The beginning of a rainbow

Pregnancy after stillbirth is an exceptionally hard experience. Jenny Bowman shares her extremely honest second story about being pregnant again following the stillbirth of her daughter, Olivia Paige, at 41 weeks.

Story of Miscourage

Tommy's guest blog, 28/09/2017, by Jenny Bowman

24th June 2016. That day will stay with me forever. That's the day I got to meet my beautiful daughter Olivia Paige for the first time.

I'll always remember that new baby smell, her cute little nose and the biggest feet I've seen on a newborn baby! It was also the last time I got to hold her in my arms. Olivia was stillborn at 41+3 weeks.

We later discovered she died because her placenta failed and there were no medical signs that anything was wrong according to the midwife. Olivia was even kicking 45 minutes before they couldn't find her heartbeat.

Losing your first child to stillbirth is... I still don't think I can put into words exactly how I felt... empty, incomplete and devastating...

Trying for another baby after stillbirth

I wanted to start trying again quickly after losing Olivia. My body so craved a baby, I just wanted to fill the gaping hole she had left behind.

Luckily my husband Michael realised and insisted we weren't ready. He could see that I didn't want another baby for the right reasons; I was just trying to lessen the pain I was feeling.

Back then I hated him for being so selfish and not giving me what I wanted. Grief does really strange things to you. But it was the right decision I can see now.

Two months passed and we discussed it again. This time he agreed we were ready.

We managed to get pregnant again late October and I was absolutely delighted. Unfortunately, we lost the baby at around 6 weeks just before Christmas. I sunk to a new low. It was a really crappy time. I spent most of Christmas day wishing the day away.

We left it a month and started trying again, I was less excited this time around. The dark cloud hadn't properly dispersed and was now a part of me.

A few weeks later however I was pregnant again.

I became detached from the pregnancy

For the next 2-3 weeks I was on cloud 9. Then, I'm not sure why it happened, but I started being consumed by this awful feeling that this baby would be taken away from me too.

I became completely detached from the pregnancy. I couldn't bear touching my stomach and started dreading the thought of telling people we were pregnant.

I think part of it was that I didn't want people to assume it's now ‘fine’ that Olivia died because we have a replacement, so it's not as 'bad'. If anything, I missed her more than I think I ever had up to that point.

Obviously I doubt anyone would actually think that, or at least say it aloud but I couldn't help the way I was feeling. It felt like Olivia vs. Bump and I didn't like it.

Each appointment I wished I was elsewhere

I had to book in with a consultant as I would be 'consultant-led' in this pregnancy, given what had happened to Olivia. They don't know why the placenta stopped working, so future pregnancies need to be monitored to check the baby is growing correctly.

My midwife was the specialist midwife I saw while getting induced with Olivia, which I found easier as she saw firsthand what we went through. My consultant was also the first doctor I saw after the scan confirmed our daughter had passed away, so again I had that connection with her too.

The hospital was really supportive, making sure for my first couple of appointments we could wait in a quiet room and not in reception with everyone else.

Each appointment I wished I was elsewhere. I hated going back to the hospital. As soon as I walked through the door it was like someone had sat on my chest and I couldn't breathe. I was terrified I'd see someone we knew and they'd realise why we were there, or that I'd be led into the same room where they confirmed Olivia had died using an ultrasound machine.

Even after seeing the baby jumping about on the monitor, I might as well have been a million miles away. I would be told everything was fine but I'd immediately think, 'Yeah for now, how long will this last?’ I couldn't feel happy about it, not yet. If it didn't work out again, I actually think my heart would just break and that'd be the end of me.

Guilt, guilt and more guilt

We still went to counselling every week, which I needed more than ever now. I didn't want to talk about this baby, only Olivia.

I felt like I shouldn’t be having another baby. It felt like it was an insult to her to want another baby. Part of me felt as if she should have been everything and no other child would ever come close. Again, grief does really strange things to you. I wish I'd written down all of the things I thought in my darkest days, honestly you wouldn't believe it!

12 week scan

We had the 12 week scan and everything was fine - well, everything apart from me! I should have been crying with happiness but again I was completely numb. 

By then I'd started to show. I was petrified people at work would notice. I definitely wasn't ready for people to know yet and I didn't want to hear any congratulations. It was way too early for that and I didn't want to have to try and make people understand.

I felt like I'd just stopped being the walking stillbirth advert, I felt like people were seeing me for me again, not defining me by what had happened and I didn't want that to change. 

Being away from people we knew on the anniversary helped

The anniversary of Olivia's birthday and death was coming up so we did the mature thing and ran away! We went to Mauritius on holiday. Being away helped - it was just us. No one knew what we'd been through over the past year so we could be however we wanted to be.

Her actual birthday was really tough. From the moment I woke up I just wanted to cry and cry. I missed her so much and looked at the hundreds of photos we took of her and talked about all of the things we remembered of her.

