Pregnancy After Loss Awareness Month
March isn’t just Rory’s month, it is ‘pregnancy after loss’ awareness month. I’m a little ambivalent about it, my news feed is full of people saying how hard it is to be pregnant, how tricky it is to parent a baby born after a loss, there are so many happy rainbow baby stories. It’s a bit triggering to say the least. I’ve learnt to keep scrolling on the bad days.
The thing is, I was pregnant after a loss, I did feel all of those emotions but then Henry died and I wasn’t in that club any more. I feel like I’m in limbo, I feel like nobody wants to hear a story of failure, I know that my story makes some people feel guilty for having a baby after loss as I’ve been told that. All of this adds to the feelings of being marginalised and ignored by the wider loss world as we didn’t get the holy grail of a living baby after a loss.
But then another blogger encouraged me to tell my story, she said it was important and people needed to hear it. So here it is.
How it Started
Way back in 2015 I screamed these words to my husband: ‘I will never be happy again until I have a baby in my arms’. Those words were spoken with such passion, I was trying to convince him that we needed to pin down a rough date for the transfer of our one remaining frozen embryo. I was so empty, I thought a new baby would fix my broken heart.
Fast forward to January 2016 and I’m sat in a clinic in Spain about to have the embryo transferred.
I was nervous, scared and dare I say it, a little excited. I was on the journey to my holy grail, the road to being happy again. My experience of the loss world up until that point was that a baby after loss will help you heal, that it was the best way of healing, and that the vast majority of loss parents ended up with another baby.
Fast forward 10 days later and I was looking at a positive pregnancy test. I knew I was pregnant before then as there the nausea and the raging thirst – familiar signs. I looked at the faint line and I was scared, the expected had happened.
I was pregnant but I didn’t want to be. In that moment I just wanted Rory back. I wanted my baby, the baby who couldn’t stay.
There as absolutely no excitement with my Henry pregnancy. I pretended it wasn’t happening; the 7 week scan was competed in silence, even when there was spotting and I had an early scan I pretended that it was all happening to someone else. It felt very much like I was going through the motions but my heart wasn’t present.
Matt and I didn’t talk about the pregnancy, we didn’t even say the P word until I was about 16 weeks along (by that time it was becoming fairly obvious that I was pregnant and we could avoid it no longer).
I had frequent appointments at the hospital all the way through. I felt uncomfortable sat there surrounded by massive bumps. The happy chatter and excitement was totally lost on me.
Rory’s first anniversary arrived, I felt awkward, like I wasn’t supposed to be sad about him as I was pregnant already. I felt like a fraud. We went to the beach and had a lovely gentle time. We didn’t talk about the new life growing inside me, instead we talked about our baby boy (the baby I just wanted back).
We only told those who needed to know about the pregnancy – family, work, a handful of friends. At our 12 week scan we said ‘good’ and ‘thank you’ when the sonographer was checking Henry over. We just wanted to get out of there. Sitting in the waiting room full of happy excited people wasn’t helpful. I felt like an outcast, like I wasn’t supposed to be there. It felt like I was pretending at being pregnant.
There was no sharing of scan photos on Facebook, to be honest there was no sharing of scan photos with anyone. I couldn’t bring myself to look at them never-mind sharing them with the world.
I can share one now though, my upside down baby boy.
I felt so guilty when I was pregnant again. It felt like I was trying to replace Rory, like I was trying to pretend that he didn’t happen. I knew that wasn’t the case, I knew I wasn’t trying to replace Rory, I was just trying to find happiness again.
I felt guilty about wanting Rory back, I worried that I didn’t want this new baby. I felt guilty about that.
I felt guilty for putting my family through this all again.
I felt guilty for being pregnant when loss friends weren’t.
I just felt guilty about everything all of the time. It was exhausting.
I said earlier there was no excitement and that is the truth. We didn’t buy anything, we didn’t talk about the pregnancy, we didn’t discuss names, we didn’t make any plans. There were times when I dared to dream, I dared to imagine holding a living baby in my arms. It felt awkward and I struggled to imagine it. If felt like it wouldn’t actually happen.
It was safer to pretend it just wasn’t happening, easier to not get attached as there were no guarantees. I was anxious and worried and this added to the guilt induced exhaustion.
This is literally the only photo I have where you can see my tummy (16 weeks and knackered as you can see).
