The diagnosis was certain

 

There is a post we ran a long time ago that has become our most searched-for post, our most needed post, the post where women still write to us, asking why me?, and how, and this wasn’t supposed to happen, and thank you.  

That post is On Miscarriage.

Pavla wrote to us.  She lost her baby.  Pavla has written something that is required reading for every woman; whether you have wanted a child or not, whether you have lost someone you loved or whether you haven’t, whether you empathise or whether you think you cannot.  She tells us step-by-step how she felt, physically and emotionally, losing her baby and to miscarry at home.

This post is, somehow, both practical and enormously courageous.  Thank you, Pavla, on behalf of all of us, for writing it.

 

I thought I was lucky when I had next to no symptoms during my first pregnancy. If anything, I had slightly bigger and fuller breasts. No nausea, just a healthy appetite, a new aversion to chocolate, and a big thirst for kefir.

 

It was around the seventh or eighth week that I began to worry my breasts didn’t feel as full anymore. My husband wasn’t worried at all and did his best to encourage me to relax. Each day that passed without any serious sign of anything being wrong – no spotting, no cramping – we pulled up an online miscarriage risk calculator, and watched our chance of miscarriage go down, waiting for our 12th week scan and the opportunity to share our news with the world.

 

Still, the worry was there. And after we looked at our less than 5% chance of miscarrying on the first day of the 11th week, after my husband went to work, after I had a glass of kefir with my breakfast, I went to the bathroom and saw the faintest brown-red tinge on the tissue paper. “Argh, I knew it,” I thought, sighing out loud. “This was too good to be true.”

 

Aware that spotting can be normal in pregnancy, we went in for a scan at local urgent care the next morning to make sure. The technician told us that the baby was measuring at seven weeks, and not much else. She said they didn’t try and find the heartbeat at this stage. I saw a little bean on the screen wiggling about, thinking that it must be moving and so it must be ok. But if it was measuring three weeks behind, surely that must be bad? “The measurements don’t always add up”, the technician said.

 

We saw an ob-gyn about an hour later. I was weighed at first, and my blood pressure was taken – it was normal. Then the ob-gyn greeted us. “I’m so sorry, you’re having a miscarriage,” was her first sentence. “There was no heartbeat,” was her second. “I’m so sorry, I feel so bad telling you this when we’ve just met.” My husband gripped my hand, but I felt a strange wave of relief. The grief would come later, but for now, the uncertainty, the worry was gone. My worst fear was confirmed, and so removed.

 

We were given three options – a D&C at the hospital, pills to start contractions at home, or a wait and see approach and an eventual natural miscarriage at home. We asked if there could be some mistake. She said she was happy for us to have another scan, but with the baby measuring as big as seven weeks, and no heartbeat, and with me already at ten weeks, the diagnosis was certain.

 

I knew I wanted to wait and miscarry naturally, let my body do what it was intended to in this situation. It took another week. Some days I would see that tinge of brown-red on the tissue, some days I wouldn’t. We managed to go away on a pre-planned weekend to Vermont to see the fall foliage, and nothing happened. I looked up stories from other women about what miscarriage was really like, stories like this one, and they helped me feel prepared. Then on Tuesday, 9th October, as I ran to the bathroom at college, where I was taking classes, I saw blood. “It’s happening, I think”, I told my husband over the phone. I got in my car, and drove the 50 minutes or so home.

 

The cramping started while I was still driving. I didn’t yet know it was the first minor contractions. They would come and go, like bad period pains, but a little more intense, more noticeable. I passed the car journey by singing along to children’s songs I remembered from when I was little. Somehow, the singing helped, it was soothing.

 

It was about 4pm when I got home, where I located super absorbent pads I had once bought by mistake when on a trip abroad and never used before. My husband got back from work at around 6pm. The contractions were still manageable, and just made me pause and hold my belly when they happened, from time to time. We had dinner, and watched Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. I was lying down on the sofa, and when a contraction would come, I would sit up, or turn over, and let it pass, while I took a couple of deep breaths.

 

At around 9pm we got ready to go to bed, and that’s when the contractions became more intense. It was around then, that I realized they really were contractions, like the ones I read about in an attempt to get an early handle on preparing for birth. I asked my husband to bring me snacks – apple slices and peanut butter, and a glass of water with honey and salt – I felt like I was about to go through a lot of pain and the snacks and “energy” water would help prevent me from fainting. As I learned later, any attempt to eat or drink would just make me feel nauseated.

