The sea of ice

by Claudia Ravaldi

Experiencing the loss of a child, surviving him in a completely unnatural way, has radically changed my way of being, of thinking, of facing others.

Someone told me that this experience somehow enriches the soul and I understood that it is actually like this, that my son’s short life was not useless but it brought with it joy and happiness, even if it undoubtedly left me a lot of pain. and a lot of sadness. Nothing happens by chance? this i should think? but it is not easy to go on living without finding an explanation I don’t say “logical” but at least acceptable for the death of a child still in the womb. I made an effort to look for this explanation, I gave it my all, but I didn’t get anywhere, I didn’t find anything that could help me understand. So what to do? The only thing was to accept what happened as a tragic fate, something that could not have been foreseen and therefore contained. It is certainly not a great consolation, but in some way I have to continue living and I cannot do it if I do not accept what has happened to me, if I am unable to walk the path of “mourning” with the greatest possible serenity. a few months ago I didn’t even know it existed … But I think I am on the right path, I feel I have passed the darkest phase, the one in which everything appears black, in which pain, sometimes even physical, dominates every other feeling, in which a the future does not even seem possible and everyday life is mechanical and devoid of any meaning. Yes, I think I can do it and this was also possible thanks to the help of other parents like me, who know what it means to live with such a burden on their hearts, who courageously move forward, not giving up on rediscovering the joy of life, facing one day at a time, without haste, with so many fears but also with so much hope in the heart. And so thanks to all of you “special parents”, thank you for welcoming me and making me feel “at home”, among people who do not need any explanation to understand how I feel, both when I am calm and, above all, when I am sad and melancholy.

MY STORY, January 7, 2007

That Sunday didn’t seem different from the others, I was just very tired but by now I had entered the 39th week of pregnancy and a bit of tiredness was normal. After lunch, however, I noticed that I had not heard from my baby, perhaps since the morning … I told myself that he was asleep, as indeed I had done until recently and as I did after having lunch….

… .. when I wake up I still do not feel it, I tap my belly but I do not get any reaction …. at that point I decide to go to the hospital for a check-up. My husband also loads the bag with the necessary for me and the baby in the car. “You never know …” he tells me. Along the way I start to get really worried, I remember that at a certain point I also thought that he was gone … a fleeting thought, which I quickly chased away, but which left me very agitated. At the hospital, the head nurse immediately sends me to the doctor who is preparing to do the ultrasound … it starts, she doesn’t say anything to me, “how is the baby?” I wonder but I can’t ask her the question, my husband arrives and finally the doctor tells us “There is a problem … you see, this is the heart …” and my husband, looking at the monitor, ends the sentence for her “It doesn’t beat , he is still … “she nods … I no longer understand anything, I start to cry, I hug my husband,” it can’t be “I tell him” I heard him yesterday, he was fine, I have to give birth in a week, they’re wrong “… . I get up, I get dressed, I approach the doctor who is writing my data, I am shocked, I grab my husband’s hand and I think “I want to go home with my baby, I just want to go away” …. In shock my husband finds the strength to ask “What now?” I don’t understand the meaning of his question, I look at him stunned, “I want to go away, please let’s go home” … but in reality I sit there in silence, without saying a word. The doctor begins to explain to me that I can choose between a natural or a caesarean birth … at that point I understand that it is only the beginning of our pain, that we have to make decisions that we never thought we had to make. I find my voice again, I am lucid even if for a short time and I ask for a caesarean section … I don’t care anymore, my son is dead, I want everything to end soon. The midwife, holding me almost hugging her, takes me to my room, far from the pregnant women and the nursery … a room for me alone where my husband can stay with me in these terrible moments. Then it is a whirlwind, a succession of events that seem to take place in a few moments but which actually happened over at least three hours. Another gynecologist explains the caesarean section procedure, agreeing with me on the choice made, he still doesn’t know why our baby died and tells us that often the causes remain unknown … Then the relatives arrive, mine parents, my brothers … they stand there with tears held back with difficulty, they hug me in shock, they don’t know what to say, what to do, where to go. I don’t know where my husband is… he must have gone away, perhaps with his sister, poor thing he too is upset, he too needs a hug. I have to prepare for the caesarean, greet everyone and let the nurses take care of me, waiting to enter the delivery room … how different it is from how I imagined it! This should have been the best moment of the whole pregnancy, the end of nine wonderful months, the pinnacle of joy … but it’s a drama, the most terrible moment of my life, I know my son is dead and I understand with absolute clarity that a part of me died with him today. I feel dazed, I almost don’t realize the things that are happening, I just know that my baby is no longer with me and this stuns my mind. I kiss my husband, I enter the operating room, greet the doctors who are waiting for me, the midwife and the anesthetist, then after the epidural and a sedative, I fall asleep, I switch off my brain … my son is born at 10.50 pm and he weighs 3,840 kg.

