Strong 

I saw this meme today and it struck a chord as it covered babyloss and infertility. 


Baby loss and infertility are all consuming and both have the ultimate goal of a (living) baby. 

I can recall doing all of this when we were trying for a baby before Toby arrived:

  • I knew exactly what day of my cycle I was on without looking at the diary 
  • I could feel ovulation pains
  • I spent every day second guessing the slightest twinge or change in my body
  • I would count ahead 9 months all the time
  • I put fun stuff on hold ‘just in case I’m pregnant’ when it happens
  • I changed what we ate
  • I consumed more supplements than they had in Boots
  • I thought of wanting to be a mum from the moment I woke to the moment I went to sleep

Those points are the tip of the iceberg and infertility did consume my life. 

Then babyloss happened and the all consuming feelings returned, not with the detail but after Rory the longing for another baby was all I thought about. I thought a new life would make me feel better. It consumed me in a way I cannot describe. 

As soon as I was pregnant with Henry of course I knew a new baby was never going to fix me. 

When we lost Henry we decided enough was enough, no more babies. I said it in June 2016 but deep down I didn’t really mean it. I’ve had wobbles since then and trawled the internet for stories of hope, they are there of course but there are no guarantees. 2017 has been the first full year since we had Toby where there has been no vague plan for a sibling. At the start of the year I wondered if I was strong enough, if I truly wanted that journey to end.

Now, I sit here and think about things with the meme in front of me I realise that baby loss and infertility doesn’t consume me anymore. The phrases did relate to me but now they don’t. The all consuming feelings are in my past, not my present or future. Ask me today and I can’t tell you anything about my reproductive cycle as I’m not interested in it. I have no plans to have a baby. I don’t want another baby. I feel free.

People say that I’m strong and I don’t think I am, I just take life as it comes and I muddle through. I’m not strong when I avoid bumps and babies. I’m not strong when I duck out of social situations because I’m frightened of people asking how I am. I certainly wasn’t strong at work on Friday when I cried in the loo as the baby talk in the office just got a bit too much.

At the gym today (whilst I tried to improve my physical strength), I noticed that it takes a different kind of strength to walk away from something that consumes your life for so many years. This year I have made a choice to carry on without a baby in my arms. I have made a choice. 

For the first time in a long time I think I might actually be strong. I want to hold my head up and tell people I lost two babies and it’s crap but I’m still here. 

I’ve spent most of the last year looking for stories of hope after loss which don’t feature a baby at the end and I’ve not found many. 

I didn’t get a happy ending but I think I’m finding an alternative that doesn’t feature pregnancy and a baby. I think I’ve found my own story. 

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Participation 

A lovely loss mama friend shared this link (below) and it resonated with me. Still Standing Magazine

Rory wasn’t stillborn but I did have to participate in his death, I couldn’t believe it when the doctor refused a c-section. I didn’t want to participate, I couldn’t believe I’d have to be ‘there’, that I’d have to take part, that I’d have to give birth naturally. I told the doctor I didn’t want to feel anything. I’m still reeling from it now. It has come up in my therapy sessions several times. I can’t shake off the horror that I had to birth a baby I knew would die. 
Henry was stillborn, we knew he would be and I still had to participate but I was prepared for it, I knew his gestation and size would mean I couldn’t have a c-section. I knew once again I’d have to take part in birthing my baby boy and he was dead. Every minute that ticked by would bring us closer to the end. This time they gave me morphine to numb the pain, it didn’t of course, you can’t numb the pain of your heart breaking.
Most days I don’t think about my labours, they are a small part of me, of my baby boys; however when I’m doing the most mundane of tasks, usually when I’m driving in my car, the realisation that I birthed two babies and they died, they actually died and I had to participate in that, it simply hits me. I cannot believe that it happened, then of course I remember that it did happen, it happened twice and there’s nothing I could do to not be there.

Forgetting Harry Potter

It is Harry Potter’s birthday today, I love the Harry Potter books and the films (the films will never ever be as good as the books though!). Last year I was excited to read the script/book of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It had been a long time since there was a new book out so I bought it and in my usual style, I devoured the book in two evenings and I loved it. 

Today some colleagues were talking about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I said that I had read it and as the conversation went on it was clear that I couldn’t remember a single detail about the plot, the twist at the end of act one, the new characters. With some prompting I could recall the job of Harry, Ron and Hermione, and the names of Harry and Ginny’s children but that was it. There was nothing else. 

I made a jokey comment about having a bad memory and my brain being wonky and wondered out loud if I perhaps needed to read the book again.