 

Just as he brought the snacks in, it really started. One intense contraction after another. Each time it would happen, my abdomen seized, and huge wave of pain took hold of me. I would completely lose control, as my body would take over. I would either kneel, resting my bottom on the soles of my feet, my hands placed on my thighs, or I would stand, and bend forward, leaning against the wall, or the bed. It was too painful to lie down. I would take deep breaths, and increasingly, I would scream – I suppose another way of taking deep breaths – and no matter how much I worried about the neighbors, I couldn’t suppress it. Then, the pain would subside, and I could rest for a few minutes, talk, and be normal. Then, I would go to the bathroom, when an avalanche of blood and clots would pass into the toilet, and then stop. Sometimes it wasn’t even that much blood, just clots and tissue. I would flush, instinctively, with relief. Then I would return to bed, and it would start all over again.

 

I asked my husband to start timing the contractions, and over the next few hours, they went from being 6-8 minutes apart and lasting about a minute, to being 2 – 4 minutes apart and lasting about two minutes. By 4.30am, they were running into each other at about two minutes long.

 

By 4.30am, after several hours of contractions, which were now on top of each other, with just seconds of rest in-between, I felt increasingly physically exhausted and like I was going to faint. I tried to drink the water and eat the apple slices, but I also felt increasingly nauseated. At some point towards the morning, I was on the floor, screaming and crying. Up to that point I thought I was handling it ok. I was in a sort of zone, and while I was screaming and writhing and in pain, I felt strangely fine and calm mentally. The words like “screaming” and “writhing” sound much worse than they felt, even if they are accurate. It’s a feeling like a part of you is being pulled apart, but the rest of you is totally fine.

 

Perhaps it’s not dissimilar to extreme sporting activity, like a marathon, which is painful, but during which you otherwise feel healthy. In some way, you feel excited and engaged – it is an activity, and each contraction is an onslaught, a wave of something to be resisted, requiring all your strength. But still, by the end, that feeling gave way to desperate exhaustion and an insurmountable desire for an end – any end. I was on the floor, saying weakly to my husband – “I don’t think I can do this anymore”. The contractions now seemed almost continuous, and I wasn’t getting enough rest between them. I felt like it all had to end somehow – with a trip to the hospital, death, fainting or something.

 

Then, just like that, I began to feel dizzy and nauseated, the room began to smell, I stumbled to the bathroom and vomited. I immediately felt better and went back to bed to lie down. The contractions eased, and I fell asleep. I think it was starting to get light, so it must have been between around 5 am. I learned later that before managed hospital births became the norm, most women delivered at night.

 

When I woke up it was both easier and harder. Easier, because the contractions were now less intense, but harder, because I think the adrenaline-inducing intensity of it all was gone, and I was no longer in a zone, just in pain, and handling it as best as I could. This was when I took an Advil – it had no effect. I fell asleep again at some point, and when I woke up it was late morning, and I felt much better. Elated even. Whether it was adrenaline again or a different kind of a hormone rush, I actually felt very happy – I was very proud of what I had been able to do, and glad it was over, and that I was recovering – it felt like I’d be back to normal in no time.

 

I was given a kit before it all started to collect the tissue for testing. I read a blog about how to use a sieve to catch it on the toilet, or to let tissue pass on a waterproof blanket. I wasn’t able to do either in the moment. I thought I passed a sizeable piece of tissue early on – maybe that was the embryo. And I passed big red tissue with a sort of a torn cord attached to it later on, which I thought was the placenta. Could have been either or neither, I have no idea. It wasn’t pretty, but it wasn’t gruesome, the instinct to flush was overriding any others. I never saw anything that resembled a baby, which I think would have perhaps been more traumatic, but perhaps also in a way reassuring.

 

Once my initial elation passed, the pain settled at a manageable level, and I had period-like bleeding for six more days, although it was getting progressively lighter. Those days were the toughest, as the immediate concerns of surviving and recovering gave way to an inescapable sense of loss that felt to decisive and permanent. As luck would have it Meghan Markle and Amy Schumer announced their pregnancies right around then, as did my husband’s business partner and a close friend of mine. They all had a similar due date in April/ May of next year. As their dream continued and they celebrated with the world, my dream had ended. Try as I might, and consumed by guilt, I couldn’t be happy for them. Not yet.

 

Spotting carried on and off for another ten days, and throughout those days I sometimes had a yellow-ish discharge, which made me concerned about an infection, but as I had no other symptoms or fever, I waited and it disappeared on its own. Slowly, with utmost will, the anger and grief became manageable, and a small trickle of hope appeared – hope that we’ll be able to get pregnant a second time, and with a different ending. My husband and I became intimate again nine days after the miscarriage, and although in retrospect it seems a little soon, it really helped me feel close to him and to feel normal and attractive again.

