A guest post by Kirsty.
I am, what I believed to be, a lucky person. Great upbringing. Own my own house. Happily married to my childhood sweetheart. And the proud mother of two wonderful daughters, aged 5 and 3.
For as long as I can remember, I had always imagined myself having three children, and as my husband and I embarked on what we thought would be our final journey of conception, pregnancy and birth in spring 2018, we never anticipated the dark and lonely path we somehow ended up on.
As with my previous pregnancies with our daughters, we were fortunate enough to conceive quickly. We were excited, impatient even, to have our 12-week scan so that we could share the news with our friends and family. How naïve I was, to just assume that a positive pregnancy test would automatically lead to a wonderful scan, a healthy pregnancy…and a healthy baby at the end of it all.
Then, one Friday, just as I turned 9 weeks pregnant, I experienced some spotting. After a phone call to the midwife, I was booked into have a scan on the Monday. Looking back, I was so relaxed, I just carried on life as normal, thinking: ‘well, I’ve had two healthy pregnancies before, there is no reason why this pregnancy shouldn’t be the same’.
On that Monday, the scan revealed a healthy baby, a heart beating strong, yet, 12 hours later I started to haemorrhage at home. It resulted in a trip in an ambulance and, on arrival at the hospital, they scanned to find the baby had died and was blocking my cervix, causing the horrific bleeding.
This was my first taste of what can only be described as an emotional and physical rollercoaster. In one breath, we’d seen a heartbeat on a scan, with no signs of why I’d had a bleed, then in the next breath, we took a huge dive into shock and utter disbelief. So much can change in such a short amount of time.
Afterwards, the still-naïve side of me put the first miscarriage down to ‘bad luck’, ‘not resting enough’, or maybe Steve and I had tried too soon after having our second daughter.
We accidently fell pregnant again, just a few months later, in September. Initially, I tried to not think too far ahead, pretending that I wasn’t pregnant so that I couldn’t get attached to the baby growing inside of me. As we went past 9 weeks, I started to relax.
But, then, at just over 10 weeks, I started spotting again, and I just knew. The GP who I saw that evening tried to reassure me that my cervix was closed and that the spotting may be nothing, but I had prepared myself for the worst to come. It did. That night, heavy bleeding and contraction-like cramps set in.
It was so intense that I passed out in the bathroom, which was where my husband found me at 4am. Another ambulance trip, another agonising wait to confirm what we already knew: another loss.
This time, we took our time, we waited until my periods were regular and I felt physically well. We had a positive pregnancy test at the end of February this year. Those first few weeks went by OK, but as I approached 9-10 weeks, my anxiety went through the roof and my mental health plummeted. I had what I now recognise to be panic attacks. I was so petrified that this pregnancy would also go so, so wrong. I self-referred to my local mental health team, who were beyond fantastic, offering me trauma-based CBT therapy.
Twelve weeks passed, and with the support of therapy, I was finally beginning to relax and believe that this pregnancy would result in a happy ending. As I approached my 16-week appointment, my anxiety increased. Then, during a routine check, the midwife found no heartbeat, and thus our nightmares began. We were sent straight to hospital where a scan confirmed the worst, resulting in an induced birth of our beautiful baby girl, Harriet, and heart-breaking decisions to be made regarding post-mortem, funeral arrangements and what to place in her tiny white coffin.
I have felt an absolute tidal wave of emotions, but the one that seems to be laced through it all is guilt. I feel so guilty in so many different ways. I feel guilty for wanting a third healthy baby and that I should be content with the two wonderful daughters that I already have.
But every time I look at our baby items in the spare room, or consider clearing out them out, it makes that hole in my heart burn more intensely.
With that guilt comes a feeling that I have no right to grieve for my losses because they were not as far along as other losses – and again I should be grateful for the children I already have. After each miscarriage, I was frequently told a variation of: ‘I am so sorry to hear that, BUT at least you have got your girls’.
But because I have my two girls doesn’t mean I shouldn’t feel pain, or grief or anger at the hand that we have been dealt. Each baby I have lost was just as wanted and loved as my healthy babies. Comments like these just fuel the guilt – and loneliness, too.
Over time, I have learnt to own and acknowledge how I feel, rather than burying it into a deep dark pit and pretending that everything is ‘fine’.
Having my children has been the biggest privilege and I value every moment that I have with them – possibly even more now than I did before. We don’t know what the future holds for us in terms of future pregnancies, but what I have learnt hugely from the past 15 months is that our pain and grief is not comparable to others who have unfortunately found themselves on a similar, dark path: it’s not lesser than, or greater than. It just is.
We should be able to acknowledge our feelings without comparison, without criticism.
Yes, I do have two living children, but I also have lost three babies, one of whom I was able to hold, see her incredible blue eyes, touch her perfect ten fingers and toes and watch her white coffin be lowered into the ground.
Everyone’s baby loss story is different, but every emotion experienced is valid – and should be respected and given space. There is room for us all.