I’m about to wake up, but I don’t want to, this state of sleep is so beautiful, I don’t want to wake up… .but I open my eyes and my husband is there, he kisses me and together with the nurse takes me back to my room. In the corridor, in the dark, I see my husband’s sister who greets me and sends me a kiss… try not to cry, but I know she’s not there anymore. She convinced me to see my son when I had decided the opposite, she, trying not to cry, held my hand, telling me to think carefully because that was my only chance to have him near … I will never be grateful enough. He did a great thing for me because in the moment of greatest numbness and pain he found the way to speak to my broken heart, gently and without insistence.

I don’t feel my legs, but in reality I feel like I don’t feel anything anymore, it’s terrible, I know my son was born, I know he’s dead… it’s so absurd to put these two words together with diametrically opposite meanings. One of the doctors who gave birth to our son arrives and explains to my husband and me that the cause of death is attributable to the double turn of the umbilical cord, a rare and unpredictable event … I could have done nothing to prevent it from happening and that I absolutely must not think the opposite … I don’t know how long it takes before the midwife brings me my baby, washed and clean, wearing the dress I had chosen for him, white and blue …. “Here is your little angel” he tells us. Oh God, he’s beautiful, perfect, death hasn’t changed him as I feared and he seems to be sleeping; he is dark, as I had always imagined him, slender and not round like many babies and he looks like me, the same pouting mouth, the same nose of mine … I want him next to me, the midwife puts him in my arms so I can touch him, caress him, kiss him, take his hand, talk to him … unfortunately for the only time in my life. My husband is right next to us, he kisses him in turn, smiles and looks at me, but we don’t cry, not at this moment, at this moment we are a family that unfortunately has suffered the worst loss, that of a child … with one last kiss before the midwife takes him away, to the nursery with the other children, just a little apart, because he is special, he is an angel, our angel.

They tell me that I have to rest, but I spend the night crying, sleepless despite the valium … the morning arrives without me noticing and my mother is there at 6.30, already with swollen eyes like me … to an antibiotic treatment, while my husband takes care of our son (he chooses the coffin, where to bury him, on the day of the funeral … ..) always keeping me informed and asking my opinion, he wants to know who I want to be informed immediately … then it counts in word of mouth. The time comes to resign, the midwives come to greet me, as well as the doctors who assisted me in those days, they were all very kind to me, some even cried …

I return home still sore from the Caesarean section, and everything is as I had left it alone two days before… it seems so absurd to me. I enter my son’s room, look around and start crying, sobbing, I touch his things that are everywhere … the stuffed animals, the pictures, the pram, the diary … I can’t do it, I go out I close the door of his room and I I lie on the bed, letting myself go to a convulsive and irrepressible cry … it seems to me that my whole pregnancy was a joke, that all those months spent thinking about the future were useless, that it was not worth it. I cry, I can’t stop, my husband hugs me and finally together we despair for our son, for that child we have so wanted and loved since the first day. Tomorrow I will put your things away, I have already thought about where and how to arrange them… .but I will do it tomorrow, today I am so tired.

We have to think about the funeral ceremony, I have to choose the dress for him and I decide on a blue outfit given to him for Christmas by my parents; I also add his soother, a rag doll and a photo taken only a short time before in which we are all three. Each object has a precise meaning, it is in some way the symbol of our love for him, which, I already know, will never be exhausted. In a few days the funeral service will be celebrated to greet him, to let him go away forever. I am not able to go to him to prepare him, I do not want to remember him in the coffin and I know that if I saw him I would always remember him like this, while I have in my heart his image of the night he was born, in my arms. So I want to remember it, so it will remain unchanged in my mind. Once again my husband’s sister is there, she asks me if she can take care of it; I am happy and I am sure that she will do everything with love, and to know that she will be with my son heartens me …. The day of the funeral is difficult, I have to separate me from him, I can not do anything else; I do not say a single prayer, I do not listen to what the parish priest says because nothing that will be said will make sense of all this … I decide instantly that God is no longer part of my life, there is no more room for him in my heart. I don’t want crosses, madonnas or other sacred images on my son’s tombstone, just an angel like him, innocent and pure… .hello my little one, it’s time, I have to let you go, goodbye.

Once the funeral rite is celebrated, the most difficult part of all begins, that is to continue living without him, without having him in my womb or in my arms … at least in the hospital I knew that he was there with me, now I know that I lost him for always, that I will never be able to see him again, not in this life. The pain I feel is indescribable, the sense of emptiness is unbearable, my chest hurts, I feel like I have a weight on my heart, I feel like I can’t live, I struggle to get up in the morning because I find no reason to do it. “And now? What is the meaning of my life? How can I go on with this infinite sadness? ” I start asking myself a series of unanswered questions… ”Why did this happen to me? What did I do wrong? It’s not fair, it’s not fair…. ” I realize that I have to live a different life from what every pregnant woman expects to have after giving birth … “this is not how it should be, this is not the life I expected” I repeat myself tormenting myself every day, since I wake up when I go back to sleep.