 

Pregnancy tests were still positive for another fourteen days, then became negative. I had consistently higher temperatures like I usually do in the luteal phase from the twenty-first day, which suggests that I may have ovulated during the first cycle after the miscarriage, but I can’t be sure.

 

Looking back on the experience, it was both excruciating, and somehow not at all. It’s hard to describe, because when you write down words like “excruciating,” “most intense pain I’ve ever experienced,” “I thought I might die,” and so on, they are both accurate, but at the same time give a completely wrong impression, because although the pain is intense, it is not scary pain, not the kind of pain that feels unhealthy, like an injury or illness. It’s more like the kind of pain when you’ve exhausted all your strength while exercising and can’t catch your breath. Your body takes over, you get into a sort of physiological trance, and you know it’s going to be ok, but that your body is going to need to work extra hard right now.

 

My mum said that right after she first gave birth, she was sure she would not have any more children, because it was so painful, but that just a few minutes later she wanted to do it all over again as soon as possible. And that’s kind of how I felt. Never have I wanted to get pregnant so urgently and so readily, as I did in the days after I miscarried – an ordeal, but one that leaves you in awe of the female body. I felt like I had done something I was built to do, and even though it ended so sadly, I was so happy that I was alive and able to do my job, as it were. An exhausting, excruciating job, but nevertheless a job that was meant for me, and that I really wanted to do.

 

Were there things I wish I knew before it happened? That I wish others had told me? I think most of all, I wish someone told me not to be afraid of the pain. We are told so much about how painful pregnancy and birth are and how we can avoid that pain, but my experience was that the pain had a function, that it helped my body take care of me. I wouldn’t change that for the world, and I can say that naturally miscarrying at home is something I would definitely do again. Of course it’s different for everyone, and perhaps I got lucky this time in that there were no complications. All I can say is that women’s bodies are wondrous things, and that it is possible to have a positive experience without avoiding the pain.

 

I wish too, that I knew that language is limiting, and that describing pain can make it sound worse than it makes you feel at the time. On another hand, I wish I knew that birth-like contractions were a real possibility, and to prepare for a mini-birth that can last several hours, and a recovery period of a few days. Too much literature described miscarriage as “period-like cramping,” which in my case it wasn’t.

 

And I suppose I wish that miscarriage had been less of a taboo subject. I had to cancel a few things in the two days around the miscarriage, and in most cases it seemed inappropriate to tell someone it was because of a miscarriage, so I said that I was “sick.” And that’s not quite right. It made me question the wisdom of holding back information about a pregnancy for the first twelve weeks, and to imagine instead a world, where women could share their pregnancies earlier, and their miscarriages if need be, with less stress because of the taboo and pressure of it all.

 

Then, it may be easier for pregnant women to negotiate time off work when needed, and to support each other at a time that can feel so sad and isolating. And I think it would help the wider population – male and female, with and without children – understand the long and often fraught process that goes into forming and growing families.

 

I would say there were three things that helped me get through the miscarriage the most: the first was reliance on my own body to do its thing, the second was the immediate support of my husband while it was happening, and the third was wider community support from those with whom I shared the experience – my teacher at college, who told me about her own miscarriage, other moms and hopeful moms on an online forum I go to, and a few friends – both male and female, who had kids and who were amazingly sympathetic, and who helped me see that this too shall pass, and that one day I too, will be happy again.

 

So for anyone waiting to miscarry and unsure what to do, here is my practical advice:

 

1 – get lots of night-time super-extra absorbent pads

2 -  make sure you’re close to a bathroom

3 – don’t worry too much about collecting tissue because it’s really difficult

4 – trust in your body, and breathe, scream and move as it tells you

5 – expect it to happen overnight once you first start bleeding, and cancel everything for two or three days after that

 

And here is my emotional advice:

 

1 – make sure your partner – if possible, is at your beck and call

2 – tell whomever you trust, because their sympathy will help you

3 – know that you will be happy and feel at peace when it’s done

4 – know that you will then come down, and feel terribly sad

5 – but above all, remember that one day, you too, will be happy again.

Categories: Becoming a Mother, Life Experience
1 interesting thought on this

There are no easy choices

Being a mother is like navigating an army assault course every day, for the rest of your life.  Except the obstacles aren’t the baby (okay, the obstacles are sometimes the baby).  The obstacles are other people, expectations, and self-inflicted guilt and punishment.  Linsey articulates perfectly how that feels.  How everyone’s assault course is different.  How no obstacles are the same.  How you just can’t win, over and over, until you do:    

 

Trust your instincts, ‘mama knows best’ – except when you just don’t know. So then you feel like you’re failing all over again – failing at knowing best, failing at knowing what you are doing, failing because your baby is crying and you don’t know why.

