Life, no cushioning

10 weeks+ 2 days pregnant

After a significant loss I think in some ways we have an expectation on the rest of the world to recognise our pain and make allowances for it. The world doesn’t stop spinning though. Other people still have their own issues and agendas, there are still bills to be paid, deadlines to be met, money to be made. Things still go wrong- cars still break down, MOTs get failed, arguments and accidents still happen; real life- the good, the bad and the ugly, continues. Likewise, other people’s joy is not limited because of our anguish, and that can feel very surreal. Babies have been born since Nieve died, friends have become pregnant. It somehow feels wrong. The weight of my pain feels enough to make the world stop but yet it goes on. Life goes on but it isn’t a softer version of life to make allowances for our heartbreak.  

Three weeks after we lost Nieve we had to move house. It was tough, especially as it was brought about in horrible circumstances when our landlord had told us to leave because I was pregnant. It all feels like such a cruel sequence of events when I look back at it. I was seven months pregnant and Matt was working away, meaning I had to go house hunting on my own. We probably could’ve fought our corner and got the landlord to back down, but I felt like an unwanted houseguest in my own home and just wanted out. It all had to be done in so much of a rush that Matt never even saw our new house until the day we actually moved in. 

On the day we lost Nieve, we had half of our home packed up in boxes, the other half was in a disorganised chaos. I thank god for my friends at that time- they rallied round and helped us organise everything, even a round of sausage sandwiches for the morning of the move. 

The move itself felt very symbolic- it was very much the end of one chapter of our lives and the start of another. There was a moment when I looked at the huge pile of boxes and furniture stacked from floor to ceiling in our new home and I just sobbed. Bits of furniture had broken or scratched in transit and there was just so much to do. It was like our whole life had been tipped upside down and dumped in this new place for us to begin to rebuild. It was a mirror of my life, broken apart and thrown upside down with no choice but to begin dredging through the rubble.We rebuilt slowly, bit by bit and it echoed the life that we were trying to rebuild, piece by piece. 

In hindsight we weren’t happy in our old flat. The neighbours consistently kept us awake with karaoke parties; Lady Gaga on repeat until 4 and 5am- not the ideal environment for a new family. Plus the landlord’s gardener/house manager was around so much it felt suffocating. But leaving that flat felt like we were leaving Nieve behind. That was the home that we’d imagined for her, the home she was conceived in, the home I’d been pregnant in and marvelled at my swelling abdomen week by week. It was the home where I had experienced the beauty of pregnancy, the kicks and movements, the hopes, the dreams and the plans, before they were all taken away. On the day we left I walked from room to room, breathing in the old memories of my time with Nieve, imagining how life could’ve been so different. Imagining a parallel universe in which she was born and we all had lived happily ever after.

Our new house still isn’t in the state we want but it is getting there. The room that was supposed to be Nieve’s nursery has been closed off. I found that room very difficult to be in- the space that was supposed to be hers, the space where she would sleep, nurse and play. Still, I sometimes think that it was a blessing that we hadn’t had chance to make up her nursery- to not have to undo all that joy and anticipation. I do look forward to the day that I feel confident enough to enter that room again and to begin creating a new nursery, filled with the new hope for this new baby. 

The weeks following Nieve’s death were mentally exhausting. When you are trying to process such a huge trauma, it leaves very little head space for anything else. Grief is a full time job, yet we had new bills to organise, new direct debits to set up and our whole lives to unpack from cardboard boxes. I’d just given birth and so realistically I should’ve been resting. But with no baby to symbolise the major trauma that my body had been through, I ignored my aches and pains and pushed myself beyond my limits.

The day after we moved in, I began bleeding heavily. Terrified, and unable to reach my midwife, I asked Matt to drive me to the hospital. It was a mistake as we were both in such an overwhelmed state. As we joined a roundabout, we had a head-on collision with another car that had pulled out. I was already in such a heightened state that I barely even flinched when we crashed. Matt left the car to speak to the other driver and I remember screaming that I needed to get to hospital. I was so worried that I was haemorrhaging and convinced I was going to die. The unthinkable had happened in my world and anything felt possible. A passerby encouraged me to leave the car and come into the local pub. I remember sobbing “I need to go to hospital. I lost my baby.” I was desperately trying to explain that it wasn’t the crash that had caused me harm but that I needed an ambulance. I was in such a state by this point that I was hyperventilating and shaking uncontrollably. 

After what felt like a lifetime, the ambulance arrived and took me to hospital. I was taken to an Antenatal Assessment Unit and being there felt like a whole new level of torment. Pregnant women passed me in the corridor and I could hear the sounds of babies heartbeats from the ultrasound equipment in the rooms nearby. We were sent to a scan room which looked sickeningly like the one we’d been in the day we found out we’d lost Nieve. The whole experience felt awful. I was seen by a doctor who spoke little English who examined me internally and gave me medication to slow the bleeding with no real explanations or reassurances given. I was so badly shaken and so mentally exhausted. 

As you navigate through life after loss it’s hard to imagine that anyone has it as bad as you do. Other people appear wrapped up in trivialities- tiny scratches in comparison to your gaping wounds. I felt angry at the rest of the world with their frivolous problems and also angry at those people who possessed a seemingly carefree happiness which felt totally unaccessible to me now. I can see why many people fall out after a loved one is lost, because your emotional resources are so low and we do expect the rest of the world to make concessions for our broken hearts. But in real life there are no concessions. The world doesn’t stop spinning and you realise how insignificant you actually are. People are governed by their own agendas- the landlord who wants a child-free property, the overworked midwife who has to abandon the grieving parents because she simply cannot fit them into her hectic schedule, the father who treads all over his daughter’s feelings in order to protect his own ego, the hospital staff who place a bereaved mother and father in a room which could trigger their grief because it is the only available space. 

Life after loss is tough because loss is all-consuming, but then, so is life.

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