I can honestly say that I’ve been bowled over by the amount of support I’ve had so quickly since my first post yesterday – it really does help to know that people are moved/inspired/touched or any of the other assenting words that people have used to express their feelings in response to what I’ve said so far. Thank you so much to all those people who’ve taken the time to read my post and even more to those people who took the time to contact me about it. I don’t really know what I was expecting, but so far the response I’ve had has transcended anything I imagined.
I imagine that there’ll come a time when I won’t write on here every day – probably when I‘m back at work and don’t have the time – but at the moment I feel like there’s so much to talk about – the baby girl we lost, baby Freddie, how I coped the last time, how I’m going to cope this time and so on.
There are so many stark memories; it’s difficult to choose one to start with. I often remember, not long after I’d been admitted to the delivery suite for the first time, hearing a lady in the room next door to me having her baby. I lay in the semi-darkness and sobbed as I listened to her give birth. When her baby cried for the first time, I felt pain in my chest of the like I cannot describe. It is a strange thing to have heard your baby’s heartbeat coming from inside you, and yet to know that he or she (at the time we didn’t know it was a girl– my detailed scan was booked in for the week after we lost her) will not continue to live; that your pregnancy will not continue, that your baby will not be born alive and that it will not grow up into the person that you imagine them to be. When I thought of these things whilst I was in the hospital, and sometimes afterwards, I would have what I think must have been a sort of panic attack, where I would cry uncontrollably and could not breathe easily, until eventually my mind would go blank, and the panic would be over.
The first time, even after the midwife had listened in to the baby’s heartbeat, there was a sort of, tragic inevitability to the situation. No one tried to give us any false hope – we knew that even if the baby was born alive, the likelihood of survival was very, very slim. As it was, labour stopped once my waters had gone, and I was induced two days after first being admitted.
I talked in my first post about the terminology associated with my experience – ‘miscarriage’; a prefix meaning ‘ill’ or ‘wrong’ plopped in front of a word which, in this case, is to do with the carrying of a baby. It does seem to lay the blame at the feet of the mother, doesn’t it? Perhaps that’s another reason I struggle with the word. As well as the difficulty I have with the meaning, particularly when examined closely, it does not, as I said before, seem to do justice to what it describes; I was in hospital from just before 1 am on Friday morning, until Sunday lunchtime. I had to deliver my baby with the help of a consultant and a midwife, and then I went to theatre to have my placenta removed. Sounds graphic doesn’t it? Well, I guess that’s because it was – it was a real birth of a real baby.
Sometimes I feel as if I may be depicting a situation in which no one around me behaved with any compassion – this is not true at all – in the hospital we were treated with the utmost respect and understanding: no one referred to the baby as a ‘foetus’, it was always ‘the baby’ or ‘little one’, and we found this very comforting and considerate. My family and many friends and colleagues were also very supportive. But there were those who weren’t. There were people who behaved as if they assumed I had perhaps suffered a heavy bleed, as if they might almost want to say, ‘what’s all the fuss about?’ Perhaps some people just don’t know how to respond to such an incident. All I know is that as time went on I got more and more angry, and it only made me feel more angry that a lot of people didn’t seem to have any understanding, or any desire to understand the way I felt.
This time things seem very different. I think that’s a lot to do with looking much more pregnant than I did at 19 weeks, but also because legally things are different. This time we were allowed a funeral. No one can deny that for a funeral, the person has to be real. A nurse who clearly was not aware of the difference in the course of action to be taken for a baby born at almost 25 weeks, referred to a ‘dignified disposal’ when my mum asked her about seeing the chaplain. Fortunately, we had little to do with this particular nurse, and I must stress again that the care and compassion shown by the staff overall was unsurpassed.
Someone commented on my first post that it’s okay to grieve (thank you Sophie for commenting). I assume it must seem that I’m not grieving because I’m going to the gym and making cakes for my granny. Perhaps I’m not really grieving just yet; I’m certainly not grieving in the traditional sense of the word – I’m not manifesting my sorrow outwardly by crying all day or lying in bed (not yet anyway…), but there’s time for that. At the moment most of the time I just feel sort of, fretful, until I think more deeply about what’s happened and it takes me by the stomach.