Inside I was shocked. I know details from 2016 are sketchy and a bit blurred in places, I know I forgot the Olympics happened last year, I know my trauma bruised memory is rubbish these days. But, I forgot Harry Potter. How could I forget Harry Potter? I used to think I was a bit of a wizard of world expert, but how can I be if I can’t even recall the basic plot line of one of the most recent books? 

I’m frightened I’ll never remember much of 2016, it feels like I have wasted a whole year of my life. 

I think I need to accept that much of it ain’t coming back but first things first, I need to re-read that book! 

No joy at the end of the rainbow? 

I was all set to write an end of school year celebration and then this popped up in my news feed. So Toby will have to wait. 

Here’s the link: Still Standing Magazine
The writer acknowledges that not everyone gets a rainbow (brilliant I thought!), and then she goes on to whine about the difficulties of a rainbow pregnancy 🙄 

I can empathise with her, I really can as I felt all of those things when pregnant with Henry, I get it. I get that you just want a baby, I get that you want your dead baby back, I get that you don’t want baby showers, gender reveals and the general merriment associated with pregnancy.  

But my rainbow died – the unimaginable happened and I have to navigate life without a happy ending, without the joy that a rainbow brings. I know a rainbow doesn’t take the pain away but I’d imagine it makes it a lot softer. I can only imagine the bittersweetness of those newborn cuddles, but my gosh, the joy of cuddling your new baby must be amazing. I know I have Toby, I’m lucky I know I am, but I carry his grief too, he doesn’t have a rainbow to cuddle and sometimes he gets cross and upset about that.

I don’t have a problem with someone whining about their rainbow pregnancy but I do have issue with the opening gambit  of the Still Standing post as it acknowledges people who don’t get their happy ending but STILL goes on to whine about a rainbow pregnancy.

It’s a bit like someone with a pizza, saying to their friend who is nil by mouth ‘this is your favourite isn’t it?’ and then proceeding to scoff the lot and then moaning about indigestion and then saying you wish you hadn’t eaten it. You wouldn’t do it would you? So, rainbow mums, please don’t tell me how joyless your life is, cuddle your baby a little harder and think for a moment what it might be to navigate your life without them.

I’m going to speak to my therapist about that…

The title is something I’d only heard in films or in TV, so part of me finds it mildly amusing that I do indeed have a therapist (and a very nice one at that!).

A few months ago as I stood in the playground surrounded by bumps and babies feeling the usual sense of dread in my stomach I realised that I needed to take charge of my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder triggers. 

The bumps and babies will always be there – at school, at work, in our friendship circle, in our family, at Sainsbury’s, on days out, the list is endless. I can’t spend my life avoiding and ignoring the things that trigger me so it was time to do something about it. 


In our area we have a self referral service, I called up and registered my details and within the week I had a telephone assessment. During the call I mentioned that I’d heard good things about EMDR therapy, told the lady I had no interest in more counselling or going back on medication. I said I was safe but my normal daily activities were becoming difficult and full of triggers. In short I needed help beyond that of my family and friends could offer. I’m rubbish at asking for help, so this was a big thing for me!

A few days later I had a call back to say that I was being treated as a priority and an appointment was booked with the peri-natal psychotherapist covering the area.

Two gruelling sessions later where I told my story from start to finish* I was deemed suitable for EMDR therapy.

*everything was in there my childhood, the hip operations, school, meeting Matt, work, our infertility, my fear of flying, Toby, Rory, Henry – EVERYTHING.

In the third session I was prepared for the treatment by trying out some things to calm me down and desensitise things when I was triggered outside of the sessions as well as helping me to leave a session in good mental shape – grounding, visualising a safe place, distraction techniques – all useful and weirdly counting things to distract me was my favourite! I also had to consider my first, worst and last traumatic memory (in my case twice over as there’s Rory trauma and Henry trauma).

So, what is EMDR therapy? Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing is a form of treatment for PTSD, I’m not a medical professional but the next couple of paragraphs hopefully explain things… 

PTSD happens because of misfiled and uncategorised memories – imagine a desk covered in papers next to a filing cabinet with papers shoved in randomly and spilling out of the drawers – that ladies and gents is my brain. When Rory and Henry died there were too many traumatic memories to process so my brain dumped them wherever there was space, it is an untidy disorganised place at the moment! 

PTSD can happen to anyone who has experienced some sort of trauma.

