*This post contains descriptions which some mothers may find distressing. If you have experienced the loss of a child, at any stage, please approach with caution *
Postpartum doesn’t always look like you thought it might. I took this photo just before my contractions started and within an hour I was no longer pregnant but in a very unfamiliar yet very familiar ‘post-partum’ place that I didn’t want to be in.
Sometimes even after everything looks completely fine, you then have to go into forced labour at 20 weeks pregnant because your baby no longer has a heartbeat.
At 20 weeks pregnant you’re halfway there, you have a bump, you’ve felt movement and you might have even thought about names. Most people who are close to you now know you’re expecting and your other children, if any, are probably aware that there’s another little person coming into the world in the not too distant future. You’ve probably thought about sex, names, or even started buying things.
At 20 weeks pregnant you don’t expect to have to go into labour. From start to finish. Losing your mucus plug, contractions and giving birth. Not to mention the bleeding and everything else that comes afterward.
At 20 weeks pregnant you don’t expect to have to have the conversation about whether your baby is to be buried or cremated.
About whether you want to do a post-mortem and whether your baby’s body can be sent off to here or there for this research or that inspection.
You never think it will happen to you. Not at 20 weeks pregnant. If it were the first trimester it would be (only slightly) more fathomable. What are the odds of miscarrying in the first trimester, it’s something awful like 1:4 right?
I could have swallowed that pill a lot easier than the one I had to swallow to tell my placenta to stop working. You see my body still thought I was pregnant. I still had all the symptoms, no cramps, no bleeding etc and I had even felt movement that day and prior or so I had thought. So the only way forward because of the baby’s size was to get my body to go into labour and to do that they give you a pill to stop your placenta working and send you home until you go into labour and then you are to go back when that starts.
I didn’t don’t want to feel anything during the labour. I have birthed two children and I know what labour feels like. I didn’t want to feel anything at all from start to finish. I know what contractions feel like and usually at the end of those you are rewarded with your baby. If at all possible I didn’t want to have any of those feelings. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen quite like that as they couldn’t get an epidural in, despite 4 attempts.
You know, It was an experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I would much rather still be pregnant, we were all excited, after a rough year it was very welcome unexpected news.
But this baby wasn’t meant to be. We will never know why as everything looked as it apparently should and a scan at 14 weeks was totally fine, there was no obvious reason for it. But it wasn’t written for us. And as much as it broke my heart to say goodbye to someone I never got to say hello to I have been left feeling two things. A) someone knows better. Does that sound a bit like hocus-pocus? Maybe it is. But maybe 3 under 3 (including a demanding 18 month old who has recently been diagnosed with cerebral palsy) would have been too much for me right now? Maybe it’s not meant to be because I need to focus on her and her physio needs? I don’t know. But I know it was not meant to happen right now otherwise it would be happening. B) I couldn’t and still can’t help but think of all the mothers who have birthed multiple babies who they never got to take home, who have miscarried so many times they’ve lost count through desperation to have just one of what I already have at home. My heart continues to break for them. I am humbled by them and their powerful strength to go on. I am grateful beyond words for what I have at home.
I stayed that night in the hospitals ‘special’ room away from the labour ward and all of the crying newborns. I thought of all of the other mothers who had stayed in that room before me. I was surrounded by framed artwork of serene beaches and sailing boats and flyers and leaflets full of grievance counsellors and other similar contact numbers.
My husband has said many times before that there is no way that anyone could ever really think that women were the weaker sex if they truly knew some of the things we go through. I don’t think I really understood the meaning of what he was saying until that night.
My love and utmost respect goes out to those women. The ones who have stayed in similar rooms before me and experienced such loss and yet continue with such resilience and strength. You are nothing short of warriors.
Many thanks to Suhir Jibreen for sharing her story. You can follow Suhir here