Month six and seven of my pregnancy ticked along nicely, nothing got me worried, nothing happened just normal doctors visits and my belly expanding nicely.
Then I hit 32 weeks.
I suppose I thought I would be strong through it all, I would get over the hump and be able to solider on, but in reality it didn’t get easier after our red flag week; it got harder and the rollercoaster of emotions was unforgiving.
I though I would be able to power forward like the little train that could. I too would eventually make it up the mountain if I just try hard enough. The truth is I was just scared, scared to lose my baby scared it could happen again, scared of the stillness, scared of it all. So I tried to re-adjust to a different way of coping. Coping didn’t mean powering through with level emotions, coping now means seeking reassurance when I need it, being able to ask for help and tissues at any time, but also being able to enjoy the moments of movements, the kicks and the rib prods and excepting that this is just going to be a rough patch until baby is born, happy and healthy into my arms.
Well that’s the outcome I want the most, but in the back of my head is always the reality that sometimes the best outcome is not what you get. No matter how much my common sense and the doctors tells me that everything is alright with this baby and with this pregnancy, the truth of it is I cannot erase or conveniently forget the loss of my daughter Claudia. Some days I truly wish I could take away the knowledge of “what could happen”.
When I hit 32 weeks (the week Claudia died) I knew it would be very difficult emotionally; and it was. No surprises there. The surprise to me was just how difficult the weeks after would be as well. I had anticipated that the anxiety would calm down after 32 weeks. Like a weight lifted off my shoulders, sheer relief, we had made it past our red flag weeks and I could get back to enjoying the pregnancy and anticipating our new arrival. In reality what happened was the anxiety I felt at 32 weeks continued through the next weeks at that new heighten level. Every day felt like an extra days grace, I’d conquered another day – the universe had not taken my baby today.
The anxiety crept up slowly. All of a sudden I noticed that I was counting kicks almost constantly and if my Bub was having a sleep for longer than an hour I would panic and start moving around, eating sugary food, eating frozen icy poles and sitting still with both my hands over my belly so I could feel even the smallest kick or roll. Anytime of the day or night you could find me rubbing my stomach, not because it was large and heavy but to make sure I can feel any and every movement my baby was making. At night I would still be up every two to three hours to relieve my bladder and I would not fall back to sleep until I could feel a decent amount of movement from Bubs. If, in my mind, I had not felt enough I would get up and go to the freezer and steal the kids icy poles and sit in the kitchen in the middle of the night and hope the cold ice would wake Bubs up more.
I managed to make myself completely insane one night, I had felt kicks, so I knew Bubs was fine, but in my mind they had not come quickly enough and I was in full panic mode siting on the kitchen chair at 2am calling the hospital telling them through buckets of tears that I know everything is okay but I would like to come in and get the baby checked. I’m not sure I made much sense but as soon as I said I have had a previous stillborn and am currently freaking out completely, they said come on in and they will check it out.
After I hit about 32 weeks my doctor had encouraged me to come in to her office twice a week for a CTG scan of the baby’s heartbeat. I had found that very comforting. By the end of my 33rd week they had booked me into have a CTG everyday. I had gone to the hospital once more, this time at a more respectable hour but no less panicked.
Another Monday came and I go into see the midwife at the doctor’s office for my regular CTG visit. This Monday was in the midst of school holidays and the waiting room was full of families; including mine. In the waiting room there is a couple to our right with two young kids, so being young kids full of beans in a small waiting room it took around 3 minutes for dad to make the decision to take the kids to the cafeteria while mum waits for her appointment, good man. Another family exits the doctor’s office walks down the corridor and waits at he reception desk. I couldn’t help but compare their kids to mine. It was raining and cold out and their two girls were in matching warm jumpers and cosy warm track suit pants with sensible sneakers on and hair brushed and put in long braids down their back. My kids were moments away from licking the office aquariums glass and had very obviously dressed themselves causing them to look like an explosion of rainbows and pillow fights. I give them my best “ You better not” mum face to stop them catching any strange diseases from the glass.
