The first tr(Y)mester of a pregnancy after loss

Baby B 12 weeks 4 days

It’s only 12 weeks/3 months but the first trimester of a pregnancy after loss is exhausting and here is why mine was:

The first week or so is spent with you daring to believe the pregnancy test result, or in our case ‘tests’. You carry on daily life a bit numb and then you’ll be sat at your desk at work and WHAM a wave of reality hits you. You might be pregnant again! You go through all the emotions from shock, disbelief, nerves and terror to over the moon. Hopes and fears all mixed in to one. Hopes that the baby is healthy, I have a healthy pregnancy, we are looked after properly, the baby is born crying and we get to keep this one. Fears that my second baby will die like my first, that I will miss any important signs, that family will overwhelm us, that work will stress me out, that we can’t enjoy this pregnancy and that I won’t have a natural unmedicated birth like I really want.

Having been pregnant before I knew that the first thing I had to do was arrange an appointment with my doctor and a blood test. I went to my appointment and it was such a relief to tell someone, well anyone our news. Saying it out loud to someone in a healthcare profession made it feel more real. It didn’t take long for me to break down into tears on my doctor though. Not surprising really seeming everything that was going around my head. I couldn’t help but think that I’d done this before and it didn’t end well and what would make this pregnancy any different. One of the first things I noticed was how much extra attention, care and support we were already being given.

Next was to pay a visit to my gynaecologist. I had a meeting set up already because it would have been eights months after trying for a baby at this point and we were due to discuss the next steps. When we told our gynaecologist that we thought we were pregnant, it was so lovely to see his surprise. He couldn’t call our pregnancy viable at this stage as a heartbeat hadn’t been seen as it was only 5/6 weeks gestation but seeing what we could on the screen was amazing. We couldn’t help but feel blessed.

Our gynaecologist commented how his job can be very hard sometimes but finding out our news had made his week which was lovely to hear. However I came away not satisfied and thinking what we had found out at the appointment wasn’t enough for me. I needed to have firm confirmation that our baby was alive. Despite not having another scan for a further two weeks we had decided to share our news with close family so they could understand what we were going through. My sister and I had a joint birthday celebration with family coming up and my husband and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to share the news.

The two week wait between the scan and birthday celebration was so difficult. I had this big secret and was trying to cope with all the emotions it was bringing. I managed to lose half a stone in weight in those two weeks which I put down to the stress and worry plus starting to feel a little nauseous. I was very nervous the day of the family gathering but it felt more real than when I was building up the courage to tell them with our last pregnancy.

I decided to reveal the news to my sister first in a birthday card from her nephew angel Freddie. It said he thanked her for being a great auntie to him but now it was time for her to be auntie to his little sister or brother too. She read the card and I can’t repeat the words she said but she was in shock and unbelievably excited. My mother and step father were close by and couldn’t understand what was going on. My sister handed my mother the card to read and they gave each other a massive hug. We were delighted to see their excitement and didn’t want to put a damper on things but we were also trying to be realistic and kept saying it was early days and we were waiting to see the heartbeat. I then texted, Skyped, phoned and told other family members and work colleagues. It was such a relief and felt more real as we shared the news with other people.

At my next scan we got the news we had been waiting for and saw a strong heartbeat. It was reassuring to finally know that there was a baby growing inside of me, albeit a very small one that doesn’t resemble anything like a baby at this stage, but it was ALIVE! We were still a bit in shock I think but believe it or not I still wasn’t 100% satisfied though and couldn’t work out exactly why I wasn’t bouncing off the walls with excitement. I talked about it with my husband Rik and we came to the conclusion that it still felt unreal to me and that I was waiting for the bad news. It’s so hard once you’ve been ‘the one’, to think that this time everything might work out okay.

We were just starting to believe it all and beginning to enjoy it when at 10 weeks I had a bleed at work. I had not really bled that much during my last pregnancy so immediately thought something must be wrong and that I was losing the baby. I phoned my husband and told him to meet me at A&E and somehow managed to drive myself to the hospital whilst repeatedly telling my baby to stay with us. We had an hour’s wait in A&E to be seen which was so hard.