I take it out on the whole world, on life, especially on God… I take all the sacred images out of the house, I don’t want them around, it was useless to pray for my son and he won’t need it now. I can’t stand seeing babies or pregnant women … I hate them and I find myself wishing them to suffer … then I’m horrified by myself, I feel bad for having those thoughts, but I can’t control them, they invade my mind, “because they do and I do not? Why isn’t my baby here with me and all the other mothers are out for a walk with their babies? ” I look around and see only happy people, couples with their children, mothers everywhere, I only hear news of acquaintances who are pregnant or about to give birth and every time it is a stab in the heart, already so battered. “With what courage are they telling me these things? Do they really think I care about these women and their children? What am I supposed to say I’m happy for them? Is it possible that they don’t understand the pain this causes me? ” I would like to shout these phrases to her, remembering that my son is dead, that he is gone forever … but I don’t say anything and I keep everything inside … I seem to go crazy, I would like to stop suffering but I know it will not happen … the more time passes the more the awareness of what I have lost increases, I cannot do it, I will never be happy again, I will never smile again, nothing will ever be the same again … my pain increases, even if it seems impossible. I even come to think that there is only one way to stop suffering, to stop my despair and to hug my son again … It is not the lack of courage that holds me back, but only the love for my husband who is sick like me and maybe even more because he has only that day of our son while I have nine months to remember. I can’t do this to him, he would destroy him… then I have to continue to suffer, there is no way out.

There is no one who can understand what I feel, no one can help me; even my family can not do anything, moreover it seems to me that they do not suffer for my child but only for me and this hurts me even more. They are all wrong or so it appears to my eyes… it is not by pretending that nothing has happened that they help me, it is not trying to smile at me, it is not talking about anything else that they make me happy; I don’t want to see anyone, I don’t answer the phone except the cell phone and only to whoever I want, I never leave the house, I run my errands at absurd times, I’m afraid that someone will ask me about my son … I still can’t say that he is dead, I feel like crying instantly. I keep reliving that terrible day, I keep hurting myself thinking that maybe if I went to the hospital one day earlier my son would be with me now… I add pain to pain, but I can’t stop.

The days pass one after the other in an always the same way, without any sense … it’s been almost a month, in a few days it’s my birthday … I don’t want to think about it, my gift had to be my son, but he is not with me. I’m still terrifyingly sad, I can’t think about the future, I can’t even think about tomorrow…. I don’t see any prospects for my husband and me, life seems like a long dark road with no way out. I’ve never been so pessimistic, I can’t look forward but only to the past, but then the memory of how happy I was plunges me into an even deeper sadness. What to do? I can’t look back and I can’t look forward … I’m like in limbo, I don’t know how to get out of it, I don’t know where to start … for the first time in my life I don’t know what to do, I don’t know where to find the strength and I leave that things go on on their own. The thought of a second pregnancy begins to be present in me almost immediately, but fear grips my stomach, I tell myself that in the next pregnancy things will be different. I will not tell anyone, I will not talk about it, I will not want to know the sex of the unborn child, I will not choose the name, I will not buy anything, I will not wait to finish but I will have the planned birth … a thousand anxieties, a thousand uncertainties. I understand that I am not ready yet, not physically but above all psychologically.

Time passes, it does not stop in front of my pain, more than two months have now passed. I’m starting to want to know more about what happened to me … the doctors have explained to me but I’m still not satisfied. The only medium at my complete disposal is the internet; I start the search to find something on the MEF and almost immediately I find a forum in which the loss of a child is discussed… I can’t believe it, how many mothers like me, how many experiences similar to mine! I read those stories greedily, I bear my testimony… suddenly I understand that I am no longer alone, that others have lived or are living the same experience as me. The thing itself is very sad, but at the same time it is a comfort to me …. I start a constant exchange of emails with a mother who has a particular thing in common with me: we lost our children on the same day. Suddenly it is as if a dam opens up in me and everything I feel and have tried in recent months comes out, black and white … I discover that many of my thoughts and behaviors are also common to the other mother (I’m not crazy!), we force each other, we talk about our little angels, we exchange confidences, saying things that we have never told anyone else.

