If I could turn back time and talk to my pre-baby self, what would I want to tell her?
I almost obsessed with birth during my first baby. Reading about childbirth, talking about birthplans, practising breathing for labour and worrying if I would cope with the pain. I almost forgot I would actually have a tiny human to raise at the end of it. By the time I was home from the hospital the actual birth seemed a world away. While nothing really prepares you for actually becoming a mother, it was then that I realised how little I knew about looking after a baby. In reality with childbirth you have very limited control over when or how baby will arrive so I wish I had spent just a tad more time thinking about parenting rather than birthing.
You will sleep for more than three consecutive hours again. You will get back to a routine where day and night are different. You will function as a normal adult human again. You will reclaim some much craved adult time. You will feel like you again. You will wear clothes that arnt marked with baby milk/baby poo/your own lunch.
This phase you're in right now is tough, but it will get easier.
For me, the newborn please was really hard, but the bigger they get the more you will get back from them. Don't get me wrong parenting is still the most thankless role you will ever have undertake but when those first few smiles and giggles start to come it really does make it all worthwhile.
Endless googling of 'When do babies sleep through the night' will not make your baby sleep through the night any quicker. In fact, reading stories about babies who slept through the night from 3 weeks/3 months old only serves to make you feel worse when your baby is nowhere near to doing so. Every baby is different but they will eventually start sleeping a little longer between night feeds and even this will make a huge difference and then eventually they will sleep through the night.
For me, from the moment that I became pregnant, part of me was already a parent. I felt my baby move inside me and formed a magical bond that existed between us even before they were born. In contrast my husband said he only became a parent when our first was born and that bond between parent and child can take much longer to develop for them. In the early days I was baby's only source of food and much of their comfort which often made it harder for him to find a way to be useful. Dads are often back to work for long hours and as baby routines can change from one day to the next dads can feel like they're always playing catchup. It doesn't mean that they don't want to be as involved, just that they're finding their feet with their role as parents too and sometimes this can take a little longer.
At times this can be incredibly overwhelming and frustating. Some of it's good, some of it's bad and some if it's downright ridiculous. Everyone seems to have an opinion on how babies should eat/sleep/be held/entertained. If it's not advice that's right for you then you don't have to follow it, but every now and then someone will pass on a golden nugget of information that's totally magic for your child and you would be lost without.
Parenting can be really lonely in the beginning. So get out there to your local baby group and meet some other mums. You might not like the first one you go to but persevere with different ones. You will be opened up to a whole new social circle of other parents going through the exact same things as you and that can be a lifeline for you in this new stage of your life.
...and not one where you're you know what time it is from what daytime TV your watching. Perhaps not everyone needs this but it really helped me. I went straight from work to having a baby with no maternity time wind down. I found it really hard to adjust to the change of pace from the hectic jam packed schedule of a workday to the completely different pace of this 24h job of parenting where at times I felt like I was living some crazy groundhog day. Don't get me wrong I still watched a lot of boxsets in the newborn days but getting my own routine being showered and dresses (even in the early days if I wasn't going to leave the house) helped me start to feel human again.
Easier said than done if you've had a winter baby but a bit of fresh air really does make you feel so much better, and it doesn't have to be for long. Plus a gentle walk is great for healing post birth.
October is one of my favourite months of the year, I love the subtle change in season that seems to creep in around about now, leaving the September sun behind and transitioning into misty mornings and earlier nights.
The trees are desperately trying to protect and keep hold of their flame coloured leaves but, sadly they are pre-destined to fall and blanket the ground.
Like those trees, 1 in 4 women feel the loneliness of ‘secret’ grief.
have two beautiful and boisterous boys who fill my days with noise, dirt and infectious laughter and I’m due my third in a matter of days. BUT, this doesn’t mean that I don’t ever think of my other two babies that I never met.
I am currently a very fragile mix of hormones, excitement and nervous energy as I wait for signs of my impending labour. This October feels very different for me, and I think that’s a good thing as it will be a birthday month, a reason to celebrate.
Before I enter the craziness of caring for three boys aged 4 and under, I’d like to reflect and tell my story of losing the two tiny lives, that for a very small window of time, existed within my own body. Two little ones that I failed to protect and keep safe…one of the most basic requirements of being a mother.
My Lost Pregnancy
I always wanted a sibling for Stanley, I never envisioned him as an only child. So, when we found out we were expecting again I was naturally over the moon. I did exactly what I’d done with Stanley, a home test then doctors appointment to confirm, followed by my booking appointment with the midwife. I’ve never smoked, I stopped drinking as soon as that little blue line appeared, and took my folic acid daily.
As the weeks crept by, we kept our little secret until the 12 week ‘safe zone’ was in sight. It fell around Christmas time so I made a plan (Ben just goes along with me when it comes to things like this…I’ve never been one to shy away from putting the effort in) to announce the pregnancy to close friends and family via a homemade Christmas card featuring my little Stan the Man.