Whilst sat in reception I kept popping to the toilet to see if I had bled anymore. I hadn’t so this gave me the tiniest bit of hope. However, my brain had already started processing the fact that this wasn’t going to be good news and thoughts of how to tell my family we had lost the baby and having to start trying again went through my head.

My husband and I had mentally prepared ourselves for the worst during that wait. I was seen by a doctor who said my stomach felt normal and that we would have to wait a further half an hour to be seen by a gynaecologist. I lay there on that bed and just tried to relax but it was so hard. They eventually scanned me and for a minute or so I couldn’t see our baby move and even said out loud “There’s nothing there” but we were reassured with a visible heartbeat. They put it down to just one of those pregnancy bleeds possibly caused by a burst blood vessel.

We went home that day mentally exhausted and trying to take it all in that our baby was still alive and okay. This really made us take things a bit slower and appreciate our baby still being with us. We had moments where we were scared to plan but then determined to keep going as before.

The next week my mind was fortunately pre-occupied as Guernsey Sands (Stillbirth & Neonatal Death), the charity I am a committee member for, were to donate a cuddle cot to the hospital. I knew it was going to be a hard week visiting the ward but it didn’t even cross my mind that the press call might take place in the very delivery room I birthed Freddie in. It was the first time I had set foot in that room since being wheeled out that night having given Freddie my first and last kiss. Ideally I would have wanted to be with my husband the first time I revisited the room but the other committee members were there with me.

The room had been redecorated and the layout changed and it was a nice bright day compared to the dark night when I’d been in the room last. I coped though and had the courage to get through that day, partly due to knowing I was carrying Freddie’s sibling. I went home that night and told my husband how I was worried that the new vision I had of the room would somehow wipe the memory of the special day we met our son. I managed to reassure myself that my brain would be able to separate the two.

The next week was well and truly needed as we had our 12 week scan at what we thought was 11 weeks and 4 days gestation. We were so scared but also looking forward to it and hoping that it would give us some much needed reassurance. The two days before the scan I had to take off work. I was just not feeling right. Emotional, tired, weepy and fuzzy headed. We had a lovely sonographer who really took his time and understood our concerns and worry. At the scan we got the reassurance we needed. A moving baby with everything looking as normal as possible. It was amazing to see our beautiful baby with its cute nose, just like Freddie’s. It even had its thumb in its mouth which was adorable and we joked was just like me. The baby looked softer than Freddie and both Rik and I thought it was a girl. We were also informed that the pregnancy was further along and our baby was measuring 12 weeks and 4 days gestation instead!

We were so proud to finally share our exciting and scary news with everyone. We decided to announce our pregnancy in a video which respected and included Freddie but was all about his little brother or sister. We wanted to show how we were just as excited about this pregnancy as with Freddie’s. We then posted some scan pictures to show how beautiful our baby was, how proud we were and how already loved our second baby was.

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The truth of trying to conceive after loss

Is it positive?

It’s been eight months since my last post on Freddie’s First Birthday Memorial Event and a lot has happened in this short time. The biggest most exciting and scary thing is what I will be blogging about in the future, but first I must explain a few things in this blog post.

In April 2014, my husband and I decided that we would like to start trying for a sibling to our son Freddie who was stillborn in August 2013. We weren’t 100% sure how long it would take or how we were going to cope when/if we got a positive pregnancy result, but we knew that however much we were still grieving for our son, this would never change. We could be grieving all our life so there was no point waiting for it to be okay one day.

The fact that we were both ready was the most important thing. If I am being honest I would have starting trying again the day I walked out the hospital with a memory box in my arms instead of my son, but I respected my husband’s need to wait and in hindsight realise that I had needed time to grieve my loss and make memories for my darling Freddie.

We were aware that we conceived Freddie the first month we tried but knew that it may not happen this quickly again. As each month passed and another negative pregnancy test result was thrown in the bathroom bin, I started to wonder if we were doing the right thing. I’m not talking about where ‘it’ goes but were our bodies telling us we weren’t ready.

In August, the month of Freddie’s anniversary, we prayed that he would show us a sign and we would be honoured with news of his sibling but what we experienced was confusion and worry. At the time I was expecting my period I started bleeding but it felt different to normal and lasted two weeks. By this point I was a bit concerned about what was happening and got checked out, but the bleeding had stopped. I was obviously worried that this was very out of my normal routine (I’ve been tracking my cycle for years) and a part of me thought that either I had experienced a very early miscarriage or that maybe it was my body remembering a year ago when my cycle returned after Freddie’s birth. We will never know but we picked ourselves up and said we would keep trying.

