March is Pregnancy After Loss Awareness Month. I’ve been resolutely scrolling past posts about it and pretending it wasn’t happening. But yesterday morning I realised that although my #PAL didn’t end in a healthy living baby, I can still relate to the fears and feelings any mum (and dad) has when going through pregnancy after loss.
Here’s Henry’s story.
In the summer of 2015 we’d completed our follow-up appointments with the hospital and fertility clinic and to our surprise we found that the spare embryo from October 2014 had been frozen. We had a pinprick sized ball of hope in a freezer in Alicante. I contacted our NHS consultant to ask additional questions and (after lots of thinking) we tentatively booked out some time in January 2016, something to work towards as it were. That autumn in amongst lots of stuff going on we conformed our treatment and I started taking medication to get my cycle in sync with the dates we’d put aside all those months before.
There was one small sticking point in that I had to travel alone to Spain for the transfer and I have a massive fear of flying! Hmmm, off to a lovely hypnotist I went and it worked, I made it to Spain without imploding!
Against all the odds our average embryo survived the thaw and was put on board. I flew home that evening and embarked on nine days of wondering. I knew I was pregnant before I took a test – insomnia, nausea, and thirst were familiar signs. I was not happy or excited. I was fearful, guilty and just felt awkward. I immediately knew this baby would not fix me, I wanted Rory back.
I pretended I wasn’t pregnant, I felt very confused and was scared to connect to the new life growing inside me. I didn’t even say the P word out loud until I was 16 weeks pregnant. Despite having lots of appointments at the antenatal clinic I pushed it aside and carried on as normal. I still hated seeing bumps and babies. I’d still glare are pregnant people and then remember that I was one, one of the people I couldn’t stand.
We told very few people and all were instructed not to ask questions, not to be excited and not to congratulate us. How could we be congratulated when we were only in this situation as Rory had died? I wore baggy dresses and scarves to hide my small bump at work I have no idea if I pulled it off but it saved me from the baby talk.
All through my pregnancy I just wanted Rory back, I wondered if Rory had lived, would we have known about our spare? Would we have used it? Would we have had three children? So confusing.
I prayed this baby would be a girl, how could I hold and love a baby boy after Rory? I was scared of everything. Sacred of having a baby boy, scared of the same thing happening again, scared of having two living children, scared to bond with my bump, scared what people thought, scared I’d never be happy, scared of pregnancy. Just scared.
I remember getting to 18 weeks and starting to feel very twitchy, our goal was always to get to 24 weeks (one week past Rory) and every week from there would be a bonus. I didn’t buy anything apart from some new maternity jeans and some second hand tops – the essentials but nothing else.
Then, just as I was starting to have a little hope it all went wrong, our 20 week scan showed a baby boy measuring 18 weeks and despite blood thinning injections and rest a scan two weeks later showed no growth and reduced blood flow. Game over.
We made plans for ending the pregnancy alongside real life. I carried on going to work, making hushed phone calls to the hospital to book myself in, telling them that I thought my baby was slipping away. I carried on arranging Matt’s party, we went to Paultons Park the day before we went to hospital when I knew Henry had gone. I was a paradox all over again – I looked pregnant but technically I wasn’t. We told Toby another brother would not be coming home and gave him a new toy to ease the pain. We lived through meeting and saying goodbye to our third son on Matt’s 40th birthday, on Father’s Day. We held Matt’s birthday party five days later. To this day I have no idea how we did all of that, how we kept it together. I know we did it to be in control, to retain some normality but I still have no idea how we got through.
I have lots of regrets, I’m sad that I pretended I wasn’t pregnant, I protected my wounded heart at the time but it made saying goodbye harder. I regret not pushing harder for more intervention, more medication from the start. I regret not finding a surrogate. Ultimately I wish I’d not been so pushy, I wish Henry was still a spark of life, a glimmer of hope in a freezer in Alicante.
Pregnancy after loss is harder than a regular pregnancy and for most there is a happy ending baby, a sticking plaster over the grief. That’s what it’s all for isn’t it? The confusion, the fear, the tears, the anxiety – all for a happy ending.
Out of four happy ending babies in my bereavemt group, mine died. I was the 1 in 4 all over again. Pregnancy after loss with no happy ending is infinitely harder. I don’t have a sticking plaster over my grief. I’m even more anxious around pregnant ladies and bumps as a result of two losses and no happy ending.
Most days I appear to be fine, but scratch a millimetre below the smiley veneer and you see the pain and sadness. It will never fully leave, it ebbs and flows with each new milestone and trigger. I’m better at hiding it and that’s the only difference between me two years ago and me now.
Thank you to the lovely Claire for this photo x