Don’t feed/rock/cuddle your baby to sleep. Leave them to cry, they just want attention. Imagine in the middle of the night, when you have tears running down your face from sheer tiredness and overwhelm and panic and stress and lack of control, imagine being ignored because you just want attention. Of course you do. Everyone does.

Breastfeed but make sure you feel appropriately self-conscious about doing it in public and don’t flaunt it in peoples’ faces. Don’t feel proud of persevering, don’t mention all the many, many obstacles that there can be on a breastfeeding ‘journey’. Keep the conspiracy going that ‘it’s easy’, ‘it’s natural’. Don’t do it for too long though, don’t feed them when they’re too old. Stop at a pre-determined perfect time that no one has informed you or your baby of.  Bottle feed but feel guilty about it, feel self-conscious about doing it in public too and arm yourself with 100 reasons why you aren’t breastfeeding if you are questioned. There’s no guilt- free choice. Guilt driven by society, from other people having opinions on what you should do. You should feed your baby some baby milk. That’s all.

Listen to the experts. Listen to the midwives. Listen to your parents and grandparents. Except they all say something different. Listen to yourself. But you don’t have a clue. Best bit of advice. Don’t listen to Google.

One day it feels easier. You come to terms with it all, get some perspective. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. One day you will feel like you know your baby best. It might be when they can talk, when they shout ‘Mummy, big cuddle’ from their bedroom in the morning, it might be as soon as they are born. One day you will feel it, you will realise that your arms are their home, the thing they look for first and the thing that heals all (or most). But it’s not the same for everyone. Nothing is the same for everyone. Babies are not the same.

Categories: Becoming a Mother, Life Experience
4 interesting thoughts on this

The next chapter

September is coming, and it’s a bittersweet time for parents across the world as they send the most important people in their life off to the big unknown, all wrapped up in freshly-washed school uniform.  Liz absolutely nails the guilt, the pride, the sadness and the hope.  Good luck, darling Tessa.  What an adventure awaits:   

 

Less than two weeks until the start of school. Two weeks until my little one can no longer be classed as a pre-schooler. I hadn’t anticipated the over-whelming raft of emotions this would bring. Starting school is such a perfectly normal event, everyone does it. Yet this time it’s not just anyone, it’s my baby and that is bloody momentous and I’ve not quite come to terms with it.

All the anticipation and excitement  (because there definitely is excitement) is also tinged with the fact that this new milestone is forcing me down memory lane to revisit all the milestones which have come before.

How on earth did nearly five years pass? When did my baby become my little girl? Why didn’t I know that five years is such a short length of time? Why didn’t I spend more time enjoying this time?

She started at nursery when she was eleven months old. A tiny baby unable to walk or talk. I put all my trust in strangers to look after her, care for her, love her whilst I went to work. In the four years since then she has absolutely thrived. Lost all that “baby”ness and transformed into a beautiful, articulate, strong-willed little girl.

Nursery has definitely contributed to this. Yet now I lie in bed at night thinking of all the time that I didn’t spend with her, did I do the right thing? I had the mum guilt when she started nursery, and there have been many times since then (the morning I had to wash her hair twice so that it didn’t smell of the previous nights vomit as I had a meeting I just couldn’t miss – a particular low point). However, that guilt was looking forward to all the times I would miss in the future, ultimately it was in my gift to change things if they weren’t working for us. This new brand of reflective guilt is brutal, it’s thinking of all the things I could have done differently and I have absolutely no way to change it.

I have to rely on the fact that actually she’s become this little person I so love precisely because of the decisions we have made, and I would have a different daughter today if any of it were done differently.

The thought of collecting her from nursery on her last day makes me well up everytime. Saying goodbye to all her little friends, the staff. They’ve been our life for four years. I’m going to need some phenomenal waterproof mascara.

We are ready though, she is ready. She is desperate to make sense of all those letters and numbers she has been slowly deciphering. There’s a whole new world of learning and adventure ahead and she wants to jump right in. As we walked to school for her settling in session she told me that it was more exciting than Christmas.

We are going to be excited together, with big smiles on our faces when we head to school on that first morning. But for just a little while longer I’m going to be sitting here reminiscing. The next chapter is bittersweet.

Categories: Becoming a Mother, Family, Friends and Relationships, Life Experience
1 interesting thought on this

In which I open a book for the first time in forever*

*18 months

Team. I am sorry. I am embarrassed. What is AOW about, what is our core, if not BOOKS? We are readers; voracious, varied, passionate readers. We have double-stacked bookshelves, we’ve dropped books in the bath, we buy replacement copies of favourites when the weathered spine finally gives up, we sniff the pages of Harry Potter….so that one might just be me?

