My first blog in what feels like forever. I read back that last post before I began writing this, and I’ll be honest, it feels like a different life altogether. The fear as I typed those last paragraphs was visceral as my fingers tapped the keys. I wasn’t sure what the next weeks had in store for me, even though we had ensured we had the best laid plans for our baby’s arrival. Well, it turns out that even the best laid plans can become entirely redundant in planning the arrival of a baby. I should have known that really.
I still find it really difficult to recount my birth experience with our daughter without crying. It’s a mix of pure happiness, but also a painful reminder of the fear I felt in those hours and minutes leading up to her arrival. We had been just days away from her planned delivery when I began bleeding heavily at home one evening last July. I went to scream to my husband upstairs and no noise came out. I was clinging to the back of a chair when he arrived into the kitchen (to absolute scenes), I began breathlessly pleading with him to call the hospital as I lowered myself to the floor. My tummy tightened; motionless. His call turned into a 999 call and we waited an agonising 36 minutes, whilst I lay on the kitchen floor unable to say much. I could hear a voice on the other end of the phone asking question after question about blood loss, consciousness and visible umbilical cords. All the while the same thing repeated over in my head “Please don’t let my baby be dead. Please.” I remember tears streaming down my face as I lay on my side in the ambulance staring at the wall. Hearing the sirens, I can recall those blue lights and the ashen look on my husbands face all so vividly. Still my tummy was motionless as the blood continued to stream. As the paramedics checked on me, it was all I could do to silently raise a thumbs up to let them know I was still conscious.
As the trolley I was on crashed through the doors into the delivery suite, we were greeted by a sea of faces in masks, seemingly expecting our arrival. Wheeled into a room, I waited as I was rigged up to monitors and a mask was placed over my face. The wait for a heartbeat on that monitor felt like a lifetime, but then, it was there. “Thank fuck” I howled at what felt like the very moment my consultant appeared in the doorway. The next thing I knew came an examination and the decision to deliver the baby, now. Surgical stockings on, scrubs thrown across the room to my husband (still looking as shocked as he did the moment he stepped into the kitchen two hours before), we were about to meet our baby. Just as well that I hadn’t packed that hospital bag really, I had nothing with me apart from my phone in my hand and a dressing gown that would almost certainly have to be binned. Well, you couldn’t make it up.
Our daughter was born by an incredibly calm (considering the circumstances) caesarean section and arrived screaming into the world at around 10.30pm that evening. Oh, how long I had longed to hear my baby crying like that. “A little girl.” came the first words from our consultant, who of course had known all along. I think I’ll find it impossible to ever truly articulate what I felt in that moment, but I think it’s the closest I’ll ever get to pure magic. The tiny, perfect human that was placed onto my chest and whose huge eyes were already gazing up at me as she sucked on my cheek; well, she was everything we had ever wished for.
So, why the bleeding? I had been told at my 20 week scan than my placenta had split; there was a main piece and then a placental lobe, lying low down. It was something I was told was not uncommon, and could be managed, but naturally it brought with it an extra layer of worry and saw me googling every possible outcome. The piece had started to come away in the later stages of pregnancy and had eventually ruptured away from the wall of the uterus on the night I began bleeding. My consultant assured me the following morning that it had looked a lot worse than it was. Although there had been signs of distress in our daughters cord gases taken at delivery, so getting her out when they did was most certainly the best course of action regardless of my obstetric history. She was here and she was safe, and that was all that mattered.
All of that fear accumulated over the last nine months of pregnancy felt as though it came tumbling out over those next days and weeks. Like a rubber band wound and wound to breaking point, and it was all unravelling at speed. Those first days were a haze of pure love, overwhelm and relief that she was finally here safely. The weeks that followed saw us finally settle into the realisation that unlike her big brother, our beautiful Olivia would be here to stay. Parenting a tiny baby when you’ve experienced a neonatal death wasn’t without its challenges. The very first night after her birth I stayed up all night, holding her to my chest and not daring to close my eyes in case something went wrong. I found myself checking her breathing at any given opportunity, I still do. Once home, leaving her out of sight, even safely for a moment was out of the question. My anxiety had merely found a new place to nestle, and it was there to oversee everything it would seem. The sheer wonder of her being here coupled with the fear that anything might happen to her appeared to run seamlessly alongside one another. It was then I decided a break from everything; from here, from social media, from anything that required focus away from her would be the healthiest thing for me at that moment in time. I needed time to “just be”, and to be with her, uninterrupted.
