These last few weeks have been especially difficult for us as our rainbow baby is sick. We had to take her into hospital where she was diagnosed with pneumonia, which is what her sister died from. Back at home now luckily and she’s responding well to antibiotics but it is unbelievably stressful anyway without our history with her sister.
Lack of control
I realised a key reason for the stress of having a poorly child or loved one or heaven forbid their loss is the lack of control over the situation (unless you’re a murderer of course but that’s a different story!).
The fact you had no control in the end over whether they survived or not. You did everything you could possibly do but even that wasn’t enough and it is the acceptance that at the end of the day we really don’t have control over these things.
When our children are sick, again, it is the control issue that makes us super stressed. We can do everything we can possibly do to look after them. Give them antibiotics, fluid, pain relief, and take them to the doctors or to hospital. Listen to the “experts” and follow their guidance. Other than that there isn’t much more we can do. We are powerless and have to do our best then simply hope.
Regaining control on life
I think that is why after the loss of Violet and then Arthur doing things I have control over helped me to regain a little of my sanity.
Managing a house renovation and extension project was something I could control. Rehabilitating a German Shepherd from being a working dog into a family household pet again I could do and get some comfort from. Setting up a fund in Violet’s memory and organising a charity ball again was something I could control and work at organising. We have now raised a total of £42,860 for Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.
More of a control freak
Yes I admit I am probably more of a control freak in some respects than perhaps other people but after speaking to a few others who have had to endure looking after sick children or unfortunately baby or child loss it is this loss of control that is a tricky one to deal with.
My advice is to try to do other things you can control to try to balance out those things that you simply can’t.
Big hugs and lots of love
Always Violet Skies xx
You might be interested in reading these other posts –
A fellow blogger recently launched her own hashtag challenge #julyyourway and the first day was entitled “your authentic self”. I realised I no longer knew exactly who I was anymore and decided I needed to write this post in case some of you loss mums or parents are the same.
Who am I?
I don’t actually recognise myself anymore. I can tell you all about the old me in great detail as I spent 39 years with her.
The old me
The old me was strong, determined, unwavering and a great calculated risk taker. Her instincts about people and situations were nearly always right. The type of person you could drop into a room of total strangers and she’d be fine chatting to them making friends pretty quickly. If someone told her she couldn’t do something she’d make it her mission to prove them wrong. One of life’s dreamers believing in positive thinking and that with the right mindset you can achieve anything. Always working towards a vision of the future and undertaking the next challenge. Underneath the confidence she genuinely cared about all those she met, worked with and spent time with. It took me a long time to get to know, appreciate and love the old me.
Where did she go?
What happened you might ask that would fundamentally change your personality permanently well like most new mums four years ago I lost myself a little after the birth of Violet. All new mums will relate to the fact that usually you immediately become more risk adverse as your instincts to protect kick in and your self-confidence takes a knock too as your body shape changes. However most mums will tell you that maybe a year or two later they rediscover themselves again building up that old confidence. Their core self is fundamentally unchanged.
That happened to me too. I was starting to rediscover the old me again in September 2016 then the unthinkable happened.
When you lose a child they say your world changes, life is completely altered and things will never be the same again.
The air is completely knocked out of you but what you don’t realise is with the air goes your personality, as you knew it. All your hopes and dreams, your confidence, trust in yourself and others, All the things you’ve literally spent a lifetime developing, building & honing are wiped away in a moment. All the negative things cling on such as self-doubt, negativity, criticism, depression but the good things…
The old me was confident, fun and had a wicked sense of humour. She was lovely to her core because she genuinely believed there was more love in the world than bad. She truly believed in positivity and only saw the good in people. She believed in what her gut or core instinct told her about people and situations. She actually believed that eventually life will come good and that good things happen to good people. Work hard try your best and believe in others then good things will happen. She always looked for the silver lining in every black cloud. It never failed her until the day her daughter died.
