Clothes For A Baby Boy

We opted not to know what gender our first baby was. The clothes we bought for Isobel were therefore gender neutral; white and grey mostly and we didn’t buy much. We went through them recently and decided that we are happy to use them for this baby, but I wanted to get a few things especially for this little one. I think it was part of the process of accepting that this is a different baby – our son, not our daughter, and I wanted to give him a little hopeful headspace. With less than two weeks to go it seemed like a good time to purchase a few little things, so off we went today…

 

It wasn’t as emotional as I expected. I don’t know if it’s because I still feel a bit detached but it seemed normal to be picking clothes and debating between the newborn size and 0-3 months. If I’m honest though, I still can’t remotely imagine a little body wearing the clothes. Or at least a moving little body wearing the clothes. 

The shop assistant asked the inevitable question (“Is it your first baby?”) and got my stock honest response (“No, we had a little girl last year but she was stillborn”). She immediately responded that she too had lost a baby, a little boy at 35 weeks. She said he would be seven years old now. She asked what our daughter’s name was and it was lovely to be able to say Isobel’s name. I know it can be awkward to ‘drop the dead baby bomb’ (term taken from someone else’s writing/blog – sorry I can’t remember where I read it?!) and it’s not right for everyone to answer the way I do. But when you have an interaction like the one today, it really compounds my belief that for me, right now, it is so worth it to be able to be honest that this is not my first pregnancy and to acknowledge Isobel’s existence. 

Incidentally, I’ve ever once replied “yes” to the “Is it your first baby?” question and I’m not sure why I chose not to give my usual answer that time. It was an older man at the theatre and we were in a big queue of people and I was frustrated standing and just didn’t want to answer the question. I later found out that he has already been speaking to my mum and mother in law, so he already knew about Isobel. He and his wife had lost a little baby around 40 years ago. I think he must have asked me so that he could have an opening to share his loss with me and maybe offer some comfort to me. I hope he understood why I didn’t tell the truth that day. 

Anyway, it was nice to see Simon getting excited about little boy clothes. He was really in love with the idea of a daughter and has struggled a little with the idea of a boy this time. Looking at the little boy clothes though, I could see the idea of another son forming in his mind and I had to restrain him from buying some very impractical baby items such as a babygrow that looked like a suit with a bow tie!

He did insist on these completely ridiculous Converse booties though!

Practically at least, we are ready for you little one 💕   

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Remember When Reassurance Used To Be Reassuring?! 

  I had my weekly antenatal appointment with my consultant today as usual. The baby continues to be a giant (growing over the 90th centile), fluid is good, blood flow is good and my doctor assures me all is well. Yet I’m sitting here at home with my heart racing wondering when is it all going to go wrong. I’m being seen twice weekly now, with the other appointment on a Friday with the midwife to check fluid, bloodflow and do a CTG. I know Monday to Friday is not long. Friday to Monday is even shorter. I’m still so scared though that it’ll all go to hell between those appointments. I just have two weeks and five days until my planned c-section on 13th May. It seems close but yet way too far away. 

I think part of the problem is that Isobel did die so suddenly, having been growing on track with a normal scan including bloodflow check just a week before she died. According to the post-mortem report she was deprived of oxygen over a six hour period. So I could be scanned every day and this baby would still potentially have six hours in which to die unnoticed. Taking the next 18 days until my section, that’s around 432 hours until the baby comes out and 72 sets of six hours. 72 times the baby could be starved of oxygen and die between now and then. I know that I am paying attention to movements and especially now that I’m off work I would notice if the baby went any length of time without moving, but I don’t find that reassuring either. I think reassurance is just not possible in this situation. 

I wish someone could tell me it would be OK and I would believe them. The reality is, when people tell me it will be ok, it makes me angry, like they clearly don’t understand the situation and should really just be quiet! The only person I would have any chance of believing would be my doctor but she is careful not to make promises. All she says is that everything is as it should be for now. I would love her to lie to me and tell me she is 100% sure this baby will be born alive and thrive. 