Time away was definitely what I needed. To see things from a different perspective. As time ticked on and the anxiety of the last few years appeared to ebb away, a concerned friend asked me just after lockdown 2.0 “But how are you feeling?” Free. That was the only word I could use to describe it. Finally free, like Genie in Aladdin. Not just because Olivia was here and she was beyond wonderful, but because the wait was finally over. The waiting rooms were gone. There were no more appointments, no more tests, no more poking and prodding (I’m looking at you dildo wand), no more unknowns. The excruciating, all-consuming, time thieving, joy stealing, head fuckery of secondary infertility, treatment and loss combined were finally, over. My head felt lighter and my heart felt fuller than ever before. The first feeling that came over me in the morning wasn’t dread anymore, or an anxious knot in my stomach, it was happiness. For the first time in years, I felt happier than I had ever been. A happiness I had feared might never return to our home. Of course, it goes without saying that the baby cuddles, giggles and “firsts” were all a huge part of that happiness; but equally the freedom from the feelings that came before.
So now I find myself planning my “What next?”. My route forward into this new life as mother-of -two. Trying to keep going with all of the work I have been doing in Teddy’s name since 2016, whilst enjoying my life as Olivia’s mummy. I’ve watched in awe over the past eighteen months as friends who started loss blogs alongside Instagram pages at a similar time to mine, have begun to step away, step back and some disappear altogether from a life online. I wondered when, if ever, might be my time? This blog will always be a place I use to share my thoughts and feelings of loss and beyond, a safe space and one where I can connect with other parents. It is writing that has saved my mind in recent years, a true therapy that has kept me going. But now I want to use this place, more than ever, to elevate the voices of others. To share stories of loss, fertility and more, and to help people feel more connected than ever before. I’d like to continue my writing here in this space, and continue to strengthen my involvement in The Little Roo Fund, Tommy’s and Teddy’s Wish charities. That will be where my (little) spare time is now spent; whilst using social media simply to amplify the message of both. I think a time comes when you have to step back and assess the things that bring you the most joy and peace in your life, and the things that begin to bring you more worry than happiness. For me that’s been realising that this blog and my books are my focus; and that freeing myself from the other things will finally allow me the time to connect with people properly again, like I was able to in the beginning.
I know that playing out the highs and lows of motherhood to a tiny baby through the squares of social media are a recurring theme online these days; but with our daughters existence being the most precious thing in our world right now we have made the very personal parenting decision to maintain her privacy and her safety whilst she is little. Social media has changed a lot since I began writing in 2016. When I started writing and sharing Teddy’s story and how I was using our home as a way to help me heal, there were scarce few blogs or Instagram accounts doing the same. Now there are new blogs, podcasts and accounts on loss popping up weekly (and so there should be!); most discussing and writing about topics more eloquently than I would ever be able to. I feel as though my voice, our story, had a place, had it’s purpose, and now things have evolved to a place I never imagined they might end up. Sharing the narrative of a bereaved motherhood, and of one that (still) doesn’t get nearly enough airtime online is hugely important, and something I hope people will continue to do.
A fellow bereaved Mum said to me recently that she had learned a lot in Buddhist philosophy and the concept of continuation. Meaning that us just living every day is a continuation of our child who isn’t physically here. So that’s what I plan to do over the coming months as we are all (hopefully) released back into a life that bears some kind of resemblance to the “normal” we enjoyed before; live my life, offline, to its fullest. Whilst ending one chapter, we’ll be continuing with a new one in everything that we do as a family; carrying Teddy with us as we go. From now on, I plan to be Mummy first, and everything else will come after that. Because I’ll never forget that when this story began, the first thing on that list was all I ever wanted to do…