Sunday, 9 March 2014

Moving Forward: Part 1

Once again we were back at the place of trying for another baby.  The initial pain of the miscarriage resurfaced everything that had surrounded Emilie's death.  I didn't feel like I had lost another baby - I felt like I had lost Emilie all over again and had to keep reminding myself that this was a separate baby. We had had names picked out and I found that focussing on these names helped me to separate the baby I had just lost from Emilie.  We also decided to tell Sam that we had lost another baby in order to help him understand why mummy and daddy were sad again.  In the certainty that only a child can have, Sam told me 'we will get another baby, mummy'.  Each night he prayed for 'Jesus to give us another baby' and each night I felt a stab of pain as his childlike faith mirrored my own desperation.

The panic attacks resurfaced and the grief began to overwhelm me again.  I couldn't bear to see dates on the calendar and I couldn't cope with planning ahead and putting dates in the diary.  Every date indicated a milestone; 12 week scan, a year since I had found out I was pregnant with Emilie, 20 week scan, hospital admission date, due date and a couple of weeks after my due date - Emilie's first birthday and anniversary. I hated the way that all of these dates loomed. I was torn between wantijime to stand still so that we didn't have to endure the grief and pain of its passing and wanting it to move forward quickly so that we could get pregnant and have another baby. I wanted to say 'wake me up when it's all over'. Grief does strange things to people; I would never have wished Sam's life away and wanted to cherish every moment we had with him. I wanted to remember every little detail and wanted him to remain young for as long as possible. Yet here I was, wishing my own life away, praying that this terrible season would be over as soon as possible. I wanted my joy back.

We desperately wanted to start trying for a another baby straight away but the miscarriage had left me quite ill needing very high dose antibiotics which needed to be completely out of my system before we started trying again.  My hormones were all over the place, I was underweight and exhausted and I had once again suffered horrendous clotting.  The advice we were given was to wait until the antibiotics were out of my system before we could start again.  In order to lessen the stress of waiting we would be able to have fertility treatment but we had to wait until I had had a period before I could start any treatment.  If I hadn't had a period within eight weeks then they would intervene and use medication to stimulate a withdrawal bleed, restart my cycle and begin the treatment.  I was feeling quietly confident. After all, it hadn't taken long for me to get a period after Emilie's death and my hormone levels were a lot lower this time, surely.  I was certain that my periods would return within the month and walked out of the hospital feeling more hopeful.

Time began to move on and I tried to keep my spirits up but I was struggling.  A number of people tried to support me through saying things like 'at least you know you can get pregnant'. I'd smile but, at the time, this was of no comfort to me at all. I did know I could get pregnant; I had got pregnant three times, but my most sucessful pregnancy had resulted in severe growth restriction and early delivery.  It had been down hill from there with Emilie's stillbirth and and my miscarriage. Getting pregnant was of no use to me at all if I couldn't stay pregnant.  I was absolutely exhausted.  I couldn't see it at the time but I do wonder, had I stayed pregnant, would my body have been strong enough to sustain a pregnancy and grow a healthy baby.  Would I have been emotionally strong enough to survive another pregnancy and look after a baby?  The one piece of comfort I drew from the situation is that everything I'd read about trying for a baby after a miscarriage said that you were more fertile following a miscarriage.  Surely I would get pregnant quickly again.  I knew that 1 in 3 pregnancies ended in miscarriage and tried to see it simply as a statistic. My next pregnancy would be the one that had to be.

Once the bleeding and cramping stopped - which took a while - I began to feel brighter.  The emotional pain was no easier but things are easier to deal with when you do not have physical pain holding you back.  And, of course, I was going to fall pregnant again straight away so once the bleeding and cramping stopped I was more confident that my fertility would return imminently. At this time I met with a friend, Karen, who had experienced a stillbirth 10 months before we lost Emilie.  They had lost their daughter, Ella, in an unexplained stillbirth.  Over the year and a bit since Ella had died, Karen and her husband Dom, had raised tens of thousands of pounds for charities helping to raise money to fund research into the causes of stillbirth and neonatal death and to help reduce the risks.  Karen and I had been chatting and decided to hold a bake sale for 'Bliss' a premature baby charity.  Inspite of my hatred for diaries and calendars, having the date for this bake sale in the diary really gave me something to focus on.  I spent the week leading up to the bake sale engulfed in a cloud of icing sugar and flour.  I baked as if my life depended on it and friends dropped baked goods round to my house in huge amounts.  I began to worry how I was going to fit it all in the car.  

On the morning of the bake sale I met Karen and Dom to load up their car with a wealth of baked goods donated by Costco and we left to set up at Dom's work place.  I couldn't believe the amount of cakes and treats we had and Dom's colleagues continued donating cakes for us to sell! The support was overwhelming.  The day itself was exhausting as Karen, Dom and I cut cake and served customers.  I couldn't believe the number of people who got involved.  At the end of the day, people were willing to buy whole trays of left over cakes and parents at Karen's girls' school continued to donate money and buy things.  When it was all over, Dom counted up the money; we had raised £750!  I couldn't believe it.  Not only had this given me something to focus on and look forward to but I also felt like I had done something to make a difference - that Emilie's life wouldn't be in vain.

As time went on it became obvious that my periods were in no rush to start again. I began to feel increasingly fed up and impatient. I was taking ovulation tests daily and felt despondent each and every time they showed no hormone surge. I was taking pregnancy tests on a weekly basis, just in case, and would sometimes re-take these a number of times a day to be certain and to try and make sense of any of the symptoms I was feeling, or imagining, at that time.  I felt like I had nothing left to give.  I had no job, Sam was due to start nursery within a couple of months and I felt like I had no focus or purpose. Gradually though, the season began to change and spring began to break through.  I would look out at the garden and see it springing into life.  I saw new buds on trees, bulbs pushing through the soil and colours changing.  This gave me a huge boost.  Winter was finally coming to an end and the crisp, fresh colours made me feel like I had something to hope for.  I became desperate to know exactly what hope was. I wanted to know what the word meant and was desperately keen to understand more about the Biblical concept of the word.  Through my research I learnt that the biblical meaning of the word 'Hope' was very different to the way we view it in the English language.  I knew that hope brings a sense of expectation.  But when I read about it, this definition seemed quite abstract. It was often said as if the person hoping was making a wish. I had used it in this way.  I had no idea what i waa putting my hope in anymore and certainly did not really believe that anything i was hoping for was truely possible yet I kept repeating my wishes; 'I hope I get pregnant again', 'I hope I don't miscarry' over and over. Positive reinforcement, positive mental attitude. However, the use of Hope in the Bible, I learnt,  is very different to this. It is an indication of something that is certain - a strong, confident expectation rather than something wishy washy that can't be defined. I needed to hope in the God of miracles, the God of the impossible. I began to believe that he could quite literally reach down and pull me out of the pit of desire I was in. I desperately wanted to hear him say 'hope in me, wait on me, I have a plan for your life. Be confident in what you hope for'.  Something shifted in me and I truely believed that God had a plan for me; that this season would end and I would be rewarded.  This rang so true with me that I decided to get the Hebrew word for hope - 'Tikvah' - tattooed on my back.  I truely believe that this was a turning point for me both in my journey and in my understanding.

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