18 days. Hang in there little one 💕 

All The ‘Me’s

 I’ve always done this weird thing where I view what I’m doing in a particular moment and assess what a past ‘me’ would think if they could have a glimpse in to the future and see that moment. I guess it’s a bit of an evaluative check in with myself to see if the past ‘me’ would be happy with what’s happening in her future. 

Up to the point where Isobel died I was usually pretty confident that past ‘me’ would be impressed with what current ‘me’ was up to. Past ‘me’ who didn’t yet have a long term relationship would have been very surprised and delighted to see me with Simon and getting married. Past ‘me’ who was unsure about my career progression would have been happy to see me working in my dream job. Past ‘me’ living in our old flat would love to see our nice house in my favourite area in Belfast. And so on… 

Now though it gets really confusing because there are too many past ‘me’s! 

So there’s past ‘me’ pre-Isobel who would be amazed and overjoyed to see me pregnant now and would be thinking life must be all good for me. 

There’s past ‘me’ pregnant with Isobel, wondering where the hell my baby is and why I’m pregnant again. This me is incredulous that I’m dealing with losing my baby. That I’m having calm conversations about headstones, fundraising for stillbirth and planning what to do for a first anniversary. 

Then the past ‘me’ after Isobel died who instantly worried about ever getting pregnant again and past ‘me’ who on discovering she was pregnant could never imagine getting to 12 weeks never mind 33 weeks. These versions of me would be relieved to know that there would be another pregnancy and that it would be carried to this stage, and hopeful that there will be a baby to take home this time. 

Now when I do my little check in thing (not on purpose, it just happens!) I have all these versions of myself present in my mind at once and I don’t know what to think or how to feel! It seems like my previously relatively integrated sense of self has just disintegrated, leaving me with this fragmented metal state. It’s all very confusing! I suppose it makes sense to be confused while trying to hold all the emotions of still being shocked and horrified about what happened to Isobel, sad about losing her, glad to be pregnant, guilty about being pregnant, anxious about being pregnant and who knows what else all at the same time! 

Am I the only one who does this past ‘me’ thing? Am I completely crazy? Be honest – future ‘me’ can take it! 

The Mother Of His Child

 I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I have a 15 year old step-son, I’ll call him J. Simon is 32. Math experts will have managed to figure out that Simon was very young when he became a dad, 16 in fact! I only have Simon’s story (and MTV’s Teen Mom) to go by but I can imagine some of the difficulties Simon and J’s mum L faced having a baby at such a young age. I know their relationship was very challenging and although they tried to stay together for the sake of the baby, there was a lot of resentment and bad behaviour on both sides. They were on and off until J was around five when then finally split up for good. 

When I first started going out with Simon, I used to get pretty jealous that he’d had not just a significant long term relationship with someone, but more that they had had such an intense connection as having a baby together. At this point, I already knew about my PCOS and that I would need fertility treatment to have a chance of conceiving and I think that made it worse. I didn’t know if I could have a child with the person I loved and here was this other woman who had done that, who was the mother of his child. Despite the fact that I knew it was a stressful, unplanned pregnancy and their relationship was often conflictual, I would imagine the moments of happiness they shared together, looking at the child they created and delighting in him and in each other as parents. 

As I got more secure in my relationship with Simon, those feelings of jealousy towards L pretty much disappeared. My desire to have children with Simon deepened, for all the purest of reasons, with only the tiniest part of that being about feeling that there was no closeness that he had shared with someone else that we hadn’t surpassed. When we became pregnant with Isobel, a lot of memories started to come back for Simon about expecting J. Things he hasn’t really allowed himself to think about over the years but couldn’t help reflecting on now he was expecting his second child. I started to understand a little better just how traumatic it was for Simon and L to discover she was pregnant, to have to tell their parents, to have to deal with the judgements of those around them, to have to leave school and get jobs, to try and continue with part time education, to look after a baby at such a young age, to feel stuck in a relationship neither had really chosen. I will admit that I felt happy that Simon’s experience with me was so different. He chose me, he wanted to have a child with me, we actively tried to have a baby, we were overjoyed to be expecting, others were delighted for us not disappointed in us. Any last remnants of my insecurity in relation to L as the mother of Simon’s child seemed to be gone. 

