The worst pain on a nightmare train; I felt tortured by every hour and this was my life. It eventually dawned on me that I didn’t have a baby and life changed forever. I crawled away from my experience of loss silently until I could run away… and never look back, never remember, never talk about it. BLACKOUT.
I found out I was pregnant in February 2011. My partner and I weren’t actively trying to conceive but also weren’t preventing it. We always wanted children and thought we were ready to be great parents. It was exciting! At the time I was in a good career, my colleagues were lovely but the pressure of the job was relentless. I’d learnt to be assertive, deliver to deadlines and be resilient. Our first baby scan date eventually came in May 2011, I was around 14 weeks pregnant by then. It went well so I persevered through work and tried hard not to complain about the discomfort. Cramping and spotting was a constant but a few weeks later it got worse so I went for a hospital assessment. Turns out my I had low progesterone levels; my cervix was opening- literally the baby’s amniotic sac was hanging out my cervix- EEEK! I needed hormone treatment as well as an operation to close my cervix- GET ME OUT OF HERE! I agreed to have a cervical suture at around 16.5 weeks pregnant.
On 20/08/2011 my waters broke all over my bedroom floor. In hospital I was told I may have contracted a bacterial infection, which was one of the risks of a particularly late cervical suture. On antibiotics I lay on bedrest for the next 2 days. That night I started to feel dull aches as I slept. They gradually worsened to cramps and then full-blown contractions. My nightmare was about to begin. A nurse eventually walked in and casually said ‘you’re going to have the baby soon’ A doctor soon followed and confirmed the reality. I was having the baby; it will be still born and would I have to deliver it naturally. My heart sank, I hated the world, the doctor, myself and the stupid blue picture on the wall! I couldn’t deal with me; I didn’t want to talk to anyone I just wanted silence. I wanted out.
At around 6am it was time to push my baby out. I somehow gathered myself and quickly called my partner. I whispered as I told him our baby had no heartbeat, that he wasn’t going to live, that we can’t take him home, that I’m not a mum, that he can’t be a dad, that I’ve failed and that I was so sorry. I heard him cry as did I. I hung up and got ready to push. ‘Excruciating’ doesn’t explain what I felt. I was relieved when the pain subsided and I recall that for a very brief moment I thought ‘wow, I’ve just given birth, how amazing that I can do that’. In the room with 2 nurses I was helpless. I couldn’t tell you what they looked like; I don’t want to remember them. My baby was handed to me wrapped in a disposable mat. I felt sick. They thought my experience and my baby was disposal. It’s just a job to them and an ordeal for me but who’s comparing…. My baby boy looked just like his father. He was handsome. Forever asleep. Holding him against my skin I cried and asked myself the ‘what ifs’. I prayed for a miracle and asked God for forgiveness. I also thanked Him for the opportunity to give birth. My partner was only allowed in the room after the birth. His face…. tearful, sad and defeated. I knew he was afraid. We embraced in silence, cried and held our baby for hours. It was just the 3 of us.
I didn’t call my mum until late morning and when I did, she was lost for word but very comforting. My partner and I were moved to a bereavement suite and pretty much laid there barely speaking. Doctors and nurses came in with all types of information but I didn’t hear a word. After I think 2 days of wallowing in sorrow, my mum came in and assertively told us to stand up and face life. We’d created a bubble and didn’t want to leave the space. I left with a bag of memorabilia and a bumf of paperwork- paper, not a baby.
In the real world the messages I got were ‘give it 3 months and just try for another baby’, ‘many women have walked this road’ ‘God’s time is always the right time’. My mum supported us through the baby’s funeral but I couldn’t bear it, the attention, the gazes, the sympathy. I’m still afraid to go back to the place my baby lays and I am ashamed to admit that.
There was a stigma attached to being childless so I was actively encouraged by most family members to try again quickly to help get over my loss. There was also the narrative that no man wants a barren woman, and fear of being without a man or child was a driver to get over it and move on. In addition to that, was the cultural norm that you kept your business to yourself so I didn’t speak about it much to anyone outside the immediate family.
This is the photo I have of my son and this the first time I have looked at it since 2011. In fact, as soon as I returned to work, I asked to move to another office, where no one knew me and I wouldn’t need to explain myself. My strategy then was to avoid dealing with the grief and trauma altogether. Whilst my family are supportive of me, we don’t talk about my baby, it’s like it never happened. We focused on the future and anything that didn’t resemble the past. The reality is I lived in that place for a very long time and I’m still running from myself.
When I think about my experience the reoccurring theme was SILENCE. I, we suffered loss in silence. We didn’t even speak to each other much about thoughts, feelings. What was there to say anyway? In terms of mental health support, I got the leaflet in my bumf I guess, but I never followed up on counselling. I never felt close to ‘ready to talk about it’ until now, but maybe if it had been an open conversation in my own community I would have taken the initiative too.
I want to encourage our communities to talk to each other, it helps to hear the stories, the solutions and to receive guidance or just a listening ear.
If you want to hear more from our community check out Becoming us Podcast, which is available on iTunes, Spotify and Podbean.
Winnie from Becoming Us Podcast x