In 1971 I gave birth to my angel, Greta. She was the smallest baby and was bright red. Before I could even touch her she was whisked away by doctors and I still remember that fear and the pain of not knowing if she was OK.
She wasn’t OK. And I had no idea that I would really never be OK again either. I never got to hold my baby either. Back then if you had a stillborn, miscarriage or any birth defects, it was unheard of to be handed the baby like you would be now. My little Greta never even breathed her first breath. I’ve heard a term “born sleeping” which I find a lot more comforting than stillborn. But nothing really did comfort me. I went home from the hospital, 19 years old and with no baby. My neighbours had no idea I’d lost her and came over with gifts. It was heartbreaking to say out loud that I didn’t have a baby.
It’s been 45 years since that day and although I went on to have three other children, I still think about my should-have-been child. When people ask me how many children I have, I am tempted to say four because that’s how many I gave birth to, if you want to get technical.
I wonder sometimes if my attachment to my eldest child is normal and if other mothers really do feel that sense of loss still, so many years on? It broke up my marriage and forced me into a deep depression – I blamed myself for losing my baby. I thought maybe I lost Greta because I was so upset over the death of my father (a father who was hardly in my life). I blamed my husband too and it put a shadow over my life that even affected my three alive children.
I have a close friend whose son died 17 years ago in a car accident and she still finds it difficult. She reminded me that everyone grieves in different ways but sometimes I feel a bit pathetic grieving over a baby that I never held, when she had 21 years with her son and memories galore.
So as the 45th anniversary approaches I am still trying to come to terms with how life was so cruel, however I’m hoping that some other people can let me know that they too have experienced loss and it can take years to get over it.