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Parenting with empty arms

 


 
Today marks my first Mother’s Day since Orla’s birth.  I am a mother to a beautiful daughter who would now be almost 11 months old.  I am also a mother to a baby growing inside of me.  Yet, sometimes it is hard to show the world my status as a parent.  I do not have a pram to push or a baby to carry in my arms.  I do not go to baby groups or have playdates with other mothers.  Yet I feel different to the person I was just last year, as having Orla has changed me irrevocably from the woman I was once.  I feel a love and responsibility that I didn’t think was possible.  My heart feels infinitely larger and fuller and it aches with pride.  Yet I don’t have new photos to show, or new stories to tell.  I can’t speak of milestones that have been met or new stages reached in development.  But I still have the innate need to parent.  It is a natural urge that doesn’t go away even when your child isn’t able to come home with you.
As a result, I have had to find my own way to parent; to parent a child who lives in my heart but not in my arms.  A way to parent that isn’t included in any manual or book and in a society that isn’t always quite sure how to respond.  I have learnt from other mothers who have bravely shared their stories; I have seen how they have honoured their precious children and kept their memories alive.  I parent based on gut instinct, doing what feels right and whatever brings comfort, no matter how different or strange it may look to the outside world.  The ‘non-loss’ world.  I parent in a way that involves developing a thick skin, in a way that it courageous and brave.  I battle against barriers and opinions of what is acceptable and not, of what is right or wrong.  I may have to justify my choices, to explain and help others to understand.  And in some ways, I see many similarities to the challenges that all mothers face. Continue Reading

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When reassurance is less than reassuring

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28 week yoga baby doing plough pose


I am sure that there are many reasons as to why the last few weeks have been increasingly difficult emotionally.  Why I have needed more support and more reassurance and why I have turned up at MAU twice in one week.  As time moves forwards and this baby grows, the reality that we may be lucky enough to bring them home becomes greater.  As their kicks, rolls and jabs get stronger, as I have started to see various limbs poke outwards from my protruding belly, I have suddenly become acutely aware that this really is a little person.  And it’s a little person that I have allowed myself to get attached to and to admit that I love.
This isn’t easy in pregnancy after loss.  I have spent most of the time in a state of detachment, trying not to get too attached or to let my hopes run away with me – after all, there are no guarantees right?  Of course, I know that this is futile, and that my hopes were sky high as soon as we even started thinking about having another baby.  But there is a part of your mind and soul that tries as best it can to protect you. Continue Reading

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The long second trimester

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14+4 weeks


Looking back, the second trimester seemed to go on forever.  Despite being incredibly busy in one way or another, the weeks felt long and the anxiety and worry seemed to gradually build.  Whereas in the first trimester, I was able to adopt a more ‘whatever happens’ attitude (a sense that there was very little I could do apart from maintain good health), in the second, the sense of responsibility became heightened.  I started to feel movements very early on, as early as 12 weeks, but this of course was intermittent and followed no pattern that would allow for reassurance.  The familiarity of those flutters and pokes was simultaneously comforting and terrifying.  Since the nausea and tiredness had subsided, this was the first sign that I really was pregnant – yet there was a sense that I couldn’t even trust my own judgements about this.  How could I believe that what I was feeling was actually a baby?  And when I couldn’t feel anything, what did this mean?  Falling pregnant so soon after losing Orla meant that these feelings were so recognisable; having Orla safely cocooned inside of me was within touching distance and feeling the movements of her younger sibling brought me closer to her, yet also painfully further away.  A physical reminder of everything we had lost, creating its own renewed wave of grief. Continue Reading

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The first trimester

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Looking back at my diary entries from this time seems like a lifetime ago; this pregnancy has moved incredibly slowly for me: each week, day, sometimes hour, feeling like a lifetime.  However, what I do remember of the first trimester was the safety of the secret bubble.  Only Andy, myself and our midwife knew that we were expecting baby number two, so the only pressure we felt was from ourselves and our own internal dialogues of anxiety.  We were away in a foreign country, undertaking an epic adventure in Orla’s memory with Andy cycling the length of the Pacific Coast of America and me driving as his support vehicle.  Each day was busy, offering much needed distraction and we had no one else to worry about.
However, I feel that I am also viewing this period with rose tinted spectacles, since as time has progressed, I have found pregnancy after loss to get harder and harder with each milestone reached and the next set in front of me.  The first trimester was tough; for example, I wouldn’t recommend driving 4000 miles when suffering with pregnancy nausea and tiredness (there were lots of stop offs at scenic viewpoints for a bit of dry heaving and then napping over the steering wheel).  I also found the lack of access to the food I wanted when I wanted, as well as the rest of my home comforts, incredibly difficult. Continue Reading

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Learning to ask for help

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As I reach the third trimester, my anxieties have started to increase.  The closer we get to the time we lost Orla, the more the fear of history repeating itself kicks in.  Add in a couple of other challenges and bumps in the road, and my anxiety this week has hit an all-time peak.
 
I knew from the start that I would struggle to ask for help in this pregnancy.  Despite knowing that I would need to at some point and that this would be completely understandable, I still struggled to see how I would do it.  How would I know what warranted asking for help and what I just needed to learn to tolerate and manage for myself?  Would it be a slippery slope and that as soon as I asked once, the floodgates would open and I would be calling my midwife or the hospital every day?  Would I be demanding to be admitted until the baby was born, banging on the labour ward door, hospital bag in hand, begging to be allowed in?
 
I think I have, and still do, worry about these things.  But above all else, I think that asking for help means admitting to myself and others that I am feeling vulnerable.  That I am scared – utterly terrified – that my life is going to be ripped apart again.  That I have failed again.  To ask for help means that I am not coping, and that the burden of responsibility that has weighed heavily for the last few months has become too much. Continue Reading