While I was away I'd asked my boss to tell people at work we were expecting again but not to speak to me about it as I was still struggling. By then I was 18 weeks and it was pretty obvious!

Coping with other people

I was dreading going back to work now that everyone knew I was pregnant again, I barely slept the night before. I got to work an hour before everyone else and I was expecting people to mention the baby. I was so grateful when that didn't happen. They'd all understood I wasn't coping very well and just asked about my holiday. I was so relieved I could have thrown up!

With each passing day, my bump was getting bigger and bigger. 

Our counsellor Caroline did a lot of work with us about our feelings towards our new baby. Michael was trying to stay positive and tried to be whatever I needed him to be. I still couldn't bond with the baby and still didn't want to talk about him or her. I knew I needed to sort myself out but didn't have the energy to, it was hard enough just getting out of bed in the morning let alone anything else.

I tried to bond with my bump

On holiday I kept trying to make myself put my hand on my stomach, hoping I'd just start doing it without that horrible feeling of dread washing over me.

A few months before I was desperate for a baby to fill the gaping hole Olivia had left but now, there was no hole. There was the memory of Olivia and my guilt that no other child would ever live up to her or the love I felt for her, that was it. I hated myself. I felt so ashamed. There are so many couples that are desperate for a baby and here I was, 18 weeks into a seemingly healthy pregnancy and I just wanted to run away from everyone and everything.

I just wanted to be with her and no one else. Everything felt grey and nothing seemed to be bringing me out of it. This was definitely the lowest I'd felt so far. Our counsellor asked me honestly if I'd considered hurting myself, and whilst I hadn't, I still felt like I could never be happy again without her, even with the amazing people in my life.

I did not want a boy

I'd asked Michael if we could find out the sex of the baby. Deep down I was desperate for another girl. I thought if I could do all of the things I imagined doing with her. I didn't want a boy. I was worried if we didn't find out the sex and we managed to have a healthy, breathing baby and it was a boy - I'd just completely close off and reject him.

The Friday after returning from holiday we had another growth scan with our consultant and I asked if she could tell us the sex of the baby, hoping beyond hope it was a girl. I had a horrible feeling we were having a boy and I was praying she would say otherwise.

"It's a boy".

Those 3 words made me want to cry. I was absolutely gutted. I spent the rest of the scan looking at the wall, not being able to bring myself to look at the innocent baby on the screen.

We walked out of the hospital and again I was numb. Michael knew how I'd be feeling and said he was sorry it wasn't what I wanted to hear but he was healthy and growing well and we should take each day as it comes.

We told our parents who were happy for us and when I got work I told my colleagues who were all really happy for us. I still felt like I wanted to cry. They could see my disappointment and started telling me how it was probably a good thing we were having a boy, and how loving boys are towards their mums. I didn't want to hear it, they were only trying to help but I was completely beyond it.

Things started to improve

Over the next few weeks I knew I had to start sorting myself out. I tried to open up more at counselling about how I was feeling and made a point to call the baby by the name we had chosen. I started to put my energy into de-cluttering the house. I needed a project to keep me from being so negative. 

He would always kick after I'd get up for a wee in the middle of the night. I tried to use this time to hold my bump and concentrate on feeling the kicks. I noticed each morning when the alarm would go he would kick like mad.

One morning, I jumped as usual switching my alarm off and lay on my back for a minute waiting for the kicks but they didn't come. I gave my belly a bit of a shake and still nothing. I had some cold water and again, nothing. By that point I started to panic. I said aloud, "Come on little one, let me know you're OK" and I had the biggest kick I'd had to date. My whole stomach moved! I felt so relieved and this amazing warm feeling of love just washed over me, cooled slightly by the ever present grief, guilt and self loathing. But it was definitely there and for the first time, I felt happy about being pregnant.

Reaching 7 months

I'm now 7 months pregnant and people now know they don't have to walk on eggshells around me anymore. If anything, they're laughing at my stories about the perils of sneezing with a full bladder. I think a part of me will always feel guilty about how I initially felt about our little boy, but I hope when he's older he'll understand why.

I can't imagine anything worse that losing a child, it nearly destroyed me. I have been lucky enough to be blessed with an amazingly supportive and patient husband. Losing Olivia has somehow brought us closer together. My friends have also played a huge part in getting me through this last year, as has my family - both mine and his.

I'm going to make sure Jack knows all about his beautiful sister and how his amazing Daddy made sure Mummy didn't lose her mind. I'm going to concentrate on being the best mum I can be for him.

I keep trying imagine what it will be like when he’s here – actually bringing a baby home. It still seems impossible but I can’t help but feel a little excited now. Michael's going to share some of my maternity leave so we will have 6 weeks off together once Jack’s here. I’m really looking forward to just having that time as a family and doing all the things a couple would do when they bring home a baby for the first time.

Hopefully this is the beginning of the rainbow, our little heart healer.

You can read the story of Jenny's previous pregnancy and Olivia's stillbirth here.  

 

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