Anonymous guest post. [Trigger warning: miscarriage]
Exactly a year ago the world went into lockdown, and our world had been crushed as we lost our first baby. A loss at nearly 18 weeks, where my waters broke too soon and we had to deliver a baby who we knew would never come out alive. A juxtaposition of birth and death, and a complexity too deep to explain or understand unless you’ve faced it yourself.
There are things from that day that will haunt me forever. The nurse not believing the baby was nearly here, leaving my husband and me in the room to have to press the emergency button for someone to come, as I lay crying into a towel to cover my eyes, so I didn’t have to see any more of what I’d already had to. The nurse telling me she’d be cutting the cord – a job I always thought my husband would get to do with pride, with a screaming and healthy baby waiting to be handed over to us. The same nurse who I overheard outside my room saying: “I wish they’d just put them on the labour ward,” despite my wishes to deliver the baby on a gynae ward, to save myself the despair of seeing mothers on the same corridor about to start the life I’d thought I’d be living.
Within just a few hours of delivering the baby, we signed post mortem forms without thinking about the repercussions. We were told there was very little chance anything further would be wrong, and it was just bad luck. We ironically signed the papers for reassurance; to give us the green light to try again. Three months later we received a call from the hospital to give us the news over the phone that our baby had in fact died of a rare heart condition, and we were referred for genetic testing.
Here we were told there could be up to 25% chance of recurrence, and we should think long and hard before going into another pregnancy. At this point I think we were broken. My husband reassured me that it was me he loved, and anything else was a bonus. But it wasn’t enough. I wanted a baby, and the life I’d planned out; the life I was told would be easy to have was all of a sudden taken away. I always say that my eyes were opened through this. That before I was naive, and baby loss took my naivety and my innocence away. I have grieved for our first baby, for the life I thought we’d lead, for the woman I once was, for the innocence that once surrounded me.
We would wait 6 months for our genetic testing results. During this time I scoured countless websites, resources, and found very little about rare genetic disorders. Very little about those forced into decisions about the future of their babies should they choose to fall pregnant and later have to terminate for medical reasons. It feels like this is the ultimate taboo of the baby loss community. The one that’s within your control and therefore harder to be accepted. You cannot help miscarriage or infertility, but I already felt the burden of potentially trying for another baby, knowing that we might have to terminate at 20 weeks; that we couldn’t bring up a baby with severe disabilities, which rarely meant surviving much past birth. I spoke to women who offered me their story, who I knew wondered if I was judging from the sidelines. I wasn’t, but knew others in the world would be, unfairly, without a clue about the decisions that people every day are having to make.
The six months dragged by and, because of Covid, we still hadn’t received the results. I decided to fall pregnant again, which I know is a huge blessing in itself, because I couldn’t bare the torture of not knowing any longer, and getting pregnant was the only way to know. Those six months felt impossible some days. The world was in lockdown, my life felt on hold and, some days, like it couldn’t carry on. I was lost, just as the world around me was. There was no holiday to help take the pain away, nor hugs from my friends or family. There was just silence and fear. The outside world echoed the fears I felt inside, an unknown so unfamiliar to us all. I was lucky to then fall pregnant on our second attempt, which I know for many will be hard to read. We knew that the condition couldn’t be detected until 20 weeks, so we spent 20 weeks with very few people, not even our families, knowing that we were expecting.
Those 20 weeks were the worst. Throwing up every day, not knowing if there would be the outcome we wanted. Checking my pants for fluid at least six times a day. Crying in the waiting rooms as the blissfully innocent first-time mums had their names called. I looked around and counted how many women were in the room, knowing that 1 in 4 might miscarry, 1 in 100 might have their waters break too soon, and not all of them would be innocent forever. I felt ashamed that this was in my head. That I wasn’t automatically happy for everyone in that waiting room, and instead scared of what potentially lay ahead for them. I too was once that person, looking at my scan photo and laughing away without a care in the world. This time I was counting how many of us might not take our baby home, and trying every day to avoid the reality that I was pregnant with a baby who once again might not ever come home.
The 20-week scan came by and, due to restrictions, I had to attend the scan alone. I am now 34 weeks pregnant with a seemingly healthy baby. Words I never thought I’d say. A baby who seems fine. One who the midwife tells me every three weeks has a strong heartbeat. One who, every time I’ve been to scans, kicks and waves at the screen. One who I never thought I’d have.
Pregnancy after loss is hard. Loss strips you of innocence and hope. It strips you of the pregnancy you deserve. But every day I remind myself that this baby is a miracle, and every day we get a day closer to the day I hope so hard will be the day we get to take our baby home in our arms and not just our hearts.
There are so many insensitive things that doctors have said to me on this journey. From telling me my weight was risking the baby’s heart (I am two pounds overweight), to asking why I hadn’t waited until the results of the genetic testing came back, to make “everyone’s life easier”. When I asked for an elective C-section, because of the trauma I’ve experienced in my past loss, I was told: “just push it out like millions of other women do”. There’s a lot of work to do to educate healthcare staff on pregnancies after loss, and how to support women through a pregnancy that paralyses you between happiness and fear.
As we edge closer to 37 weeks, my thoughts are never far away from what we have lost, and the trauma women face every single day. This is the side of motherhood I never thought I’d have to see or live, but it’s on this side that I have witnessed more resilience than I have ever known.
For support with miscarriage, or pregnancy after loss, contact: