.
Cora’s Mama x