This post originally appeared on my friend Mary’s blog during Baby Loss Awareness Week.
I thought it deserved its own stand alone entry on my own blog as I’ve been thinking about Alexandra a lot recently. As Ophelia grows up and her needs change we spend more time thinking about how our lives would be different if Alexandra was still here.
The run up to Christmas highlights the one wish we have but know can never be granted: to have both girls. That’s when the anxiety returns and so do the joyful (NOT!) anxiety dreams. Last night was a corker: Ophelia had some ailment with her liver that effected her brain development and she had a huge stitched up scar across her tummy.
Anyway; here’s what I wrote for Mary in October:
Alexandra was my first pregnancy. My first baby. My first daughter. She was the first grandchild to my parents and my in-laws. She was everything we had hoped and planned for however; our plans went somewhat awry.
My pregnancy lasted 42 weeks. We’ve since found out that my first midwife hadn’t followed the up-to-date guidelines regarding induction and had miscounted the days and booked me over the limit by a day. Not that that day mattered to our outcome. At some point in the last 4 weeks of pregnancy my placenta had stopped working properly and I didn’t know. No-one would’ve known really. The only tangible reason (that was still a maybe in our report) was VUE (villitis of unknown etymology). Had Alexandra been born at 38 weeks; odds on she would’ve been ok.
I’ve written about my pregnancy and what happened during her short life before however I’ve never really compare my then (when we lost her) to now: a family of 4 but without our 1.
I was utterly shell-shocked. Some days I couldn’t believe I’d woken up each morning. I honestly thought my heart would stop. I was broken. Bringing home my baby should’ve been the easiest thing to do – after all I was low risk and my pregnancy had basically been fine. I was astounded that this should happen to me. I was even more compounded that we didn’t have a definitive reason. I was terrified of having a post-mortem in case that they could prove it was my fault. I truly believed it was my fault even though I had followed all the advice to the letter.
When we left hospital the Indian summer was in full swing. I was waiting at the entrance for Andrew to bring the car round to pick me up and I was angry that the sun shining; surely it should be raining and thundering and lightning. Pathetic fallacy right? I felt pathetic; empty and as if I would fall off the earth at any moment. How dare the world carry on and look so beautiful?
As the days turned to weeks it was just survival. Get through an hour; a day; a week. The second half of 2015 was truly awful as I lost my Grandma then my baby girl and then my Grandad in the space of 3 months. It was ludicrous that so much heartache was deluged on me at once. I’m still amazed that somehow my body didn’t give out.
Our counselling in the community from Martin House Children’s Hospice was a major factor in keeping us afloat.
We have another little girl called Ophelia who is about to turn 2. We talk about Alexandra regularly. I’ve been like a “normal” Mum and got their names mixed up sometimes. I’m practised at answering the small talk questions. I go to SANDs meetings when I need to and sometimes when I don’t because I may unknowingly need that top up a week down the line. I follow a lot of bloggers and have recently started my own. I read a lot about baby loss and realised that I wasn’t bonkers; others felt the same way.
The dark clouds have parted but it took a long time to do so. The shell-shock returned when not only was Ophelia born fine despite some jaundice but she actually came home. I didn’t know what to do. I was terrified of getting too close too quickly in case we had to go into crisis mode of deciding treatment levels, when to turn off machines etc. She looked so much like in Alexandra on her profile that sometimes I couldn’t bear to look at her. Other times I couldn’t put her down as the last baby I put down in a cot was for Alexandra when I had to leave her behind.
Again it was a case of time. No new Mum really knows what they’re doing and we all have to learn on the job. I just had another layer of fear. We survived that first year with Ophelia.
I’m better at recognising when the Black Dog is coming to town and acknowledging the visit and taking better care of myself. I’ve set ground rules for myself. If something is going to be too hard for me; then I will politely decline.
I’m not afraid of talking about Alexandra; I’m better at judging who deserves to hear about her. In some ways I’ve got thicker skin in the sense that things that used to bother me just don’t know. There are other things that will really upset me now; the assumption that I’m somehow fixed because we’ve had another baby. Or someone getting the glazed look when I talk about Alexandra. Or people not remembering Alexandra’s birthday or acknowledging her existence. Or someone not interacting with Ophelia when she’s a pretty awesome; happy; cheeky and fun kid to be around.
What I do find frustrating now is when I try to explain that something might still be challenging for me the response is “oh well it’s better now.” I may be “better” in terms of not sobbing day after day; night after night; but I’m never going to be fully healed: my baby still died in my arms. I still had to organise her funeral and I still have a child missing out on all that life has to offer. That child will always be missing from her cohort. I see the group that she should’ve been hanging out with and I see the gaping whole.
How is life different? I’m better at making decisions in terms of what I’ll put up with. I know how to remove myself from situations that will be upsetting (for the most part!) and this experience has probably made Andrew and I more honest with each other.
Alexandra made me a Mum. I’m Ophelia’s Mum too. I have to be their Mummy in very different ways but always being their biggest ally and biggest fan.