One of the first things my doctor said to me after we couldn't find Lydia's heartbeat was "It's not your fault." I was in complete shock, hadn't even yet shed a tear, and I remember looking at her and thinking, "So that is what I will feel when I finally feel something. I will feel blame. I will feel guilt."
And now, I do.
Rationally, I know that Lydie didn't die because I had too many sips of wine. Or woke up one too many times on my back. Or ate too much cookie dough. Or worked out too much. Or had too much stress. Rationally, I know this.
Some of the guilt comes in as I wrack my brain trying to remember when I last felt her move.
And if I had been monitoring her more, if I had been paying more attention, if I could have somehow intuitively known, if I could have rushed to the hospital, demanded they get her out right now. If I could have saved her.
My doctor tells me it was quick, it wouldn't have mattered, she was gone. My aunt tells me it's not like I could see her. I read countless stories of others who have rushed to the hospital just to be told their baby is already gone. My counselor tells me she works with many, many couples who have lost their babies and not once has it been because of something the mother did or didn't do. I repeat these snippets to myself again and again and again. I try to remind myself I love her, I tried my best to take good care of her. That I would give my own life for hers - but I was never given that opportunity. I try to remind myself that she didn't suffer, she only felt love, I was holding her when she died.
That's the thing. I was holding her when she died. Because she died inside me. The umbilical cord is the lifeline between the mother and the baby. And for some godforsaken reason, my baby stopped getting what she needed from ME. From ME. Our lifeline failed us. It failed us both. I don't know how I could ever stop apologizing to my daughter for that. But I hope the guilt subsides over time. Because it's really hard to live with.
I just read an article written by another woman whose baby was stillborn (http://stillstandingmag.com/2013/04/what-i-mean-when-i-say-my-daughter-was-stillborn/). And she nailed it. She describes how the experience is not passive, it's not something that happens TO you. It's something that happens INSIDE you. That you are forced to participate in. She called herself "an unwilling participant." Exactly. I was forced to participate first in my daughter's death. And then I was forced to go through "birth" - when the death came before the birth. What could ever be more horrific than that?
"The simple fact is – there is nothing like stillbirth. There is
nothing like going to the hospital to check on your baby, only to have
the incredibly sweet joy of pregnancy replaced in an instant with the
dull, moaning emptiness of knowing that you are still going to have to
endure labor and birth and filling breasts and the weeks of bleeding.
Only your baby will be dead. Your labor pains will produce nothing
but a shell of this most precious person. Your arms will be empty, and
there will be no way to soothe your aching breasts.
And that doesn’t even factor in the grief, or the guilt, or the
wondering of who or what in this wide world you are now that death has
crept into your life, into your body, in such an insidious way...
So when I say, “My daughter was stillborn,” please know that I am not
describing something that happened to me. I am describing a traumatic
and pivotal event in which I was an active, unwilling participant, an
event that I participate in the echoes of still."