Three months on

  
Three months ago today I gave birth to a baby girl we named Isobel. She was perfectly formed, weighed 7lbs 2 and was 55cm long. She had her mummy’s nose and her daddy’s lips and chin. On reading these facts, the understandable assumption would be that I now have a three month old baby. However in the parallel reality in which I now reside, carrying a healthy baby to term does not equate to taking a live baby home from the hospital. Due to a problem within my placenta, Isobel was acutely starved of oxygen and died, just six days before her due date. She was born still almost two days later and buried on her due date. The day that we waited for with such excitement, became the day we watched a tiny white coffin descend to the ground. I still don’t feel capable of writing about the extreme trauma of that time. Today, three months on, instead of a three month old baby, I have a phone full of pictures of a perfect but still little girl, a memory box, a cemetery plot and a house full of unused baby things. 

Isobel was the baby that I have wanted my whole life. More specifically she was the baby I had dreamed of ever since meeting the person I wanted to have a family with. Even more specifically, Isobel was our miracle baby – surprising us as we languished on the IVF waiting list after two years of fertility issues due to my PCOS. Most pregnancies, planned or unplanned are or at least become a joy, but I do believe those that come after a struggle feel all the more special and joyous after what has gone before. To lose our miracle baby just six days before her due date, and many weeks after she could have survived outside my body is a horror that I could never have imagined. 

I know some people find it hard to understand the magnitude of the loss of a baby prior to birth, thinking perhaps that it is an abstract loss – the loss of something you never really had. Unless you or your partner have been pregnant it must be hard to understand how life changes for a couple over the course of a pregnancy. Almost every conversation revolves around the baby and your life ahead with the little person you cannot wait to meet. Countless hours are spent reading about pregnancy, labour, caring for a newborn and researching all the things a baby needs. Pregnancy apps and forums are consulted daily. Time and energy is invested in pregnancy yoga to help maintain flexibility around a growing belly. Weekends are spent looking at prams, car seats and breast pumps in between building IKEA furniture to hold all the baby clothes, wipes and nappies that you’ve purchased. Weeks are punctuated by medical appointments and counting down the days until the next opportunity to get a peek at baby and listen to their beating heart. Evenings are spent staring in amazement at the ripples of a stomach moved by the life inside. I knew how Isobel reacted to different foods, how she would move differently at different times of the day, how she would respond when her daddy spoke to her, how she loved music, and how she would poke back when we poked her. This was not an abstract loss, something not meant to be. Isobel was our daughter, she lived, we knew her. 

  
Pregnancy is not just a time of practically preparing for a baby, it is preparing psychologically for a new identity as a mother and within a relationship for a new dynamic as parents. Mothers and fathers are ‘born’ long before the baby is. Physically after giving birth, it took my body weeks to understand that I did not have a baby to nurture. Psychologically, that understanding has been harder to grasp – or at least to accept. For those months of pregnancy I was not just expecting a baby, I was expecting the rest of my life. Biding time until the next stage of my life would begin in earnest. The life that was adequate before pregnancy now feels woefully incomplete. Everywhere I go I have the feeling that I’ve forgotten something, everything that I try to do feels wrong. I am living in a nightmare and I don’t know how to wake up. The world is in parallel. Things are not as they should be.
Three months on, there have been so many secondary losses since losing Isobel. I could never manage to even allude to all of these in one post. I have lost parts of myself, my core beliefs, that made me who I was. I find myself thinking, coping, relating to others and behaving in ways that are unrecognisable to myself. I read stories of people who grow through tragedy and trauma and come to appreciate the ways in which they have changed. Maybe someday I will feel that way however for now, it is the most extreme understatement to say that the new me is not to my liking. 

  
Three months on, Simon and I are working so hard to walk this tightrope of life after loss, holding both our grief and our determination not to let the legacy of our baby’s life be a negative one. It feels precarious and often impossible. Sometimes we don’t want to walk at all. Sometimes we think we have made progress only to find ourselves suddenly back at the beginning wondering what has happened. On good days we manage to steady each other; on bad days we watch helplessly as our partner falls, too broken or weary ourselves to be able to offer any support. 

Three months on, so many people have reminded us over and over again that though we feel isolated we are not on this journey on our own. They have acknowledged our loss. They have asked how we are and not minding hearing the truth in response. They have listened to horror stories, medical details and tolerated the words ‘post-mortem’ and ‘baby’ spoken together when no sentence should contain those words. They have given us the simplest but most precious of gifts: saying or writing Isobel’s name. They have looked lovingly at her pictures understanding how happy it makes us to share them, strange as that may seem. They have told us they too miss our baby and have felt her absence. They have promised that it won’t just be us who remembers her. We are so grateful to those who have reached out, opened up to our pain and allowed us to use them as a balancing pole. Three months on, I wish I could say I am finding my balance without this help. The truth is that time only brings new challenges, fresh realities, and I need everyone there, balancing poles, harnesses, safety nets and bandages at the ready. 