When I am triggered my poor brain rummages through the messy desk and filing cabinet and throws up the first traumatic memory it can find and off we go with the dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea, zoning in on the thing causing the trigger and an overwhelming wish to run for the hills. 

EMDR will help my brain to organise and file the memories – liken it to a good sort out, filing, and archiving session!

The process itself is interesting, the therapist (a lovely Swedish lady) moves two fingers from side to side really fast and I follow them with my eyes whilst reliving a traumatic memory (yes, I know it sounds ridiculous), EMDR mimics rapid eye movement in sleep which is the time when our brain categorises and processes information, the therapy essentially allows my brain to have a sort out.

I’ve had one full session of EMDR so far and it was exhausting. I had to relive the same memory over and over, I cried a lot, big fat snotty tears in fact. I remembered things I’d forgotten (this was good and bad). Sometimes I lost my train of thought completely just like she said I would. I had to think about my feelings at the time and talk through them. My brain hurt a lot.

I was told not to drink alcohol for two days so as not to interfere with the process (my little face fell a bit when she said that!) and the therapist said to note down anything that sprung to mind in the time before the next session. 

The one thing I’ve noticed that I’m hyper sensitive to noise at the moment, everything seems too loud, too annoying. I have fairly low tolerance levels anyway and find lots of things annoying but this has increased tenfold at present. But I’m hopeful the negatives will be short term and I’ll start reaping the benefits over the next 16 sessions. 

The therapist said I’d come to hate the sessions and love them all at the same time. I think she might be right! 

31st May

I knew this day was coming, I knew it was coming when the flashbacks to the scanning room started way back in April. On this day last year we had Henry’s 20 week scan, it was the day after bank holiday Monday. Matt was late stuck in traffic so I was in a panic and entered the room crying. Perhaps deep down I knew it was going to be bad news.

The scan commenced and they promised to take it slowly to give Matt time to arrive, he came not long after I’d gone in. 

As soon as there was more poking than normal and questions about dates I wondered. We were told baby was in a bad position, to go for a walk and come back. In hindsight that was their delaying tactic. 

We wandered about for 10 minutes and went back to the ultrasound department. The ladies carried on with the scan and told us that Henry was measuring small (2 weeks behind). Some photos were hurriedly printed off and we were told it was a boy (of course it was a boy, it is always baby boys). The lady gently told us she was referring us to the fetal medicine team for a more detailed scan a couple of days later. She gave us a letter and if we went in shock that it was going wrong again.

In that moment we knew we’d probably be saying goodbye before we said hello for a second time.

I don’t think I’ve shared many of Henry’s scan photos, mainly as we were trying to protect our wounded hearts and latterly as his final three scans were not happy events. How can you share such painful pictures? 

But today a year later I need to share his scan photo. In that moment he was small but we still had a tiny bit of hope, he was alive and I was well. Henry lived and this is the proof. 

Celebrate

Celebrate. There’s not been much of this the past two years. Yes, we celebrate Toby’s successes and there are happy times but the shadow of what has happened looms over us. Every moment is tinged with sadness, something is missing and things just feel off. 

At the end of 2015 I decided that Matt was going to have the best 40th ever and that included a surprise party. I figured that if the frozen embryo transfer booked for January 2016 didn’t work, then we needed something to look forward to, a chance to celebrate. 

As it turned out Henry was born still on Matt’s 40th birthday (it was also Father’s Day – double yay!).

The party was booked for a date 5 days later (on a Friday to accommodate the cricket season). I had to tell Matt that there was a party when we found that Henry was poorly, it only seemed fair. I didn’t tell him the details so there was still a small element of surprise!

After Henry was born (and died) we thought long and hard about the party and what to do. We both agreed that we needed something to keep us busy, a chance to come together with family and friends. Also the prospect of sitting there on the Friday evening thinking about another ‘what might have been’ moment would be worse than actually going to the party.

The first hurdle was telling everyone the party was still going ahead. Most seemed to get why we had to carry on, I’m sure others thought ‘what the fuck are they doing’.

The second was finding a dress, the sequinned maternity dress I’d bought was no longer appropriate so John Lewis mail order came to the rescue and I settled on a green dress and sparky shoes.

The third was attending the party. It was a weird, happy, sad party but ultimately it was a celebration of our little family, our biggest boy, our two stars in the sky, and a celebration of Matt who has quietly soldiered on and cared for me and Toby for the past two years. 

To those who attended – thank you for joining our celebration, thank you for getting it and thank you for being there for us when we needed you. 


Yes, Toby is wearing my shoes in the photo…