It was our turn next and in we all went to see the midwife. I had been here in so often lately that I’m treated like a family member within the offices. I chat away to the midwife and my actual family makes themselves at home in the little cubicle. I get myself set up for another CTG scan as the gas bagging gets well and truly under way. Although I was chatty I knew I had been feeling upset that day anyway and I knew that the slightest thing would set me off. The monitor pumped away with baby’s heartbeat and as always baby was ticking along nicely happily and contentedly. In the midst of all the chatter the midwife says to my girls, “Mum’s going to have a baby in a couple of weeks” and that very innocent and really nothing sentence sets me off. I well up and start crying.
My girls look at me, especially my eldest who is very quick to worry. She turns and asked her dad, “Why is mum crying?” The midwife chirps in that she had said something that made mum upset. In fact she hadn’t said anything remotely upsetting, but me being so anxious all I thought about was, I don’t think I can last “weeks”. The thought of having to continue to constantly talk my emotions off the cliff was too much to comprehend and the sheer force of will it had taken from me in the last weeks seemed too much to do again. So a simple comment about “a few weeks” which was spoken to me in a reassuring way, sounded to me like having trekked up a mountain only to find half of it was hiding under clouds and you still had the hardest stage to climb.
I felt defeated and deflated. I knew that I was anxious on the inside and it took a great deal of inner strength for it not to overwhelm me at every turn. I was aware that my growing stress was not good for the very contented and happy baby floating around inside me and I was concerned that the extra stresses of the last few weeks were being passed on to the baby via my hormones.
I left the nurses office with my composure back on track but still a bit wobbly. As i stand at reception and wait, my doctor comes out of her office and walks over to me, she asked, “Kyla, how about the 15th?” I take a second to comprehend that she is talking about my pulling my induction back two weeks, I take a moment, breathe out and reply, “book me in”. I almost coo the words as I realise I finally have an end date. A date to work towards, a date that I just have to reach. The doctor says that we will sort the details out on my next appointment and leaves me finish at reception. After, I walk over and tell hubby with a disbelieving smile that Bubs will be here sooner than expected.
After the initial elation of the end date revelation, it sinks in that when Bub is born they will be classed as pre-term, I talk it over with family and express that although I am happy to have my induction pulled back, perhaps with the stress lessened I may be able to go further into my pregnancy after all.
With all the wheels in motion to have my induction in my mid 35 th week and with the finish line now in sight the stress actually did lessened, it didn’t disappear, the fear was always there. It only takes a minute for things to change and my body and mind were still alert to any signs of change, real or imagined.
I joked with the doctor that they would see me at the crack of dawn on my induction day cheerfully rapping on the door to let me in. In reality I was hoping to be able to go a bit further with the pregnancy, but as time went on and all the details were locked in, I found that it was just too hard to postpone it for another week or so and in the back of my mind I thought not to push my luck, we had already made it this far. Just a little further, Just need to hang in there a bit longer.
We had a little boy, Luc, at 4.20pm on the 15th of July. He weighed 6lbs and we were thrilled he was happy and healthy.
Most friends and families reaction to Luc’s safe birth was to express relief, to say I must be so happy he is finally here, so relieved he is in our arms and yes, absolutely we were thrilled but the relief at his safe birth was tempered with the guilt that I could not have lasted longer in the pregnancy.
He was born a good-sized pre-term and we had no complications from his birth and were both released from hospital after 3 days with a clean bill of heath, but mother guilt is a very strong force to come up against. At first it was hard to see him so small, I hated that his perceived fragility was directly my fault. As the weeks go along he is getting bigger and bigger (and bigger!!) that feeling is finally fading.
Luc is a month old now, and although I have a huge need for more sleep (and for some magic fairy godmother to come and do my mountains of laundry) things are settling down.
Looking at it now what I mostly find is that it isn’t the grief and disbelief of the event of Claudia’s stillbirth that stays, but the ambient sorrow of her life unlived. The event itself is not something I really think about a lot, I have Claudia’s memory box on my dressing table in my bedroom, easily accessible whenever I want it; but I don’t find myself going to it that often, I don’t have her ashes on display or her photo in shrines around the house. I think mostly of how happy and blessed our family is and how unfortunate it is that she cannot be here to share it with us. It makes me sad, if I could have changed it I would have, but some things just are. She is always loved and included as a part of our family, just not a part we get to hold.