Alex's Story | Baby Loss Portrait Project
As soon as you know you’re pregnant you instinctively love your baby, at least that’s how it was for us. Our first pregnancy was so exciting, we did all the things you’re told to; I took folic acid, I stopping drinking, I limited my caffeine intake, slept on my side. It never entered my mind that this baby wouldn’t appear as expected in July 2011. So when I started to spot around 8 weeks I was reassured by my GP that a bit was fine, nothing to worry about, rest for the day and relax.
Christmas came and went, excitedly talking to the tiny person in my tummy. However in early January, at 10 weeks, the bleeding happened again and I was sent to gynaecology for an ultrasound . . . a day etched forever in my mind, “I’m so sorry Mrs. McGaffin, there’s no heartbeat”. Our precious baby had died, at eight weeks, one day and my body had missed it.
The following week was a blur of tears and surgery and recovery. All powered by the belief that ‘it was just not meant to be’ and ‘we can try again’. Words that now cut so deep but at the time were all I had to hold on to. I couldn’t dwell on the enormity of what had happened, it would have swallowed me alive.
A few weeks after losing our baby I read an article about a little boy who had an out-of-body experience of meeting a baby his mother had lost before he was born, whom he knew nothing about, and who told him it had no name. A light bulb moment of needing to name our child, to recognise their existence. With no medical proof, just a gut feeling we named him Daniel.
Within a few months we found out we were pregnant again, cautiously optimistic that lightning wouldn’t strike twice...our tiny baby was a speck on the ultrasound screen when it should have been much bigger. A two-week wait for a second ultrasound turned into a full miscarriage at home. We decided to name our baby Abigail.
This time I felt the full force of what happened to us, the pain and anger were overwhelming. I couldn’t contemplate starting over, I couldn’t face having to go through it again because they wouldn’t run any tests until we suffered a 3rd miscarriage. I needed a life that didn’t revolve around trying to get pregnant and doing all those things that you’re supposed to do. I needed some normality, our friends and family at that time were incredible, their support is something we will forever be grateful for.
Six months later we started trying again, and not very long after that blue line appeared once again. Except I couldn’t get excited, as much as I so desperately wanted this baby, I dare not let myself feel hopeful.
At our first ultrasound, I was convinced we’d had another miscarriage, same symptoms as before. So when the sonographer said, “Would you like to see?”, I uttered the words “Why? Does it have a heartbeat?”. Her simple reply of “Yes” is and will always be the best word I have ever heard.
Our beautiful son arrived in January 2013, two years to the day that our first baby passed away. Our daughter then joined us on Christmas Eve 2015.
Miscarriage forever affected my enjoyment of being pregnant, neither of our subsequent successful pregnancies were enjoyable. I worried every minute of every day, constantly checking for bleeding, pain, movement. Miscarriage changed who I was, it changed my view of the world, of parents, of families.
I can’t tell you that the pain goes away, it changes. It’s less raw now, seven years later. But I still remember what would have been their birthdays, the days we lost them. My only residual anger is that babies lost before 12 weeks are not acknowledged, there’s no grave for us to visit, no memorial they can be added to. Not having that recognition for our children, who we wanted and miss so much, is heartbreaking.
I am a mother of four, you just can’t see them all.