Darling, I hope so – Pregnancy after Loss

Pregnancy Shoot

In the moments after we were told Xavier would not live, N and I clung to each other – a pain that only we would fully understand drawing us  to each others arms.  Between tears, I whimpered “no more children.  Isaac is enough. I can’t ever do this again”.   Through tears, N agreed.

However in the days following, as my arms ached to hold a baby and the milk that should have been Xaviers leaked uselessly from my body, I knew I wanted, NEEDED, to have another baby.  These feelings of intense longing – a sense of “if I can’t have my angel child I need his brother or sister” – are common in the bereaved.   N needed more convincing but eventually he too felt there was another living child in our family.    In the months following Xavier’s death I did everything I could to prepare for pregnancy.  I lost baby weight at a speed normally reserved for celebrity mothers.   I worked on my heart and my head space.  I got fit.  I had acupuncture.  I wrote.  I cried.  I talked.  I learned how to laugh again.  I reached out to others who had lost and embraced those that reached out to me.

Four months after we lost Xavier we decided it was time and we were incredibly blessed to fall pregnant immediately.   I remember looking at that second pink line appearing on the pregnancy test and crying my thanks to Xavier.  At no point did I take for granted what had come to us so soon.

My pregnancy was wonderful but anxious.

It was also incredibly precious and something I kept relatively private.   My Facebook page remained bereft of pregnancy news.   Aside from wanting to keep this precious secret, as a bereaved parent I had a new appreciation regarding the hurt a throw away line on a Facebook status can inflict on those who are struggling.     I held off telling many friends for several weeks after the traditional twelve.    I was overjoyed but also so incredibly anxious – a part of me felt that telling other people was tantamount to a promise I couldn’t keep.  And whilst many might have attributed a special dimension to the pregnancy I couldn’t help but think it was less real, less valid than other peoples.   When your eyes are opened to the horrific numbers of babies that are born still, you take nothing for granted.  When you have been the one in a thousand statistic, you don’t assume you will dodge any bullets.  When you know stories about multiple losses, you have no comfort in the promise that lighting doesn’t strike twice.  Gradually, as I came to accept the fact that life holds no promises, my “why me?” turned into “why not me?”   At times I almost felt guilt about this fear of stillbirth – that I was appropriating someone else’s story and turning into my own when I had no right to do so.   Yet, every mummy I know who has lost to SIDS and has become subsequently pregnant has struggled with similar emotions.  Anxiety remains, but now when I check if Elijah is breathing, my relief is immediate.

During my pregnancy, Isaac kept asking, hope in his little voice, “this baby is going to stay isn’t it?”   To this moment, I can only answer “Darling, I think so – I really hope so.”   But the conviction in my voice is growing stronger by the day.

Welcome Elijah

On the 28th July, we welcomed our precious little man Elijah George into our lives. This is his birth story.

My pregnancy with Elijah was text book – in the sense that it was one of those of pregnancies that progress with no complications and very little discomfort. Like my previous two pregnancies,  I physically felt well and joyful. However, after losing our darling second born, Xavier to SIDS, my anxiety was a different story. Losing a child opens your eyes to a whole new world.   A world where previously healthy babies are born still, where there is no magic 12 week safety marker, where you can do everything right and still lose your precious child.   Where you are acutely aware of just how common stillbirth remains despite the fact no one talks about it.  Where a positive pregnancy test does not guarantee a positive outcome.  Where newborn babies can die without a reason.

Every kick was a welcome reassurance, followed closely by the panicked thought that perhaps that was the last kick I’d feel.   My doctor was amazing.   He guided me through that anxiety without questioning its validity. Each scan gave me the reassurance I needed.   Each time I heard the words “perfectly normal”, I could exhale for a moment.   And when Elijah failed to turn up at around 36 weeks like his brothers, he okay’ed induction at 37 weeks + 2 days.    Elijah weighed a good amount and his head was measuring term, so we were both comfortable with this.   Particularly as my anxiety was rising after one of the women I knew through a subsequent pregnancy support group lost another child to stillbirth a few days before her scheduled induction at 39 weeks – she had asked for an earlier induction and it had been denied her.

