12 weeks pregnant
6 months after loss
I’m over a quarter of the way in this pregnancy- that thought gives me goose bumps. I’m not really sure quite how I got here. When I set off I looked way up to the top of my pregnancy mountain and it felt like an impossible feat. But I kept my word to take it one step at a time and I feel like I’ve just reached the first checkpoint. I’m going to allow myself a little hurray.
The first trimester has been characterised by nausea and extreme tiredness but these symptoms have been reassuring- as long as I was feeling lousy I was feeling pregnant! It almost provided me with a welcome distraction- I’ve been so busy sleeping, being sick or feeling sick, that it’s occupied all my head space and left little room for ‘what ifs’ about the future. I have a feeling that even though the sickness is lousy, I may be wishing for it back at some point so that I can feel connected to the pregnancy and to the baby again.
I’ve had four scans already this pregnancy. They’ve helped to reassure me that everything is going ok, although I always get a fearful sense of anticipation before each one. Before each scan it’s like my mind chooses to replay the words that were said at my final scan with Nieve “I’m so sorry, but the baby has passed away.” I replay those words.every.single.time. and I hold my breath until the Midwives say differently. This stage is hard because there is nothing much to see or feel; without the scans all I’d have are a few symptoms, a two month old pregnancy test and blind faith that there is a baby growing in there. How I wish we had a window, although I imagine that could bring with it a whole host of other issues to obsess over!
This pregnancy I have a little bit of a fixation on the baby’s growth. Nieve was deemed to be small- a fact I only discovered at the Post Mortem results as she had measured on target in all my other scans and midwife checks. It’s the only indication they had that something may’ve been wrong, although plenty of small babies are delivered healthily every day, so it’s not necessarily the reason she died. Still, with an inconclusive post mortem, it’s the only information I’ve got, the only clue for me to hang on to that baby is doing ok this time. In this pregnancy I became alarmed when my sonographer measured baby only three days on, after a week. The midwives remained relaxed about it, blamed different machines/ baby being in different positions… I try my hardest not to carry myself away with unfounded fears, but it’s tough not to imagine the worst case scenario when you have lived through it.
“You must be really worried” is a phrase I hear a lot from people who know my story and I hate it. It almost creates a self-fulfilling prophecy because I start to think ‘They’re right! this is worrying!‘ or I think ‘Maybe I’m being too optimistic about this pregnancy and need to consider what might go wrong!” I end up feeling worried because they tell me I ‘should’ be! I try to remind myself that I don’t regret not worrying the whole of my pregnancy with Nieve, as it wouldn’t have made any difference and only would’ve stolen some of the joy, so there’s no sense in worrying now (so much easier said than done). Worry is only useful if it forces you to take action, otherwise it’s just wasted energy.
Pregnancy after stillbirth feels like a very niche group to be in. I’m not quite sure I fit in with the ‘normal’ pregnant women but I’m not sure if I totally fit in with the other loss mums now either. The day we lost Nieve I felt that I wanted to connect with others who were on my journey. I wanted to add a sense of normality in my shaken world by chatting to other normal women going through the same experience. I joined the SANDS website and through it met a group of amazing women who had been through their own losses and who I still chat to daily. Suddenly I wasn’t alone any more, suddenly I had other women standing by my side who understood and therefore somehow validated all the thoughts and feelings that I had. These women are invaluable to me and we’ve formed friendships which are unique because we’ve shared our darkest fears, exposed our most bitter sorrows, we’ve cried together, ‘dried’ one another’s tears with virtual hugs, we’ve raged against the world together, we’ve shared our most raw and primal feelings and therefore created a bond that is actually very special and hard to come by even in close relationships, and yet I’ve never actually met any of them. We have an understanding of one another that is hard to get from those who haven’t experienced this type of loss. When I’ve felt overwhelmed by sadness, anger, jealousy, resentment, when I’ve sobbed so hard its been difficult to breathe, it’s these women who I turn to, these women who understand, these women who’ve carried me through.
Of the women I have formed friendships with, half are now pregnant and the other half are not yet, though they would all like to be. I worry that this has changed the dynamic of our relationship. In the beginning we were united by our sorrow over the losses we had each endured and although that fact still remains, the playing field feels a little different now that I am pregnant. Is my grief as relevant now that I am carrying another child? Do I still have a right to complain about my lot, now that I have ‘achieved’ the thing that others still yearn for? Do I serve as a sorrowful reminder of what they do not yet have? Is it fair of me to speak of pregnancy problems when I know they are problems they would probably love to have?
I can’t help but feel guilty because I’m one of the extremely lucky ones who is pregnant again. To lose a child and then be faced with any type of upheaval in the endeavour to conceive again feels beyond unfair and adds a whole new layer of torment to a situation which is already hard to bear. But who am I to speak for these women? Can they continue to relate to me and expect me to understand their plight when they perceive that I already have the thing that they want? I really hope so, but I’m not naive enough to believe it’s totally true. Two of my loss mum friends became pregnant before I did. I’d love to tell you that I felt instant happiness for them but I didn’t. The first emotion I felt was an initial bitter sting of jealousy, even though I truely believe that every family that has experienced loss like ours more than deserves a happy ending. I want that for all of my loss mum friends and I hope I can walk with them on that journey when their times come.
Pregnancy after loss feels all-consuming. I swing from being immersed in the grief over the baby I lost to striving to stay positive and focused for the baby I’m carrying. It leaves very little energy for anything else, though as I’ve spoken about before, life doesn’t cut you any slack just because the going is tough. My dad continues to cause me problems. It’s not a topic I ever imagined blogging about but this is my journey after loss, and the rest of life plays a part in it. After all the upset he caused, I felt I was left with no choice but to distance myself from him. I think on some level he wants to rectify the situation but that could only come at the cost of him being willing to repent his actions, and I don’t believe he will ever be ready or willing to do that. Instead he persists in looking for ways in which he can disguise his accountability. He’s contacted several members of my family to share his ‘concern’ over my ‘misguided anger’ after the death of my daughter, and how it’s all been directed at him. Persisting that I have psychological issues allows him to disown his part in causing upset, and the fact that he is using my daughter to mask issues which are essentially HIS deeply offends me. He is attempting to ‘recruit’ people to tell him what his ego needs to hear, but in doing so he has pushed me further and further away and I wonder if there can be any going back now? Can I continue a relationship with someone who takes no account of my happiness and would rather attempt to isolate me from my own family than ever accept any accountability over his own actions? Life after loss doesn’t cut you any slack, but you’d expect that those who care about you most would, or at the very least preserve from causing problems. I feel very let down and I’m not sure where I go from here.
All I can do now is to try to focus on me, Matt and our family. We still have a long walk ahead of us on this journey and we need to continue to strive to stay positive and resilient to the bumps in the road. We can do this.
“When you feel like you can’t go any further, just know that the strength which brought you this far will take you the rest of the way.”