Anyway.

I know that not all mothers will concur, but holy sherbets my concentration span went.to.shit as a new mum. I was going to say something about not having time to read after Stella and Monty were born, but I’ve realised that it wasn’t time I was lacking - I had a pretty decent amount of that even in the heady days of Colic is Slowly Destroying My Marriage – but focus. In my spare hours I wanted to watch re-runs of Lewis. I wanted to listen to Magic FM and lie in the bath. I wanted to starfish on top of the covers and stare at my bedroom ceiling, or my sleeping baby. I did not want to read. Or rather, I wanted to but I couldn’t fathom actually following a story. I re-read HP, some well-thumbed chick-lit, good old Phillipa Gregory, but nothing new. So many wondrous books passed me by…don’t banish me from the AOW kingdom, will you?

Last year I devoured Station Eleven and was giddy to have my mojo back. Except then I jumped into Life After Life and buuuuuhhhhhhhhhh. Couldn’t get past the first 100 pages. ‘What if I NEVER READ AGAIN?!’ I wailed to my husband. Who didn’t read a single book between finishing Of Mice and Men for GCSE and picking up The Gruffalo for the first time when his daughter was born 14 years later. Wrong audience. Should have come and wailed at you lot.

But! I read a book! Not to go off on a tangent (who, me?) but I learnt to crochet and I genuinely believe this is what helped me re-learn that focus you (I) need to truly read a story. So, yes. I have recently finished a new book. A trilogy, in fact. The Order of Darkness. Yes, it’s written by good old P. Greg but it’s not about the Tudor court so I consider myself to be well-read, once more. And I can feel it coming back. The urge to know another’s story. The need to see a ‘to be read’ pile beside my bed, to feel the heavy comfort of 600 pages of lives lived. And so we come to the point of my rambles. Tell me, dear readers, tell me what I have missed. Tell me who and what to read, tell me where to read them. (I may eschew the latter advice in favour of ‘in bed’ but I am open to suggestions.) Tell me what you’ve loved, what was alright, what sucked (*cough* Life After Life) and tell me, was there a book that changed your life?

I am indebted to you, as ever.

Categories: Books
12 interesting thoughts on this

For Patrick

5 years ago, we were heartbroken - yet honoured – to share with you a post by our wonderful friend Fee. I would not dare try to paraphrase her beautiful, raw words; if you have not read it, I urge you to do so. I think I speak for many, if not all of us, when I say that I try to be the woman at the service station as often as I can.

It’s with infinite love and respect that we welcome Fee back to mark her beautiful baby boy’s 5th birthday.

It’s 2014 and I’m sitting in the GP waiting room with my infant son. A lady around my Mum’s age is sitting by us and starts to chat to me as we wait, as people so often do when you have a baby. As she is called in and stands to leave she says, somewhat wistfully, ‘You don’t know how lucky you are’. I don’t know her story so I smile at her in return but inside there is a voice shouting ‘I do. I really do’.

***

It’s hard to describe where I am, five years later. It seems like yesterday that I wrote on these pages days after we lost Patrick, our first baby boy. It seems like yesterday but also like it was a different life. Five years on I am a mother to two more little boys, something we thought at times would never be possible. Part of Patrick’s legacy is that I find it easy to see the joy in the everyday because I am so grateful for each glorious, ordinary day having lived too many that were extraordinarily sad. I laugh often, worry more, judge less, empathise always. I’ve come a long way for sure but part of me is still in a hospital room on July 27th, 2012, saying goodbye to my little boy.

***

I’ve written before here about the time between Patrick and our second baby, Max; looking back it feels like someone else’s life. I underestimated the impact it had on me, on us, as it was swept away in the sheer brilliance (and of course tiredness) of having a newborn and then a toddler, then being pregnant with a toddler, then having a toddler and a newborn….. It was in fact when our youngest, Jude, was around six months old that it all caught up with me and came crashing down. That is a story for another time but now, after all this time, I feel like I have faced it. I have learnt that part of me will never accept what happened, that it is ok to be angry but equally that I no longer blame myself, that looking forward does not mean never looking back.

***

I feel guilty a lot. Guilty that I have two beautiful children but sometimes still struggle with the aching sadness that it isn’t three. That I am exceptionally fortunate in so many ways, compared to so many people. That across the world there are people fighting for their children in unimaginable circumstances. It is that ‘luckier than some but unluckier than others’ conundrum that leaves me spinning. What happened to us isn’t fair yet it’s so small compared to the plight of others yet it’s so enormous compared to never experiencing a loss at all yet, yet, yet….

