Leyton’s Mumma Says…
Losing a baby is one of those taboo subjects that isn’t written about enough. Especially considering it effects 1 in 4.
But if we don’t talk about it and raise awareness, it often means we’re ill equipped to support and care for each other if it happens to us or people we know. We don’t know what to do, and we don’t know what support is out there…there are some really good people to talk to (I’ve detailed it at the bottom of this page.)
I’m not going to talk about grief because everyone grieves in different ways. But that’s what happens when you lose a baby, no matter at what point, you grieve. Or even if you think you’re not or haven’t or wouldn’t… in effect its not just the baby you grieve for, but the future you have lost and how having that baby would have changed your family. So a miscarriage, or a TFMR (‘Termination For Medical Reasons) where the baby won’t survive the pregnancy or have a dramatically reduced quality of life, or reasons like a downs syndrome diagnosis, or having a stillborn baby or whatever happens….it can be earth shatteringly devastating in very different yet very similar ways. The same doubt or guilt or anger or pain or nothingness. And I don’t judge regardless. Having had to say goodbye to our baby at 5 months was the hardest time I’ve ever been through but through it I’ve learnt of other people’s loss and strength, and learnt to be grateful for what I do have. But I’ve also learnt that we can’t say what we’d do in any given situation until we walk through it ourselves, and therefore can’t judge others decisions or reactions to it.
So the experience of getting pregnant after a loss was very different to my first pregnancy. I was more tentative, less naive, and had both eyes wide open. But I’ve found that, because I’ve come to accept and be at peace with what happened with my baby girl, I am quite comfortable talking about it (although don’t get me wrong, writing this and sharing my story with people I don’t know is nerve wracking! But its one of those taboo subjects that doesn’t get written about enough, so I wanted to share my experience). I’ve found the same with most (not all) other people that they, like me, feel that talking about that child actually helps…because it is acknowledging that baby as part of their life, gone but not forgotten. This means that other people are often more apprehensive than me on this topic.
So when I announced I was pregnant some were overjoyed, some were tentative, gauging my reaction. But I couldn’t help as I wasn’t sure what I felt…. wasn’t sure how to react. Definitely happy. But also overwhelmed, scared, excited, blessed, fearful with a measure of dejavu.
I had scans every 4 weeks from the 8 week mark which I was initially happy about as we could spot quickly if there were any problems, and thought it would be reassuring to see my little one as often as possible. However in retrospect I think I may have been better off without as many appointments…as I used to dread them, subconsciously preparing myself a little each time in case we got told the worst. Oh how I tried to think positive thoughts but it was too familiar going into the same room with the same consultant each month. We’ve been told that we will be Consultant Lead in this way in every subsequent pregnancy. And don’t get me wrong it was reassuring to see our baby and be told all was well at each stage, but it was still a bit of an ’emotional rollercoster’, an analogy I found myself relating to a lot. Now I’ve seen a happy ending with our little boy I think I’ll have a slightly better outlook next time… and there is some truth in replacing negative memories with positive ones I think – it makes it easier to revisit those places!
I did find my moods fluctuated massively during my second pregnancy between being so grateful and thankful to make it through another day,week and month and wanting to relish every moment of pregnancy….to then feeling so guilty for having these feelings of joy, and feeling upset and disbelief that things were going ok….not wanting to focus on being pregnant or take bump photos for fear of jinxing anything. I didn’t want to get my hopes up too high only to drop further if things didn’t work out. My poor hubby didn’t know where he stood!! But he just supported me and tried to understand whatever I was thinking or feeling at the time, not pushing me too much to feel any certain way. That’s another thing I learnt too… it’s ok to feel however you feel. If you are ridiculously excited about being pregnant again that’s fine. If you want to keep everything low key and quietly make it to your finish line that’s fine too.
Everyone deals with things differently and losing a baby is such a personal experience, so I don’t think anyone should be obliged to feel a certain way. Having said that I would recommend to anyone starting the journey of being pregnant again after a loss to, if at all possible, try take a couple of ‘bump’ and family photos and not block out all baby things because if things don’t work out those precious things, photos and memories from your pregnancy will become even more special. I often look back at photos and hold on for a moment that happiness of carrying that baby during the months she lived and moved within me. And if things do work out and you get your happy ending the photos will also be a special memento of your pregnancy and a reminder that things can work out for the best.
I did look forward to my baby shower as a way of celebrating our little one, and the closer we got to our due date the better I felt. I was super careful the whole time what I ate and did, which is what I did in my first pregnancy too. I did have a fleeting thought that ‘what’s the point’ as I didn’t even have a sip of wine or runny egg in my first pregnancy and things still didn’t work out, but I knew I couldn’t kid myself that I would take any risks the second time round. In my mind I know that because I abided by all the OTT rules you hear of in pregnancy, I know that there’s nothing more I could have done in my first pregnancy and that nothing I did caused our baby girl being so poorly. Little did I know, it was always going to end tragically, but if I’d have had a glass of wine each evening (for example) I would be torturing and blaming myself now. So during my 9 months with baby Leyton, I continued ‘behaving’ and kept reminding myself that actually it wasn’t much of a sacrifice in the grand scheme of things! Little did I know I would then breastfeed my son for 13 months meaning I was an almost-teetotaller for much longer than anticipated … 27 months if you total the 2 pregnancies and breastfeeding time!
