I remember the exact moment I realised she was gone.
4:02am. Tuesday 8th November.
I’d had a slight niggle in my head when I’d fallen asleep that night. Had she moved much today? Yes, she had. I’d felt her. And besides, Evalyn sometimes had her quieter days and I’d kept track of her movements since the first time I’d felt her kick. I was in the Doctor’s reception room waiting to be called in. It was for a routine appointment, but I’d had concerns over the amount of sickness I’d been having and that’s when I felt her little kick for the first time. The slight fluttering in my tummy that filled me with instant love for the little baby growing inside of me. Evalyn. And I’d cherished every movement since. I would know if something was wrong. I would just know.
It turns out that I did know. I knew at 4:02am when I opened my eyes mid-dream that something was wrong. So many nights it would be Evalyn who woke me up with a gentle prod to the ribs or a jab to the bladder. But I woke up to a stillness I’d never felt before. My growing stomach that always felt so rigid with her inside of it felt loose like she was floating inside me rather than swimming.
I’d so often heard of the expression “my blood turned cold”. I never realised that it could actually happen. But as I sat up in bed, the room felt darker, my skin became colder and my insides felt like ice.
Don’t panic, my inner voice said as I shook my husband awake, Don’t panic. You’re over-reacting like you normally do. Everything is fine. The baby’s just sleeping and when you get to the hospital and see that everything’s fine, you and the doctor’s will have a good laugh about how you became a monster-mother-maniac for no reason. And then you can come back home again and wait out the last two weeks of your pregnancy in peace.
I was due on the 22nd November.
I had two weeks left to wait. Two weeks.
The 8th November was my first official day of my maternity leave.
I had a four-year-old son sleeping in the next door room. What would I tell him if my fears were true?
How would me and my husband survive this?
How would I live without Evalyn? If I was right and my world was about to come collapsing down around me. How would I live without her? How would I live at all? How do you carry on with life when it’s not the life you imagined?
On 8th November at 5:07am, I learned that it takes exactly one full minute for your heart to break entirely. It takes 5 seconds to lie down on a hospital bed, 45 seconds for a doctor to scan your tummy, and 10 seconds for him to tell you, “I’m so sorry, but your baby has died. Your baby’s heart has stopped beating.”
I thought I knew what grief was. But nothing could’ve prepared me for that. Nothing prepares a parent for the grief of losing a child. Whether they’re taken from you at the beginning, middle or end of a pregnancy or in the years after they’re born. Nothing comes close to that amount of grief. The worst part of that memory which life so cruelly let me keep, was hearing the screams of “no, no, no, no, no” reverberating off of the walls before realising it wasn’t my husband’s voice i was hearing, but my own. I’d never thought that my inner pain had a voice before. It turns out it does. And it’s loud. And it’s frightening. And I hope that I don’t have to hear that voice for a long time to come. Not at all would be better.
The voice I use now is the one I’ll use to tell you my story. And I won’t lie to you, I’m still very much living through it. But the one thing that struck me most of all after we lost Evalyn was what a lonely place the world becomes after you lose your baby. You find yourself stuck in an in-between world. You are a parent. You grew a child. You made plans. You had the future all mapped out and that’s the way it was supposed to be. But now you’re left with an empty canvas again and you don’t know how to fill it. Some friends don’t know how to be around you, others think they know how you’re feeling because their mother’s cousin twice removed once went through the same thing. And bless them, people try. But to know it, really know it, is to live it.
“Unfortunately, as hard as each day is,” a doctor at the hospital once told us, “You have to live through it to get through it.”
This is me trying to live through it. This is me trying to get through it.
This is my journey.
This is life After Evalyn.