This week, 9th-15th October 2016, is Baby Loss Awareness Week. As part of the sharing of stories that is so important at these times, I am privileged to be able to share one mother’s journey. This family has chosen to remain anonymous, but I know that their story will touch you all.
I don’t believe we ever know all there is to know about being a mummy & we learn to be a different mummy with every little life that touches our heart and change as a mummy as these lives grow. Over 11 years I have been quite a few different types of mummy. My first experience of being a mum was when I had my first pregnancy & first miscarriage. I became an INVISIBLE MUMMY. I saw my babies little heart beating, watched my belly begin to swell, and dared to dream about our growing family. I bought my first baby things and felt like the luckiest woman alive. Then my life was ripped apart when we lost our baby. Being a mum who isn’t recognised as a mum is heartbreaking. And even more heartbreaking was my baby not being recognised as a baby. The word miscarriage tore through my sole & the word foetus made me feel sick. I cried more than I’d ever cried & I feared it would happen again, only to be given statistics & told I was normal & unless I had 3 miscarriages they couldn’t even investigate why my baby died (because to me it was & will always be my baby). Then the well meaning comments of well you can get pregnant again, there will be another baby led me to my next type of motherhood, because little did everyone know I couldn’t, well not easily anyway. We consoled ourselves with a holiday to Florida & enjoyed all the magic Disney had to offer, but I wished we had a baby to share it with.
Soon after I became the DESPERATE TO BE A MUMMY MUMMY. Every month I was filled with hope then disappointment & the months passed & became years. The vitamins cost more as I researched the best ones available, things gradually became more scientific and my heart ached. Pregnancy testing became part of my monthly cycle as did tears. I watched as 1 by 1 my friends began having babies & I was happy for them but sad for me. Their lives moved on and I was stuck in a strange world where i couldn’t be a part of their conversations or family days out. Occasionally if I was around my friends & pregnancy came up I’d forget myself & say “I remember the horrible nausea & not being able to drink my morning cup of tea when I was pregnant” only for me to sense the discomfort as everyone’s minds switched to the miscarriage. The thing no one talks about. But for me those moments were precious, those memories were all I had of the time I was recognised as a mummy, even if it was only a brief few weeks. After 2 years I morphed again.
I became the the CAN I BE A MUMMY MUMMY? I longed to be a mum, part of the world my friends belonged to and after referring myself to a fertility consultant (I was told I was too young to be investigated on the NHS & I’d been pregnant so it wasn’t necessary) I embarked on learning about internal scans, ovulation tests and CLOMID!!! After embracing dropping my knickers & having my womb & ovaries scanned & a series of blood tests, it was decided Clomid might work as my ovaries needed a bit of help to produce some eggs. After taking my tablets as instructed & having sex when the time was right I went for a scan to check how my ovaries were responding. I dropped my knickers again & the scan started & my consultants face fell, and he counted and counted, muttered about me getting dressed & asked me to take a seat. It turns out the clomid worked too well & my ovaries looked like popcorn!!! I had OHSS. I was told I could be pregnant with 6 babies or more, I had 6 mature follicles and over 20 more on each ovary. I jokingly said, oh well an instant family. Apparently this was no laughing matter. The conversation turned to selective termination, me possibly becoming seriously ill, being banned from sex & our best hope was that I didn’t get pregnant!! So that morning I was hoping to get pregnant & now I had to pray I wasn’t. So again I cried & hoped & thankfully I wasn’t pregnant & apart from one trip to A&E with vomitting & shaking I never became seriously ill. As I lay on our sofa crying to my boyfriend I decided if I couldn’t have a baby I’d have a dog and after a few conversations I became A DOGGY MUMMY to a time consuming, unruly beagle puppy.
Being a doggy mummy was just what I needed, I had the sleepless nights, the cuddles, the toilet training & the puppy shopping. I indulged myself in puppy beds, puppy toys, pink blankets & Flo became my baby!! She has been my constant companion every since & has been through everything with us. I felt I could at least edge closer to my friends lives or at least move forward with ours. We booked a skiing holiday to Colorado and decided to try to enjoy life while we continued to go through more tests. So next up was the HSG a test to check my tubes. So the day before our flight to Colorado, I went along for my test… Cue more problems, they couldn’t even get the dye through my cervix (no bloody wonder I couldn’t get pregnant) so I was booked for an urgent MRI (this was the beginning of my very weird cervix issues). I went home feeling like every test was taking me further away from the baby I so desperately wanted & I started to pack. Then Flo threw us a curve ball & swallowed a plastic toy bone, DOGGY MUMMY lost the plot & off we went to the vets where she had to stay overnight & have drugs to make her sick. The thought of a knackered cervix & a poorly doggy baby combined with leaving the country meant I ended up crumpled in a heap on the floor of the vets sobbing, before being escorted home by my loving boyfriend. Our holiday to Colorado was amazing, on the first morning we woke up to sun & snow and I turned to my boyfriend and asked, if I can never have babies will you still love me?? And he held out his hand opened a box and asked me to marry him, it was just what I needed to hear & of course I said yes…. And whatever happened next we were most definitely in it together. And on our return I morphed again.
