The 10th of March 2015 will forever be etched in my mind, this was the date we found out I was pregnant. We were both so excited, scared and nervous of course but ultimately happier than ever. Looking back now I say blissfully ignorant. At six weeks we saw a tiny little heartbeat after a bleeding scare and from that moment, I was in love. That natural instinct to love and protect was there from the very beginning.
Our 12-week-scan went by without any problems, and we announced our news. At our 20-week-scan we were told everything looked good, and we had a very healthy baby boy. We began thinking of names, trying to agree was hard but we weren’t concerned as we had plenty of time, though Eli was a firm favourite.
At 23 weeks 2 days pregnant I had some very mild period pain, I assumed it was round ligament pain and took some paracetamol and carried on with my day. I woke up in the night with some pain but this quickly subsided and I went back to sleep. When the pain was still happening the next day I phoned the on call midwife who said I needed to get checked out, although she didn’t think it was anything to worry about. At the hospital, my partner and I joked in the car park that they were going to see me and tell me to go home and get on with being pregnant.
They listened to his heartbeat, which was really strong and I was then examined three times; first by a trainee, then a registrar and finally a consultant. Between the last two examinations they moved me into a private room. I knew then things were not good. The pains I’d been having were contractions, and I was 8cm dilated. They couldn’t put a cervical stitch in as I was contracting too often. I was admitted and put on bed rest, and if we made it to 24 weeks gestation without delivering, then we’d be moved to a hospital in the next County who could look after very premature babies.
My contractions continued, and would become three minutes apart and then drop back down to thirty minutes apart, because we needed him to stay put as long as possible there wasn’t anything available to speed it all up. I was just given hourly morphine to help with the pain. By Tuesday lunchtime, after holding on for 24-hours, I was given steroids to help mature Eli’s lungs.
Around 6am on Wednesday the contractions picked up and were between 2-5 minutes apart. They moved me up to delivery at 8am, but I had to wait for the consultant before they made a decision on whether I should be pushing or not. They gave me magnesium via cannula to protect Eli’s brain. This took ten minutes to put in and feels like your whole body is on fire from the inside out. Once that was in I started pushing. After 20 minutes of pushing my waters went and 10 Minutes later Eli was born at 11.33am on 31st July 2015 at 23 weeks 5 days.
He was taken and wrapped in plastic and put on the neonatal incubator where there were several doctors and nurses waiting. They attempted to give him oxygen, but were struggling to get him intubated, and his heart rate kept dropping. After five long agonising minutes during which I allowed myself to believe he was going to make it, the consultant told us they could go no further. My heart broke as we held our darling boy as he peacefully passed away.
Living with grief…
When Eli died a friend told me that grief wasn’t linear, that it would come in waves, ebbing and flowing. At the time I didn’t really understand what she meant, I was just so consumed by my grief that I could never imagine not feeling like my world had ended.
My friend was right of course, as those first days and weeks turned into months, I began to function like a semi normal human being again, my grief did subside. I went back to work, and to everyone else my life had picked up where it had left off; except it didn’t. I was different, forever changed by this huge loss.
The thing about grief is, just when you think you have a handle on it, it’ll knock you down again. At times it was like I was drowning. You get better at picking yourself up and dusting yourself down. It’s like going ten rounds with Tyson, emotionally and physically you are spent but you have to carry on.
What was harder for me than anything else, was those who ignored Eli. By not acknowledging my child they hinder my ability to go through the grieving process. It’s sad that along this journey I’ve lost some friends, but I’ve also gained lots of new ones, and for that I am grateful. The baby loss community is so welcoming and it’s so nice to be able to speak to and be around people who know how you feel without you having to say a word.
Grief really is like a wave, that wave will wash over me and then flow away again. I will always have triggers, things that will always bring that pain right back to it’s worst. I’ll have times where I feel so consumed by it I can’t see or think straight, where I feel just like I did in those very first days after his death. The difference now is I accept the pain, that I’ll have times where I feel like I can’t go on and the pain is too much to bear; that it’s ok to for me to feel like that and to take whatever I need to in those moments as I will come out of it again and experience joy, and happiness.
Time has taught me that grief never leaves you, but you adjust to it. You don’t move on from it, but you do move forward. You find your new normal and even though at times you thought it impossible, you do survive it
Storms after a rainbow…
We were incredibly fortunate to welcome our first rainbow baby two days after Eli’s 2nd birthday in July 2017. Throughout pregnancy I never imagined bringing a baby home, I couldn’t allow myself to believe it would happen. At 6 weeks PP I was diagnosed with postnatal anxiety and hyper vigilance. It was hard to admit to struggling, as lots of people wrongly assumed now I had a living baby I should be all fixed and happy. Except baby loss doesn’t work like that. Nothing replaces what you’ve lost, nor would you want it to. It took a long time to reconcile my feelings to loving and mothering two babies when only one was in my arms.
We welcomed our second rainbow, Ada, in Aug 2019, and for the last 6 months I’ve been battling some fairly ravaging postnatal depression. Only a handful of people know about this, because I felt like I should be happy. Here I am, one of the lucky ones, with a healthy baby in my arms, and yet I didn’t feel it. I think there is a bit of a stigma around having a rainbow baby and then suffering with PND or PNA when actually it’s okay not to be okay. You don’t have to cherish every moment. It doesn’t mean you don’t know how incredibly fortunate you are, or that you love any of your children any less. If you are reading this and are going through something similar, please know you’re not alone and that it’s ok to find it tough. How you feel is valid and that support is out there. I’ve had some great support from my Perinatal Mental Health Team, and I’m starting EMDR therapy too, so things are, thankfully, improving.
You don’t move on, but you do learn to move forward with your llife. When Eli first died I’d have happily gone with him, but now I feel like I can go on living my life for him. His little sisters know who is and he is always included in what we do.
I’ve read a few things over the years that have really stuck with me, so I thought I’d include them here:-
“We find a place for what we lose. Although we know that after such a loss the acute stage of mourning will subside, we also know that we shall remain inconsolable and will never find a substitute. No matter what may fill the gap, even if it be filled completely, it nevertheless remains something else.” Sigmund Freud.
“It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.” Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy.
“I carry your heart”– by E E Cummings.
If you’re reading this after losing your baby I am so very sorry. I hope this can somehow make you feel less alone, the baby loss community on Instagram really is amazing, and is always there to hear all about you and your baby. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, but it does make it easier to live alongside them.