4 weeks+6 days pregnant
4 months after loss
So this weekend I got a BFP (that’s a ‘big fat positive’ pregnancy test, for those people whose lives aren’t consumed by TTC -sorry, that’s ‘trying to conceive’). For most people the BFP marks the beginning of a journey, the start of a new chapter. For me, it marks the middle of one.
Rewind 10 months in my life and there was a different BFP. As any woman who has taken a pregnancy test knows, the appearance of those two lines evokes a range of emotions. A future flashes up before your eyes and the map of your life feels altered. Are we naive to believe that positive pregnancy test = baby at the end? Would we protect ourselves from heartache if we believed that positive test=?
Ten months ago I had the luxury of being naive. Once I reached the ‘magic safety zone’ of 12 weeks, I thought we were home and dry, my head full of hopes and dreams for my baby and the family we would become. I never once doubted that we would take her home at the end. I became diligent to the cause- I read parenting books, went to pregnancy classes, I shopped and I planned and I researched. I prepared for everything, apart from what came.
I sailed through to my 20 week scan, where we found out I was carrying a little girl and we decided to name her Nieve. I was so proud. I felt so blessed. I treasured her movements, every kick and turn. I wrote to her in a diary and we created an email account to write messages for her when she was older. Her existence became the reason for mine.
On paper I had a healthy pregnancy. Aside from some sickness which wiped me off my feet in the first trimester, I had no health issues. My scans flagged up nothing unusual. My blood tests always came back normal. We both appeared to be doing fine. Until one day, the 25th September 2016 when I was 31 weeks pregnant. It’s a day that shattered my world. I had…’a feeling’. Nieve hadn’t moved for a little while but this wasn’t especially unusual. Yet I knew, I knew something wasn’t right.
I dragged my partner Matthew out of bed to go to the hospital where a midwife wrestled with two different dopplers to detect a heartbeat. Nothing. Appearing unphased, the midwife sent us in for a scan. I clutched Matt’s hand, unable to bring myself to look at the screen- the same screen on which I’d stared in awe at my active, bouncy, beautiful little baby girl.
“I’m so sorry,” the sonographer whispered “but the baby has passed away” And just like that, our baby, our dreams, our future and our hearts, were ripped apart. It was physical, raw and unimagianable pain.
The consultant came to speak with us about the next steps. It was surreal. One minute I was at home with my future intact and the next it was all gone. The day before I had sat at home discussing changing tables and breastfeeding and now I was discussing how I would birth my sleeping baby and listening to the midwife tell me I’d be able to bathe and dress my lifeless baby after she was born. It was surreal. It was so wrong.
The next day I was induced and labour began. I ‘taunted’ my labour pains- I willed them to ‘give me all they had’. The physical pain could not compete with the pain in my heart.
On the 27th September 2016 my baby was born, but never to enter the world. The silence was deafening. They asked if We’d like to see her. I was terrified. More than anything, I felt that seeing her would make her real. Make our loss real. She looked just like Matthew. His lips. His ears. His eye shape. She was perfect.
The days and weeks that followed were a blur. Like wading through treacle. I spent hours upon hours trying to solve what felt like a giant Rubik’s cube puzzle- why did my baby die? Was there something wrong with me? What did I do wrong? What did I miss? Why had I failed her?
We had opted for a full post mortem but when the results came, an agonising three months later, we were left with many unanswered questions. Nieve had died suddenly but with no cause that could be found. This happens in 20-50% of cases. They had ruled out what they could and reassured me that it was nothing that I did or didn’t do. I still don’t know that I’ll ever fully accept that- Whether I’ll ever remove the responsibility of Nieve’s death from my own shoulders. My only job as her mother was to keep her alive and I failed.
I wrestled with many difficult thoughts and feelings over the next months. Grief is a walk I’ve never taken before and I’m not ashamed to say it’s been the most difficult journey of my life so far. I think when I set off, I was barefoot- every step was agony. I didn’t want to walk as it was too painful. I think along the way I’ve acquired a pair of shoes- they are very fragile shoes though, and sometimes they still fall apart and need putting back together again. But I am walking, and even though the steps I take are tiny, I sometimes look back at the trail and see just how far I’ve come.
Once we had the post mortem results, I did feel a certain sense of closure and we tried to see 2017 as a new start. We knew we had to rebuild. To try again.
This weekend I found out I was pregnant again. Seeing that BFP brought a flurry of emotions- happiness… fear… guilt. And so this journey continues. It’s a journey of grief but also of hope. I’m scared about tomorrow, but I want to learn to live for today. I don’t have the luxury of being naive now but I want to celebrate this pregnancy for every day I’m blessed with it. It’s going to be a tough journey but I will find a way. Maybe I’ll even find a pair of sturdy walking boots along the way.