I became the IVF MUMMY, after the MRI & investigative surgery it was decided my tubes were sub optimal & our only real option was IVF. There was no more mention of my dodgy cervix, but it did rear its head time & again in the future. Our first IVF went well, I mastered the injections, coped well with the hormonal madness, grew enough but not too many eggs & embryos & after a difficult embryo transfer (dodgy cervix related) I had my first two week wait. I felt like a mummy again, with precious cargo on board and hope of a new life growing, I avoided goats cheese & caffeine & started to allow excitement to creep in. Test date came, so did a positive test, but so did the bleeding & again we were back to being invisible parents, dealing with loss of a baby no one knew about.
We decided to take a break & plan our wedding, it was amazing, we got married in Florida at Disney, we had such happy memories from our holiday after the first miscarriage & it filled our hearts with fun & energy. It is where dreams really do come true. When we returned home we threw ourselves right back in to the IVF & after a couple of failed frozen cycles, our fresh cycle started well. The injections were easy by now & I knew the process. We got a good number of eggs again. We waited for news about how our eggs were doing, wondering how many embryos we might get. I’ll never forget that day. My fiancé was at work, I had the day off & me & my mum were in the garden, the sun was shining & it was beautiful & the phone rang. I rushed to answer & it was my consultant which was odd, because it was meant to be the embryologist. Then came the news our embryos were great quality but had been accidentally dropped in the lab!! I took a deep breath & asked him to let the embryologist know I wasn’t angry & didn’t blame them because accidents happen & after I hung up the phone I cried like I’d never cried before, because I had to tell my fiancé that our embryos were lost. And another chance of becoming parents was gone.
So I became the LOST EMBRYO MUMMY, I wondered in how many ways I’d have to grieve, I really didn’t blame anyone but couldn’t believe it had happened to us. We consoled ourselves with the fact that we were young, could try again & it was best it happened to us rather than someone who couldn’t try again. We picked ourselves up & tried again. The cycle went well & the transfer wasn’t as bad. This must be our time. Test day came & it was positive!!! But again came the Bleeding, so I was booked in for an early scan. I got the best news I could have ever heard….. Twins, 2 strong heartbeats and the bleeding was just one of those things.
I became the TWIN MUMMY, it felt like the most special thing in the world, karma was treating us well, after all we had been through I felt like this was our time. I was the happiest I’d ever been. Everyone asked how we would cope, and worried about it being twins but to me it was amazing and we would cope just fine. I loved watching my tummy grow & feel my babies wriggling around together & wearing maternity clothes, everyday was a miracle. I felt blessed. But I also felt scared, somewhere In my mind couldn’t shake the worry that something might go wrong. Around 19 weeks I was thrown into a nightmare & I learnt to be a mummy I hoped I’d never have to be.
I was at work & had a sense something wasn’t right & after a trip to the toilet my fears were confirmed. I phoned the hospital & headed straight to labour & delivery. When I was examined I was 2cm dilated and in early labour. The next 2-3 weeks were the biggest fight of our life, emergency surgery, medication, bed rest, bladder problems & multiple trips between the antenatal ward & the labour ward. I’ve never had so much pain but every bit of it was a fight for our babies that I embraced. Finally our beautiful son George was born at 21 1/2 weeks. In the hour that followed his birth I experienced the proudest, saddest & most joyful moments of my life. He was the most perfect thing I’d ever seen, I was the mummy I’d always wanted to be, I held, kissed & loved my son, I watched his first breath & then his last. My heart broke. I examined every feature & gave him a lifetime of love. My husband was right by our side, our strength & I knew in that moment that I couldn’t love him more. But I couldn’t grieve yet because we still had to fight for his sister. Sadly 2 days later Rosie was born asleep, chubby thighs & our beautiful, perfect princess. Again the mix of joy & heartbreak was hard to bear. I wanted to tell everyone about our beautiful twins, how perfect they were & all about their birth. Like any mum does, but I wasn’t like any mum. George was classed as a neonatal death, Rosie was classed as a miscarriage, legally they weren’t twins & only George got a birth certificate. We spent time with them both & to us they will always be twins & our precious babies.