Try a reboot
At first you think these stronger qualities are still there just diminished like they were post-child birth. Just like when you’ve had set backs or heartbreak in the past? Like a hard drive that just needs a reboot. You try to do that to reboot yourself by trying similar things you’ve done in the past to recover like rest, holidays and seeing loved ones. Over and over you try in vain to recover. Eventually you discover that these qualities aren’t dormant any more. They aren’t still there to be rebooted they’ve been completely wiped out. It’s like you’ve had a computer virus in your brain that’s wiped out the useful things leaving only that photo of you from a beach holiday 10 years ago that you didn’t even like and the only email messages that have been retained are spam ones about PPI.
You have a vague memory of the old you but it’s hard to imagine now you were ever that person. I can only explain it by saying that it’s as though I’m viewing an old movie about someone else. I miss her. I’d spent years trying to learn to love myself, to be confident in my own skin. This confident me enabled me to be very good at what I did career wise, especially as I was able to juggle twice as much work as anyone else and easily did 16 hour days regularly. I was a caring considerate person who loved life and loved having fun. I really did work hard play hard and excelled at it.
Now that person is gone. Yes physically I look the same. I still have the same cognitive abilities (sleep deprivation affected maybe but I can still ace an IQ test or two). I even the same memories but I feel as though I’m looking in at someone else. I miss the old me but after over 2 years of trying to get her back I’ve realised that she’s “left the building” never to return. I’ve accepted that I need to build up these qualities in myself from the beginning again, to build the new me.
Still a central core
I’d forgotten how I used to be really strong. There’s a central core of that original strength left that’s hardened up, so much that it takes a lot for me to cry now but every so often a bit of it crumbles. This core is still surrounded by kindness and compassion just not the huge volume I used to have. This has been coloured by grief and the realisation that really bad things can happen to good people. Karma doesn’t exist and positive thinking will only get you so far.
The new me comes with a great deal of darkness the old me didn’t have. This has shaped my sense of humour so it is very dark now. I don’t trust my own gut instincts anymore, as these have been proven wrong twice with the very worst results. I also no longer trust others especially those in the medical profession where I now take what they tell me with a pinch of salt.
Luckily over the last 2 years that I have been hitting reboot I have seen some of my wacky creativity come back and my ability to speak to total strangers on some days now is almost as good as it was. Although I find it extremely hard to tolerate fools and I seem to have become even less diplomatic than before so I can be quite honest and frank now. This is of course a work in progress. Some things like confidence and speaking to strangers just takes practise and stepping out of your comfort zone. That’s at least one good outcome in that I don’t really have a comfort zone rather a numb achy uncomfortable zone.
Version 2.0: Post child loss
Unfortunately unlike computer software I don’t think “version 2.0: after child loss” will be an upgrade on the one before. Hopefully I’ll eventually be able to patch over some of the holes and maybe even rebuild a few of the qualities the old me had that were great. It will take time though as it took 38 years of hard work to develop the old me.
Feel free to check in with me again at age 79 and we can see if the old me has returned just a wrinklier version.
On the positive side it has changed my outlook on life instead of planning for and looking to the future I try to live in the present. To enjoy the here and now making the most of every moment as I understand just how short life is.
Do you ever feel you have changed? Is it for the better or worse?
Like most people I love bumping into people I haven’t seen for a while. Someone I used to speak to or deal with all the time perhaps through work or a project and who has simply drifted away. Now in these modern times, thanks to social media, quite a lot of these people are still kept up to date on the happenings in my life. They are aware of the sadness of recent times, however there are occasionally still a few that slip through the net.
I met up with someone recently who I hadn’t seen for 5 years and initially I was so pleased to have ran into them, eagerly accepting the offer of a coffee in a nearby café. Then as I waited for them to get served with our brews my heart sank, as I realized the conversation I was about to have with them. I could forecast the surprised look then sadness before there would be pity and sorrow for my loss. Yes they would be sympathetic and the usual comments of “I’m so sorry” and “how have you coped” would be expressed. They would mention their kids and how they couldn’t imagine the pain of ever losing them. Then our entire conversation would take a different turn.
He brought the coffee and tea back.
I secretly challenged myself to see how long I could last before I would have to deliver the bad news to him. I asked him lots of questions, first about what had happened in the past 5 years in his life. He told me about his children growing up and how they were doing at school. About their different personalities with so much joy and passion proud of the people they were becoming.
