Sunday, 6 February 2011

To Amanda Holden...

...and any other woman who loses a baby in late pregancy.

You can survive this. You can and will. It may feel as though nothing in your life will ever be normal again, as though the pain is too much to bear, but it is possible to carry on. You will even laugh again. You will even feel happy again. Life will once again feel precious.
The shock will wear off (although it may muffle your life for weeks). The pain will get worse. This may even feel perversely comforting and necessary. The pain brings you closer to your baby. Don’t try and be brave. Work hard at being the opposite of brave.
You will cry unexpectedly. There will be conversations and situations that are impossible for you. This is not your fault, so don’t apologise. At least – always a silver lining – you, Amanda, will never have to explain to people why you are in tears in the middle of a crowded cafĂ© (a sleeping baby, an over-inquisitive friend). The rest of us have to learn to say the words: my baby died. I can’t always cope. I need to go. I just need some air. Leave me alone. I don’t want to tell you that. I don’t want to talk. I need to talk. Let me tell you what happened to me. Let me tell you about my son.
You have not lost him completely. I hope you have pictures, a name, some memories. I can still see Daniel’s golden hair, his soft skin, his peaceful face. I have photos, which were no good, so I wrapped them in a baby blanket and put them away. I have a picture of him sketched by a friend. I have memories of his movements, when he moved. I have memories of his birth.  Best of all, I have a feeling of his presence in my life, which has been with me for 13 years now. Sometimes I hear his voice. It is very real and it is a great comfort.
You are not the only one who has lost him. Your loss is shared by his father, his sister, his family. By your friends. People will forget and people will remember. His life touched them all. He will never be nothing. As long as you live, he will never be forgotten.
It was not your fault. Women treat their bodies far worse than anything you might have done, and their babies are born healthy and whole. You may never know why he died. We believe we are so advanced, so knowledgeable, but we are not. In some ways we are like medieval peasants. You may feel full of fury at the ignorance unveiled by your loss, but there is nothing that you can do, except to talk about it, raise money for research, do all you can to back the people trying to find out why babies die in the womb for no known reason. I discovered - three years or so on - that samples of Daniel’s body had been retained for use in medical experiments. I could have been angry - no permission has been granted – but I was not. I was comforted. Our loss, our son was helping to prevent others losing their children. It helped to know that. It helped to remember that scientific research marches on.
You and his father may mourn differently. It is a very lonely feeling. Some people will attempt to help by quoting scary figures about the large proportion of couples who split up after losing a child. Ignore them. Tell them this is not the sort of help you need.  Allow him to grieve in his own way. He may not be the best person to support you at all times. Sometimes you will mourn together and sometimes apart. Don’t judge someone in extreme circumstances. And try and make your baby’s legacy one of love and understanding, however difficult that might be.
You are still allowed to be funny and laugh and be the person that you are. You do not have to laugh about his loss. But the small stuff -  the gaffes, the misunderstandings, the strangeness -  a robust sense of humour can help.
You may become hyper-sensitive. You may begin to hate people who call your loss a disappointment, a miscarriage (no less loss, by the way, but different), even meant to be. Not to be.You may tear up Christmas cards bearing pictures of other people’s babies. You may resent pregnant woman, women with babies, people who tell you your loss is not so great (yes, some people will tell you this). You must honour your feelings while acknowledging your lack of reason. You must be forgiving and unforgiving at the same time. It is not easy. It becomes easier. The first five years are the hardest.
You are part of a sisterhood. Lots of us go through this, we understand how it may feel. You will find us everywhere. We understand, we care, we are here for you and for all of us.
You may remember him with actions and symbols. With candles, flowers, trees. With tattoos and jewellery (see my ring, engraved with his name, the stone yellow as his hair). With fund-raising, befriending, marathons. With God or nature, in the stars, in heaven, on Earth. In the arms of a lost friend, or a grandmother. After a week, a month, a year. On his birthday. For ever and ever.
In time,  he  may give you more compassion, more wisdom, more patience. In time, his loss may make you a better person, a better actress, a better friend. He may transform you. Take strength from the knowledge that you are suffering as much as you can. So many things will feel easier to bear after this. After you have survived this. And you can survive this.

Amanda Holden is a British actress and judge on Britain's Got Talent whose son was stillborn this weekend at seven months gestation. Our second child, Daniel was inexplicably stillborn on February 10 1998, at 38 weeks. I wrote about his loss on this blog last year.


  1. Yes. All of this. It does get easier.

    Very moving post, Keren.

  2. This is so sad and so true.
    Thank you ,Keren.
    I hope Amanda reads this and gains strength from it - and any other suffering soul.

  3. Oh Keren, beautiful piece, my heart aches for you, for her, for all families that have to live with such a terrible loss xxxx

  4. This is a lovely piece of writing; so poignant and full of emotion and love. It's at times of tragedy words have greater depth and meaning. To lose a child is hard to bear. I lost a child at a turbulent time in my life, much earlier in pregnancy, but the thought of that event still echoes in my mind. Life does go on, we can tell the world to stop when we feel pain but it won't happen. We never forget and there is always the thought of what might have been. Thanks for sharing and take care x

  5. So sad. Such emotions, Keren, lovely words.

  6. This was beautiful Keren. I got goosebumps reading it.

    I always think of my friend at times like this which of course you know having very kindly written to her despite not knowing her or me for that matter.

    Your words helped her more than anybodys did, and will again as I'll forward this to her in the absence of me knowing the right thing to say.

    Thanks x

  7. Thank you so much, Keren. So beautifully and powerfully expressed. I still need to hear words like yours, five years on. I love and appreciate you so much, and I will always remember Daniel.

  8. This made me cry. I'm so very for what you've gone through and what Amanda and many other women/families have gone through with this. I can't even imagine.

  9. Thank you, Keren, for being part of the brotherhood and sisterhood of support. It is a great way to honor Daniel, and all of us.

  10. It's a beautiful post, Keren. I hope Amanda H reads it and finds some comfort. xx

  11. Beautiful. Thank you for your courage and emotional honesty.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  12. Hi - our mutual friend "Bateau de Bananae" sent this to me - a good read. Something I've had to experience first hand, alas.