This week is Baby Loss Awareness Week. Started in the UK in 2002 as Baby Loss Awareness Day, it’s aim was to raise money for UK organisations supporting bereaved parents. The following year it expanded to a week and had events across the UK. Since then it has gone from strength to strength and today is a collaboration between more than 40 charities. You can read more about it and it’s goals here.
Having experienced loss ourselves, I just wanted to share our story in the hope that it might resonate or be useful to someone who’s had a similar experience. We were so unprepared for what happened and there was no ongoing support offered to us afterwards. Talking about it and sharing experiences can only be a good thing, even if it is painful.
It was early January 2003 and Rachel’s period was about two days late. “I’m pregnant,” she declared, “I can feel it.” What followed was about 15 pregnancy tests to prove her intuition was correct. I gently suggested that maybe she could take the test every 2-3 days rather than twice a day and this was met with unprintable expletives and a hard punch to the side of my head. Luckily I already had my re-mortgage approved so the pregnancy test buying could continue.
Finally, a week later the blue line proudly showed itself on the test and we were having a baby! We immediately told the world, in complete ignorant bliss that anything other than a full pregnancy and healthy baby were a possibility. Fast forward a while and it was time for the 12 week scan. Rachel was glowing and showing all the symptoms of being healthily pregnant. To this day I remember how excited we both were about seeing our little son or daughter for the first time.
The sonographer spread the gel on Rachel’s tummy whilst we sat excitedly and expectantly, waiting to see our baby’s strong heartbeat. After about ten seconds she went very quiet and we began to feel a bit uneasy. She carried on for a few more seconds before turning to us. “I’m very sorry,” she gently said, “there’s no heartbeat.” I didn’t comprehend what that actually meant. All I could think was, where is it then, why can’t she find it? She explained that by the size, our baby had died at around 9 weeks. Neither of us could take it in, how could this be possible? We were left for a few minutes so we could be together on our own. We looked at each other and burst out crying. Stunned gentle tears at first, followed by sobbing as the reality of what was happening sunk in.
The sonographer was lovely, very warm and supportive. She explained that it most likely wasn’t anything we had done, sometimes the body rejects the foetus, and that it was very common. None of the words registered or made any difference, we had lost our baby, our future. As we walked out the hospital I picked up a message on my phone, “Hi, it’s Grandma and Grandpa here, we can’t wait to see a picture of our beautiful grandson or granddaughter. It seemed like the end of the world and the hurt and raw pain we were going through felt it would never go away.
Rachel had to have a D&C a couple of days later due to nothing having been expelled by her body. She’d wanted it done straight after the scan as the thought of our baby inside her was horrible but she had to wait. Straight from the hospital we had dinner at my parents’ house with the rest of the family. When we walked in, everyone came up to Rachel and hugged her. I was left standing there alone, desperate for a hug too. I can honestly say there haven’t been many other moments in my life that I’ve felt more heartbroken and alone. This is sadly very common, the men often get overlooked here as it’s the woman that’s ‘lost’ the baby so of course she needs all the support.
My sister-in-law had also been trying for a baby and after we asked how it was going, it came out that she had just discovered she was pregnant herself. For Rachel this was the knife (innocently) being twisted in and she had to avoid her for quite a while when normally she’d want to be there for her.
As we started relaying our news to people we discovered that almost everyone we knew that had children had suffered miscarriages. The worst was one of Rachel’s friends who had gone through SIX before finally going full term and having a healthy baby. We still didn’t know how we were going to get through one let alone six. It turned out miscarriage was a bit of a taboo and no-one really talked about it.
We decided that we wanted to try again as soon as possible and amazingly Rachel fell pregnant the first month of trying. We had a scan at 7 weeks and when we saw a healthy, strong heartbeat we hugged and cried. We were however, still very nervous as since Rachel’s miscarriage we had also heard some awful stories. Women losing their babies at 5,6, 7 months. Babies being still born or born and passing a few days later.
We were positive however and Rachel really blossomed being pregnant. The rest of the pregnancy passed without any complications and we thought that was that. The end of the labour and birth though were a nightmare and we came very close to losing Jade. You can read what happened in an earlier post here. Fortunately all ended well and Jade is now almost 14. Rachel had another miscarriage in exactly the same circumstances as the first and this was followed by complications for a year. Eventually though, she managed to fall pregnant again with Katie who’s now almost 11.
There might be people that feel we wouldn’t still be upset about the miscarriages as we subsequently had two healthy children. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that we still grieve for our two lost children. We both believed they were boys and although we didn’t name them we still talk about them and feel a deep pain and sense of loss when we do. Every time I speak about them I cry. I wasn’t sure what would happen when writing about it all here. Truth is, I haven’t connected to my feelings around it all writing it down. I’m sure it would be different if I was taking about it.
So that’s it, our experience of losing two children. I almost feel a fraud when comparing our story to other heart wrenching experiences that friends, family and strangers have suffered. I can’t help that, I just do. All I know is that just because our babies were the size of grapes, it doesn’t lesson the sense of loss that we did and still do feel.