I had always wanted to be a mum – it had been my dream. I used to say to people that the reason I was put on this planet was to have children, it was everything to me. I never imagined it might feel like an impossible dream. I assumed it would be easy, I assumed it would just happen, I assumed we’d be parents – just like that. I met my now husband Dave in 2005 (just before my 19thbirthday) and that was it and by 2015 we had almost everything; we were married, we’d moved into our ‘forever home’ and we were ready to embark on having a family.
In July 2015 – we’d done it, we were pregnant. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I stared at the pregnancy test and those two blue lines. The excitement, the joy, the dreams, the assumption we were about to become a family. We were so naïve. We expected that in March of the following year we’d be bringing our baby home. Sadly, our naïve dreams were traumatically destroyed as I suffered a ruptured ectopic pregnancy at 9 weeks. An ectopic pregnancy was something I had heard of briefly but never given much thought to. In short, my right fallopian tube had ruptured, this went undetected for 10 days which then resulted in me collapsing, effectively bleeding internally to death and needing to be rushed into emergency surgery where I had my ruptured tube removed and was given a blood transfusion due to the amount of blood I’d lost. It was traumatic to say the least but with the support of our family and friends we got through it. I’d say it took us about a year for our mental health to fully recover, we’d had a relaxing holiday in Spain and we’d passed the year anniversary of those very dark days. We were ready to try again, knowing that the pure, naïve joy was now to be a distant memory.
Then we’d done it again, January 31st2017 – we were pregnant. This time though, as we stared at those two blue lines, we were filled with joy but it was also coupled with crippling fear. Was this going to be another ectopic? Would I lose my other tube? Would I die this time? It sounds dramatic but when you’ve suffered such trauma then it’s so easy to fear the worst. We were booked in for an early scan at 6 weeks because of our previous ectopic. I remember that morning so vividly, I was in the bath and absolutely terrified – like couldn’t pull myself together terrified. My legs nearly gave way beneath me as we were invited into the room for our scan. Those couple of minutes, that felt like hours as the sonographer did what they needed to, whilst I had to remind myself to breathe and then she turned to us…this was it. Our baby was in my womb. My left tube hadn’t failed us – we had a baby, with a heartbeat, in the right place. As the weeks slowly passed by, we had a couple more early scans which both went really well and then we finally arrived at our 12 week scan. This date had seemed so far away and a dream that I never thought would become a reality.
I remember our 12 week scan day so clearly, it was a Monday morning and due to rush hour we’d set off early so we weren’t late. We arrived in good time and were called in for our scan, I had prepared myself for the worst, self-preservation I guess and because I still couldn’t allow myself to believe this may actually be happening. Then there our baby was, he was fast asleep but with his heart pumping away. After a few prods and pokes, he had a shuffle and a wriggle and the sonographer was able to do everything she needed to. The relief overwhelmed me and both Dave and I sat sobbing as we watched our miracle in front of us. We practically skipped out of the hospital clutching the scan photos of our baby that we’d spent so long imagining we’d be able to do one day.
Once we’d shared our news with the world, we then settled into ‘pregnant’ life. I still struggled to believe it was actually happening, that we were going to be parents but as each Wednesday ticked by and we counted off each week of our pregnancy I allowed myself to believe it that little bit more. We had heard our baby’s heartbeat at 16 weeks, we were booked in for our 20 week scan a few weeks later and I had begun to feel flutters – what a truly magical feeling.
My two most memorable moments of my pregnancy with Dexter, without a shadow of doubt, were our 20 week scan and the first time Dave felt Dexter kick. Our 20 week scan was just incredible – honestly it still blows my mind the detail they were able to go into to inform us about how amazing our beautiful boy was; how he had long legs (just like his dad), how the roof of his mouth was perfectly formed, how healthy his heart was and how he was a he – there was certainly no mistaking that! We came home and filled balloons with blue confetti ready to do our gender reveal later. I remember that day, the day I really let myself believe I was going to be a mummy and that we would have a son. It was a week later that Dave felt Dexter kick and (now I’m crying as I remember this moment) what a night it was. I could feel Dexter kicking, as he always did on an evening, I’d spent the past few nights trying to see if Dave could feel him with no luck, but that night was the night. Dave patiently sat with his hand in the right place and the look on his face was the moment I knew. He looked at me, I looked at him and that was it, that magical moment – he had felt his son kick for the very first time. I think that moment is quite possibly the happiest moment of my life.
Our perfect pregnancy continued up to Monday 12thJune 2017 when at 23+5 my waters broke. I was rushed into hospital, pumped full of steroids to strengthen Dexter and we waited. I didn’t go into labour, Dexter was staying put and we had a scan each day that showed Dexter still hanging on with his little heart beating away. Unfortunately, at 9.20pm on Wednesday 14thJune at 24 weeks our beautiful boy gave up his fight and Dave and I heard those words no parents ever want to hear, ‘I’m sorry, but there is no heartbeat’. Words that will haunt us forever. Then on Thursday 15thJune 2017 at 3.58pm, Dexter Bear Hopkins was born, weighing 1lb 10oz of absolute pure perfection. He was every bit a baby, he really did have long legs and very much looked like his dad, he was our son and what a privilege it was to become his parents.
I don’t feel I need to go into the sheer and utter trauma that followed Dexter’s silent birth; the fear of holding a baby who was so tiny, the clouded fuzz of desperately trying to take photos and make a lifetime of memories, the coming home with empty arms staring at the nursery you’d just finished decorating, the desperate phone call to Mothercare praying they’d let you return your pram, the answering of questions like ‘Was labour easier because he wasn’t full term?’ (of which the answer is no – I still had contractions, I still had to deliver him and I still bled for weeks after), the planning and attending of your son’s funeral and then the acceptance that you now have to live your life knowing that you are a mum but you’re not able to fulfil your ‘mum duties’ that you had spent so long dreaming about and preparing for.
As I write this Dave and I have just suffered an early miscarriage – yet another blow on our road to having a baby that we will be able to bring home. But we’re ok and this is why…
Yes, losing your baby and suffering other traumatic losses is horrendous, life-altering. It is well and truly shit. In the early days after losing Dexter, Dave and I would continually come back to the word ‘shit’, no other word felt right and that’s where the idea for my blog wadingthroughshit.com came from. But one thing I have come to learn since losing Dexter and the nine months that have followed is that although it is shit, it has also been filled with so much joy, so much love and so much kindness. I am so conscious that Dave and I are seen as ‘that sad couple that haven’t brought a baby home yet’ and although this is true, we are also so much more than that. We are the Ruth and Dave that are still so in love with each other it’s sickening (true story), we are the Ruth and Dave that want to create a legacy for Dexter so we do random acts of kindness regularly on behalf of him, we are the Ruth and Dave that love the finer things in life (him technology, me – any kind of Emma Bridgewater, Paperchase, Oliver Bonas – pretty sort of thing), we are the Ruth and Dave who try to be good friends, try to be kind, try to think of others and finally we are the Ruth and Dave that choose life; we are still happy, we still enjoy life and we still continue to make memories with the people that we love. Yes, our life is different now but Dexter figures in our life every single day, he is walking right alongside us and he will feature in every memory we make until the end of our days.
One thing I know is that there is always hope, and where there is hope, there is always love.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Elle for letting me share our story with you all. If I hadn’t lost Dexter than I wouldn’t have found Elle. Her zest for life, finding joy and still being able to find happiness is inspirational and I hope that this ‘Mum’s Voice Blog Series’ helps to break the taboo surrounding baby loss and make it feel less scary.