When I discovered I was pregnant for the third time, I was over the moon. I have two fantastic children and always knew I wanted more. I love being a mother and it’s one of the few things in life that I feel really good at. My pregnancies had been very straight forward and there was no reason why this one should be any different. No reason at all, but it was. In my 13th week I started to bleed and a scan revealed that my little bean’s heart had stopped beating. There aren’t words to describe the devastation I felt. All our hopes and dreams for the future of my little bump were stilled by the quietness of the screen and the sympathy in the eyes of the hospital staff.
I’d never really thought about miscarriage before. Obviously you have anxieties as an expectant mum but it wasn’t a real concern, I’d never talked about it with someone who had been through it. If it was mentioned it was in that stilted, nervous way we have about discussing things that make us uncomfortable.
I was so frightened leaving the hospital. We were told to come back in two weeks for a follow up scan but that was about it. I wasn’t prepared in anyway. In fact we didn’t even receive an information leaflet and even though I had gone in with bleeding, I was not given a sanitary towel or so much as a paracetamol. In times of despair, I have found it is the little things, small kindnesses that mean the most and I feel insulted by how we were treated.
Not long after we were surprised to discover I was pregnant again. We hadn’t really discussed our future plans and although I was excited, I was also terrified. It was a very confusing time. I felt disloyal to the baby we had lost but I knew that the new pregnancy would also take away some of my sadness.
Thankfully for me, my daughter had been born at home the year before and I had again engaged the services of the most wonderful independent midwife, Philomenia Canning, whose very presence makes you feel like you can achieve great things. I rang her straight away and she talked me through the “mini labour” that would happen in the coming days. Two days later I delivered our baby. It was a shocking, painful and utterly sad experience but also one of great peace. Holding my tiny baby in my hands, seeing those perfect miniature fingers and toes is something I am so thankful I got to do. I felt so much love as we wrapped our bub in a piece of his dad’s t-shirt and found a lovely ornate box I’d collected on some far flung adventure and I lay with that box in my arms. I started to work frantically, almost manically on a corner of our garden where we decided to create a special space for our children. I wanted the baby to always be a part of our family, to be included. I wanted my baby to have a beautiful resting place but when it came to burying the box, I just didn’t have the strength. I had placed a little note and some family photos inside and wrapped in my husband’s arms we said our goodbyes.
The following weeks are a bit of a blur. Friends and family rallied but it was pretty much business as usual. Life goes on but it’s forever changed. I took huge comfort in my children. My youngest was under one and still breastfeeding and sharing our bed so to be able to snuggle up with her warmed my heart.
Not long after we were surprised to discover I was pregnant again. We hadn’t really discussed our future plans and although I was excited, I was also terrified. It was a very confusing time. I felt disloyal to the baby we had lost but I knew that the new pregnancy would also take away some of my sadness. I tried not to think about the baby growing inside me too much, but of course you can’t stop yourself, wondering whether we’d have a boy or girl, thinking of names, imagining family dinners, summer holidays, weddings.
We didn’t tell many people I was pregnant. I had made a big public announcement last time round and felt a bit humiliated, again a testament to our awkwardness as a society around the loss of a baby.
After my miscarriage I had started to follow a paleo diet and was exercising and physically had recovered well so I was confident that all would be well.
Sadly, I was wrong. I started to have a lot of severe pain and dizziness and some bleeding. The hospital said sit tight for a few days. I started to feel better but was advised to go in anyway for a scan to make sure everything was ok. It was a month before Christmas so we decided to have a day out, bring the kids with us, have our reassuring scan, have some lunch and do some Christmas shopping. Simple. I went to the hospital alone as our daughter was alseep in the car. Sitting in the waiting room was an anxious time. Only a few months before my life had changed in that hospital but I kept telling myself everything was fine.
I couldn’t bring myself to look at the screen when the time came. Maybe I knew, maybe it was fear. Either way there was nothing to see. The screen was blank and the pain started to creep over me like a dull ache. A second internal scan was done but there were no words of reassurance. I was crying at this stage and asked could they see anything. The nurse sat beside me and rubbed my arms and told me that sadly what they were seeing was an ectopic pregnancy. My baby was outside my womb and would not survive. I was completely and totally devastated. I was asked if I would like to see my baby and although at first I felt I couldn’t, I knew I had to and sure enough there was my bean, with it’s flickering strong heart beat, just in the wrong place. I couldn’t believe the cruelty of it.