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15 thoughts on “Three months on

  1. Your words resonate with me too. No matter how long your child has lived for, it’s your child. And you’ve lost your baby. You’ll never move on from it. You’ll simply move forward. People won’t understand what it’s like unless they’ve endured a loss of their own. And people move on and think you have too. It’s tough. But as long as you have a few people who understand you haven’t and won’t move on and another baby won’t make it better, you’ll never feel alone.
    Reading your updates, it reminds me of my pain and what those days were like. It gets so much better. I wish I could show that to you. So you could have it to look forward to. The first year or more feels like you can’t move forward. Like you’re stuck. I was stuck in August for almost two years. Just kept cycling through the five days our daughter was alive. I have Owen now and so much of my time and energy is focused on him. But I think about his sister all the time and I miss her. I will always feel her in my heart for as long as I live.

    Are you guys planning to sign up for IVF again? Have you talked about trying again? I knew I wanted to the day after she died. We waited five months to start trying again but I wanted desperately to get back to where we were. Waiting, planning for our baby.

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    1. Awwwww thank you. I wish I could catch a glimpse of a happy future to keep me going! It’s so hard to see how I’ll ever feel better!

      We’ve got an apt with the fertility service to get put back on IVF waiting list but I don’t even want to think about it really until I have a treatment plan for a future pregnancy to make sure this doesn’t happen again. I would love to be pregnant but know it would be very stressful and I know I’m not ready for that yet. I just want a baby without having to go through pregnancy again! I still can’t comprehend how I went through 9 months of pregnancy and still don’t have my baby. It doesn’t make any sense 😦

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      1. Pregnancy was stressful and I felt very disconnected. I was convinced some thing bad would happen. I had good days and bad days. It was three years after that I got pregnant so lots of time to heal. It may have been worse if I got pregnancy soon after we lost her.

        It’s totally not right and unfair. It’s so pointless and cruel that Isobel isn’t in your arms. I’m so sorry. Xo

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    1. Thank you so much. I haven’t shared anything I’ve written with anyone I know in real life but was thinking of sharing this for the wave of light tomorrow! It’s scary thinking of people I know reading what I’ve written though! Hope you are keeping as well as can be in the circumstances x

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      1. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised if you do decide to share your blog with people you know. I’ve found that it’s helped people to understand what we’re going through and has helped them to know what we need from them. That it’s ok to talk about Lentil, that we want people to remember him. We’re OK, still here! Starting to consider thinking about work which is a scary prospect! Xx

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      2. Just to say that I shared this post and got a lot of lovely comments and people saying it really helped them to understand so I’m glad I did it! Thanks!

        Work eek! I’m waiting to see occupational health to discuss phased return. No idea how it will be! I’m still knackered after just socialising! Has to be done I guess 😦 x

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      3. I’m really glad that you got a positive response. I’m waiting to see whether I can get any counselling through occupational health at the moment, I’m hoping that when I go back it’ll be a phased return but it’s hard to know how to do it with teaching without disrupting the children too much. I’m really not ready for their unfiltered take on the situation 😦
        I’m so glad that sharing your post went well though 🙂 Your blog today was really lovely too. Lentil has a teddy and we have a matching one but the hospital gave them to us as we didn’t know in advance. We would have loved to give him something more meaningful but he’d had the teddy from birth and it seemed wrong to replace it. I’m glad you have your elefunk link with Isobel xx

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      4. I think a phased return is definitely a good idea if you can work it out. I think mine will be phased over six weeks hopefully. Do you think you will find it hard to be around little ones when you go back?

        We actually went to Build a Bear a few days after Isobel was born – the day before the funeral. They opened early that morning for us to have the shop to ourselves and I wanted to go in to town to get something to wear for the funeral too. Thinking back I have no idea how I went to town! Mad! It was lovely though as we got to voice record a wee message to go in her elephant and stuff it and made a birth certificate for it. I so hope a little sibling gets to play with those bears someday x

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      5. I’m a bit confused about whether to go back full time or part time. I spoke to my headteacher about a phased return and she said it would usually be phased over four weeks with the aim of being in full time at the end of those four weeks. That’s put me off quite a lot, it seems like a very daunting prospect. I’m not really finding it hard to be around children to be honest. I have more of an issue with parents at the moment. A pregnant mum smoking, a parent telling their child to shut up. I just want to shake them and make them realise how lucky they are!
        Wow I have no idea how you found the strength to go into town. Physically or mentally. I couldn’t walk far at all in the first four weeks after Lentil was born. I love the idea of a recorded message, that’s really lovely. I’m quite sure that both Isobel and Lentil will have siblings. Have you managed to find out anymore about your condition and possible treatments? Xx

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      6. Yes we have a treatment plan now but it’s had varying degrees of success judging by the people I’ve found online. There is a more successful treatment but it involves blood transfusions every two weeks before conception and during pregnancy and as not on NHS it would be about £2000 PER TRANSFUSION!!!!!!!!!! Not remotely possible! No idea what to feel about the whole thing.

        Work definitely seems daunting. I still find socialising an effort! Dealing with the parents would be very tough. Good luck with the decision making process x

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      7. I’m glad that you have a plan in place but wish that there were more success stories for you. Have you looked on the SANDS forum to see if there’s a forum or group for people with the same condition? I’m finding myself on there a lot lately. Wow that is a lot of money and a lot of blood transfusions. Hopefully the fact that Isobel was so close to being born alive is a sign that now that you know of the condition and the medical team knows what to look for it will be ok. I’m keeping everything crossed for you xx

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