Then he asked “what about me” and I told him first about the happy things; our house, getting married, travelling the world and our three children. About Violet, Arthur and Aurora, then about the loss of two of them. I finished on a happy note talking about Violet’s fund, Aurora and our hope for the future.
I’m now adept at delivering the proverbial sandwich with the shitty grief filling in the middle.
It’s very easy for me to simply avoid catching up with people and avoid setting dates to meet up for fear that I’ll have to have the awkward conversation about what has happened in my life. Don’t get me wrong I’m getting better at delivering it now but somedays it is still very hard for me having to relive it over again along with the associated emotion.
I hate being thought of as “that girl” and “oh poor Sarah” as that’s certainly not me. My loss doesn’t define me as a person. Yes it may have shaped me into the person I am today and yes I feel the affects of that change every second of every minute but I’m still me.
I just wish I could hand that old friend an overview of what’s happened instead and say “here’s an update on me please read it and then we will grab a coffee to catch up”. That way I don’t have to relive anything repeating myself and having to observe their reactions too. It’s a little weird though and cold I guess so not me.
What do you think? How would you tell people if you were me?
A few weeks ago we were invited into St Mary’s hospital for a pleasant reason for a change. We were one of 180 sets of parents to be invited to attend Tommy’s the Baby Charity’s afternoon tea party for all the rainbow babies born in their care in 2018.
The parents and families (some siblings came along too) and 180 little rainbow babies all born in 2018 gathered together for the first time to celebrate life. It was so magical seeing all the people that had been helped by the charity.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the charity it was set up to initially help those who had suffered stillbirth and multiple miscarriages. The charity spearheads research into the conditions and looks at preventative measures to try to safeguard pregnancy ensuring a healthy outcome for mother and baby.
Leonardo Di Vinci
This weekend I visited the Leonardo Di Vinci exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery and highly recommend it, as it is amazing. I always knew Leonardo was a genius but I discovered in this exhibition that his work actually led to changing the perception of how babies develop in the womb. He was the one that figured out that the umbilical cord feeds them too. He also discovered that the heart circulates blood around the body in the 1480’s and looked at how it feeds the main organs.
Without Leonardo we wouldn’t have had the foundation for midwifery and then institutions like Tommy’s. What is a surprise I found is how little we have actually progressed since his discovery in the 1500s as the questions as to why babies die or why women miscarry are still needing to be answered today. Those answers are being discovered thanks to Tommy’s.
Tommy’s Manchester clinic offered me careful monitoring during my pregnancy with Aurora, after our 20 week scan. To closely keep an eye on her but also to help me to manage my stress levels too. The aim is for those child loss victims, who have lost several babies, to get reassurance that any issues or changes can be spotted by regular scans. They also checked things like blood flow through the umbilical cord, that the placenta was working ok and checked the Aurora’s growth. Fluid levels in the womb and in my case, because of my broken heart, the blood supply into the womb too.
All of these checks helped to give me peace of mind during what was an extremely stressful and worrying time. I lived life while I was pregnant from one milestone to the next so each 3 weeks until my next scan was a mini countdown. We celebrated after each one gave us positive news. Although it still didn’t make me worry less as of course we had been told previously by experts during Arthur’s pregnancy in early scans that things were ok. We were also told by Violet’s cardiologist that her heart was ok “nothing to worry about” and then it contributed to her death. So to say I was skeptical about what “experts” told me was an understatement but you know what? The Tommy’s experts or as I like to call them Angels were right!
So the afternoon tea enabled the midwives, who had taken good care of us, and the head of the Tommy’s clinic Doctor Alex to finally meet Aurora in the flesh. The last time they had seen her she was on a black and white screen during ultra sound scans. It was great for then to finally get to hold and meet her. To find out that the little hyperactive baby on their screens was a fidget in real life too.
Tommy’s is a charity
Tommy’s also have places in the Manchester 10k so if any of you out there would like to run for them and raise some money to help others like us then we would be very grateful you can get more information to register here.