Everything happened very quickly. The obstetrician came in and explained that I had internal bleeding and needed emergency surgery to remove both my baby and my right fallopian tube. I had to sign a consent form and I knew in doing so I was signing my babies life away. The surgeon explained that there simply was no other option.
In the weeks and months that followed I have made some peace with my experiences. I have amazing friends and family who have cried with me and for my babies. I will never be the same girl I was.
Myself and my husband had so many questions but as we had our children with us we tried to stay calm. I was admitted straight away. My husband left to bring the children home and pack me a bag and I felt utterly shocked and alone. I was on the maternity ward. There were women waiting to birth and newborn babies crying and I was so angry and jealous. They had so much and I was being left with nothing.
Saying goodbye to my husband before being wheeled to theatre was very sad. He had delivered our daughter at home in such extreme happiness and I knew that in this situation he felt completely powerless to help. I knew he was as scared as I was and I hated leaving him. The hospital staff were fantastic and took very good care of me. I am very grateful for their kindness.
Waking from surgery was horrible. There was a sense that something didn’t feel quite right and then the realisation dawned. I was completely empty. I was numb. My heart and my arms were aching to hold my baby. I was also extremely angry. At myself, at my body, at a god I don’t believe in, at the first baby because if it hadn’t died then I wouldn’t have been pregnant again and wouldn’t have had to endure this horrific experience.
I found some comfort in my husband’s arms but grief separates you from others, you feel alien, misunderstood, you feel tainted and you feel very, very alone.
In the weeks and months that followed I have made some peace with my experiences. I have amazing friends and family who have cried with me and for my babies. I will never be the same girl I was. Pregnancy, should we decide we want to try again will never be that pure, untainted, all consuming joyous experience it once was. I’m more anxious now. I sometimes have horrific nightmares. My perfect world is not perfect anymore and I’ve realised it’s not safe. No one is protected from pain and loss. In some ways I’m a better mother because I truly know what I have lost. I look at my two playing in the garden or fighting over lego and the enormity of what I have lost hits me but it’s not as raw anymore. It’s not as all consuming. I don’t struggle to get out of bed and face the day anymore.
I don’t feel like a failure anymore. I don’t feel that my body let me and my babies down. In fact I now look at what I have come through and am astounded by my physical and mental health. I never would have imagined I could endure what those six months threw at me but here I am coming out the other side, with such absolute respect for women.
Miscarriage affects one in every four pregnancies, while ectopic pregnancy occurs typically in one in every 80 pregnancies. That’s huge. That means each and every one of us knows someone who has lost a baby, and yet no one is talking about it. I am astounded by that. I had to talk. I have to talk. Talking and sharing are helping me to heal.
I have also found solace in exercise in the last few months. I decided to take part in this years TriAthy triathlon on June 1st. Training gave me focus and a sense of purpose. It has given me an appreciation and new found respect for my body. It has given me a way to pay tribute to the lives my tiny babies wont get to live. Although initially I just wanted to compete, I then decided to raise some money for the Miscarriage Association of Ireland and Ectopic Pregnancy Ireland to help in the important work they do. These organisations have been hugely informative for me. Ectopic Ireland also send out a gorgeous butterly tea light holder to families affected by ectopic pregnancy and its such a lovely gesture, a symbol of light in a very dark time.
Since opening up about our losses, so many people have gotten in touch to share their own stories. I am glad that they felt able to. It helps me to know that I am not alone. That although altered, I will recover and someday when I think of my babies, I will be able to smile knowing that they are not lost but are in fact in everything I do.
All birth stories and images featured in 42 weeks have been generously shared by members of the public in Ireland. If you would like to take part and share your story, we would love to hear from you. Get in touch through the website http://www.42weeks.ie, through Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/42weeks or follow us on Twitter at @42_weeks.