What I lost
This post is best read while listening to “As the story goes” by Chad Lawson.
Anyone who has gone through the unthinkable, life-changing experience of losing a baby during or shortly after pregnancy, will know very well that the loss is all-encompassing.
This is my very personal, and possibly not exhaustive, list of 10 things I lost after losing both my babies – the first following a missed miscarriage at 8 weeks and 5 days; the second, Luca, due to a termination for medical reasons at 26 weeks and 1 day.
1. I LOST two babies, two lives, two human beings who would have turned into toddlers, then children, then teenagers, then adults. This means there will never be any “firsts”, any milestones for them: birthdays, Christmases, holidays, schools, trips to Italy to see my family and friends, crushes, friendships, true loves, universities, jobs, houses, laughs, tears, happiness, challenges.
2. I LOST friendships with other, more ‘typical’ mums: the mums who were pregnant when I was pregnant for the first time, the mums who were pregnant when I was pregnant for the second time, and who all went on to have beautiful, healthy, happy babies. I sense their unease when they talk to me - the woman who lost not once but twice - I don’t expect anything from them, and I understand that it must feel uncomfortable for them to include me in their new lives. I am sorry about this, and I wish it all went differently, or that it could change one day.
3. I LOST my ordinary life. I no longer can go about mundane activities such as making a cup of coffee, walking to the shops, or meeting a friend for a drink, without the constant, deep-rooted feeling that my life should be different, that I should have a seven-month-old baby or be at the very end of my pregnancy with Luca. That I should lead the life that I expected I would be leading. The life that I think I deserve.
4. I LOST the excitement, bliss and hope which come when looking at a positive pregnancy test. With that, I lost the beautiful sound and sight of people cheering when hearing our happy news and congratulating us on our future pregnancy.
5. I LOST the joys of a ‘typical’, problem-free pregnancy (note: I have never had the chance to experience ANY of this, with either of my pregnancies, despite daydreaming about it all): anxiety-free scans; collecting scan pictures; eating mindfully; signing up for prenatal Pilates classes; buying and wearing maternity clothes without thinking that I will only need them for a few more days, because my baby will not make it; rubbing my ever-growing bump, talking to it, feeling in love and connected with it; meeting other pregnant women, going out for coffees and chats; no longer buying sanitary towels or dealing with PMS symptoms; buying things for baby: clothes, nappies, little toys, blankets; preparing the nursery, painting its walls and baby-proofing the rest of the house; organising and hosting a lovely baby shower; going with Daniel on a baby moon; trying acupuncture, hypnobirthing, pregnancy massage, and antenatal classes.
6. I LOST the feeling of being on a ‘typical’ maternity leave, doing all the mum-and-baby things a woman should be doing with her newborn: coffees with other new mums; strolls in the park; visits to friends with babies; baby baths; bedtimes; cuddles; nighttime feedings; sore breasts; physical and mental exhaustion.
7. I LOST my old self. My old body. The confidence that my body can carry healthy babies to term. The pleasure of being by myself, relaxing at home, without feeling incredibly lonely, fearful, and uneasy.
8. I LOST confidence in myself as a working, valued member of society. Maternity leave is already a very strange place to be, but maternity leave without a baby is even more surreal, and utterly cruel. You’re not working, but you’re not looking after a baby either. Yet, you’re still getting some money at the end of the month. So, what exactly are you doing? And what will you do next? What do your boss and co-workers think about you? How will it feel when you have to go back to that same workplace, among the people who saw you pregnant but now know what happened to you, and probably either pity or ignore you?
9. I LOST the eagerness to travel. I can’t bring myself to board a plane to fly back to Italy and be with my family and friends. Sitting on a packed, rush-hour train generates a lot of panic and anxiety, and I try to avoid that whenever I can. Losing my babies somehow viciously taught me that horrendous things can happen at any time, and that you have no control over most of those things. So, while travelling, I'm always on high alert for something terrible to happen, which increases my stress levels and makes it really difficult to get out and about.
10. I LOST the opportunity to enjoy a ‘typical’ motherhood. I consider myself a mother, but instead of having a baby to hold in my arms I have an urn which contains his ashes, in my living room. I have photos of his tiny, dead body framed in my bedroom. Photos that most people do not want to look at. Photos that most people will never have in
their houses. I have no idea what it feels like to do 'normal' mum-like things, and I’m extremely terrified that I will never experience that.
There are at least as many things that I somewhat didn't lose, I'm sure - but that's another story for another time.