Everyone loved the announcement cards, who wouldn’t?…just look at Stanley all big smiles and tiny toes. Super cute!
Christmas came and went, and we were thrust into the new year. I had been suffering from morning sickness, something I’d never experienced while pregnant with Stanley, and I felt ‘different’ not something I could put my finger on, just different. I knew I was carrying a boy from the start with Stan, just call it Mother’s intuition as I had absolutely no evidence whatsoever, until I was proved correct at the 20 week scan. This time however, I ‘knew’ it was a girl.
*YOU MAY FIND THE FOLLOWING DETAILS UPSETTING*
BUT, I want to write a truthful account of my experience.
The Bubble Burst
Then, on the 5th January my little pregnancy bubble was burst in the worst way possible. I was 14 weeks by now. I felt tired, weak and queasy. I rested and that evening after Ben had put Stanley to bed I lay on the sofa, and took paracetamol as I had back ache. Nothing too out of the ordinary, nothing to cause alarm.
I needed the bathroom and stood up and that’s when I realised something was terribly wrong. I could feel a warmth running down my legs. I ran to the bathroom, leaving a trail of blood and a shell shocked hubby in my wake. I was numb, I knew what was happening but adrenaline took over and I went for the practical side of things, stripped off and sat on the toilet waiting for the initial ‘gush’ to subside. Except, it didn’t. I layered up thick maternity pads and quickly shoved on knickers and leggings. I remember telling Ben that we needed to go to the hospital (talk about stating the obvious) and asking him to ring my mum so she could come over to watch Stanley. I remember that I was yawning a lot, my ears were ringing and my vision was becoming tunnelled. Blood was still seeping through all my sanitary protection and out through my clothes, I couldn’t keep up with it.
The next thing I remember is two first responders leaning over me, they were talking but I couldn’t hear them properly. Then paramedics burst in. I was put into the back of an ambulance and blue lighted up to the hospital. Ben had to stay until my Mum & Dad arrived because of Stanley. I remember hoping that he hadn’t been woken up with all the commotion. Afterwards, my Mum and Dad told me that they saw the ambulance come flying past them as they were heading to my house. Mum said it was awful knowing ‘her little girl’ was in there, which just goes to show that us mums never stop worrying about our children, no matter how old they are.
If you’ve read my Pregnancy Ponderings post you’ll know that our hospital is roughly 15 miles away. I think that distance doubled that night as it seemed to take forever to get there. I was taken on the trolley into A&E and placed in a corridor with approximately 10 others. The paramedics left me and I was alone and waiting. Blood by now was seeping into the sheets and mattress I was lying on. I felt hugely embarrassed as it was painfully obviously where the blood was coming from…I felt ashamed. By this point I was getting cold and again must have fainted a couple of times. Then, Ben was stood next to me but I have no memory of him getting there.
I was moved into an examination room. I’m a bit hazy on the details but I can remember telling the nurses that I was going to pass out. The bed was tilted back so that my feet were higher than my head. After answering a few questions I was transferred over to the Maternity Assessment Unit.
Up until this point, nobody had mentioned, pregnancy, miscarriage, loss or the baby.
Again, due to the lack of beds I was put in a chair and told we were waiting for a sonographer to become available. This was the point at which my heart broke and the tears came hard and fast. I knew what I was facing and deep down I knew that the scan wouldn’t pick up a heartbeat there had been too much blood….so, it just seemed unesscessarily CRUEL that I was now sat with only 6 flimsy curtains separating me from other mums to be, that were all hooked up to monitoring equipment.
I could hear 6 happy and healthy heartbeats in stereo, it was deafening!
I sat there with my baby that had probably already died, or was dying inside of me, still bleeding heavily and was forced to listen to the sound I was praying I would hear from my own womb. It was a relief to be called into the scan room. The scan was performed, the room was absolutely silent (a complete contrast to the corridor) nothing was said to us apart from the fact that they were keeping me in and I would be taken to the Forget me Not suite.
Once settled into one of the rooms on the Forget-me-Not suite (charity based), I was introduced to Liz, one of the bereavement midwives who would be caring for me during my stay. This lady was love, care and sensitivity personified. She wiped my tears and stroked my head. I was still losing a lot of blood and she hooked me up to drips, binned my clothes and just generally saw to my needs without fuss.
My nightmare wasn’t over by any means, just as I was feeling a bit more with it and had managed a cup of tea (so stereotypically British, but always readily available during a crisis). I needed the bathroom and with Ben’s help shuffled over to the en-suite, Liz had already advised me to leave the door open and that I wasn’t allowed to flush as they would check for clots etc. I can’t remember anything until I woke up back in the bed wearing an oxygen mask with an alarm blazing and approximately 20 medical staff around my bed including someone with a defibrillator trolley to my right. Liz was saying ‘STAY WITH US EMMA’ loudly and somebody was putting something cold into my arm, I felt it travel up my vein.
