I think we probably all know the answer to this one, but I just had to write this post. I cannot quite believe we are approaching our second Christmas without Teddy. This time two years ago he was still safely tucked up in my seventeen week bump. I can remember feeling so blissfully happy, so excited for what lay ahead. I kept saying to my husband, “This time next year…” I pictured us with a bouncing seven month old; negotiating our first festive season as new parents. The reality of last Christmas couldn’t have been further from that dream. I remember never having felt less festive in my life; but I was trying, oh how I was trying so hard.
It’s really hard to watch the world and his wife being merry and bright when you just want to shut it all out. Still, we went through the motions; we put up our tree and decorated the house. We made a few plans with friends, and braced ourselves for what was set to be a heartbreaking Christmas without Teddy. We did, of course, have a little ray of hope; for this time last year I was almost nine weeks pregnant again. Only our family and a handful of friends knew, and we were both nervous and excited for being able to tell our friends over Christmas. Two early scans had reassured us that that little one was definitely there, it was just a matter of time.
Anyone who has been pregnant again after the loss of a pregnancy or a child will tell you that being pregnant again doesn’t make things better; it doesn’t take away any of the grief that you feel for your child; but it does give you hope. I was filled with hope that after losing Teddy, after experiencing true heartbreak, that there was a little glimmer of light; something good was about to happen for us. After all, lightning simply cannot strike twice, can it?
I decorated the house with special decorations with Teddy’s name on. I began deciding how to write the few cards I planned to send; should I include his name? I settled on adding a little “T” inside a star. I cried as I hung his bauble on the tree, as that memory from the previous year came flooding back to me; that vision of what should have been. I faked smiles and I tried my very hardest to embrace Christmas; I thought it might cheer me up? I still couldn’t really bring myself to tell strangers about Teddy, I couldn’t say his name aloud to someone new without bursting into tears. This all felt so much more magnified at Christmas; it became even more glaringly obvious that there was a piece of our family missing, a piece we would never get back.
The week of Christmas we went for our twelve week scan, and I was feeling surprisingly positive. I think I was just relieved that it was finally here and that I would be able to tell people some happy news over Christmas, instead of us being the ones that everyone dreaded talking to because of “our situation” (It’s ok, my son died you can just say it out loud). The scan, however, didn’t bring the happy news we were waiting for. Instead we found ourselves in a whirlwind of extra tests and scans over Christmas. I found myself having further tests and scans the day before Christmas Eve; lying there in a London hospital, squeezing my husband’s hand so tightly, with tears rolling uncontrollably down my cheeks. I was too terrified to look at the screen as she tried to show me our baby, for fear of having my heart broken all over again.
Over Christmas we waited; the longest seven days of my life. I barely forced a smile. We went through the motions of a big family Christmas at my parents’ house; but on the inside we were both filled with dread and fear for what was about to happen to us, again. Teddy was missing from that day, my heart ached for him more than ever and I could see it did for all of our family too. We lit a candle for him that evening, and I remember making a wish; a wish that everything would start to feel OK. I had accepted that I would never feel the pure, unadulterated happiness I had when I had been expecting Teddy; I just wanted to feel OK. I’d be more than happy with that.
The day before New Years Eve, just before 7pm, my consultant rang my mobile. I didn’t even have to answer that call to already know that this wasn’t good news. Her words echoed in my ears; I heard them just as I heard them when we had been told there was nothing more they could do for Teddy; “Life limiting”, “Not Compatible“, “Rare Condition”. Stop; I couldn’t take listening to anymore. As I ended the conversation with her and the phone dropped out of my hand, I sobbed. I didn’t need to tell my husband what had happened; he knew. Another baby who wouldn’t make it home with us; our rainbow of hope ripped away, and that little flicker of light, snuffed out.
Anyone who has lost a baby on the grounds of medical screenings will tell you about the guilt that is coupled with it. Even though you are told “There really is no choice“, you have to sign a piece of paper that would seem to state otherwise. You have to be conscious of the moment that little life is going to end; even if you are told by every expert that the outcome is “Inevitable” anyway. I know that there are people who, perhaps, would have seen that there was another way; but having lost one child already, we simply could not walk with open eyes into a situation where we would certainly lose another. My heart wasn’t strong enough; it hadn’t been the first time around, it stood no chance for a second. I asked myself over, and over, again why the universe was doing this to us? I wanted to run out into the street and scream up at the sky “Okay, you can stop now. I give in. You win!”
If there had been anything that was going to cap off a terrible year with an utter shocker of a finish, this was it. I felt defeated. It deepened my grief for Teddy and made my arms feel emptier than they had done in months. Taking home a baby had never felt so far from my reach. I cried for days, again. I remember thinking there couldn’t be any tears left? Surely this year had seen all of the sorrow I had to offer the world. Apparently not.
So why am I telling you this now? Bloody depressing aren’t I? I wanted to share why I think that, surely, this Christmas can only be better; can’t it? It simply has to be. No, I am not pregnant, as I hoped I might be by now; but we made it through another year. We are still here, and we have started to learn to laugh again this year too. Truth be told, I still don’t feel my festive-best; but I am unsure if I ever will again, and that’s OK too. I think it’s OK to feel sad for Teddy at Christmas, to miss him and to wish (so hard) he was here with us. It’s OK for us to look back on last Christmas and feel sad for the baby we lost; because he (Yes, he) is missing too. All I really want for Christmas, is to feel a little brighter as each year passes. We’ll just keep on smiling in the meantime.
Oh, and I promise I’m not faking this year……