*They say alcohol filters in to your milk at a similar way that it goes into your bloodstream, so on average its at its peak 30-60 minutes after drinking, and stays in your system for 2 hours per unit [small glass of wine]. This 2 hour period always coincided with when I had dinner and wanted my glass of Rose, so I just didn’t bother! Thank goodness for expressing! For more info visit https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/check-the-facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/fertility-and-pregnancy/alcohol-and-breastfeeding )*
In my second pregnancy although I didn’t take as many bump photos as I would’ve liked, I did take a few videos of him moving around and kicking me when I got into the final weeks, which is a lovely thing to look back at. At the time I was feeling superstitious of doing things too similar to my first pregnancy, so I didn’t take a full length photo each Sunday like previously, and I didn’t fill in a pregnancy journal either. It’s easy to say in retrospect that I wish I had, but at the time I didn’t feel comfortable doing it. And that’s the key, that pregnancy is difficult as it is, and definitely is difficult if you’ve lost a baby before… so I think you should only do what you feel comfortable doing. Now I’ve had time to assess both pregnancies I think I will buy a journal next time, because I am saddened I don’t have one for my time with Leyton. And in the same sense, I am glad I had one with my first pregnancy because I have no living memories of my baby girl so the bump photos and diary notes on little flutters of movements are very precious to me.
We were lucky that we got given a memory box in the hospital by SANDs (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death charity https://www.uk-sands.org/, a fantastic group to talk to. More details at the bottom of this page) and we managed to get footprints taken, a Birth certificate (babies born under 24 weeks don’t get an official birth certificate which is a hard thing to understand in that moment. The paper one we got filled in meant a lot), and a few other bits. We’ve put our scan photos in that box too and it helps to have something physical to handle when thinking about the baby.
So I managed to get through the pregnancy and at 38 weeks naturally went into labour (read more on my labour blog ‘Leyton’s Birth Story‘) and after 10 nervous hours of contractions our baby boy arrived fit and healthy. Our little ‘rainbow’ Leyton. I learned the term rainbow from some other fantastic Mummas on a forum as part of the ARC (Antenatal Results and Choices charity http://www.arc-uk.org/) website, and I found a lovely definition that puts it into words better than I could for those who haven’t heard this phrase before….
A “rainbow baby” is a baby that is born following loss.
In the real world, a beautiful and bright rainbow follows a storm and gives hope of things getting better. The rainbow is more appreciated having just experienced the storm in comparison. The storm (pregnancy loss) has already happened and nothing can change that experience. Storm-clouds might still be overhead as the family continue to cope with the loss, but something colourful and bright has emerged from the darkness and misery.
It was one of those terrible tragic unavoidable things like a hurricane or tsunami, it is better acknowledged, accepted and come to terms with rather than live in fear of another. All that living in fear does is impact your every day negatively, it doesn’t change the outcome. So although I did spend a lot of my pregnancy worrying, and I’m sure I will with any following pregnancies, I will try remind myself of these words which my friends have reminded me and I will them. What has happened won’t stop me from trying to get pregnant again as I feel the overwhelming love and happiness holding my rainbow baby Leyton is enough to keep me going. Everyone is different though and not everyone wants to risk going through losing a baby again. I know now that the support I have around me is incredible…. friends, family, pen friends through Baby Loss Forums who can speak from experiences similar to myself and add a different perspective….. they all mean the world to me, and I know they’d help me through any future hard times. It’s important to remember you may be the one to carry the baby but you are not alone and even if your support network aren’t sure of the ‘right’ things to say, just sitting with you and letting you cry will help. Or phoning a support line of others who have lived through the experience and can talk you through your feelings. Depression and Post Natal Depression can often creep up on you in any given situation, and it’s important to talk to family, friends or your doctor if you are struggling in case you can get more support or some therapy. There is no shame in being honest and admitting you need support. I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have my friends at ARC to talk to, especially in the months directly after losing my baby.
It is often a case of living through it, and riding the emotional rollercoster that is grief, hoping the time passes gently. So don’t ever feel its too much or it will never get easier, because it will. Sadly its true that time heals and nothing can be fixed over night, but getting pregnant again after losing a baby can still be a special time and can lead to overwhelming happiness and a level of thankfulness that comes with joy after loss. In fact one Mumma that I’ve stayed in touch with lost her baby at 5 months too, at a similar time to me, and helped me massively through my grief… and months later we cautiously got in touch with each other to announce we were pregnant at the same time…. to then have our Rainbow Babies just hours apart (in different time zones though)! SO miracles really do exist.
I hope my story doesn’t scare anyone off pregnancy, but helps show that no matter how bleak things can feel, they can get easier as long as you keep talking to people and have faith. The road to happiness may be tough and mean different timescales or adjusting to different ways than you dreamed of but I truly believe everyone can get to have a happy ending.
* Please note that these are just my experiences and everyone is different so always make sure you take advice off medical professionals.
* October is Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month, with October 15th being a worldwide day to light a candle to remember lost babies.
ARC (Antenatal Results and Choices charity) http://www.arc-uk.org/
SANDs (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death charity https://www.uk-sands.org/
http://bandbacktogether.com/grandchild-loss-resources/ because it is easy to forget the family around you are also losing a baby. A grandchild, a sister or brother, a niece or nephew. So its important to make sure they know they can talk to support lines also.