Today I said goodbye to my crib. My beautiful white crib that I never dared believe would ever hold another baby. The crib that we brought Eva home to, then Meggy and finally Harry. The crib that symbolised hope, gratitude and joy.
And as I handed it over to a lady whose family was just beginning, I felt sad admittedly, but mainly I just felt relief. Relief that having spent the last nine years of my life wondering if I would ever be blessed with another baby, that constant worry, dread and desperation is over. I have my babies and I am done.
People wrongly assume, given the fact we have had two “accidental” babies, that getting pregnant and having babies comes easy to me. It doesn’t. Most people will know the tragedy of us losing Joseph at full term and yet what they may not know is that our journey did not begin or end there. It’s not really something that people speak openly about and yet both my ex husband and I, and Gaz and I, lost a shocking number of babies before we were blessed with our children. Infact, there was fifteen. Fifteen little babies that failed to grow, that for whatever reason were not meant to be and that broke our hearts a little more each time.
I had family and friends who pleaded with me to give up, who told me that I was putting myself through too much, that it was time I accepted that we would not have any more children. I saw doctors and specialists who ran test after test and still nobody could tell us why this was happening. We had genetic testing, we had scans, every blood test going, and the results were the same every single time. Normal. “It’s simply bad luck” we were told, “Sometimes there are just no explanations for it”.
In July 2011 we discovered that yet again, I was pregnant, and by that point we were very realistic about the fact that it would probably not last. When I contacted the hospital to tell them that I was pregnant again they got us in with one of their top consultants within days. We had no expectations of the appointment, no hope that they would tell us anything that we did not already know, but we went along and thank God we did. The consultant was just about the nicest medical professional I have ever met. He listened to my history, he sympathised about our losses, about Joseph, about our worries and concerns and took the care to read over all of our medical reports and results. Finally he took a deep breath, looked us both in the eyes and said, “I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that you start daily injections of clexane and lets see how it goes”. And so we did.
Every night Gaz would inject me in the thigh, as I could not bring myself to do it myself, and I would fight back my tears as it stung so badly. At six weeks pregnant I sobbed as we saw a little heartbeat on the screen and yet I knew we had been here many times before too. At our nine weeks scan the little flicker had grown stronger and by twelve weeks there was a perfectly formed, albeit tiny, little baby wriggling at our scan. “You can relax now” people told us, “Everything will be okay” and yet although our worries of miscarriage were less, our fears of stillbirth were never far from our thoughts.
Being pregnant was not the wonderful, exciting time that most women experience. It was constant dread, fear and anxiety. When the little kicks began I wasn’t relieved, I was just anxious for the day that they would stop. When we had our scans they didn’t offer me reassurance, I simply lay there waiting for the news that the worst had happened.
At my appointments with the midwife she would ask me had I prepared for the babies arrival, had we imagined what it would be like when she was here, allowed ourselves to believe that this was very much happening. And I told her no, that the only thoughts in my head were plans for her funeral and I realised as I said that just how desperately sad that was.
I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t relax, I was a wreck. My midwife sent me for counselling, to a softly spoken lady with too much eyeliner who patronised me and dismissed my fears. When my midwife asked me why I had stopped going to my appointments I told her, “Find me someone who has lost a child and I will be more than happy to listen to their advice”.
And so we continued as best we could – Gaz the eternal optimist and me, the worlds worst pessimist. And it wasn’t just me, there were nights when I tucked an eight year old Lewis into bed and he would hug me and cry and ask me to promise him that his baby sister would not die like Joseph had. I could only promise him that I would do everything I could to keep her safe and that we had to hope that Joseph would do everything he could to do the same.
So it was with indescribable joy that in the February of 2012, on a sunny winters day, our beautiful baby girl arrived safely into the world and into my arms. And I cried with such joy, with utter relief and sheer disbelief that this healthy little baby was really here, taking a breath, opening her eyes, screaming her lungs out. There are no words that could describe that feeling, it was just utter amazement. We named her Eva, which means “life” and, right there and then, she absolutely completed ours.
When I fell pregnant with Megan people wrongly assumed that I would be able to relax and that the pregnancy would be entirely different. “At least you know now that it will all be okay” everyone told me and I would nod and smile whilst thinking, we tempted fate, we won’t ever be so lucky again.
And through injections, scans, monitoring and twice weekly visits to the consultant it was just as awful and just as worrying as it had been with Eva. But when she arrived safely, screaming and flailing like the drama queen she would become, we genuinely could not believe that we had ever been so lucky. Lewis, Eva and Megan. It was more than we could ever have hoped for and I had to pinch myself on a daily basis to realise that it was true.
As I’ve said before, my pregnancy with Harry came as a huge shock and it was most definitely never part of our plan. When we found out that he was a boy Gaz and Lewis literally punched the air with joy, the thought of three girls had both of them in a cold sweat, but for me it was a moment of absolute panic and dread. All I could think was, what if because of Joseph I couldn’t carry boys? What if we had used up all of our luck with the girls and now we had taken too many chances?
And in May 2013, just four days after his big sisters first birthday, after months of panic and unbearable worry it seemed almost too good to be true that our little Harrison arrived into the world. But unlike his sisters he did not scream, he wasn’t a healthy pink and I have vague recollections of asking “What’s wrong with him??” as the midwifes snatched him from me, an alarm was sounded and the room was flooded with more doctors and midwives than we had ever seen. I will never forget the sight of them working on my little boy, their hands pumping on his chest, the tubes being shoved down his throat and what I thought was still the sound of the alarm but was actually the sound of my heart breaking in two. We’ve lost him, that’s all I could think.
So by the time I got to hold Harry I was a shaking, hysterical wreck. I gripped him as tightly as I possibly could, kissing him repeatedly and crying into his thick head of hair and I knew there and then that he was our last. We owed it to ourselves and our babies to never put ourselves through that kind of worry again. And after two weeks in neonatal when we finally brought our little boy home I genuinely felt complete for the first time in nine years.
When I took Gaz to the doctors for his vasectomy I felt nothing but relief. When we packed away the newborn clothes for the very last time I simply felt thankful that they had been worn. When I packed away the 0-3’s, the 3-6’s and the 6-9’s, I felt blessed that my children were growing up healthy and strong. When I look at them, my four little miracles, I feel pure amazement that, after everything we went through, they are here, they are perfect and they are ours to keep.
There’s a quote I once read that sums up our lives perfectly. “Once in a while, right in the middle of ordinary life, love gives us a fairytale”. And it did. It really and truly did.