The day I lost my baby, my friend said to me: ‘You’ll never be the same again.’
I had been 14 weeks pregnant, which may not sound like much but in my mind, I had already given birth to our baby and the future that came with it.
The baby we had only just allowed ourselves to believe was coming, the baby that had already changed my body and our plans so much, was gone.
In its place, grief. It was a loss that felt like bereavement.
‘The rawness will slowly heal and the tears will slow down,’ my friend said. ‘But you’re not the same person as before. You are now someone who’s lost a baby. It changes you. It changes the way you think, the way you are. It will always be with you.’
She was speaking from experience – she lost the baby she had carried less than an hour after it was born. Of course, she was right.
Her words made me feel sad for the ‘us’ we had lost. Our Teflon-coated happiness, the bubble we lived in that no longer protected us.
My partner and I were no longer an excited couple about to have a baby. We were now a couple who had suffered loss, who had tried and failed to have a baby.
The lens through which we viewed the world was tinged with grief. We had felt young and full of life. Now we felt old.
My reaction surprised me. Until eight or nine weeks, I had been prepared for miscarriage – perhaps even expecting it. By 14 weeks, I was not. I cried almost constantly for the first three days. I cried all day until my eyes were swollen closed. I woke in the night, first sobbing silently into my pillow then anguished howls that woke my partner and set him off, too.
Gradually the crying stopped, or at least became less frequent. But I still couldn’t go out.
Still, at every mention of the baby, every time someone asked how I was, each appointment, the tears would come.
They came weeks later when I walked past the hospital where we had painful tests – a long, thick needle directly into the womb – to confirm the diagnosis that led to our termination.
My partner had asked the sonographer to turn off the screen that showed the baby we were about to lose but it was too late.
They came when I opened a drawer to find matches and saw our 12-week scan pictures put away there. My partner had taken them down from the wall. He said they were too painful to look at. I hadn’t been able to take them down. How could I?
They came two months later when my partner handed me our pre-natal file – scan results, referral letters, appointment details – to check if there was anything we needed before he threw it away.
I cried, of course. ‘Oh… I thought you were okay about it now?’ he said.
He didn’t mean to sound uncaring. He cares so much. When I cried constantly those first three days, he was there crying with me.
But now he wanted to stop crying and get back to feeling like himself again. He didn’t want to become someone defined by loss and grief and failure.
I wasn’t ready to let go. A friend who had recently lost a baby at 25 weeks in unfathomable circumstances – she delivered their stillborn baby, dressed it and held a funeral – told me not to be afraid of my grief.
She told me people would try to get me out of it, adding: ‘They’ll invite you out for drinks to “cheer you up” – don’t feel you have to go. Stay at home, cry, sit with your grief.’
It was the best advice I had – not to feel guilty about grieving. Not to feel like I had to pull myself together and get on with it. She also reminded me that the hormones from both pregnancy and post-natal hormones would be flooding my body for three months afterwards and to understand that – and help my partner to understand it too.
It was hard – when your hormones are making you feel and act crazy you haven’t got the clarity to explain it, if you even recognise it. And why shouldn’t my partner take it at face value when I say something that makes him feel bad?
I felt bad too, though. I was lactating and in enormous pain. I felt unattractive, fat, insecure. I had a deep fear that I would now never be able to give my partner a child.
It was three months before I felt able to spend a night away from my him. I didn’t go out, I only wanted to see him or family.
A few weeks after the loss, we planned a holiday to a beautiful location, an idyllic beach-front hotel with nothing to do all day but look at the ocean. I felt more lonely sitting there next to my partner than I had in years.
I looked at the women with post-natal bodies holding their babies and at the thin women in bikinis and I was neither. I had the post-natal body without the baby. I wasn’t ready. I cried.
Now, three months on, I still cry sometimes. I cry writing this. But I finally feel like myself again. Almost. I am a more fragile version. I’m wiser, if I can say that about myself. I am more empathetic to those who have suffered the loss of a child.
This morning I walked down a sunny street and thought about the future and it wasn’t shaped by the loss of our baby. It was a glimpse into our future and we were happy.
The need for a baby has quietened to a want.
We are trying again and I hope it happens. I know how much my partner wants a child and I want to give that to him. But I know, or at least I hope – and this is in huge part down to how convincing my partner is on this point – that we will be happy and fulfilled no matter what.
If we don’t have children, we will live our most wonderful life – the sort of life we couldn’t lead if we had children. We will travel, we will live in apartments with sharp edges and balconies and big TVs and no garden. We will have impractical cars and drink wine and go to the theatre or dinner at a moment’s notice, sometimes both.
We will love each other’s company and we will love other people’s children.
Yes, the loss has changed me. It has changed us. But I will not let it define us.
BABY LOSS AWARENESS WEEK
Baby Loss Awareness Week is held annually from 9 to 15 October. It’s a special opportunity to mark the lives of babies lost in pregnancy or at or soon after birth. Find out more at miscarriageassociation.org.uk
Other charities that can help:
Arc-uk.org (Ante-natal Results and Choices) – a non-judgemental charity that supports families who have terminated or lost their baby after pre-natal testing. They understand that ante-natal testing can lead to difficult decisions that it can be hard to discuss with friends or family. They offer advice, support and a private network of people in similar situations.
Tommy’s – funding research into stillbirth, premature and miscarriage, providing information for parents-to-be and support for parents who have lost a child.
Source: Read Full Article