Unfortunately with my poor heart health we’re not in a position to be able to take part so we have pledged to raise funds for them after we hit our Alder Hey fund target in some other way instead. Would you come to a tea party in the summer perhaps and help us to thank our Tommy’s angels?
Also make sure you visit the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition more details click here.
This time of year we find a little tricky because this is the week our baby Arthur was due to be born, and although we marked his official first birthday and day he died in September, I still feel a little tug that says we should be having a first birthday party for him in early January.
Why is grief harder for a TFMR?
Grieving for Arthur I find harder and more complicated than I do for Violet as the situation is much more complex:
We never knew Arthur not properly. Yes I felt him move and kick inside me (a lot) but we never got to met him alive.
We were the ones who decided to end his life prematurely based on medical facts and delivered him early sleeping. The hardest decision we’ve ever made.
The bittersweet this is that if we hadn’t decided to lose Arthur when we did then we wouldn’t have had Aurora and she wouldn’t be here today. So that is hard to swallow – how can you feel sad about someone who led to the creation of someone else?
Thank you Arthur
Anyway I saw my counselor this week and she said we should thank Arthur for giving us Aurora so tonight we will toast our little boy. She also passed me a really lovely article that was taken from a guy called GSnow’s Reddit account. Some of the original isn’t really relevant to child loss so I have edited it somewhat and also added some of my own words but you can read the full piece he wrote here.
Grief is like being Ship wrecked
“As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating for me luckily it was my husband and we clung to each other. Some of my family and friends also floated nearby providing sustenance for us to carry on. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.
At the start
In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, seeing another young family similar to yours on the street, the sound of a baby crying. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.
Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or a family gathering. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out. Occasionally the wave can come from no where and totally overwhelm you but again you rise up, gasp and breathe again.
The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too.”
I started to write and plan this article before I read the sad news today about local BBC newsreader Dianne Oxberry who sadly passed away. I have lots of friends who were her friends and everyone who met her spoke fondly of her, so this article is dedicated to her friends and family. May you ride the storm of grief and find some lovely memories from the beautiful ship to cling to. If you know those close to her please help them to stay afloat. Do this through kindness and compassion.
Well not for lots of people it isn’t. People who are alone, homeless, financially struggling, have mental health issues or who have lost someone dear to them it’s often a time of year they dread.
For us we face another Christmas without our little girl who’d be an excitable 3 year old this year and our little boy for whom it’d be a first Christmas. My husband will experience another year without his beloved father who died just before becoming a grandpa, a role we know he’d have excelled at. This year however, unlike the last two years, will be bittersweet for us as we now have our gorgeous little rainbow baby Aurora who will be 5 months old.
The first year after we lost Violet we actually couldn’t face Christmas at all so a lovely friends parents’ leant us their holiday home in the Caribbean and my mum treated us to flights so we could escape the whole season for 2 weeks. We were very fortunate to have such wonderful friends and family that could afford to help us escape in this way. I know others often aren’t as lucky and may choose to escape through shutting the world out at home. Or maybe their escape is immersing themselves in other people and going through the motions of Christmas, perhaps if they have other children then they have no choice.
Last Christmas we spent with family who happened to also be going through a hard time, albeit for a different reason, as we wanted to do what families should do and be there for one another. Although we did escape for New Years and what should have been our Arthur’s due date, as we couldn’t face that so we booked cheap flights and headed off to Morocco.
This year will be the first year we don’t escape Christmas or New Years, instead we are inviting family to spend it with us. We will wake up with an excitable 4 year old niece on Christmas morning and it will be a first Christmas for our littlest nephew as well as our daughter. The fact that we can help to make it a magical day for my niece and nephew, I think will help us to get through it.
What’s sad is this year the kind family who helped us to escape that first Christmas have just suffered a devastating loss themselves so this festive time will now be especially hard for them. Our hearts go out to them this year.
