In life, we all have a story to tell. That does not mean that mine is any more or less significant than your own, we all walk life to a different rhythm, if we all had the same thing to tell, who would listen?
Baby loss is no different. Grief is grief. It is universal. It is crushing. It is a daily struggle. It shapes and defines you as a person. I have changed. Baby loss has changed me.
When I was 18 I had an ovarian cyst which resulted in my left ovary and fallopian tube being removed. The consultant had said my chances of having children was slim, but not impossible.
In 2011, we had our first child, Raif. He was a wonderful surprise! I had proven the consultant wrong, my body worked.
As time passed, our family developed. I married my husband and we decided it was time to add to our family.
I was initially hesitant, only a few months after Raif had been born, I had suffered a missed miscarriage, I didn't even know I was pregnant. It wasn't a nice period, it was confusing and felt intrusive to have medical intervention.
I was confident that as soon as we started ‘trying' we'd be pregnant. Oh how very wrong I was!
Eight months later, we fell pregnant. We found out at about the four week mark but I had a bit of pain and spotting, so I went to the doctors. Due to my past medical history, I was whipped straight into EPAC to have a scan as there was the fear of ectopic pregnancy. All was well and the little blip on the screen was measuring exactly right for my dates.
Two weeks later there were more cramps and a bit more spotting. As much as I tried to reassure myself with Dr Google, I knew deep down what was happening. My GP confirmed it a few days later and I had to “just let nature take its course”. My body had failed me. But I wasn't giving up, we were going to have another baby.
Mother Nature didn’t feel the same way, though. Four months after the miscarriage, we found out we were pregnant again. Surely this was it. This was our time to become parents again. As each day went by, I dared to dream. We were at the stage of my previous miscarriage when the morning sickness hit, it was all day nausea. It was debilitating and it was awful, but at the same time reassuring. Surely, the more sickness, the higher the hormone levels, the happier the baby?
That magical time had come, I was 12 weeks pregnant and we were booked in for the scan. I went in with bated breath, convinced something was going to be wrong. My husband said I was being silly and he was right. We had a perfectly healthy, perfectly normal, well-proportioned twelve week old baby. I couldn’t wait to tell the world! Raif was over the moon and couldn’t wait to be a big brother!
I embraced my growing bump, I loved stroking it and talking to it. But at 15 weeks pregnant, I woke up in the middle of the night, my waters had broken. How was this even possible? This wasn't meant to happen yet. My husband was away with work, so I made a panicked, middle of the night phone call for family to come to the rescue.
My dad and sister rushed me to A&E. After the initial comments such as; “pregnant women do sometimes struggle with their bladders” and “are you sure you didn’t just have an accident?”, it was confirmed that my waters had broken and there was not a single drop of amniotic fluid left.
But my baby was alive, and I was ready to fight. We started to see a consultant weekly, as well as visit the most wonderful midwife called Sally. Each week she reassured me and held my hand. Each week she took a sample of blood; due to there being no amniotic fluid, my chances of infection were high, an infection would have been fatal for the baby. So my bloods were monitored to see whether my now constant prescription of antibiotics, needed to be amended at all. Each week she also wheeled the Doppler over. The few seconds that it took her each week to find that heartbeat were agonising, I can’t tell you how many tears were shed in those weeks.
A week by week plan was put into place; get to 24 weeks and the baby would be viable, get to 28 weeks and I could have steroids administered, get to 32 weeks and the baby would be delivered. Having no amniotic fluid comes with so many risks and consequences, we didn’t know what possible implication this would have on our babies growth or development.
The days ticked by and I started to struggle with niggling pains. There was no ‘cushion’ between the baby and my pelvis. I missed out on a family holiday as I was too high a risk to travel, but the safety of this baby came first. There were a couple hospital stays, varying from a couple of days to a week. The ‘best’ one was when I had my own room with a TV. My husband was, and continues to be, my rock.
We had a scan at 20 weeks but due to the lack of fluid, the picture was blurred. We were unable to be told the sex of our baby as the sonographer just couldn’t get a clear enough picture, but our babies heart was beating, our hope was there.
But then at 21 weeks our world fell apart. I had gone to bed in the afternoon with stomach pains, it wasn’t unusual as I was having all sorts of niggles. I knew what labour was like and this definitely wasn’t it. Once again I was wrong. I kept getting up in the night, I didn’t realise I was in labour. At around 1am, I screamed for my husband, I was delivering our baby. Our baby that wasn’t due for another 19 weeks. This shouldn’t be happening.
An ambulance was called and the paramedics were incredible. They hadn’t been informed at what stage of pregnancy I was at so I think the scene was a bit of a shock to them, but at just after 3am, Teddy was officially born at home, sleeping.
I was taken to hospital via ambulance and had to have drugs to force my body to expel the placenta. I went into shock. I had cannulas put in as there was the fear that I would need blood and fluids, as well as medication. The paramedics, midwives and doctors were incredible.
I honestly can’t tell you how long we spent in hospital, time didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. Teddy was brought back to us, he was beautiful.
A doctor discussed our options about a post-mortem and we were also put in contact with the hospital pastoral support team to discuss funeral options. A make shift birth certificate was produced by the midwives, they were truly wonderful, and we are so very lucky to have them as part of the NHS. As Teddy was only 21 weeks old, he will never be a recognised person. He will never be recorded. It is only through us talking about him, that he exists.
It was a few months after his birth that we attended Teddy's funeral. His funeral was small, his coffin was smaller. My heart shattered that day.
We are incredibly fortunate to now have our daughter, she was born eighteen months after we had lost Teddy. Cadie is our shining light. She has shown me that hope does exist.
I now have the comments of; “One of each!”, no I have two boys and a girl. “What’s it like being a mother of two?”, actually I am a mother of three. “Are you just sticking to two?”, well actually I don’t trust my body to be able to grow another human after already miscarrying before. But I smile politely at the comments, I don’t say things to make people feel uncomfortable. I never quite know what to say, or even how to explain.
The real heartbreak is those that don’t even recognise that Teddy existed. That he was just ‘one of those things’ that happen. Yes, miscarriage and baby loss occur every day, but they are never to be forgotten, or to be brushed under the carpet.
‘Everything happens for a reason’. Please, I beg anyone, never say this to someone who is grieving.
So, to anyone who has lost a baby, your baby’s life mattered, your baby’s life MATTERS.
For whatever length of time, your hearts beat together. Your baby is loved, your baby is cherished, and your baby deserves to be talked about.
I only have one piece of advice for anyone suffering, be kind to yourself. It’s all you can be, and in time, the rest will follow. Your ‘normal’ in life will change, you will be bruised, and you will be broken but you have hope and a life that deserves to be lived. So please, please live it as best you can.