However the next month Rik was diagnosed with a hip/groin hernia and needed an operation to sort it out. This put a hold on our plans for about a month and a half whilst he recovered. My biggest concern was obviously making sure my husband was resting and recovering well but I would be lying if I said that a part of me wasn’t counting down the time thinking it was a lost opportunity. I appreciate that might sound harsh but it’s the truth. We turned our baby making down a gear for the first month or two after his recuperation but it was spirit lifting to know that again we may have a chance.

As the end of the year approached I couldn’t help but count down the months left that we had to conceive in 2014. I know this probably wasn’t helping our situation but I couldn’t help it. I appreciate some people try for years and some can’t conceive naturally at all and don’t want to sound like I don’t, but when you have been so close, so very very close to bringing up a baby and then get it taken away from you, each month feels like a year.

With a new year I decided to have a different approach. I was in the mind frame that I was leaving the baggage from 2014 behind and starting again. In my mind I had a whole 12 months to get pregnant after all! I was determined to just relax about it all. I went through the things we bought in preparation for Freddie and decided to sell a few bits that I didn’t feel we needed to keep.

I also started being more open about that fact that we had been trying. I talked to my mother and told her how hard the months trying had been and she finally opened up about how she had been worried that losing Freddie had put us off trying again. I told her about how frustrating it had been hearing comments from people that we should just ‘get on with it’ when we were but didn’t feel it was anyone’s business.

I hoped that the more I opened up and was honest with myself and others, the less stress I was putting on myself. Rik supported me with whatever I wanted to do and whenever I wanted to do it. We had just wanted some time to ourselves to try and see what happened but were now both ready to gain support and advice. We also decided that we would do Dry January when you abstain from drinking alcohol for the month of January. We do it every year but I had heard some people say that they decided to not drink any alcohol and then fell pregnant so thought it could help. I had been receiving monthly reflexology treatments too up to the end of 2014 which I thought would help me relax.

The end of January and Dry January was nearing and we decided to plan a fun night out at the end of it to enjoy some good food and wine. I took a pregnancy test a few days before my cycle was due to start and it was negative. I then had some spotting over the next few days and thought it was my cycle starting, however it didn’t feel quite like normal so I took another test on the morning of our planned meal. I was now a few days late and it was negative again. So we went out and I enjoyed letting my hair down and enjoyed several glasses of wine. We had a great night.

Over the next day or so I was waiting for my cycle to really get going but it had stopped. I didn’t think I needed to take another test but as each day passed I became more confused. I hated my cycle for teasing me this way and playing with my mind. Just when I was getting used to it being another unsuccessful month, this happens and I am back to thinking ‘what if?’.

So we had some cheap pregnancy test strips in the cupboard and I did a test with one of these. Rik wasn’t home from work yet and as I looked at it, the more I could see a faint second line. It was really faint though so when Rik got home he honestly thought it was negative but I had read somewhere that even if it is faint, it could be a positive. I kept staring at it and tried to convince myself that I was just seeing things so as to not get my hopes up. I had even read that if you take a picture of a test and make it black or white or negative that it is easier to gauge so I tried everything.

Now even more confused I dug out a digital pregnancy test that I was saving for this type of situation and did the necessary. I placed the test on a bookshelf dedicated to Freddie and in front of his picture and in my mind thought he is now in charge of our fate. I kept myself busy for those pain stacking few minutes and as I glanced at the test, the result popped up in front of my eyes ‘Pregnant 1-2 weeks’. I couldn’t believe it. No really I couldn’t. I knew what I was seeing and what it meant but my head was still in ‘i’m not pregnant this month’ mode.

Instead of the shocked, joyful and exciting feelings Freddie’s result brought, this one was met with shock but also with numbness and disbelief. I told Rik the news and I think he just carried on as normal like I had just told him I was going out to the shops or something. It took a while to sink in but over the next few hours the numbness slowly disappeared and the true reality of the situation hit us…WE WERE EXPECTING ANOTHER BABY!