Now I was in new territory again, I was a BEREAVED MUMMY. I left hospital with 2 memory boxes but no babies, I was on maternity leave alone. We planned their funeral & made it just perfect, a celebration of their lives. It was everything we wanted it to be & the only gift We could give to our babies. I fought to keep every memory alive, to make sure my babies weren’t forgotten. I held on tight because those memories were all I had, all that gave me the strength to breathe. I was a mummy & I had held my children & no one was going to deny me that. I coped the best way I knew how. I lost friends, I gained friends. I was blessed with the most amazing consultant & nurse anyone could ask for, they helped us to embrace our past & face our future. Whatever happened next I still felt very lucky to have Rosie & George in our lives. I learnt to answer very difficult questions & how to avoid difficult conversations. Not many people deal well with conversations about baby loss. And we went back to Florida, our place of dreams & hopes & escape. I learnt to be a mummy with a full heart but empty arms. I learnt to live again not just to survive. I’d seen how strong our babies were & how hard they fought & I had to do the same & be a mummy they could be proud of.
We found out that my cervix was the reason why we lost our babies. I had an incompetent cervix which would remain a problem in any future pregnancies, but there were things that could be done to reduce the risks of losing another baby. So we embarked on a the scariest journey so far, we decided to try again, with Rosie & George watching over us. They gave us the strength we needed to get us through whatever was next. We had 2 more frozen cycles which failed, then a fresh cycle which gave us the positive result we needed. The pregnancy was hard, it was filled with fear, surgery, bed rest, medication & hospital admissions but I managed to enjoy feeling our baby kick & watching my belly grow. We had great support & low expectations. We hoped to get to viability, 24 weeks and any day past this was a bonus. We planned on having a poorly, ventilated baby on NICU and only hoped we could bring him home one day. We amazed everyone & made it to 35 weeks & had a healthy but tiny baby boy. I was in shock when he was born & couldn’t get my head around the fact he was ours after all these years I got to take a baby home. We hadn’t bought a thing just in case so the mad rush to buy baby things began as I tried to soak up every overwhelming moment.
So I became a RAINBOW MUMMY. It took me a while to get comfortable with the term rainbow baby. It’s still not a term I use. It’s a lovely concept in many ways but I didn’t want this baby to be defined by what had happened before or for Rosie & George to be seen as the storm or the sadness that came before the rainbow. I saw them as a positive in our lives & tried to remember what they gave us. I wanted to allow Joshua to be himself, a little brother, a son. The task of looking after this tiny bundle was more amazing & more challenging than i could ever have imagined. It also brought more challenging questions. Is he your first? Answering this at a baby group or on the postnatal ward isn’t simple. I tried to judge who to be honest with & who to lie to. I remember lying to one mum who then spotted my necklace with Rosie & George’s names on & my lie was uncovered, so I was forced to tell her the truth, she quickly scuttled off never to be seen again. From that moment on I told the truth, well a semi truth, you see I always included Rosie & George so answered 3 with a brief explanation, but the truth is actually 6, my tiny angel babies I generally just kept in my heart. Joshua knows all about his brother & sister & enjoys our visits to the cemetery. I have tried to make it positive for him & I try to answer his questions as honestly & gently as I can.
After yet more IVF & another miscarriage, I’m currently pregnant again and on bed rest. This might be my biggest challenge yet, but we are embracing it the best way we can & there might just be a trip to Disney when this baby arrives safely.
I know I’m still learning & always will be. There are so many other types of mummy out there and I admire everyone of you.
I guess the real point to this is that there are so many different types of mummy, all unique with their own joys, sadness & challenges, none harder or better than another. Never judge the mummy someone is because you don’t know the mummy they have been or the mummy they will be. Even the doggy mummy has knowledge to share & joys to embrace. So next time she compares her life as a doggy mummy to your life as a baby mummy, don’t dismiss her or be annoyed at the comparison because maybe it’s the only mummy she’s able to be right now xx
Since writing this our baby girl has arrived safely & my heart is fuller than ever & our family is complete xxx
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