***

Less than two years after Max entered our lives, I found myself in another hospital room, metres away from where he was born. I wrote here about Max’s birth which was overwhelmingly joyful but also frantic and unpredictable; fitting for a baby that we had spent the past 18 months fighting for. This time however, things were different – it was just my husband and I in a bright room flooded with December morning light and I was calm. Minutes (seven to be exact) after I told the midwife ‘I really think something is happening’, our little Jude was born. Born into my waiting hands as this time I was ready for what was coming, ready to feel his heart beating against mine, his tiny hand grasping my finger. For the third time in four years I gazed into the face of my newborn son, each time the face an imprint of the one before and I was reminded of what links my three boys. The miracle of new life for sure but more than that the love. The love that broke my heart and then brought me back to life.

***

 

It’s the things I won’t experience that are the hardest. I will never feel his body against mine, seconds old, slippery in my hands. I will never feel his heavy warmth on my chest as I sit hazy with tiredness waiting for the sun to rise. I will never know who he would have been. There is very little I would not give to just be his mother for one day; to hold him, to feel the softness of his cheek against mine. I feel a physical yearning for him that I didn’t really understand until his little brothers were born; it is the feeling we must have to keep our babies safe. It’s the feeling my body can’t switch off even though he’s no longer here. That physical yearning is now somehow a comfort; he may not be here but I have changed. He has changed me.

***

Last week, I met some friends (friends I made right here on AOW) for dinner to celebrate two of our birthdays. Except we weren’t there to celebrate our birthdays I discovered, they had arranged this dinner for me, for me and my first baby boy. They had got together with our wider community and collected an overwhelming sum of money to donate to the neonatal unit at the hospital where our children were born, to mark our baby’s fifth birthday. Alongside this was a book of messages for me, for our family, messages that I will forever treasure as they show that our baby’s tiny life was significant, is remembered. This is just one example of how the people we love show us that they remember him; each gesture is infinitely meaningful and we are indescribably grateful for each one. We have been unlucky for sure but how fortunate we are to be surrounded by so much love.

It is that love that has given us the joyful moments that have slowly balanced the grief and sadness that overcame us five years ago. Love for our children and each other, love for our friends and families that leads us to seek solace in their company; to smile and laugh and feel absolute happiness. The grief and sadness hasn’t diminished but now it is only on certain days that it is weighing heavy. Upon reflection, that is one of the many things I would say to anyone going through similar or not quite so far down this road as us. The joy will come back. Hang on. You are still there. Just hold on.

***

Today I will go to the hospital where all three of my boys were born and leave a gift for the doctors and midwives, thanking them not only for their kindness when Patrick was born but also in gratitude for Max and Jude, both born full term thanks to their wondrous care. Then I will visit the hospital chapel where on this date our baby’s name is displayed in the book of remembrance.  I have stood to read it with his little brothers on the inside and the outside; today they will be standing next to me holding my hands as I wonder how one day I will explain to them about the little boy whose name they both have within theirs. ‘Patrick Hatcher’, it says. ‘27th July 2012. Son of Tom and Fiona’. Five years later, everything has changed yet nothing has. He is still our son. This day still belongs to him. And we are so grateful for the short time we had with him. There is a quote you will see often equated with baby loss that reads ‘I carried you for your whole life, I will love you for all of mine’. And I will, my baby boy, I will.

 

 

 

Categories: Becoming a Mother, Life Experience
8 interesting thoughts on this

The centre cannot hold

There are some lines that get into my blood and under my skin as soon as I read them.  I think of them at particular points in my life.  “The centre cannot hold”, I think, when I recognise that I’m getting close to breaking point.  It sort of comes to me, over and over, starting as a quite hum, then playing out in my head louder and louder, like a mantra.

It’s from The Second Coming by Yeats and was written in the aftermath of the first World War.  The poem is apocalyptic in scale.  The sentiment doesn’t stand alone; the full line in the poem is “Things fall apart; The centre cannot hold;”.

One is a natural consequence of another.  Anything breaks with enough pressure applied in the right places.

The trick is to know where you’re weakest.