With this came many happy feelings but also many fears as you can imagine. We were delighted as this was the first day of our lives as parents of two children, but this was also the first day of nine months, and more, of worry and so many questions including…

If we allow ourselves to be happy and hope, are we setting ourselves up to have our hearts broken again?

Freddie’s First Birthday Memorial Event

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I can’t believe it has been a year already. Where has the time gone? In a way it still feels so fresh and raw, but on the other hand like a distant memory.

We celebrated Freddie Leigh Bromley, our beautiful son, on his first birthday on Saturday 16th August. It was a gorgeous day and probably one of the best days of our lives.  We were so lucky with the weather as it was a warm and sunny day making everything so much brighter and easier.

The day started off with being delivered our local newspaper, within which Rik and I had written a piece in honour of Freddie.  Rik and I then visited Freddie’s plaque at Vale Church, Guernsey.  We visit his plaque every week or every other week but it had more meaning on this day.  Rik and I were all dressed up and Grammie (my mother) had visited the night before and filled his vases with beautiful hydrangeas, a flower we had at Freddie’s funeral.  When the sun shines the plaque gets lovely and warm. We brush our hands over the stone and take in the warmth of it when our lips touch it as we give it a gentle kiss.

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We then went on to Bordeaux Nature Reserve where Freddie’s bench is.  It’s a lovely open space with trees, a rope swing and a stunning view out to Herm island.  We spent an hour preparing the area with flowers, colourful ribbons, blankets, Freddie’s baby shower bunting and candles.  It was hard to decide where everything went but once we had finished the area looked stunning.

Two of our friends had kindly agreed to play some instrumental music whilst people arrived.  People later told me that it was so lovely arriving at the car park and following the music to guide them to our location.  Mikey and Sarah were amazing playing some beautiful songs on their guitar and violin. Rik and I speech I then welcomed everyone to the event with the following words I had written: 

Thank you for joining us in celebrating our son Freddie’s first birthday. And yes it is his birthday. He was born and so he has a birth day. Freddie may not be here to celebrate being one year’s old today but WE are celebrating him, his nine month life growing inside me and that a year ago today at 10.27pm, he was born earth side.

When celebrating birthdays we can sometimes forget that our mothers gave birth to us on that day and they are also remembering that day. We will always celebrate his birthday and so we are very blessed to have so many of our friends and family here to celebrate his first birthday.

You may think we wish to forget that day but it was one of the best days of our lives. We met our son, held him, introduced him to our family and kissed him goodnight.

A year on and we are stronger as a couple and stronger as a family. We have learnt what is, and isn’t, important about life, why every moment counts and that having fun, love and laughter is key. So today whilst honouring our son Freddie, we want you to smile and laugh after all he was born with a smile on his face.

Rik then explained the order for the event:

To celebrate Freddie’s birthday we have asked some good friends of ours to perform some music for our gathering today. Firstly we would like to say a huge thanks to Mike and Sarah, for playing some beautiful music whilst you all arrived.

At the start of 2014 Nicole joined a special group of ladies called the Johnny’s Angels choir. A few members of the choir have kindly agreed to sing four beautiful songs picked by Nicole from their summer repertoire. Nicole and I thank you for agreeing to be a part of today. I will now hand you over to Kate Woodcock who will introduce the first two songs which will be followed by a balloon release and then two other songs.

Mike and Sarah will then kindly play again whilst we invite anyone who would like to write a message to Freddie on a tag and attach it to his tree.

Please feel free to hang around afterwards and make the most of this beautiful area. This gathering is a very easy going affair so relax, enjoy and join us in celebrating our cherished button-nosed Freddie Leigh Bromley!

Johnny’s Angels choir sang ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ and then ‘Amazing Grace’.  I had wondered whether I should sing with the choir or not, but it was actually really lovely to step back and listen to them as their audience.  I was definitely touched by their singing and had to get a hanky out pretty much as soon as they started singing their first song!

Johnny's Angels

Rik and I then released a balloon with our tag tied to the bottom.  We counted to three and then got everyone to shout ‘FREDDIE’ as we released the balloon into the sky.  We were so lucky with the wind as it took the balloon out and across to Herm so everyone got to watch it go off into the distance.  