Through her I land at CiaoLapo… the impact is not the best and the homepage immediately makes me feel bad, it makes me relive that day, I can’t resist and I leave the site. But it struck me, there is no doubt, so much so that I go back and discover that there is an updated medical section that I read avidly … also there has just been a conference on fetal intrauterine death. I start attending the site and in a short time I register, I leave my testimony, I begin to participate in the forum, first timidly then with greater conviction. The thing that strikes me most is that I am greeted with a completely unexpected warmth by people who do not know me and I do not know, I am addressed those words that no one else had said to me; I feel like they totally understand me, that I don’t have to pretend if I’m sick, that I don’t have to look strong if I don’t really feel strong. It’s wonderful, I can be myself all the way, no one judges me, no one expects anything from me. I even find myself welcoming other mothers, giving them my support, not making them feel alone; it is a wonderful feeling to know that on the other side someone is better talking to me … just with me, that until yesterday I could not even get out of bed in the morning!

I learn a lot about myself, I learn that I have to take one step at a time without haste, I learn that my pain is right to exist, that it will always be there and that it will be a life partner. But I also understand that I can do it because others have done it before me, I understand that it is possible to look forward with joy and hope, I realize that I can look back and remember all the beautiful things that my pregnancy has given me. It is a slow and gradual journey, but every day seems better to me than the one just passed, I feel that as the weight on my heart is lightened, leaving room for a few shy smiles … I realize that I have made enormous steps forward in the precise moment in which thinking of my son I smile, in which taking his dress in hand I do not despair and looking at my photos of when I was pregnant and, above all, the only photo I have of him, I feel serene … I have no illusions, I know that there will still be many difficult moments in which sadness will take over, but now I know where to start the journey to return to life, I know that the other special mothers will be close to me, with the right word or phrase. All this does not mean forgetting, pretending that nothing has happened, but finding the right place for my mourning, always carrying in my heart and in my mind that child who was with me only a short time. In a way he was mine alone, completely, totally for his entire short existence, and I am proud of it. Now I am no longer afraid that someone will ask me about him, I am ready to shout it out to the whole world that I have a child, even if others do not want to hear, even if for them the word “dead” is equivalent to not lived. I feel like I can finally think about another pregnancy that I will look for as soon as my doctor tells me that everything is fine from a physical point of view. I know it won’t be as peaceful as the first one, but as time goes by and comparing myself with other special moms I realize that I won’t be able to stop myself from bonding to the next baby, that I won’t be able to behave differently than I did before because it wouldn’t be fair. do not give all my love to the children who will come, that I will take nothing away from the love I have for my angel … Once again I have taken a step forward, removing fears and stupid superstitions that lead nowhere and have only the result to scare me … Only time can help me in this, it will give me the opportunity to continue on this path with the certainty that I am not alone, that the people who love me will be close to me and that my special mothers friends will be there, ready to listen to all my uncertainties and all my fears trying to calm down every time.

It’s been 6 months …. time seems to have flown by. It’s strange, the first months after my son’s death time seemed to pass only very slowly, now it seems to me that that terrible 7th January is so far away. In some moments it seems to me that everything has happened in another life, I feel like I have been projected back in time, to before I got pregnant … a feeling that makes me feel almost alien to the events that have taken place. But then I return to reality and it takes very little for me to do it, think about him, say his name, touch the scar on my belly, read the things I have written for him and for me in all these months … and then the sadness re-emerges , it spreads again in my soul, it still makes me feel so bad. Will it never pass? I ask myself this question already knowing the answer, knowing that the pain is there, perhaps a little dormant, however present. But the desire to go on, to want to live motherhood to the full, to want to take back that happiness that was denied me, is great and I don’t want to give it up! Of course, nothing and no one will ever be able to give back my son to me, but this does not necessarily mean my complete cancellation as a person and as a woman; I am aware of this and after 6 months I feel that my resolutions are stronger every day and, even in the moments when I still cry desperately, they remain firm in my mind and in my heart.

Conclusions

I cannot go further in telling my story, because today after 6 months I am starting to look for a second pregnancy … by now I feel ready, I feel an almost vital need and therefore for me now this becomes my personal “challenge”, in figurative sense of course, my goal, the reason to go on and take my life back completely. This will be my way of reconciling myself with her, thus finding reasons to smile, but to smile with the heart and not as a response to what others expect from me, given that time has passed and the thing I should have filed away, to those that simplifying a little too much they tell me that it simply “went like this” and I have to go on … ..

My son’s short life will never be forgotten, not by me or by the people who love me. I know that we will always have a thought for him, looking at a star, picking up an object or saying his name and we will still shed many tears, but I hope with a heart full of love for him, for our angel, for that child who it can never be forgotten because it has undoubtedly marked our lives, painfully in some ways, but sweetly in many others. The memories of my pregnancy will be indelible for me, because I have never been happier as in those nine long months, I will never be able to forget how I felt with him in my womb and nobody can take this away from me, not even time. And this is the great gift that my son gave me, to give me a greater awareness of the meaning of life, to make me understand that each of us is important, whether he lives 100 years or 39 weeks … and so thank you my love , thanks for being there for even so little, I love you and I will always love you.

Your mom

Text by Raffaella and Salvatore, Leonardo’s parents, extracted from ” Your cradle is my heart

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