*TRIGGER WARNING . . . This blog talks about pregnancy after loss*
It was the early hours of the morning and I was sat on the windowsill of the hospital suite looking out across the courtyard at the opposite side of the building. I watched through the windows as life carried on outside of the little room I had found myself ushered into. On the floor below, I watched a mother sitting next to a bed holding the hand of her small child within it. I observed a busy queue beginning to form for a lift in a corridor that was partly obscured by a wall and two hospital workers were sharing a joke in an office on the floor above.
I sat still, contemplating the past two hours. What on earth had just happened to me? Was this a dream? How was I still breathing when my heart felt like it had been ripped from my chest?
“I don’t want this to be it,” I said, turning to Nick who was sat in a chair staring at the wall with the same expression of disbelief as myself, “This can’t be it. We have to try again. This can’t be it. It just can’t be.”
Nick didn’t answer and I fell silent and carried on looking out the window. I realise with hindsight that that moment wasn’t the best time to bring up trying for another baby. Because at that precise moment, in spite of my words, I was actually pregnant.
Nine months pregnant.
But only two hours previously, my baby had been declared dead when the doctor couldn’t hear her heartbeat. And then her death had been confirmed and declared again when a second doctor performed a scan and stared at the lifeless body inside of my own and told me with sad eyes, I’m so sorry.
Now I was just sat on the windowsill contemplating a painful labour to come and a Goodbye I didn’t want to speak.
It’s surreal where your mind takes you when you are in shock, but within those two hours, I already knew that I wanted to try for another baby. It’s something that I never thought I would have to consider and something I never wanted to consider. A third baby? Myself and pregnancy hadn’t always got on. Our relationship had so far included an emergency C section with Ieuan which resulted in blood loss and a transfusion, secondary infertility issues, nine months of sickness with Evalyn which had pretty much rendered me useless for the whole pregnancy. And despite my best efforts to keep my baby safe, my body wouldn’t let me. Stillbirth. It’s an awful situation. It will break you until you are at your lowest and drown you in an ocean of grief.
But here I was thinking about putting myself through it all again and for so many reasons . . . .
I was angry. I was so angry that life had taken from me the one thing I wanted the most and despite everything that the next 24 hours would bring, I was determined not to let life’s cruelty win. Anger had turned to stubborness. I refused to believe that it would all end in that hospital room. I refused to believe that I would say Goodbye to Evalyn, walk away and my motherhood journey would come to an abrupt halt the moment I stepped out of the hospital. I didn’t know if I would be blessed with a third child, but I was sure as hell going to try. Not to replace Evalyn because she will forever be irreplaceable. But if me and life were going to be locked in a battle, I was going to win no matter how long it took.
The yearning I had for my baby didn’t disappear the moment Evalyn’s heart stopped beating. I had longed to hold her in my arms when she was in my tummy. I had willed time to speed up just so I could be closer to meeting her. I loved her from the moment we found out we were expecting her. Those feelings didn’t go away when the doctor delivered the final blow. My heart broke in two, but my arms still yearned to hold my baby.
My mind still imagined what it could have been like to be one of the lucky parents who get to walk out of the ward with a car seat with a baby inside instead of a memory box and a maternity bag that never got used. I wanted that so desperately that I couldn’t comprehend anything but. I wanted it for myself. I wanted it for Nick. I wanted it for Ieuan. And I wanted it for Evalyn. I wanted to try and be happy for her. I wanted to try and live for her. And I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do that if I didn’t at least try and give her a sibling. Even if it wasn’t meant to be, I had to at least try.
But trying is hard.
It is easy to ignore that after the loss of a baby and before pregnancy after loss, there is another inbetween entirely; trying to fall pregnant in the first place.
And trying to fall pregnant after loss brings with it it’s own emotional turmoil. Because where do you start? How do you conceive a baby when even the thought of the act itself makes you feel guilty? I would cry because I wanted to fall pregnant so badly and then I would cry because I felt guilty that Evalyn would think I was trying to replace her. Each month that guilt would merge with anger when I didn’t fall pregnant and I would find myself free-falling into my own pit of despair all over again. Then I would feel guilty all over again for being so sad when I know that there are people out there who aren’t even able to try again after loss. Every week was a countdown to the are we and could we be this month. And every single one of those days was unbearable.
“I think there’s a line!!” I told Nick.
He looked at me confused. “But the test this morning was negative?”
“I know,” I said, “But after you left for work I tested again with a different brand and look – there’s a line!”
It was March. Evalyn had been gone only four months and we were both looking down at a pregancy test that clearly had a pink line across it. It was faint, but it was there. Yet we couldn’t believe it and the reason we couldn’t believe what was staring us straight in the face was that only two tests had come back positive. I had done four tests that day with three different brands and only one brand was testing positive.
“I don’t understand why this is positive if the others aren’t?” Nick frowned.
“Neither do I. But it’s so hard to get a fake positive, isn’t it? Maybe we’re too early and this is the only test that’s picking it up? I’ll just keeping testing.”
So I did. The next day I tested again. Again, only one test out of three came back with a faint positive and I felt my heart beginning to sink. What was going on? False positives don’t happen, do they?
It turns out they do.
I wasn’t pregnant and the hardest thing to take wasn’t that we had been unsuccessful that month. It was that life had given us hope. After everything we had already been through, life gave us a false positive on a pregnancy test. I spent the whole of that day in bed. What was the point? What was the point in anything?
It’s amazing how sad trying to fall pregnant after loss can make you feel or how neurotic and crazy it can make you become. I spent those months on countdown, meticulously counting the days in my cycle and trying to fathom when would be the best time that month to try. Then I would have a breakdown and curse myself when my maths failed to provide me with what I wanted. I blamed my body. I blamed myself. I hated myself for not having Evalyn with me and I hated myself because I couldn’t get pregnant and then I hated myself for even trying to fall pregnant in the first place so soon after losing Evalyn.
But I couldn’t give up. My own stubborness wouldn’t let me, even when my body wanted to. . . .
It was April and we were on a mini break in Somerset. We’d started the holiday with a pregnancy test early Monday morning that informed us we were unsuccessful again.
“At least this month we know,” Nick said as I cried on the bed, “Let’s just get away and try and enjoy this week.”
So, we went on holiday. And we tried to have fun. And we did have fun. But by midweek I couldn’t cope with the fact I was still in limbo at my period not having arrived. So we drove to the nearest chemist and bought a variety of different pregnancy tests and went back to our holiday lodge for me to test.
Every. Single. One.
“I think we are,” I cried, “I think we’re pregnant.”
“I just can’t believe it,” Nick said, “I can’t bring myself to believe it even if we are. Especially after last month.”
And I knew what he meant. Neither of us wanted to believe it in case it was taken away from us again. Even when we found out with an early scan weeks later that the test hadn’t lied, we still couldn’t believe it and we barely referred to the pregnancy at all in those early weeks. We simply ignored it. Which is ironic when I think about how much I wanted it and then when life gave it to me, the only way I could cope with it was to tell myself that it wasn’t really happenning.
Trying for a baby after loss is hard. And it broke me down in ways I never thought it would. And we were lucky. After trying for so long to conceive Evalyn, it took us only a handful of months to conceive her sister. I don’t need anyone to tell me that that is a blessing in itself.
And that was only the beginning because now we were faced with the pregnancy after loss that stretched ahead of us . . . .
And that is the tallest mountain I have ever had to climb.