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Babyloss Awareness: Navigating the parenting journey after loss can be hard

For Babyloss Awareness Week (Oct 9-Oct 15), iTalk Employment Advisor Manisha shared her story.

*This story was shared with the consent of Manisha's partner*

Trigger warning: Talk around baby loss. If this affects you, please call our support line to find out about how we can support you. Call 023 8017 9049, or message the webchat.

My husband and I were so excited to fall pregnant after trying to conceive for over a year. Our first two pregnancies ended in miscarriage at eight and six weeks. I felt a sadness I hadn’t experienced before and so much disappointment, mentally noting the “what if’s” such as the date they could have been born.

A few months later we were happy and nervous to find out we were pregnant again. We made it much further along and were able to go to our first scan. To our amazement, delight, and slight panic(!) we found out we were pregnant with twin boys.

I was monitored closely and attended the scan alone, when at 14 weeks along, I found out we had lost one of the babies. I was so sad; I had already imagined what our family could be like. They had not grown past 10 weeks, but our other little baby was thriving, and this is what kept us going.

At our 20 week scan an anomaly showed up and we were given the choice to terminate the pregnancy. This is a very difficult thing to experience and it’s a hard decision to make. We sought lots of medical advice and were reassured our baby would be healthy following surgery shortly after birth. After lots of stress and tears, we decided to progress with our pregnancy for our very longed for baby. We were getting quite far along now and allowed ourselves to get a little excited and purchased a few special items.

At nearly 27 weeks pregnant I went to my local day unit as I had felt a lack of movement. I was passed between a midwife, doctor and consultant but I already knew – a mother does. Nothing can prepare you for those words “I’m sorry, there is no heartbeat”. Devastation, sadness, shock and a huge sense of failure are just some of the emotions I was feeling all at once and yet also a strange numbness.

A few days later, after a traumatic induction process, my beautiful son Hari was born sleeping. After spending as much time with him as I could, I left the hospital with a box instead of my baby. Hari’s funeral is still the hardest, saddest day of my life and one I think about a lot – all the things I could have done or should have done but was too overcome by grief.

The next few weeks and months (to be honest it was such a blur I couldn’t put a timeframe on it), were easily the worst of my life. I had lost my brother suddenly and unexpectedly a few years earlier, and both losses were constantly swirling in my thoughts. I didn’t really leave the house or contact anyone, and my closest friend had told me she was pregnant - I really felt like I had no one.

My mum and husband tried their best to help me, but I didn’t feel like anyone really understood what I was feeling including the physical aspects of it all. I remember thinking my arms ache – actually ache – not metaphorically - and I would grip tightly onto a hot water bottle for comfort. Some days I just stayed in bed all day, I didn’t talk to anyone or do anything. People would avoid me calling it “giving me space” and not acknowledge what had happened – I felt so alone.

There was not as much support and resources out there back then, but we did get some information from Sands. I had called my GP for a 6 week check as I thought that was what I was supposed to do, and they responded with “what’s the point if you have no baby?”.

My employer at the time were not supportive or understanding at all. Someone once said to me “oh is that what you would have called your baby, - Hari?” and I wanted to scream at them, I gave birth to him, registered him, he is a real person not a “would have been”. Even close family members avoided me and said all the wrong things. But either way I don’t think I wanted or was ready for support at the time and didn’t reach out for it.

In the end, time is all that helped; time to process, to grieve and to accept what had happened. Certain milestones such as the post-mortem and scattering of Hari’s ashes were part of this process. I remember attending a memorial service for all the lost babies that year, and I was shocked at how many people were there and that I was not alone after all. I started talking to close family members and friends about how I was feeling and what I needed, used online baby loss forums, took time off work, and sought one-to-one therapy which all contributed to my recovery journey.

Falling pregnant again after losing Hari was terrifying. I remember no one really congratulating me and again felt so alone and deprived of the experience others enjoyed. My first daughter was born after another traumatic labour and birth and we both nearly lost our lives.

With a lot of upset and difficulty we decided not to have any more children and the first few months with her were so hard. I kept thinking she would get taken away from me like Hari did and felt I had failed at being a mum again. I sought help through my GP with these feelings.

Three years later we had a very big surprise and fell pregnant again. Although just as scary, I had more hope, as I now had my beautiful daughter. My second daughter was born after a straight-forward pregnancy, labour, and birth - she was also just the perfect, easy baby. She gave me back some confidence I hadn’t really realised had completely diminished in me.

I still find some days or times of the year hard. Trying to be happy on Mother’s Day for example, for my girls, always gives me a pang of guilt and pain and I think this will be something that stays with me. I was always take time for myself on these days and do small things through the year - like at Christmas I donate things I would have bought for my own little boy.

Little things like this, just for me, help in a small way. My beautiful rainbows girls really are the light of my life but navigating the parenting journey after loss can be confusing and hard at times, as it is not just pregnancy that baby loss affects.

We will soon be remembering Hari, together as a little family, as we approach 10 years since we lost him. It felt like a good time to share my story and it took a long time for me to be able to do this initially. But I encourage anyone experiencing baby loss to share your story, when you feel able to, helping to break the taboo of this subject.

And if you are struggling at any point of your journey, please reach out for support.

If anything spoken about in this blog affected you, we are here to support you. Call our support line on 023 8017 9049, or access our webchat.

As mention by Manisha, Sands is a national charity that provides support for parents who have lost their baby. For more information on them, click here.

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