My husband and I met in 2011, engaged in 2015, married in 2016 and decided to start a family in 2017. We were (are!) just like any other young couple – absolutely crazy about each other and delighted to be embarking on this huge life adventure together! Michael is genuinely my best friend and I can’t wait to have a family with him; he will absolutely make the most amazing Dad and I can’t wait to bring some little people into this world that are half him and half me.
When the journey first began it was all so exciting!
We fell pregnant almost immediately and couldn’t believe our luck. As with everything else in our story so far, it was all coming together perfectly. We were married, had a beautiful home and our baby was on the way. Everything was perfect. The stage was set, so to speak. It was Halloween weekend 2017, I was 12 weeks pregnant and we were about to have our first scan – but I woke up bleeding that morning. Long story short, my very first scan showed a little pea-shaped baby lying completely still. It measured only 8 weeks. I’d had a missed miscarriage. I lost that baby at home, in the bathroom. It was the saddest moment of my life.
When something like that happens to you, it makes you question everything you believe in. A little light goes out inside of you and you are forever changed. We were completely distraught, but with time and support we felt able to try again. We fell pregnant again the following February 2018. Naturally, all trust and belief in pregnancy had disappeared.
My second pregnancy was absolute torture. My anxiety was horrendous – I was pestering my local Early Pregnancy Unit multiple times a week for reassurance scans. I made a real pest of myself! But miraculously, we made it all the way to the 2nd trimester without any hitches. I began to feel little kicks and our confidence grew. We booked a private gender scan at 18 weeks, an attempt to bring a little light-heartedness into what had been a really stressful pregnancy. We invited our Mum’s and my Sister for a sneak peak at baby. During that scan, the Ultrasound technician went super quiet. She told us that our baby girl had lots of visible problems and she would be referring us to the hospital for further investigations. All of us left the building in tears. Again, long story short, our baby was diagnosed with a Cystic Hygroma (a large bag of fluid on the back of her neck) and Hydrops (pockets of fluid built up around her organs) which were all caused by a chromosome disorder called Turner Syndrome. We named our daughter Hallie and I carried her for a further 6 torturous weeks. We had weekly appointments to check for a heartbeat as the fluid collecting in her tiny body was stopping all of her organs from growing and it was just a matter of time before her heart would stop. At 24 weeks I went into preterm labour and Hallie was born by emergency C-section. She was born alive and held on for 3 amazing hours before passing away in our arms. She was and is the most impressive, strongest, little fighter I’ve ever known.
Losing Hallie was another level of devastation for us. To come that close to having a baby and have it all ripped away from us was very hard to bear, especially at a time where everyone else around us was making pregnancy and the journey into parenthood look easy. I felt like a total failure. I was embarrassed, ashamed and the overwhelming feeling that I had let everyone down was incredibly hard to bear. Those first few weeks without her were a blur. I felt completely numb.
Hallie was born on the 16th of July 2018, almost a year ago now. I am scared to admit that life pretty much reverted right back to how it was before our losses. That’s a hard thing to admit. And it’s something I feel guilty about every single day. When you surround yourself with a community of families where so many lives have been completely ravaged and devastated by loss, it’s difficult not to compare your experiences with theirs. Every day I wonder how I find it so easy to get out of bed in the morning when other Mum’s can’t. I question why I was able to return to work so quickly and others, years after their losses, still struggle to function. I watch other Mum’s and Dad’s weep and cry openly on Instagram and wonder why I haven’t cried in months.
I always wonder if my Husband and I have been judged for being able to pick ourselves up and carry on so quickly. I often feel like my experience of loss is somehow, inexplicably muted. Do I miss my daughter? Of course I do. Do I wish everything was different? Of course I do. My ability to function as normal bewilders, frustrates and scares me a little. I fear that it won’t be until a healthy baby is placed in my arms that we’ll feel the full weight of what we have lost; that somehow we’re still in limbo, waiting for the full force of grief to hit us. It’s hard to tell if our ability to plod on with life is true strength, or just numbness, or even denial.
Of course we have days where life is harder than others but for the most part, we are doing okay. And that’s hard to write about, in a community where it sometimes feels like being too happy and too keen to get on with your life is a crime. But I don’t think it has to be that way. Grief is a process – you will have dark days, and days where you feel like you can conquer anything, and days where you feel inexplicably normal. If you feel able and strong and like you’re coping well – that’s perfectly okay and just as acceptable as being absolutely bereft. I think you can be both. Devastated by the loss of a baby, but able to dust yourself off and carry on. It doesn’t mean that you forget. You’ll never forget. But you should never feel that your strength means that you don’t miss your baby as much as others appear to do – that’s how I’ve felt on many occasions. We all express grief in a different way and your path is your own and you should own it.
As I type this, I can feel the familiar little kicks of my third baby inside me. We are half way through this pregnancy and we have been wishing on every star, birthday cake candle and stray eyelash that this baby will be coming home with us in October 2019. Pregnancy after loss is HARD. Of course it is. But what it all comes down to is faith, hope and trust that one day soon every single part of this journey will be worth it. With every day that passes, our journey to parenthood edges closer and closer to being complete. I don’t think we’ll ever give up until a healthy baby is placed in our arms, and our losses will hopefully make that moment all the sweeter. I hope that whatever your story, you can find the strength to keep going. You have got this.
Lots of love,
You can follow more of Rachels story on instagram @completingourstory