**Trigger Warning: This post talks about Pregnancy After Loss **
It took me a long time to love my son. With hindsight, that seems like an inconcievable thought. I look at him now as the beautiful five-year-old that he is and can’t imagine a world with him not in it. But back then, in those early newborn days, I’m not ashamed to admit that I struggled. I’d been told whilst pregnant about that ‘instant love’ I would feel for my baby, but for me, it wasn’t like that at all.
I remember hearing his throaty screams filling up the theatre and I recall crying with relief that he was here safely and we were both OK. But in the days that followed, he made me question everything about myself as his mother and I spent those early weeks feeling like a failure in my new role.
Maybe it was because I had been robbed of the natural birth I had wanted? Ieuan was back-to-back which meant that after many hours in labour, I needed an emergency C section – and due to haemorrhaging on his arrival – a blood transfusion too. I spent four days in the hospital and I spent each one watching the midwives caring for him in a way I wasn’t physically able to do at the time. And when we came home, I watched Nick doing the same as I rested on the sofa. When Nick went back to work, I found myself ringing him in tears, begging him to come home.
“He just won’t stop crying,” I told him, “He’s been crying for hours and I’m exhausted! I don’t know what to do! Why do I feel like this? What’s wrong with me?”
As it turns out, there was a name for what I had.
I didn’t suffer from PND on a level I know some women can. But I suffered in a way that made me struggle in those early weeks. Ieuan was my first baby and in truth, I had no idea what I was doing. I attended a Mother and Baby group when he was three weeks old and I both admired and resented the other mother’s who were there cooing over their children in a way I couldn’t. I never went back to that group. That group made me feel guilty. It made me feel like a bad mum.
But I remember the exact moment when everything changed. The exact moment I fell head over heels in love with my son. . . .
It was the day of his first injections. I woke up not really fussed that that was on our agenda for the day. But as I sat with the nurse and she went through all of the side effects that could happen but were incredibly rare, I started to feel the panic pinch the back of my throat. I started to feel scared about what could happen to him and my protective instinct started to creep in from wherever it had been hiding since the day he was born. When he screamed as the injection pierced his skin, I held him close to me and stroked his head as I tried to soothe him. And that afternoon as he slept, I never left his side. I wanted him with me constantly. I needed to make sure he was alright. I fussed over him like a mother should and I watched his little eyelids flicker as he dreamed as if I was breathing him in for the first time.
How had I not noticed how amazing my little boy was?
Just like that, the fog started to lift a little and over the days, weeks and months that followed, I grew more and more in love. I became the mother to him that I had wanted to be from the start.
Isn’t it ironic, then, that my love for Evalyn was instant.
Evalyn gave me the natural birth I had wanted with Ieuan. She gave me the instant love I had wanted to feel with him. But she was the baby I couldn’t bring home. How cruel of life to do that. Perhaps the fact that I knew my time with her would be short-lived only magnified my love for her? After all, I had to show her all of that love in less than 24 hours. I had 24 hours to hold her, to be with her and to make as many memories with her as I could. Mine and Evalyn’s relationship was on a time limit from the moment her heart stopped beating.
The truth is, I don’t know if I had PND with Evalyn. If I did, the grief I felt at her loss completely overpowered any other feeling I may have had. I remember believing after Ieuan arrived that there was no worse feeling in the world than the PND I was experiencing. Turns out, there is. Grief. Grief is worse. And my grief for Evalyn made me feel incredibly guilty that, for whatever reason at the time, I couldn’t enjoy Ieuan as a newborn. And as we waited for Evalyn’s post mortem results and I constantly worried if we would ever experience a third child in our lives, I felt despair that I may never get the chance to try and correct my disenjoyment of those early newborn days. . . . .
Here’s a little tip I should have given myself : Don’t set the bar so high as to how you should feel when your rainbow baby arrives.
Iola arrived on the 29th November 2017, exactly three weeks after we both celebrated and mourned Evalyn’s 1st birthday. And I had mentally given myself a list of what I should be feeling and what I needed to be feeling in these early newborn weeks.
Don’t get too stressed if she cries.
Try and not let the sadness in.
Appreciate every moment. EVERY moment.
You have been blessed.
Appreciate, appreciate, appreciate!!!!!
And I have done. I have taken in every single moment of the beautiful blessing that Iola is and I have fallen completely in love with her. And I try and not get too stressed and frustrated. But in doing this, I have realised something very important.
As loss parents who experience pregnancy after loss, we tend to put one hell of alot of pressure on ourselves to enjoy our babies. I realised this last week when Iola had been crying for her fourth solid hour, Nick was away at work and I was rocking on the sofa, tears falling down my face questioning whether my good old friend, PND, had come back for a visit.
And I felt guilty. So guilty. Because how dare I feel sad after all I have been through? I lost my daughter in the most heartbreaking way. I was blessed with a second daughter and she is here and she is healthy. How dare I sit on the sofa and cry? But it turns out that triggers still exist even with rainbow babies.
Iola’s crying for a sufficient amount of time is a trigger for me. It reminds me of being in the labour ward. It reminds me of lying on the bed as the doctor walked out of the room as I screamed at him for telling me Evalyn had died. And in that moment, I heard the sounds of a newborn being born. I heard that newborn crying it’s first cry in life and questioned why it was that Evalyn couldn’t have fought a bit harder for her own. Iola’s crying takes me back to Evalyn’s silence.
It turns out that I set the bar too high. I wanted everything to be perfect. I wanted to feel nothing but pure happiness every single day of Iola’s life because that is what I feel the world expects of me. You have your rainbow, I can here it say, You have NOTHING to be unhappy about. You should feel guilty everytime you feel tired, exhausted or emotional. You are one of the lucky ones.
And I know I am. My God, I know I am. And thankfully, unlike Ieuan, any PND has been kept at bay. But it has made me realise that it is OK to let the bad feelings in, even when my third baby has come after the loss of my second.
Do these feelings make me feel guilty? Yes, they do.
Do these feelings take away from how blessed I feel? No, they don’t.
Are these feelings normal? I guess, they are.
Losing a baby is an emotional journey. It is hard. It is draining. And on my own journey I am now experiencing grief and contentment mixed together and that is a hard combination to try and fathom. There is no middle ground when I find myself laughing with Iola one hour and then grieving over Evalyn in the next. . . .
I guess when it comes to baby loss, nothing ever really makes sense.