I tried to look for Ben, Liz must have noticed as she told me he was here on the chair in the corner, and stepped aside so that I could see. The person I saw wasn’t my hubby, Mr Yorkshire and he of stern stuff and few words had gone…a small frightened figure, head in hands with grey skin sat in his place and it scared more than anything that had happened up to that point.
I must have gone out again or perhaps I just fell asleep, I’m not sure as the whole thing is still foggy and a bit surreal to me now.
The next time I woke, I felt better but weak and bone weary. Lifting my head off the pillow required energy I just didn’t have. My bloods and observations were done again. Consent forms were brought in and signed by Ben. Blood was ordered. I had no idea of the time or even what day it was by now. Still nobody had mentioned the baby or said the word miscarriage…I found this really strange and it all added to the dream like state I found myself in. As I regained strength my thoughts turned to my little boy at home, and I ached for him. Ben gave my Mum & Dad the all clear to visit with him. It gave me the boost I needed, nothing beats a cuddle from a toddler!!
Mum, Dad, Ben and Stanley went home together late afternoon. Ben with instructions to bring in clothes for me…I had lost everything I had been wearing! I stayed in again overnight and slept like a baby inbetween the obs rounds. Liz popped in every now and again to check on me and to make me a cuppa, so that I didn’t have to leave my bed. She also found me a phone charger so that I could ring Ben and say goodnight to Stanley. It was the little things like that, that meant so much.
The next morning, I was visited by a consultant and finally I was informed that my baby had died. I was also told that all the ‘foetal matter’ and ‘products of conception‘ had come away naturally and that I wouldn’t need a D&C thankfully.
I was given leaflets on cremation and my rights to religious/humanist services etc, unbelievably I was looking at funeral arrangements for my baby. I signed the nesscessary consent forms and put them on the bedside table.
By this point Ben had arrived back and we were waiting for my discharge to be arranged. Liz mentioned in passing that I’d haemorrhaged twice and lost a huge amount of blood causing me to go into Hypovolemic shock, which was life threatening and made some sense of the room full of people I’d witnessed.
To this day, I don’t know if all this was explained to Ben as it was happening, because he’s never really spoken about it and I’ve never really pushed him on it. But, thinking back to the man I saw sitting in that room, I’m guessing he had a good idea of the state of play.
Even now I find it hard to explain how I was feeling. I wasn’t overly upset, as in I wasn’t crying or showing any outward signs of distress. I felt ‘light’, my head felt fuzzy, my legs were like jelly. I felt numb. I wasn’t thinking about the baby I’d lost, I just desperately wanted to get home to the one I already had. I can’t describe how much I’d missed him. I was also worried about my Mum & Dad, they’d had to deal with a lot. I had a vague recollection of the state the house was in as I left, and I knew they’d would have had to clean all that up to protect Stanley from seeing it. I was also worried about the strain it had put on them, I was their daughter afterall and they’d just lost a grandchild too. Dad was also really poorly and receiving treatment for Leaukaemia…he’d been diagnosed a year ago to the day I took my ambulance ride, 5th January has not been kind to my family.
On a lighter ‘it could only happen to me note’ Ben had forgotten to bring me any shoes up, so I had to walk out of hospital wearing just his socks and Ben was sockless under his boots. The ‘Clampets’ were finally going home!
Home Sweet Home
Once back, I rested up, sleep was my friend. Flowers and cards arrived. People said kind words, and wrote lovely sentiments. A couple of close friends (you know who you are ladies) brought a mix of homemade and convenience food…enough to fill the fridge and freezer, along with cake, chocolate, candles, an adult colouring book to keep my mind busy and took Stanley out…I can’t tell you how much that meant to me at the time.
Most people, and I don’t mean this as a criticism, moved on as if I was never really pregnant in the first place. I found that quite difficult to deal with, although I completely understood that it hadn’t happened to them, and that life doesn’t just stop.
Ben didn’t want to talk about it really, and that was his way of dealing with it all, which I understood too. It did us all good to get back to some normality, I suppose. In some respects I think he had the worst deal, he had already lost his unborn child and had faced losing his wife too. I can’t imagine how scared he must have been, I was in the thick of it and can’t remember much but Ben had witnessed it all, ALONE. I will never forget that solid unwavering support from the man who became the rock we all now cling to.
He bought me a simple gift, and that said more than any upsetting conversations between us ever could. We had a cute, crazy toddler to love and look after so we muddled on together.
There were physical after affects for me, I was given iron tablets and had to inject myself into my tummy for a month afterwards. Writing this now, 3 years on I don’t know what those injections were for. Which only goes to show that the whole thing left me a bit dazed and confused like I was there but at 50% opacity.