Here are some pictures from the release…

Continue reading Freddie’s First Birthday Memorial Event

2013 made me stronger because……

I can see a rainbow
I can see a rainbow

As the last few hours of 2013 approach, I want to reflect on what a year this has been for me and my family.  You may think I just want to see the back of 2013 and wipe it out of my life, but in fact I want to do the opposite.

Yes some events of 2013 have broken my heart and changed me forever, but it’s not all doom and gloom.  If I just sat here and dwelled on the bad, I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed everyday.  There have been some days I have wanted to stay in bed and hide myself away from family, work, chores, friends, life, news and just thinking, but if anything, 2013 has taught me what to get out of bed for.

2013 made me stronger because………it gave my family hope, happiness and excitement when we were still raw from my auntie passing away from cancer in Dec 2012 and attending her funeral in Jan 2013.  It was so hard having such good news to share with my family when I know they were still grieving for the loss of auntie Bun.  I was torn between being so elated to be expecting my first child and feeling so sad that she had lost her brave and courageous fight.  The news of bringing new life into the family made us strong and happy again.  I thank 2013 for that.

2013 made me stronger because……..it made me realise that there is a time when you must admit to yourself that for all your best efforts and interest in something, if it becomes a chore and you start to not enjoy it anymore, it is not a failure to walk away.  I am proud that Rik and I set up the Guernsey Dub Collective Volkswagen club in 2012 but the lack of enthusiasm and support was draining us both.  We could have carried on and dragged it along but what was the point when we weren’t getting any pleasure from it.  It took courage for us to be strong enough to walk away from it knowing that we had tried.  I thank 2013 for that.

2013 made me stronger because……..after carrying my son for 39 weeks and 5 days I lay silently in bed breathing through my contractions throughout the night of August 15th whilst I let Rik sleep so he was rested in the morning.  I was scared and excited but I now know that I am brave and strong because I worked with my body and started labour spontaneously on my own.  I thank 2013 for that.

2013 made me stronger because………after carrying my son for 39 weeks and 6 days and being told my son had passed during early labour, I supported my husband whilst he broke down and sobbed in my arms.  I didn’t realise I was strong enough to keep it together for the both of us.  I couldn’t have made the decisions about my body that I had to make that day if I hadn’t kept it together.  I thank 2013 for that.

2013 made me stronger because……..three weeks after loosing my son, I found out that I no longer had job security and coped with the fear and confusion this came with on top of everything else.  I dealt with the news in a mature and dignified way and now have the opportunity to stop and look at the options available to me.  I feel more determined to look after myself and be valued.  I thank 2013 for that.

2013 made me stronger because……..when I was trying to pick myself up things kept knocking me down but I kept picking myself up.  I was constantly seeing doctors and specialists getting tests, scans and checks done but this, and constantly being on antibiotics for a while, didn’t break me.  I found strength in the fact that I was being looked after, needed to recuperate and that things could only get better.  I was finally given a good clean bill of health in December.  I thank 2013 for that.

2013 made me stronger because……..after waiting for three months to get the full post-mortem results, I have not been deterred from trying for another baby again in the future, even though what happened could happen again.  I now have a lot more knowledge about my body and pregnancy and will be monitored more in any future pregnancies.  I thank 2013 for that.

2013 made me stronger because……..it made me realise what a blessing it is to have children and that if I am lucky enough to be pregnant again, how I must cherish every moment as you never know what the outcome is.  I thank 2013 for that.

2013 made me stronger because……..it made me realise the importance of life, to not get weighed down with things that don’t make you happy and make you grow as a person and appreciate good friends on a stronger level.  2013 has shown me true friendships and that the best things in life are free.  I thank 2013 for that.

2013 made me stronger because……..it gave me the courage to reignite a passion for music and singing and to audition for a local choir in 2014.  I thank 2013 for that.

2013 made me stronger because……..it taught my family that life is short and we must embrace the time we have together.  By doing this, it has brought my family closer together which makes me happier.  I thank 2013 for that.

2013 made me stronger because………it reminded me how lucky I am to have Rik by my side to experience life’s highs and lows with.  It made me appreciate him more and love him deeper, and made us stronger as a couple.  I know that we can get through anything now.  I thank 2013 for that.

Finally, 2013 made me stronger because………it gave me the courage to see a rainbow and that there is still hope, happiness and excitement for 2014.  I thank 2013 for that.