Our motto is that if you are able to celebrate Christmas this year then embrace your family or loved ones. Make the most of every second because you have no idea what the future holds. Also if you can help to make someone else’s Christmas better or easier this year then do it. Whether you donate to a local food bank, drop Christmas presents into a charity looking after disadvantaged children or just invite your elderly neighbours round for Christmas dinner, nothing says Christmas like looking after those who are suffering by easing their pain or helping them to also have a nice experience, even if for one day only.
I can’t wait to hear all your lovely stories of goodwill and sharing. I’ve heard lots already, as I’m blessed with lots of amazingly kind people in my life. So far there are tales of people stocking food banks with so much food they can feed many families over the 3 days of Christmas. Those who fundraise and collect donations for presents for underprivileged children. Some have collected blankets for the homeless. Keep up the good work. They say money is like manure; it’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around well I say the same can be said for kindness.
Sending big hugs to you all and I can’t wait to hear more heartwarming stories.
I don’t know if I believe in luck. I stopped believing in God as a teenager when I saw the suffering in the world and learnt more about science and history. I then liked to believe in everything being made from energy and read a lot of books like “The Secret” that talked about putting positive energy out there to get the same back. Similar to Karma in what comes around goes around.
Energy and Karma
The energy, karma and positivity mantra was the way I always lived my life. Some people believe in God but I have liked to believe in the ancient energy of mother earth, not in a chanting naked around Stonehenge way, but the idea that we’re all made of energy always seemed more scientific and therefore believable.
Violet is born
Violet came along and we were told at her 20-week scan about her heart defect and that it was bad luck. She was an undiagnosed breach baby and I had her naturally afterwards we were again told “oh you had very bad luck there”. Then Violet got her heart fixed by surgeons at Alder Hey hospital and all the time we channeled positive energy. Other family members and friends prayed for her in a multitude of different faiths.
Her surgery was a permanent fix. People told us how lucky she and we were that she survived but we thanked science and the talented people at Alder Hey. We continued to think in a positive way and raised funds from our belated wedding reception for Ronald McDonald House to thank them for their support of us in providing accommodation when Violet was in hospital.
Violet sick again
Then when Violet got sick again being admitted into Manchester Children’s Hospital we continued to channel positivity and friends/family prayed again for her. After just over a week she seemed to turn a corner, we rejoiced and thanked everyone, mother earth, God, everyone’s prayers were answered…but then she suddenly died. When we got her post mortem results, and then over 18 months later an inquest verdict, to be told she was just very unlucky and she died from something so extremely rare that no one could believe it.
We then got pregnant again with Arthur our rainbow and were told at his 20-week scan that he had irreparable brain damage and once again told that we were just very unlucky again.
Karma is fake
Now if I was to believe in karma both of these things should have been lucky instead. I’m the person that buys food for random homeless people and sometimes helps them even further, for example I bought a homeless guy a sleeping bag in winter when he was sat sobbing because someone beat up and robbed him. Over the years I have raised thousands for charity. I’ve also only ever had rescue animals and do the middle class thing of sponsoring a child in Africa, so whilst I don’t do this as a quid pro quo or usually tell people whenever I do something kind, I should have a lot of good karma saved up right there. So I think the loss of my two children shows this karma thing is pure nonsense as for luck well….
As for God
As for God…I know lots of people who have lost children and are comforted by their faith. I on the other hand can’t believe in anyone or anything that can cause that kind of pain for anyone. The pain my child suffered in hospital in the weeks before she died, and that of other children suffering in hospital too, means if there is a God then he is a cruel unkind one, so why worship him/her? I actually in a way admire those child loss survivors who do still believe, as they’re certainly stronger in their faith than I am.
I still try to think positively, as it helps me to cope day to day but I do it more because I think that Violet wouldn’t want me to be upset or negative and me being miserable and negative isn’t going to bring Violet and Arthur back. I also now have the adorable Aurora to care for so need to be the best version of me for her sake.
Kindness and compassion
I believe kindness, compassion and good manners aren’t exclusive to those who are religious and my experiences over the last few years have shown me that often these qualities can be missing just as easily from a religious person as they can be present in an atheist. I like to treat people with kindness and respect regardless of who they are. Blame my mother for this one as she clearly raised us well.
