Dear Mama to be,
Fifteen years ago, pregnant with my second baby, just three months after losing our first at 13 weeks, I was just like you. And eighteen times since.
I guess that’s hard for some people to imagine, to even allow that thought to enter their brain and ponder how it would feel to be pregnant so many times, and say goodbye just a few months later. I know I struggle with it even now.
I am often asked by other parents, Mum’s especially, how did you find the strength to keep trying? How did you survive all of that pain, all of that disappointment and heartache, and put yourself through it year after year? And I guess the answer to that is, I refused to give up hope. When I saw those beautiful flickering heart beats on a scan, knowing that just a few weeks later they may be gone; when I hit twelve weeks, twenty weeks, thirty weeks, when we were almost there, our baby fully grown and cocooned in all of our hopes and dreams; even when I held my son in my arms, so silent and so still, it was never an option to give up hope.
And to look at me now, surrounded by four children, the most beautiful family you could ever imagine, you would never guess what we have been through to have them. You would never believe that, behind a smile that beams with pride every time I look at the four of them together, there is so much heartache and hurt; that where there are four there should have been five. You would never for one moment imagine that there are fifteen little babies all loved, all lost, who I shall think of and remember always.
Because once upon a time I was just like you, squinting at a pregnancy test, holding it up to the light, scrutinising every little shadow, willing those two lines to show, and for this to finally be our chance. Back then I was just like you, dissecting digital tests, despite the blow of reading ‘negative’, frantically googling evaporation lines, false readings, pouring over baby forums where women like me were doing exactly the same.
I was just like you, staring in disbelief when I finally saw those blue lines again, both laughing and crying, trying so hard to believe that this time it would all work out. I was like you, not satisfied with one test, but taking daily tests, sometimes several times a day, lining each test up on the bathroom window ledge, comparing the colour of those blue lines, sobbing if they looked a little paler, sighing with relief when the ink grew darker.
I was just like you, on constant knicker watch. Making trips to the bathroom every half hour, every ten minutes, every moment of every day, checking for minuscule spots of blood, wiping with a shaky hand, dreading the thought of seeing that angry red streak which signalled the end.
I was just like you, pleading with the doctor for an early scan, paying privately for our own reassurance, pacing the waiting room, shaking like a leaf, telling myself that any moment now this would all be over.
And praying that I would be wrong.
I was just like you, watching the sonographers face for tell tale signs of bad news, holding my breath until she swivelled the monitor, pointed to that beautiful little speck on the screen and told me, the most wonderful words of all, “There’s the heartbeat right there.”
I was just like you, leaving the hospital, elated, clutching that ultrasound photo to my chest, praying that my baby would continue to grow. Allowing myself to imagine, even for just a moment, that it would all be okay, before instantly berating myself for daring to believe.
I was just like you, panicking at every twinge and cramp, prodding my boobs to check they still hurt, willing myself to feel sick or crave pickled onions, a regular at the doctors, counting down the days until our 12 week scan.
And I was just like you when my world came crashing down around me with bad news, and walking on air with the good. I was just like you, clinging on to my husband as my heart broke in two, and crying with disbelief when it didn’t.
And whilst I would love to sit here and tell you that those first twelve weeks will be easy, or indeed for many of us the entire nine months, I can’t. It’s going to be hard, during those 8 long weeks before the next scan, when you imagine all of the things that could possibly go wrong; when you lie there as the sonographer checks all of their organs, takes all of those measurements, and you tell yourself that you couldn’t possibly be so lucky as to have a healthy baby after all of this time.
When you start to feel movement, those amazing little flutters, and those huge walloping kicks, you are going to drive yourself crazy waiting for the day they may stop. When you shop for the nursery and splash out on the pram, when you hold those tiny little babygros in your arms and imagine the baby who will wear them, you are going to ask yourself, what if they never will?
When you reach your due date, when your fear and anxiety hits an all time high, lying awake with horror stories, like mine, swirling around in your head, you’re going to feel a sense of hysteria that you just want this baby out, right now, right then in that moment, whilst they still kick inside you, whilst there is still hope.
And during those moments, you will ask yourself, am I going crazy? Is this normal? Am I losing my mind? And believe me when I tell you that everything you are feeling is completely and utterly normal.
It’s okay to be scared, to fear the worst, to live every day holding your breath, wishing that you could be sure of the outcome. It’s okay to be neurotic, to pee on a stick twenty times a day, it’s okay to tell everyone, to tell no-one, to shut yourself off or surround yourself with love.
It’s okay to cry, to laugh, to feel a thousand different emotions in the space of an hour; to imagine a life without your baby in it, and to dream of a life with them at the centre of your world.
It’s okay to feel jealous, to feel angry, to feel robbed of a time that should have been wonderful and exciting, filled with such happiness, knowing nothing but joy. It’s okay to get through each day doing whatever it takes to stay focused, no matter how strange or how crazy it feels.
It’s okay to feel guilty, to think about the baby you lost, the baby you hoped for, the baby you would have given just about anything to hold in your arms. And it’s okay to be happy, to feel grateful, to feel excited; it’s okay to allow yourself to believe that this time, all of your hopes and dreams may come true.
And whist I can’t give you a magic wand to make this time go any faster, and whilst I can’t promise you there will be a healthy baby at the end of your journey, I can assure you that whatever happens, you will survive it.
Because, trust me, when you get through it, which you undoubtedly will, and you hold that little one in your arms, when he or she lets out that first cry, opens their eyes, and you see each other for the very first time, it will be worth every last heartache, every single tear, and you will be the most wonderful mummy in all the world because of it.
I can promise you that.