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Categories: Life Experience, Written By Anna
10 interesting thoughts on this

Something Just Like This

Disclaimer: you guys KNOW what I’m like. Anna calls me the Baby Loon…about sums me up. It’s long, it’s wordy, it’s two birth stories in one and you’ll need a cup of tea and a packet of biscuits to get through it…but here it is…

At the end of March in 2015 I was 39 weeks pregnant with a very wriggly little boy called Monty Bernard. A day of very little movement led me to pop to hospital to be monitored – just for reassurance, I was probably imagining it all - and from there everything went, not wrong, at all, but… off-course, I suppose? His heart rate was ok, he was ok. Pure relief. But I wasn’t imagining the lack of movement, he very simply was. not. moving. For anyone or anything. I was admitted to the antenatal ward overnight for constant monitoring and would be seen first thing to discuss induction. I didn’t know where my head was, I was alone and terrified and when Philip arrived at 7am the next day I thought I would die from crying. A scan was ordered, to check in on our wee boy and when the sonographer placed the wand just under my ribs, there, impossibly clear and beautiful, was a perfect round baby head. Very much NOT fully engaged in my pelvis as my midwife had been confidently telling me for months. (I never liked her anyway.)

This breech diagnosis led to a very resigned senior team of medics (and my very apprehensive husband) firmly talking me down from my plans to deliver vaginally regardless of Monty’s position. I was completely against trying to turn him, leaving a caesarean section as our delivery option. In all honesty I was heartbroken. I cried and I cried and I wished that everything was different. We were to return to the hospital 2 days later for pre-operative checks. As simple as that. However, when we did – by now fully on board with the idea of an elective caesarean (ELCS) after hours of soul-searching and, yes, more crying -  the little sod was head-down, prompting a bit of head-scratching but lots of smiles from doctors and midwives alike. We were sent on our merry way to wait for labour to begin naturally and with our heads spinning and aching from the dramas of the previous 72 hours. To sum up the following ten days, I felt excessive movement from Monty all hours of every day, growing more and more anxious and despite repeated attempts to contact my midwife and the consultant we’d seen, I was 41 weeks before I was seen again. Lo and behold, our boy was breech again. This time there was very little discussion, a diagnosis of unstable lie was mooted and Monty arrived 14 hours later by, according to our notes, ‘elective’ caesarean.

The surgery itself, the arrival of Master Monty, it was incredible. It was calm and exciting and fascinating and we were all looked after as though we were the only people in the world. I would never hesitate to extoll the virtues of an ELCS, when it is the way your baby needs to arrive. I will forever be thankful that Monty arrived safely and as beautifully as he did, but I was beside myself that the black and white breech diagnosis a fortnight before could have resulted in a very different outcome. Unstable lie can have dramatic and devastating consequences and we are lucky, so lucky, that we had the outcome we did. So, it was the right decision, if a little late in the day. Why am I wanging on about it 2 years later? Well, because, for me, the very worst thing about having the surgery was the effect it was going to have on any subsequent pregnancies. If I were to get pregnant again, I would have to venture into the confusing world of the VBAC – Vaginal Birth After Caesarean. And that is where Clara’s story begins. Read More »

Categories: Any Other Baby
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Behind Closed Doors: They Will Not Break Us

 

 Any Other Woman, you can talk about anything. Anything you want at all. Any subject, any time. We are proud to be able to provide that platform for you, it makes our hearts sing. But we do understand that sometimes there are topics that are too sensitive, too divisive, simply too hard to write about and broadcast without a second thought. No-one wants to hurt their loved ones unnecessarily and yet sometimes a story needs to be told.

This is your place for those subjects. A place for you to tell those tales you’d not considered telling before. No names, no justifications, no apologies.

You can send your BCD submissions to us and we promise that you’ll remain at. nonymous throughout the entire process

 

Today I feel profoundly sad.

 

Sad that I’m seeing such terrible acts on the news, sad that my life is suddenly shrouded in this horrible cloak of hatred.

 

Sad that my friends have lost loved ones in the terror attacks in the U.K. and abroad and sad that it has divided people.

 

Sad that my nieces and nephews grow up in a world that knows this fear.

 

Sad that my friends have stopped their teenagers going to concerts when my mum’s only worry was that I’d return slightly drunk, a hippy and with multicoloured hair (which I did, but it dyed more of her bathroom grout than actually made an impact on me) when other mothers now have to worry about their children being shot.

 

Sad that I hear comments in my place of work like “why don’t they just go home” from seemingly intelligent people where I just want to say “what, to Manchester?” while the amazingly kind-hearted Muslim girl that sits next to me shifts in her seat.

 

I could let this break me, we could all let this break us. But the fact is the extremists will not make us scared, they will force us together. They will pull us into a united front and make us stand against this hidden enemy.

 

In an unknown world with political turmoil, we are British, we are multicultural and I am proud to be a member of this society.

 

They will not break us. This is the nation where a guy gripped onto his pint running away from a terror attack. We are known for our solidarity. We are known for our stiff upper lip. You will not beat us!

