After losing Orla, there was initially an overwhelming innate need to be pregnant again, to grow a baby that we would bring home and pour our overflowing love into. However, it also felt terrifying – the thought of starting again, knowing what we know now. That not all babies make it. Then came the fear that stopped us from actually trying as well as the shock and numbness that meant that days and weeks passed without us really understanding how. As medically advised, we duly waited a few months and I did what I could to get myself physically and mentally ready. Whatever that actually means, since I think that no one can ever by fully prepared for pregnancy after loss.
When the positive test was actually in front of us, I think we were in complete shock and disbelief. I didn’t anticipate how many confusing and conflicting emotions would come with pregnancy after loss: the renewed waves of grief, the guilt, the isolation, the extreme anxiety. The sudden reality that another baby was beginning its own journey in the place that Orla had grown only months before bought both comfort and sadness. I wondered if this was more significant when you lose your first child – this sense of a sacred space that has only been known by you and your firstborn. I felt an increased sense of guilt that I hadn’t been able to keep Orla alive and that I was now hoping that I would be able to do so with her younger sibling. And then an overwhelming fear that my body would fail and we would lose yet another baby. Continue Reading
I am aware that I haven’t ever written about my first loss, yet I have found my mind contemplating this a lot over the last few weeks. Long days of driving alone have allowed my mind to meander through a number of events and as it is Baby Loss Awareness Week, it felt right to write something now. I’m also aware that I haven’t read many accounts of ectopic pregnancies before, which is interesting seeing as this is the outcome for 1/100 pregnancies. Not all end in the way that mind did, as some are caught earlier and can be managed less invasively. But for me, I was suddenly made aware of the many dangers, some life threatening, that women can face on their journey to motherhood.
It was a Monday morning when I started bleeding. We had been trying for a baby for four months and I had just finished my period the week before; no baby this month. I called the GP in a bit of a panic as I was feeling unwell and shocked by the heavy unexpected flow. She was blunt and to the point – ‘the last time someone described these symptoms to me, they were pregnant’. I responded by asking if this meant that I would be miscarrying and she curtly replied that this was ‘a possible theory’ and that I should come in and see her that evening. Continue Reading
“The real essence of your distinctive footprints may least be felt in your presence and much more in your absence”
Ernest Agyemang Yeboah
Andy and I like to travel, although I’m more of a novice. Andy has visited over 80 countries and taken on many weird and wonderful adventures. A year after we met, changes in work circumstances meant that we both left our jobs and travelled for 7 months through Africa and South America together. Andy pushed me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to do things that I never thought I could – and although at the time I often cursed him for it, I was always grateful afterwards.
We have found a shared love of seeing animals in their own habitats; mountain gorillas in Uganda, The Big Five in the Serengeti, sharks in South Africa. We have stargazed in the Atacama desert and walked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. We have visited witch doctors in remote African villages. And when we found out that we were pregnant, we started to dream of taking our child to these places. To give them the opportunity to see the beauty of the world through an unfiltered lens. We discussed our desire for them to see animals in the wild rather than at the zoo and for them to learn to understand and appreciate diversity and other cultures.
Please be gentle with the heart of a bereaved mother
Your happy birth or pregnancy news or beautiful family photos may be a painful reminder of everything she has lost. Her response may be sadness or overwhelming pain. It may be intense anxiety or possibly even panic; a fear of how she will be able to cope as your belly swells, or your baby grows. A need to run and hide.
It can trigger a renewed sense of grief and be a stark reminder of everything she has lost. She may feel guilt and shame that she was not able to bring her baby home. She may again question herself, her abilities and whether she did something wrong. Did she miss a sign or eat the wrong food? She may wonder if she has done something to deserve her fate when others are able to avoid such suffering. If she is a bad person. Or worse – a bad mother.
It may be hard for her to say how she feels, through fear of being judged as bitter or selfish. This only adds to the guilt and shame she may feel. She may congratulate you with enthusiasm or glassed over eyes, attend baby showers and birthdays, like your photos; but know that her fragile heart is potentially shattered that bit more each time. She may instead avoid, make excuses not to attend but find it hard to put into words why. Please don’t take this personally or criticise, but instead recognise and name for her that you understand that this might be difficult. Spare her of this additional burden. Continue Reading
Everything about this trip is for Orla and because of Orla. If it wasn’t for her then we wouldn’t be here, and although it is tragic circumstances that have led us to this trip, it feels like a gift in so many ways. We made a pledge early on that we couldn’t just go back to normal – that our old life no longer held the same meaning that it used to. We wanted to do something to give back to a charity that helped us and we wanted to speak out and share our story, as hearing those bravely shared by others was undoubtedly the thing that enabled us to survive those early days.
Although a keen cyclist, Andy has needed to commit himself to 12 weeks of intense training to undertake this huge challenge – almost 2000 miles from Vancouver to the Mexican border in San Diego. This is alongside working fulltime and all of the other chaos that comes with losing your child; planning funerals, returning the buggy, simultaneously registering the birth and death of your baby and helping to keep your wife from falling apart. As I struggle to ride a bike at the best of times, but also recovering from nine months of pregnancy and giving birth, I have committed to helping plan the trip, to support Andy physically and mentally, to share our story and to promote awareness, in the hope that we can raise as much money as possible for the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death charity (SANDS). Continue Reading