So to summarize I’m not sure what I believe anymore and maybe as one of my extremely clever friends said, “perhaps life is just a lot of random shit that just happens and if you survive then you either learn to deal with it or you don’t end of”. Not quite as eloquent as Forrest Gump’s “life is like a box of chocolates” but I can really identify with my friends version. If religion is how you learn to deal with life’s challenges then good on you, it’s certainly better than turning to addiction or not coping at all. Each to their own and I think child loss survivors need to push on anyway they can.
How do you cope with things or spur yourself to carry on beyond what you used to believe was your limit?
Today is the official birthday of our baby boy Arthur George who was born sleeping at 22 weeks of pregnancy. Legally he doesn’t exist as he has no birth certificate or death certificate as he didn’t draw breath. If he had he would technically have been alive.
He was a termination for medical reasons known as TMR and it was the hardest decision myself and my husband have ever had to make (read more about it in this earlier post). We knew it was the right one to make as he wouldn’t have survived to full term passing anyway around 30 weeks so we felt it was the kindest decision. We still wondered and worried as to whether we were right.
We were still grieving the loss of Violet and then felt as though we were burying our last little bit of hope when we said goodbye to her brother. We entered a period of darkness even darker than we could imagine. The little flicker of hope we had extinguish completely when we were informed there was a 50/50 chance of future seriously ill babies like Arthur. A few months later we got the surprise news of another pregnancy. A pregnancy fraught with worry, stress and anguish as we wondered if once again the light we thought we could see at the end of the dark tunnel was in fact yet another high speed train set to derail us once again.
Now exactly a year to the day we held and said goodbye to our little son I’m holding another 5 week old little daughter, Aurora.
We named her Aurora as it means “Goddess of the Dawn” and “Light”. We thought this was beautiful and had special resonance for us as we now can start to see daylight again through the fog.
Happy birthday to our little rainbow Arthur George who taught us to dream and hope again after the loss of our first precious daughter Violet.
He also made us more determined to change more babies lives by raising more money for Violet’s cardiac surgery fund at Alder Hey Hospital. We set a date for the Violet Ball at the end of this month, 29th September at Radisson Edwardian hotel in Manchester you can get more information here. There are tickets still available and we are looking for raffle prizes too so if you can help please get in touch.
Emotional is probably the only constant state at the moment, as with the majority of new mums, never mind those who have gone through child loss. I’m facing a wave of different emotions everyday but unlike most new mums mine include sadness, feeling angry, confused (how can you feel immense pain & pleasure at same time) & devastated that my older children aren’t here too. I am a mother of three not one.
The midwife service would ordinarily have signed me and baby off by now and passed our care onto the health visitors but given the extreme circumstances (loss of two children) they are keeping a close eye on me alongside the health visitors, which is nice in a way, as it is a total contradiction to the care we had 3 years ago where we were forgotten about for the first few weeks after we left hospital. We complained at the time to Manchester’s NHS trust and it resulted in a full restructure of procedures for new mum care in Greater Manchester, hopefully meaning high risk babies that have undergone surgery shortly after birth won’t now fall down the cracks as we did.
In a way this is probably also now the reason why both departments are now OTT with our care.
Are you sure you’re ok?
Midwives and health visitors ask me how I’m doing then look at me carefully to observe my facial expressions & body language to see when I say that “I’m ok” if I’m being honest. They all looked surprised when I explained after Aurora was born healthy that for the first time in 9 months a lot of my anxiety and worry had lifted. I actually felt a huge sense of relief and was also in slight shock that at last the ordeal of waiting and wondering was over. She was finally here and was healthy. Sometimes it still feels surreal so I have to pinch myself to check I’m not just dreaming and other times I still find myself because of sleep deprivation accidentally calling Aurora Violet as though my brain has regressed in time. Although I’m led to believe this also happens often when you have multiple children who are alive too.
Anyway got to dash baby waking for a feed…thanks for reading.
Everyone talks about “rainbow” pregnancies and what a blessing they are.
Joy of a rainbow
It is very true that when we were expecting Arthur we were overjoyed and all of a sudden we had a new lease of life. We had hope for our future, as a family and truly believed the sun was shining on us again.
