In January 2016, I gave birth to our first child. A son, named Leo Phoenix. It was perfect, the rush of love came, we were happy. Except, he was born sleeping and that made it such a bittersweet rush of love and happiness.
His labour was and will always be one of my fondest memories of Leo - I know others might not understand that, but after an anxious and life changing few days, he was with me, safe. He was dead, but safe.
Leo died two days before he was born, at 37 weeks. We now know that his placenta was too small, and whilst he gave it everything he had to keep going and get to a healthy 6lb 4oz at full term, he just couldn't hang on long enough for us to meet him properly.
I will always wonder if I missed something, missed his calls for help. I feel like he was just too polite. Didn't want to make a fuss.
Leo came to us after four unsuccessful fertility treatments. Being a same-sex couple, we always knew that fertility treatments would be our way of becoming parents, yet we naively expected it happen a lot quicker and easier than it did!
Finally getting pregnant with Leo was almost too good to be true - it was surreal, a much waited for pregnancy. It took a while to believe that this was actually going to happen - but as the countdown turned from months, to weeks, to days, the excitement grew. The nursery was finished, the clothes washed. Ready.
Leo dying has devastated us. He will always be remembered, and he will always been our first child. He has also shown us just how much love we have to give a child, and how much we are ready to become parents.
He has filled out hearts, and gives us so much joy. We just wish that he could have stayed, and could have shared in that joy.
From Leo's cycle, we had two frozen embryos - his siblings, ready and waiting for us. We decided to do a frozen embryo replacement cycle in May this year, just a few months after Leo had died. We were ready before Leo died to become parents to a living child, and Leo dying hasn't changed that. We wanted to become parents to Leo's little brother and sister, and we owed it to Leo to keep fighting for a living child. We knew it would be hard work, and a crazy mixture of emotions.
After a straightforward cycle, we became pregnant. We found out the day after what would have been Leo's fifth month anniversary. We surprised ourselves with how excited and hopeful we were. We knew that we had a long road ahead, but we genuinely thought this might work out.
It is amazing how even after such a devastating loss, your brain still allows for hope and light to seep in, and let you taste the joy that you are fighting for. Leo had sent us a little Robin, and we couldn't be more proud of him for helping us take this huge step.
Four days after we found out that we were pregnant, I started spotting. Suddenly, the realities of pregnancy after loss become real, and we tried so hard to stay positive and calm. The joy and hope dwindle quickly. The negativity took over, and started to control us.
After a few days, I phoned the Tommy's helpline who were brilliant at helping me stay positive. It was still so early, and some spotting is perfectly normal in early pregnancy.
However, the spotting continued and got a little heavier. I went for an early scan at our fertility clinic - we knew it was too early to see a heartbeat, even if all was okay, but we just needed some reassurance. Early pregnancy is so lonely, everything is 'too early' and 'you need to wait and see' - which doesn't help the anxieties, especially after already having to say goodbye to Leo.
The scan showed a pregnancy sac and everything looked on course to be okay, given how early it was. The spotting was light, and I wasn't cramping, so we just had to keep going for another week or so. At that point, I felt like I could breathe again, after a suffocating few days - I thought, perhaps the negativity is just the grief running away with itself. This could still all be okay.
In the afternoon of the 4th July, the bleeding changed - it became much, much heavier, I was cramping and I knew then. I'd miscarried. We had to say goodbye to the little Robin that Leo had sent us.
We went to hospital, and I got checked over. A few days later we went for a scan to confirm the miscarriage. That was the hardest bit - the scan was in the same room as Leo's last scan alive, and the Doctor who we saw, was the same women who told us that Leo had died.
Her voice went right through me, and took be back to the 14th January 2016 - I had flash backs to the day my son died, whilst confirming that his little sibling had also gone.
We were devastated. Frustrated. Angry. Exhausted. We still are. It all just seemed so ridiculous - how could this be our reality?
Everyone tells you that lightning doesn't strike twice. They give you small statistics - statistics are pointless when you are the '1 in whatever' twice in one year. The grief for this little Robin has been swept into our grief for Leo. There isn't enough energy to dedicate it anything separate. We took a little Robin ornament to Leo's grave, and asked him to look after him or her. I so wish this was different. Everything about this life, I wish was different.
It it not possible to make lemonade from the lemons that the baby loss life gives you. You try so hard. We fundraise, share, raise awareness and create and cherish memories. But it is poor alternative to being able to raise our baby, for being able to hold them, and know the colour of their eyes.
We are thankful that we were well looked after, and we continued to share and be open about our story. Whilst we didn't know anyone who had experienced a stillbirth before Leo, sharing our miscarriage story has been very different. So many people got into contact, sharing their own experiences. It really is something that happens to so many people.
We feel very strongly that it is something that needs to be talked about - it really would just get far too loud in our heads if we didn't. The support online has been incredible, and we have met some amazing true warriors, because of Leo and the little Robin that he sent us.
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