But then Isobel died. 

I had failed to do what Simon’s 15 year old girlfriend had been able to do so easily – deliver him a healthy baby. The multivitamins and my careful eating, the yoga, the antenatal classes, all my research and knowledge – L didn’t have access to any of that but somehow that didn’t matter to the outcome. As devestated as I was for myself, my heart was torn apart for Simon. This baby was his second chance to be the kind of dad that he wanted to be, mature, stable and always present. I felt like I had allowed Isobel to die and let him down so badly. Yes there had been hard times with L, but she gave Simon a baby that came home from the hospital, who opened his eyes and smiled, that learned to say ‘daddy’, watched football with him and played x-box. I gave him a lifeless little body, a funeral, a grave, a lifetime of heartache. 

Of course I have talked to Simon about all of this and he has reassured me that he doesn’t blame me in any way for Isobel’s death. I know that’s true anyway because of how lovely he continues to be to me (most of the time!). I think the fear that he would blame me comes only from my own guilt. Rational me doesn’t really blame myself either, knowing how unhelpful it would be to get caught up with that narrative. However that doesn’t stop the thoughts from coming even if a lot of the time I can let them come and go without being too hooked on them. 

A few weeks after Isobel was born, I remember asking Simon if he considers me to be the mother of his child. He assured me that he does. It’s hard though. I’m not *the* mother of his child, I’m the mother of one of his children – the one that’s not here, the one whose memory elicits heartache rather than joy. 

I’ve noticed my jealousy about L returning. I find myself asking questions that I haven’t asked for years; “Did you ever think about proposing to her?”, “Did you want to have more children with her?”, “If you had met when you were older do you think you’d still be together?” and so on… Basically I think I’m saying “Tell me you love me more than you loved her – even though Isobel died”. I’ve also had lots of nightmares of Simon having an affair, leaving me, going on to have more children with someone else. (For those who are wondering, I have literally no reason to feel insecure either about my relationship with Simon in general, or about his relationship with L. Even if she were single, I can’t imagine any scenario in which she and Simon would reunite. As it is, she is married with another child.) 

Of all the things I’m desperately hoping for and looking forward to with this new baby, seeing Simon with our baby is one of the most significant. I remember how he looked at Isobel, how much he loved her and was so proud of her, even in those hardest of circumstances. He fought me to get to hold her longest, to stroke her perfect little face and hold her hand. He never held back on his emotions and cried openly with no shame. He spoke beautifully at her funeral. He continues to talk about her and to campaign for stillbirth awareness and prevention. He was, and is, the best dad Isobel could ever have had. 

I know he will be an amazing dad to this little one, I just hope he gets to be a dad to a baby, a toddler, a child, a teenager, an adult and who knows, maybe even gets to be a grandad! 

I hope too that my insecurity will retreat again once this baby comes. For now, it’s just one part of the whole whirlwind of emotions that follow losing a baby and pregnancy after loss. I’ve learned that the only way to cope with the whirlwind is to accept each and every emotion non-judgementally as just another part of the experience.  

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I actually wrote this post a couple of weeks ago and had kept it as a draft. Reading it over I realise that I’ve felt so much better about this issue since I wrote about it but I thought I may as well post it. I’m so glad that I have been able to use writing as a way to get perspective on the crazy rollercoaster that has been my life in the past 10 months! And thank you to anyone who reads my ramblings xx 

Preparing Again 

  

I’m 31 weeks pregnant now. Our plan is to deliver the baby by caesarean section at 37 weeks at the latest, earlier if there any signs of reduced growth or compromised blood flow. The doctor has also spoken about admitting me to hospital for monitoring at around 35 weeks just to be safe. This doesn’t leave a whole lot of time get organised for this little one’s arrival, maybe only 4 weeks until I am incapacitated! And yet I’m really struggling to want to do anything to prepare for having a baby. 

