I don’t want to say too much in this intro, there’s very little I could say that will add to the perfection that is this piece of writing about heartbreak, silence, grief and hope and love. Fee’s writing is never anything less than perfect, even when she is in the midst of unimaginable pain and travelling a road that most of us are fortunate enough not to have knowledge of.
What I can say is that it fills me with so much joy, knowing that Fee and Tom have welcomed baby Max into the world, healthy and gorgeous and doing a supremely excellent job of keeping them both up at night. Their warmth and graciousness as a family have been nothing short of inspiring over the last 18 months and we wish them a future filled with love and noise and more hope.
Disclaimer: I usually have a purpose in mind when I begin writing and it was not to scare anyone who is currently pregnant. The odds of being born with the physical condition that caused the loss of our first son are tiny and the chances of then going on to experience what we did become miniscule. As I have said before – so very unlucky in some ways (yet so very lucky in others).
But I wanted to send it because I felt so very, very alone when I was going through it. Plus I’ve disproved about a gazillion statistics which I think others may find encouraging!
This love wasn’t enough for us to survive
I swear, I swear, I swear I tried
You took the life right out of me
I’m so unlucky I can’t breathe
You took the life right out of me
I’m longing for your heartbeat
We are no strangers to silence. Our first baby boy was born silently – not as people imagine into quiet grief but instead into overwhelming disbelief that we had made this tiny, perfect person. Our home reverberated with his silence for days, weeks, months. It wove new meaning into our less than a year old wedding vows, binding us together in a way we could never have imagined.
Four months later, we find ourselves in a small room, looking at an empty screen, searching for the telltale flicker of life, just 7 weeks into this terrifying attempt to try again. I feel my husband’s hand tensing in mine. Again, there is silence. Until the words we are dreading. ‘I’m so sorry’. Bad luck, they say.
Four months later again, a different room, a different screen. Silence. I stare at my husband, believing that somehow the love we have for each other and for the family we want will be enough. Again, the silence is broken. Again, ‘I’m so sorry’. Again, very bad luck.
I am alone in a room with my doctor, an uncomfortable silence this time. Examinations, tests, discomfort. ‘You’re fine’ she says. No explanation. Very, very bad luck.
‘At least you get pregnant easily’, people say. ‘You’re lucky it doesn’t take long’. Stunned silence. To compare the two is unfair to us and to those struggling to conceive. Who decides who is luckier? Who decides which is easier?
One year and two days after our son was born, we’re in another room. Three times already in the past 12 weeks we have seen that tiny flicker but still we stare at each other rather than the screen, neither of us willing to hope anymore. This silence is, on our part, accepting and resigned. But then, the magic words. ‘There’s the heartbeat’. We are cautiously overjoyed, we are completely incredulous, we are overwhelmingly afraid.
Days later and I am in hospital having the operation that should keep our baby safe. I am then at home on bed rest which unbeknownst to me will be amongst the hardest three months I have ever had. My husband does everything for me alongside his job, from helping me get dressed to sitting up with me at night when I am too afraid to sleep. My friends and family ply me with DVDs, books and their company. I am reminded of the different kinds of love that colour my life. Very bad luck in some ways. Such very good luck in others.
At an unrelated appointment, a new GP offers to find the heartbeat. I am hesitant and reiterate my history – my history that is so very much my present. I remind her that it is still relatively early and I will see the midwife next week. She waves my concerns away and proceeds. Silence, again. Silence.
My husband drives us to the hospital, my tears doing little to fill the heavy silence in the car. We walk those familiar corridors, stopping outside that familiar door, with me saying familiar words.
‘We’ll be ok if it’s just the two of us, won’t we?’
‘Of course’ he says. ‘Of course.’
I won the hospital lottery and am once again treated with overwhelming kindness and compassion. ‘This is a precious pregnancy’ says the nurse ‘we will do everything we can’. I lie back and once again take my husband’s tense hand. The silence becomes heavier and I cannot breathe so I run through our back up plan in my head. We will drive across America, watch the sun rise, spend months just the two of us, remembering why we will be ok if we are all there is.
And then, the silence is broken. For the first time, we hear rather than see our baby’s heartbeat. Fast like a hummingbird’s wings, faster than I would have thought possible if I hadn’t heard a different heartbeat in what feels like a different life. We listen as it echoes loud and strong, anchored to life by my own beating heart which in turn is tethered to the unwavering strength of my husband.
A few weeks later and we wait in anticipated silence for three little words. ‘It’s a boy’, they say. And just like that, all of a sudden, our first baby boy is there in that room with us and his little brother, reminding us that our battered hearts might one day heal.
As I write this, I am 35 weeks pregnant and could share endless fragments of the last eight months. The point at which my attempts at stoicism broke and I called my midwife begging for help. The SANDS sticker on the front of my pregnancy notes that simply says ‘Patrick’ and breaks my heart every time I see it. How we still use the word ‘if’ to talk about our son’s pending arrival.
My thoughts behind these words were to give a little hope to anyone who finds themselves lost at this time. My husband and I have travelled through crushing grief to resigned sadness to abject fear over the last eighteen months and if you had told us we would end up here, we would have shown you a raft of medical information to back up our loss of belief. Yet somehow, a miracle happened. Our baby kept his heartbeat. He was not born too soon. We are among the lucky ones.
For any of you struggling with making the family you wish for, you are not alone. Hold on and remember that every parent who misses their baby or is still waiting to hold their baby or struggled to have their baby will be standing behind you, cheering you on. You may not always hear them through the suffocating silence but they will be there.