On the morning of induction my husband and I  calmly made our way to the hospital, comparing it to our previous two trips when I had been in labour by this point.   I even applied some make-up though I have no idea why I thought that it would last through labour.  We arrived and met up with my sister, Paulina, who has been present at all the boy’s births.  We were quickly showed to our birthing suite by our beautiful midwife, Nikki.

I set up Xavier’s photo and my birthing necklace.   The necklace is  made up of beads that each of my family and girlfriends had given me at my baby shower/blessing –  each bead representing a different wish for Elijah and I.   Paulina placed oil into a burner.  The room felt good.

At 8:30 Nikki broke my waters.  It was probably the most uncomfortable part of the labour but it meant the beginning.   I had hoped to avoid the syntocin drip and was able to wait a couple of hours to see if I went into labour spontaneously.  I bounced on the birthing ball as we chatted and laughed.   Paulina and I belly danced around the room, laughing as my doctor came into the room a moment after we stopped.     That dance is one of my precious memories from Elijah’s birth.   My doctor prepped me for the drip but said we could wait a while to administer the syntocin. Paulina performed acupressure in the hopes of getting labour underway.  At about 10:00 I started to get mild contractions.  As in my previous labours, these were very mild but still relatively close together.  I could talk through them and had to pay careful attention to my body to tell when they eased off.  By around11:30 the contractions had strengthened and the syntocin was decided against.  As I started to need to lean on the sink to brace myself for the next contraction and let out a low moan, N exclaimed, “we’re on – baby will be here at around 12:30”.  I moved between shower and toilet as I felt myself go into transition.  That uncomfortable place of confusion and irritability – where you don’t know what you want and you can’t answer anything sensibly.  As I stood in the shower, Nikki asked “so are we going to have a baby?”   “I think so,” I moaned, unable to be committal even about the obvious.   N ran the hot water over my back in the shower.  Some abstract part of me noted how cute he looked in the scrubs Nikki had given him to wear in the shower.    Sitting on the shower floor, I tried to regain some control and I whispered “breath out fear – let it go.”  I moved to the bed, willing the pushing part to come on.  Paulina and N stood on either side of me, applying acupressure.   Finally the urge to push and I felt I needed to be on the toilet. Nikki quickly retrieved from there – “you can’t have baby here” she gently reminded me.  I had intended to give birth on all fours as I had with Elijah’s brothers, but there was no time to climb on the bed.    Instead, I leaned on the bed to give  birth standing up.  My doctor was called at 12:35 as birth was imminent.  Paulina and N continued to support me through acupressure.  As the next urge to push came I let out a large primal roar.   It wasn’t a cry of pain, it was powerful and empowering – the roar of a lioness.  I listened to Nikki as she instructed me to push just a little and breathe and then the words every labouring mother wants to hear “next push, and baby will be here”. I let a few joyful tears fall before the final push,  roar and sensation of pure joy and relief.  I held Elijah as Nikki passed him to me between my legs, cord attached.  I held my baby in my arms for the first time. It was 12:39.  We made our way to the bed, where Paulina cut the cord.  Not long after my doctor arrived to deliver the placenta and the happy news that all was intact, just a small graze.

The atmosphere in the room returned to light and jovial as Elijah started his first feed. I felt loved, supported and listened to through the whole labour. Xavier was very much in the room with us.

During Elijah’s first few days we were supported by the gorgeous midwives and baby care assistants at the Mater.    They listened as I talked about Xavier. They told me how beautiful Elijah was.   They allowed me sleep when I desperately needed it and were kind and supportive in every way.    On the afternoon of Elijah’s birth,  my eldest son Isaac and my husbands family, including my darling nieces and nephews, met Elijah.  The love in Isaacs eyes melted my heart.   It was strange to feel such contentment whilst being acutely aware that there should have been a little one year old Xavier meeting his brother.  But as the colours of sunset glinted of Xavier’s  picture, I knew he was welcoming his little brother in his own sweet way.

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