My bloods have never been right since, I often have to take iron now and I have low blood pressure which then significantly drops in pregnancy.
I hope I haven’t over shared and put you off, I wanted to give a true account of what I went through. It wasn’t nice and it certainly wasn’t pretty. I experienced two very different levels of care within the same hospital, I can’t remember the names of anyone who ‘handled’ me apart from Liz which just goes to show that kindness really is key to making a difference.
Some people reading this will be my friends and family members and I’m aware that it might be the first time they will really have had the chance to understand what we went through. I felt like nobody wanted to talk about it, and I didn’t want to upset anyone so I naturally kept a lot of it to myself.
The one thing I really regret is being so spaced out at the hospital that I never asked them if they knew the baby’s sex. I still feel angry with myself for that, even now. When I think of this baby though I always think of a girl but it’s hard not knowing for sure and it meant that we couldn’t name either.
Pregnancy After Loss
I went on to have James, my little ray of sunshine and whirlwind of mischief. My early pregnancy was tainted with the worry that I could lose again. I was naturally wary about telling people as I didn’t want to appear ‘foolish‘ if it didn’t result in a baby yet again…which sounds completely bonkers but I feel there’s still a level of embarrassment and failure associated with miscarriage.
I’ve never referred to James as a ‘rainbow baby’ as has become the trend for babies born after a loss. I know people find comfort in the term (a rainbow being the bright and beautiful result of the sun shining after the storm has passed) but I wanted James to just be my little Jimbob in his own right and not attached to anything or anyone.
Unfortunately between having James and my current pregnancy, I lost again. This time it was a completely different experience, but I was no better prepared.
My much loved Dad passed away Aug 2017, after losing his battle with Acute Myeloid Leaukaemia…believe me, he had put up one hell of a fight.
I was organising arrangements with my mum, James was 6 months at the time and Stanley was now 3. I felt a bit off but to be honest, grief and stress had played their part, and I was a bit run down.
With everything that had been going on, I couldn’t remember when I’d last had my period and they were still a bit irregular after having James so I wasn’t concerned and never even gave pregnancy a thought.
While at my Mum’s one day I had to go and have a lie down, I took paracetamol because I had stomach cramps and I slept for a few hours. I woke up feeling better and fully expecting to come on my period at anytime. Sure enough, I started bleeding and that was that.
I bled heavily, but not uncontrollably for around 4 days. I put it down to a ‘nasty one’, we’ve all had them, the month that seems worse than the others and knocks you about a bit…nothing I couldn’t handle and thought it was my body getting back on track after having James. Towards the end I passed quite a few clots but again, nothing too drastic.
The following day the bleeding had all but stopped and off I went to the supermarket to do a food shop, both boys in tow. I did the shopping, paid and went into the cafe because I felt a bit faint. After a hot drink and juice for Stan I felt better but had a numb feeling ‘down there’ I went into the disabled toilet, both boys (still strapped into the trolley) along with all the food came in with me…not the most hygienic but what choice did I have?
I sat on the toilet and prepared to change my pad but there wasn’t really any blood on the one I was wearing. I then passed something, I stood up and looked into the toilet. I was looking at a very tiny foetus. I know this sounds completely unbelievable but it had an eye and was shaped like a kidney bean, there was nothing else it could have been.
I swallowed the panic that had rose, along with the acid in my throat and got myself dressed. I wasn’t bleeding, apart from a few cramps and the weird numbness I wasn’t in any pain and I was in a supermarket toilet with two boys. I took a couple of photos, and then flushed the toilet. I washed my hands, left the toilet, packed the shopping and kids into the car and drove home.
I did text the photo to my Mum and sister and also to Ben to get their opinions. I also googled to see how far along ‘it’ was.
And, to my shame that’s all I really did about it, I rang my GP and requested a call back from the nurse. I explained what had happened. She said it sounded like a missed miscarriage, and that I should come in to get checked over within the next few days. I didn’t. I didn’t want to bring it all to the surface again plus I had bigger things to deal with on the horizon, namely my Dad’s funeral.
Obviously, if I had started bleeding or felt unwell then I would have gone straight in but after the cramps had subsided that evening, I felt fine. So I filed it in my brain under ‘deal with it later’ and, that’s where it has remained until I wrote this post.
I’m now waiting on my third boy to make an appearance and throw our lives into chaos (in a good way) once again. This will be my last pregnancy and baby, marking the end of my ‘baby making’ years. Our family will be complete.
Yet, I’m still in two minds whether to publish this post (it’s sat as a draft for a few days now, and I keep re-reading and editing bits). I still feel ashamed and guilty for losing my babies. I know that there was nothing I could do to stop it and that I did nothing wrong. But still, it niggles.
I’ve told my story as part of the campaign to take the stigma away from miscarriage and still birth. We need to talk about it more and change the way we act.