One of the positive things I can take from having lost a baby once already (it seems so odd to suggest that there is any positive to this situation at all) is that it takes more than 6 or 7 weeks to ‘get over it’ or to grieve. Last time I had 7 weeks off work, if you include the May half-term. Losing the baby seemed to have taken away such a large part of me, that I thought that going back to work would help. Teaching is so much a part of who I am that I thought that if I started doing it again, that it would to bring back some of the person I’d lost. But it didn’t. It also meant that after about a month of being off work, the pressure of going back became too much, and that’s when I found myself lying on the sofa all day crying. Of course I know that it’s ok to lie on the sofa all day crying, but at that point I was due to go back to work within a very short period of time, so I did my best to ‘get over it’ and prepare myself for teaching again. The thing is, teaching is not something you can do well on half-steam (not to demean any other job of course – teaching’s all I’ve ever done at a full-time level so it’s all I can comment on) – it’s so much about who you are and if you’re not okay in yourself, then it’s very difficult. As it was, the actual teaching was not what caused problems (many people might find this a shock but I really do love being in a class full of kids…), but in that sort of environment many staff are so busy with their own jobs that there is little space to accommodate a grieving woman. So, this time I decided straight away not to go back to work until at least September, by which time I will have been off work for about 5 months.
Soooo, after all that babble and digression, I guess my point is that at the moment I’m doing what seems natural to me: being ‘busy’, as well as trying to get my body to resemble something of what it used to – it’s very difficult having a body that looks pregnant, or like you’ve just given birth, both of which I have just experienced, but without the baby at the end of it all to explain why you look the way you do. I expect no one really notices me, or thinks ‘goodness, that girl looks as if she’s just had a baby, but where is it?’, but of course that’s what I imagine.
Having said all of the above, there have, of course been times in the last few weeks where I have wept and sobbed, or found it very difficult not to weep or sob in certain circumstances – the baby section in the supermarket makes for a pretty tough journey, for example. One time where I became extremely sad, was during our recent trip to Norfolk (my parents kindly took my husband and I away for a few days to take our minds off the impending funeral) and my mum mentioned Christmas. Well, in my mind, I had already imagined Freddie at about 6 months, as he would be then, in his high-chair eating Christmas dinner in our house, with me and Sam, my husband. In the image, we’re all sitting happily around our wobbly table in the kitchen, with Arthur (our dog) sleeping in his bed, as he does when we eat. I can still recall the exact picture as I had imagined it so many times. The thought of the upcoming Christmas without our baby boy, is heartbreaking.
Another time which was very emotional, was when Sam came home from picking up our ‘memory box’ from the hospital. I don’t know if all hospitals do this, but this is what we got: a beautiful ivory box containing a framed photograph of Freddie, in which he is dressed in a tiny, knitted green outfit provided by the hospital, the tags from his wrist and ankle, a small teddy (they provide two – one stays with the baby, the parents keep the other), the blanket he was wrapped in, a card with his hand and foot prints in, as well as a small notebook and pen for me or Sam to write in, should we wish to. To this I also added the 7 positive pregnancy tests that I kept and some photographs we took of our own. We also later received three professional black and white photographs. Perhaps at some stage I’ll add a photograph of Freddie on here. The only thing we have to remember our baby girl by, is a card with her tiny footprints in, and a rose that I planted in a pot on our patio.
I guess another reason that I’ve decided to take so much more time off work, is that having baby Freddie was going to be the thing that ‘fixed’ me after losing our baby girl. We will always remember her of course, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be the same person (perhaps that’s a good thing), but I always knew that the only way I was ever going to really feel ‘okay’ again, was to have another baby. I think I’m hoping that by the time I go back to work I will at least be pregnant again, and begin once more, to feel hopeful. Perhaps that’s all too far away and I should just concentrate on a day at a time; which is why my daily lists are useful – so far I’ve ticked off five out of the eight things I wrote down, but I’m thinking of skipping the ironing.