I never know how to start my story. You see, I’m not your typical Mummy. I didn’t grow up playing with baby dolls dreaming of the day when I would have my own. In fact, for a long time, I didn’t think I even wanted children. I thought the maternal gene had skipped me, and to be honest I was OK with it. I had a good career and the idea of changing dirty nappies and being vomited on every two seconds just didn’t appeal to me.
So when my husband and I eventually said that we would give it a go I was already 33 years old. Like most people, I thought getting pregnant would be easy. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry did it, how hard could it be? Fast forward 8 months and a laparoscopy later and I found out. Severe, extensive endometriosis. That was my diagnosis. That was the reason we hadn’t been able to get pregnant on our own. IVF was now our only viable option. In the space of less than a year, we had gone from not being sure we wanted kids to facing into one of the most invasive assisted reproduction therapies out there.
And it was shit. We thought it would be, and it was. Your whole life just revolves around trying to get pregnant. You’re stuffed with hormones and prodded with more instruments in more places than I would care to remember. After two failed cycles I had resigned myself to not having any children. But of course, that was when we got pregnant. Lucky number three. I started crying when I found out. They weren’t tears of joy. They were tears of frustration and fear. What now?
The first twelve weeks I was convinced the pregnancy wouldn’t hold. Our luck had been so bad to this point that I didn’t think that we would catch a break. But alas, we did. We made it to the magic 12 week “safe zone”, the point at which nothing could go wrong? We told our friends and family. The fear started to turn to excitement and with each scan, we grew more and more attached to the little human growing inside me.
It wasn’t long before we were completely smitten. My growing bump, our little boy, was transforming our lives. Every weekend was spent preparing for his arrival. Everything started to revolve around him. It no longer felt like two of us, we were now a three. Without us even noticing we had turned into that annoyingly happy couple expecting their first child.
Everything was perfect.
Easter marked four weeks before my scheduled c-section. I ticked off my 35-week check-up with flying colours and started my long awaited maternity leave.
Easter Sunday I woke up like any other day. My husband had gone for a run so I snoozed until he got back. It wasn’t long before I realised that I hadn’t felt our little man move yet. He always woke up around 30 minutes after me, but it was an hour now and nothing. I did all the usual things that got him to move but nothing was working so I rang the hospital.
So much of that day is a blur. I remember driving to the hospital thinking he might have to come out that day. But not for one second did I think that he had already died. The midwives were so kind. When the first machine didn’t pick up his heartbeat, they very calmly moved me to another. Still no heartbeat. When they called in the consultant I knew things were bad. My husband and I just waited in silence. There was an inevitability about what was coming next yet neither of us wanted to say it out loud. “I’m sorry, it’s not good news” were the words the consultant used when he finally arrived. We all stared at an eerily still ultrasound of our son. No heartbeat, no movement. He was gone. Our Benjamin was gone.
And that was it. Just like that our lives were changed forever. It is so hard to describe such a life-altering event. No words ever seem enough. There is an unrelenting, gut-wrenching pain and despair that envelopes you. Seconds feel like hours. Days become endless. Everything becomes pointless. Without your child, nothing else matters.
Those early days were so hard. From the elation of holding Benjamin for the first time to the devastation of saying goodbye to him forever. Death announcements, postmortems, funeral arrangements…all the things you never associate with a newborn baby. Everything the complete opposite of what you expect.
And through all of this, all I wanted to do was hold him. My arms ached to hold him, my heart broken because I couldn’t.
A part of me died with our little Benjamin that day. I can’t pretend that it didn’t.
There was a fundamental shift in my being, the etching in time of the before and after. I look back now and I don’t know how I survived. I didn’t think I would. The intensity of the pain was stronger than I ever knew existed in this world. I thought hope was gone forever. I thought happiness was only for other people.
But I was wrong. Slowly light started to shine through and smiles appeared out of nowhere. I realised that I didn’t want the pain of Benjamin’s death to overshadow the joy of his life. I realised that I didn’t want his death to define the rest of mine. Instead, I wanted his life to inspire me, and to inspire others. Benjamin has taught me to love with an intensity that I never knew existed. He has taught me to be kinder and more patient. He has taught me about the amazing beauty that there is in this world, a beauty that I had been missing because I was too busy being busy. He has inspired me to help others.
I have started to write again, something that I have always loved but haven’t done in years. I am writing to create awareness for stillbirth, something that is much more common than people think. I am writing to stop the awful silence that is associated with it so that others know that they are not alone. I have started volunteering with an amazing charity, Bears of Hope, to try and improve information and support for bereaved parents. They have helped me to see that people, who have been broken just like me, can still do amazing things.
So, day-by-day, I am trying to feed my soul. I am trying to live life again. I am choosing hope over darkness. I have the love of Benjamin in my heart, guiding me through each day and that, for now, is all I can hope for.
Catherine ~ AKA Benjamin’s Mummy