 

Now… who’s for a cuppa?

Categories: Uncategorized
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Behind Closed Doors: Being There

At Any Other Woman, you can talk about anything. Anything you want at all. Any subject, any time. We are proud to be able to provide that platform for you, it makes our hearts sing. But we do understand that sometimes there are topics that are too sensitive, too divisive, simply too hard to write about and broadcast without a second thought. No-one wants to hurt their loved ones unnecessarily and yet sometimes a story needs to be told.

This is your place for those subjects. A place for you to tell those tales you’d not considered telling before. No names, no justifications, no apologies.

You can send your BCD submissions to us and we promise that you’ll remain anonymous throughout the entire process.

 

I am reminded daily of my mother; she is hard to avoid.  She pops up whenever motherhood is even briefly in the air, when a colleague talks about their children, when a friend mentions theirs, in advertising, on social media, on television, in  emails telling me I should buy her flowers on the 26th.  She is everywhere and nowhere, all at once.

I sat in the back row at her funeral, my unendingly supportive husband gripping my hand.  It had been just over 13 years since she had left us and we’d met only twice in that time, both on horribly sad family occasions.  I couldn’t bear to look at her, I was so angry still, even after all those years.  Just like I was angry as I tried to push my way through my GCSEs (she left in the middle of them), as I dropped out of my A Levels (I had never failed at anything before then), as I gave up on the career I had always dreamed of and pushed myself up the ladder of one I had never even considered to be for me.  Needs must.

Just like I was angry when I was ill and she had no idea; when my heart was broken and she wasn’t there.  Just like when she missed my wedding day, the day that I had become sure would never happen because what she had done meant I could barely believe someone could really love me as unconditionally as (I now know) my husband does.

Just like I was angry when she took her own life.  When she sentenced me to a lifetime of fear that 16 year old me telling her I didn’t want to see her eventually lead to that.  When she committed the ultimate selfish act.

And I am angry now.  I am angry because for all my outward insistence that I’m not sure I ever want to have my own children I know deep down that actually, I really do.  And I am angry because I am afraid.  I’m so very afraid that I will do what she did.  Afraid that I will resent my children so much that I will be incapable of loving them forever the way a mother is supposed to, the way that she was supposed to love me.

But I am also determined, aways have been, and she couldn’t take that away (not least because I clearly did not get it from her).  That un-planned career is going very well; my husband is utterly amazing and tells me every single day how much he loves me; I have the most grounding, faithful and infinitely patient friends you could ever wish for.

I will never have her again, and I can’t even remember any of the good times I am sure we did have together when I was small, but I will always have the strength she gave me when she walked away.  The strength I have had to build up to keep going and the strength that I am reminded of daily when she comes to mind.

Perhaps one day, not too far away, that strength will be enough for me to be sure that I could bring my own children in to this world and give them strength and determination too, but instead of it being rooted in a need to get by, that strength and determination will be borne out of a daily reminder that I will always be there for them.  No matter what.

Categories: Family, Friends and Relationships, Life Experience
7 interesting thoughts on this

Behind Closed Doors: Radicalised by the Internet

At Any Other Woman, you can talk about anything. Anything you want at all. Any subject, any time. We are proud to be able to provide that platform for you, it makes our hearts sing. But we do understand that sometimes there are topics that are too sensitive, too divisive, simply too hard to write about and broadcast without a second thought. No-one wants to hurt their loved ones unnecessarily and yet sometimes a story needs to be told.

This is your place for those subjects. A place fo07r you to tell those tales you’d not considered telling before. No names, no justifications, no apologies.

You can send your BCD submissions to us and we promise that you’ll remain anonymous throughout the entire process.

Since AOW closed for business I think we’ve all been struggling to find our internet tribes. Some of us have quite happily settled into the mummy blogging/insta routine. Some of us have dangerously dallianced with the dark side and it’s oh-so-pretty interiors. And some of us have floundered around not knowing quite where we fit. Apparently being a thirty something woman with no children who had a total bastard of a time trying to move house automatically precludes you from quite a lot so I mainly fitted into the latter category. Sure I read The Pool and Stylist and Standard Issue from time to time, but they weren’t mine, they weren’t home.

Which is how (somewhat ironically given my aforementioned lack of sprog) I ended up on mumsnet. Specifically the FWR bit of the site. I don’t join in much but I read a lot and it’s led me to some sites and some twitterers I’m really pleased to have found. And they have one thing in common – they’re all ‘radical’ feminists.
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Categories: Behind Closed Doors, Politics and Feminism
27 interesting thoughts on this

About

Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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image by Lucy Stendall Photography

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