Optimism for future
Yes we were still immensely sad about Violet and our grief for her was still strong but we had a renewed sense of optimism towards the future especially after we had Arthur’s 16 week scan and they confirmed that unlike Violet’s his heart looked ok. We were ecstatic and so relieved that we genuinely looked forward to his 20 week scan as they would double check his heart again in more detail but if there were any slight abnormalities then they would be minor.
Finally announced our pregnancy
We were so pleased and reassured by his 16 week scan results that we even felt confident enough to let friends and others know we were now expecting. That in January 2018 Violet was going to be a big sister.
Bad news at 20 weeks
Then we had the 20-week scan. Arthur’s heart did still look ok but what didn’t look right was his brain. The sonographer wouldn’t/couldn’t tell us too much other than his brain didn’t look how it was supposed to look and she would have to refer us to a top specialist. Our world crumbled. We then had to wait over a week before we could see a specialist to get more details.
Heart broken again
We were heartbroken. The fact that something might have been wrong with his brain hadn’t even dawned on us, as we almost expected a heart defect and as we knew from our experience with Violet that wouldn’t necessarily have been a deal breaker as a heart can be fixed but a brain? The interim week waiting to see the specialist was one of the longest in our lives and in the meantime I could feel little Arthur kicking and wriggling around much more hyperactive than Violet had been.
You can’t repair a brain
When we finally saw the specialist he explained that Arthur’s brain had declined and become even more severe, just in the week since our previous scan. The issue was the amount of fluid in his brain, which was already so vast it had crushed most remaining parts of the brain including the area responsible for reflex and animal impulses like breathing and swallowing. The increased movement from Arthur was put down to the nerves being over stimulated by the fluid sloshing around his brain.
His symptoms weren’t even anywhere near the borderline and in fact he was so beyond this that the prognosis was that he might at best reach 30 weeks of pregnancy and then would die. His head would be so large and full of fluid that he wouldn’t be able to be birthed and would have to be removed through caesarean section, which could have complications for me too and given my age we were told if we still wanted other children then losing him earlier would be the kindest option for everyone.
We explored every alternative but I couldn’t bear the thought of my little boy suffering (incidentally his deformity had affected him so badly that they couldn’t even identify his gender through the scan) and it wasn’t until I birthed him at 22 weeks that we realised he was a little boy. Having to end his life was the hardest decision we have ever had to make but the thought of him suffering and declining further was too much to bear.
Having to give birth to him was traumatic and extremely upsetting. We did get to meet our little boy while he still looked like a healthy but tiny baby and he was beautiful like a miniature version of his daddy with dark brown hair. We spent several days saying goodbye to him in hospital and gave him a funeral service before burying his ashes with his sister almost a year to the day that we lost her too.
Guilt mixed with grief
We will never forget our little boy and we miss him more than imaginable but it is a very different type of grief to that that we have over Violet. We knew her, shared experiences together, heard her laugh, babble away incessantly and have a million photos of her that we can look at too. In a way this makes it easier as we have constant beautiful reminders of our memories of Violet. I find I’m much angrier at the world over Violet because she had battled and overcome so much in her short life that it feels much more cruel for her to have been taken away as she was.
The world can be cruel
Grieving Arthur is much more difficult as his loss so early was our decision however his brain abnormalities weren’t and he would never have survived to full term anyway. Never been able to breathe or swallow unaided if he had survived to full term. It is the cruelty of us having to endure this on top of losing Violet that I find very hard to bear. I remember screaming “how much pain do they want us to go through”, “what have we done to deserve this” and “how cruel is the world”.
After the rainbow
People talk about rainbow babies and how they are “God’s gift” well Arthur did fill us with hope for the future before it was cruelly ripped from us again. I’m often asked why I don’t believe in God and this is the reason why.
Now we are struggling to discover what there is “somewhere over the rainbow” or as I like to say we are somewhere after the rainbow; what happens when you’ve had a rainbow and it is faded and disappeared?
We look for the next one I guess and try to keep positive.