Our spare room/nursery became a dumping ground when Isobel died. All our baby purchases were shoved in a chest of drawers or under the bed, with bigger things being sent away to my parents house. The room is now full of random bits of paperwork, books, clothes, bedding and general clutter that doesn’t have a home! I know it needs to be tackled. But I’ve been here before. Around this time last year in fact. We cleared the spare room. We organised the baby things; the Bednest was waiting to go by our bed, the bouncer was waiting for a baby to lull to sleep, the baby bath was ready to be filled with warm water to clean a little body. The isofix base was installed, the car seat and coordinating pram ready for adventures. I washed and ironed the cutest clothes and softest blankets. I set out the changing mat making sure the nappies, wipes and creams were in reaching distance. I did all of this. And the baby never came home. 

Am I supposed to do these things again? To make my preparations, with the most horrible feeling of deja vu and yet hope for a different outcome? Or do I accept that preparing for this baby is too difficult and just face the disorganised chaos head on if all is well? I imagine that ‘nesting’ and getting a home ready for the baby is very much an integral part of preparing psychologically for the baby’s arrival. What am I communicating if I don’t ready a home for this baby? Will my bonding with the baby be affected if I don’t at least try to accept the possibility that he will arrive alive and come home with us? 

Even when I decide not to worry about getting organised and just deal with things when the baby comes, I know there are certain things we definitely need to do. I will need a hospital bag no matter what happens now. We will need at least one outfit for the baby. My mind can’t help but thinking of it as an outfit to bury the baby in. Of course, I hope we need many outfits, nappies, wipes and a car seat before we even get to the coming home stage but it’s hard to imagine that. I have no experience of that happy scenario. 

In my attempt to help the time pass, I have made plans for us pretty much every weekend. Today was the only Saturday until May that we were free to look at car seats and prams, so off we traipsed to a few baby shops. We had returned our previous travel system, purchased for Isobel and though we had loved it, we didn’t want to keep it after she died. Being in the stores felt surreal. Like we were acting the role of a normal couple having a baby, but the slightest questioning would reveal that we were frauds and it was all a fantasy, there would be no baby. After the first shop, I started to panic that I hadn’t felt the baby move since leaving home. As if the very act of looking at prams could have killed him. A pause in pram shopping, an orange juice in Cafe Nero and that worry at least temporarily, was shelved. Not so easy to shelve the fear that another pram will be carefully, pointlessly, chosen for a baby that doesn’t survive. That we are setting ourselves up for more heartbreak by even pretending to others that we will have a baby we take home. There’s also guilt that we could be hopefully preparing for this baby, that life is going on, and Isobel is being left behind – her pram returned and replaced by another, her room taken over and things that were meant for her being used for another baby. 

Surprisingly, we did find another pram we liked and although we need to think it over a little (as its more expensive than we would like), it’s nice to have an option and I anticipate we’ll probably go for it rather than face the shops again! Also surprisingly, of all the chipper shop assistants, only one asked if it was our first baby and I think she got the message not to ask anything further when we looked at each other and after a pause I just replied “no”. 

This time we won’t be taking the travel system home before the baby comes. Returning Isobel’s car seat and pram was heartbreaking. This time, we will just order it and leave it there for someone to pick up should we need it. With having a c-section, I’ll likely be in hospital for a few nights so there will be plenty of time for someone to pick up the car seat before we need it to go home. 

Isobel was only in our car in her little coffin for a few minutes’ journey between the ceremony room and her grave. 

This time has to be different. 

It has to be. 

Please let it be different.