Mark and I have two girls. The eldest is Emily and our youngest Isabella is four years younger. We also had a son, Alexander, who would have been in between the two girls, but he was stillborn at 36 weeks.
After Alexander was stillborn, the decision to try for another baby was not an easy one. I got pregnant, had a miscarriage and then got pregnant again. I phoned Mark straight away when I found out. He was apprehensive and said, ‘It’s early days, don’t get your hopes up’.
As the months progressed I got more and more nervous because I just couldn’t stop thinking, ‘Is this going to be ok? Am I going to get a live baby in my arms this time?’
I set milestones during the pregnancy. Because I’d previously had a miscarriage around nine weeks, it was like, ‘Ok, I’ve got over that bit.’
But, knowing that things go wrong right at the end, made it difficult. Previously, after the 20-week scan, for example, I relaxed into the pregnancy, but this time, the feelings of anxiety were as strong as ever.
There was no let up at any point. I was worried about every little thing, not sleeping at night. Any slight twinge, I felt made me wonder, ‘Is this normal? Should this be happening?’
After having a stillbirth there was a problem of not belonging as well.
Previously, at antenatal classes I could talk normally to other women about past pregnancies and children. But if you’ve had a stillbirth, what do you say? Do you want to tell a load of mums in a pregnancy room that bad things can happen in pregnancy? Or do you keep schtum?
So there was a constant anxiety about answering questions about the children I’ve had. In the end I just stopped going to antenatal classes. I just found it far too uncomfortable.
Thankfully I knew two women through a SANDS support group who were also pregnant, so at least I had two people that I could phone up and talk to.
I was also surrounded by the staff at the clinic [Jennifer was cared for by the Tommy's Rainbow Clinic for women who are pregnant after a stillbirth], who dealt with all my concerns and didn’t make me feel stupid for what I was asking – that was so great.
Towards the end I remember getting very anxious about what to buy for the baby, and what to pack for hospital. The hardest thing to pack was nappies, because a dead baby doesn’t wear a nappy.
In the end I packed a best case scenario bag and a worst case scenario bag for hospital.
One of the worst points was around about my 34 week scan when it looked like Isabella wasn’t actually growing and that was followed by me having pains around 36 weeks, which was the same time I lost Alexander. They were identical to the pains I’d had around the time I lost Alexander and I thought it was happening again.
I phoned up and was straight in at the clinic getting checked out and everything was ok.
It’s just a total emotional rollercoaster. And you know it’s not going to end until you have that baby in your arms.
I found the best way to manage and cope with my feelings was to have a chat with people, especially my two friends who were going through something similar. Then we could talk about the children we lost. I also kept a diary during my pregnancy so if I ever felt I needed to air my feelings, I had that.
This time around I also decided that I wasn’t going to mess around if I was worried. I thought: ‘I’ll phone people. I’ll phone my midwife, I’ll phone the hospital. I’m not just going to think oh that’s a silly question, I’m just going to ring because the risk of what could potentially happen wasn’t worth it.’
I had a direct number to staff at the Rainbow Clinic who were caring for me.
The imortant thing was the consistency of staff – because often, community midwives change so you’re not guaranteed to see the same person all the time. After a stillbirth, it’s painful having to repeat your story to every single person you see. It’s on your notes, but people haven’t got time to flick through your notes.
I also had Mark. We talked a lot, which was really helpful because obviously Mark’s lost a child as well and he was going through the pregnancy as well.
He came to every single appointment I had at the clinic. I cried a lot during the pregnancy as well and it was great just having someone there to get a hug from and be there for me emotionally, especially someone who was going through exactly the same thing.
I’d read that the risk of stillbirths is heightened if you go over your due date so I was adamant I didn’t want to go over my due date. So I was scheduled in to be induced the day before my due date.
But again, even during the labour, there was stress. At one point I thought I’d actually delivered the baby, and because the room was so quiet I thought, ‘It’s happened again, the baby’s died’. And I looked over at Mark and he was as pale as anything. Thankfully Mark must have realised what I was thinking and asked the midwives, ‘Why’s the baby not crying?’ and they told him she wasn’t out yet. With the next push she was out, screaming the place down and there were tears all round in the delivery unit. It was really brilliant just to have her in my arms and crying.
There was just so much stillness the moment after Alexander died, it was just eerily quiet so just to have noise after Isabella was born it was one of the greatest things.
If there is anything positive that has come from Alexander I think that I love my children more, as if that was possible. But I think because of what has happened with Alexander I take them less for granted.
I would tell any mum who is pregnant after a loss, to speak to people if you have concerns. Tell people how you are feeling.
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