The Beginning of the End
At our 20 week scan we found that our baby was small for dates by 2 weeks. We knew that in that moment that we wouldn’t be taking him home. The baby was a boy, I’d been so scared the baby would be a boy. The things I feared most were happening, it was another boy and we were losing him.
We cried, we felt so lost. We were prepared for this of course but it still hurt, we had hoped it wouldn’t happen again. It hurt that in that moment when we were told our baby boy was small I realised that I did want him, I wanted him with all of my heart and it was unlikely we’d get to bring him home.
The next two weeks involved medication, doctors appointments, scans and lots of rest.
It didn’t work.
Our baby boy hadn’t grown. He was in poor shape and we were told that he was going to die in the next few days.
We were back in the realm of planned early inductions, this time not to save my life though, and there was no little life to save. We knew this process all too well and we thought we knew what was coming.
We made plans, we had to finally take back some control. We carried on as normal, I went to work, I told colleagues I’d be back in two weeks. I carried on planning Matt’s 40th birthday party. I bought things for hospital – pads, snacks, new pyjamas. I bought impression clay to take prints, I contacted the lady who made my print necklace as I needed another charm added. It was all very matter of fact and controlled.
Carrying on as Normal
Henry was due to be induced on the Sunday which was also Matt’s 40th birthday and Father’s Day. I was determined to keep things normal for us and to celebrate in some way so the day before we went to Paultons Park. I knew that day that Henry was slipping away. I looked pregnant but I sort of wasn’t really – I was in limbo.
We made the best of the day and whilst it was an odd thing to do, it was right for us. We needed a dose of normal.
Labour and Beyond
Toby and Rory had fast labours. We assumed with Henry that we’d be done by lunchtime, we’d make lots of memories and I’d be home the next day. We were so wrong. Henry took literally all day to arrive. It was exhausting, disorientating, and at times it was downright dull.
Henry was born on his daddy’s birthday though and that makes him that little bit more special.
We stupidly thought that as we’d been through it before that we knew how we would feel and that we would feel the same. It was worse, so much worse. Henry leaving us was not only another loss but the end of our baby making journey. We decided before his induction that we’d call it as day. There were too many risks, too much expense, too much stress and so many unknowns.
I found I didn’t want to leave the hospital as it felt like I was leaving a piece of me, a piece of my life behind.
Henry’s funeral was so difficult, it was a massive full stop on a difficult period of our life.
We had been pregnant after a loss but we didn’t get the holy grail at the end. It was a hard concept to deal with. There were other loss parents who were pregnant at the same time and I couldn’t understand why they were getting to keep their babies and I couldn’t. It felt so unfair. I distanced myself from our local loss group as it was full of bumps and babies. It still is of course (oh the irony) but I can cope, I have at best mild indifference to babies. They don’t interest me, they certainly don’t upset me like they did.
As I sit and recall Henry’s pregnancy and the aftermath I’m not sure how I feel. Months of EMDR therapy have softened the trauma of what we have been through. I know though I didn’t get my reward of a living baby, that I was pregnant after loss. I did go through all the same emotions as a parent who won their prize of a living baby after loss. My pregnancy story is just as real and as valid as theirs, more-so perhaps as it tells a different story to the countless happy outcomes.
I know that my story doesn’t have a traditionally happy ending, there is no living baby at the end. I know my story can make people uncomfortable. I get that nobody wants to think about more than one baby dying. It’s not nice. The trouble is, it happens and I am not the only one who didn’t get their prize. I was lucky enough to experience pregnancy again, some people don’t get that chance.
In a loss world filled with new babies it is hard for parents like me. There is no escape, no safe place.
Being my own Rainbow
When we lost Henry I lost myself in a deep dark hole of despair. I couldn’t see how I could ever deal with bumps, babies, and sibling groups when I didn’t get my rainbow baby and there was no chance of another. The word ‘rainbow’ made me feel sick and it triggered me. I was so angry at the world, at other loss parents, at my body. It just wasn’t fair.
I’ve spoken at length about the EMDR therapy I undertook and it helped massively. I have slowly come to realise that to be happy I need to be my own rainbow. I am proud that I fixed myself and I didn’t need a new baby to do it.
I’ve also realised that there is a certain type of strength that comes from having to carry on with no sign of hope, with no sticking plaster baby covering your wound.
I have stated to love and value myself and that is a truly special thing.