A Devastating Loss

              A Cake - Bottom Tier

                                Tiny feet with tiny toes
                                A beautiful face with a tiny nose

                                Now a twinkling star shining bright
                                Forever at peace in eternal light

A month ago, I was at the highest point of my life, spending long needed quality time with H at a beautiful lodge in New Zealand, enjoying the fresh local produce and expecting our 2nd child. I remember thinking to myself how wonderful and perfect life was. We were really happy and ecstatic that our lovely daughter was going to get a little brother (and a Dragon year baby to boot) when she turned 2 years and 5 months – the perfect age gap, we felt. We were going to celebrate A’s 2nd birthday when we got home and a week later, celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary with a 3-tiered cake and a baby on the way.

Less than 2 weeks later, I was experiencing the moment of greatest need in my life, a cheesy cliché that I’d never imagined I would use to describe any point of my life. We’d come home to the welcoming arms of A and less than 3 days later, I suddenly went into labour and we lost our perfectly healthy son, P, at 18 weeks and 1 day. The gynecologist on-call at the emergency room made it clear that P was too young and nothing could nor would be done to save him.

P was born the morning after A’s 2nd birthday. He had long arms and legs, just like H; his tiny ears, fingers and toes were perfect, down to his tiny fingernails. He had the same cute little chin and nose as his elder sister. To us, he was perfect in every way, only born 20 weeks too early. But to the hospital and some others, he was just a miscarried fetus, too early to be considered stillborn, much less deserving of legal documents like a birth or death certificate or dignified last rites like a proper funeral.

I felt completely broken inside. I’d not only lost a precious child; with him went my dream of the perfect family of 4 – dad, mum, one little girl and one little boy, although the truth be told, we’d actually hoped for another little girl. I didn’t sleep much the first couple of days and spent many a waking hour crying, wondering if there was anything I could have done differently, feeling guilty that he’d perhaps been taken away from us because we’d wished for a girl instead, thinking that my body had failed him somehow. Our gynecologist didn’t have any conclusive answers for us.

We went out for a fancy dinner with A on our anniversary, but I struggled throughout the meal, trying not to let our waiter or A see the tears that streamed down my face as H held me close and I thought about the proud baby bump that was no more. I felt that I could never be happy again. How could I when we’d so suddenly lost someone we thought we were going to have and love for a long time? Our baby was no longer on the way and the planned 3-tiered celebration cake became a painful reminder of the happiness that was so cruelly snatched away from us in the span of a day.

9 days after P left us, H had to go away for work and a wonderfully kind friend came over to bake macarons with me. We both thought that it might help for me to have something else to think about, but in hindsight, I wasn’t really ready because I had really awful moments in between when all I wanted to do was just drop the spatula in the sink, curl up in bed and cry. Baking had completely lost the pick-me-upper effect it used to have on me.

I got through the next week on the kindness from friends who came by to listen and who held me while I cried and on the kindness from strangers I met in online forums who had gone through the same kind of loss and who knew exactly how I felt, who didn’t judge me when I told them that seeing other expectant mothers made me want to run in the other direction or that hearing pregnancy announcements broke my heart into terrible tiny pieces and who told me to take as long as I need to grieve instead of telling me to “get over it and move on.”

20 days on, I still have moments of uncontrollable sobbing, with mornings being the worst time of the day for me, especially when I’ve dropped A off at childcare and when H is travelling for work. The overwhelming desire I have now is to get my mind and body back on track so that we can try for another child, all of it amidst fears of the same thing happening again and of time not being on my side, given that we’re not the sort of couple that can conceive at the drop of a hat. I also know painfully well that any other child we may be fortunate enough to have in the future will never replace the one that we’d lost, but perhaps he or she can help us be joyful again.

While I don’t have much control over when my body gets back on track, I can try to get my mind to a better place. And this is where the 3-tiered celebration cake comes back into being. I’m making it to mark 15 years together with my dear H, to celebrate 10 years of (mostly) blissful marriage to the only person who can calm my constantly worrying heart, to give thanks for having a wonderful daughter like A, to celebrate P having given us 4 wonderful months of joy and happiness and to give our little family hope that we may one day feel happy and whole again.

I’m still working on the cake and progress is slow as I cope with my grief and work through the daily deep yearning for the impossible - to have him back with us. I’m hoping that the time between my bouts of sadness will gradually become longer, enough to perhaps bake a cake or two.

14 Responses to “A Devastating Loss”

  1. sprite Says:

    I am so sorry. Hugs are not enough, but I send them anyway.

  2. Al Sim Says:

    Hey, I am bad with words, but stay strong and take care!

  3. Rachel (heart of light) Says:

    I’m so, so sorry. My heart goes out to you and your family.

  4. Patty Says:

    Hugs… my thoughts are with you and your family.

  5. Lucia Says:

    I am terribly sorry to hear about your lost. I can’t even begin to imagine how you feel, except that my heart felt heavy when I read your post. Don’t restrict yourself from grieving, take as much time as you need. Your mind and body will heal with time - give yourself lots. Hugs to you and your family.

  6. Karen Says:

    Thank you, sprite, Al, Rachel, Patty and Lucia, for the hugs and words of comfort. They’re very much appreciated.

  7. ivan Says:

    Oh jeez, I only just found out. My deepest condolences. Take comfort that P was so perfect that God chose to have him by his side early.

  8. Karen Says:

    Ivan: Thank you for your very kind words - that’s the very thing that H and I tell ourselves when the days are rough.

  9. Constance Says:

    So sorry to hear about your loss. No word can express the sadness and grief. Do take care. Hugs for you.

  10. ling Says:

    sorry to hear bout your loss. my deepest condolences. be strong n take good care. hugs

  11. Eva Says:

    So sorry to hear this - loss of an unborn child as well as a baby days after birth has recently happened in my circle of friends. Maybe it will help you to know that you are not alone with experiencing such a devastating loss. I hope that in time, you will find joy and happiness again and I’m sure that your little daughter will help you with this!

  12. John H Says:

    I love your blog, and i didn’t know if i wanted to say anything or not, but I think its the right thing. I wish i had the words to express my sorrow at your loss, my older brother past was stillborn. I remember crying for hours when i found out i wasn’t the oldest and i would never get to know my brother. The loss does temper with time and it made me all the more thankful for the rest of my family. Its never fair to loose a child, but i pray you find peace. Keep baking and hold on. Your not alone in your grief.

  13. Karen Says:

    Thank you for your words of comfort, Constance and ling.

    Eva: Thank you for sharing your friends’ experiences. A has been a great source of comfort these past 2 months.

    John H: Thank you for sharing your story with me. I’m so sorry to hear about your brother. I hope that you’re right and that with time, I’ll heal and the grief will be less painful.

  14. Jacqueline Says:

    Dear Karen,

    I feel your pain and admire your will to move on despite the hurt. The baking classes and macaron baking will hopefully make the time go faster as the wounds try to heal. I’m on my way to start a new macaron business (not in sg though) and am always happy to find someone to exchange tips and know hows on baking them. Perhaps we could start an email chat? :-)

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