Baby Loss Awareness Week
You were planned. Your Daddy and I met and fell in love, and started planning our wedding immediately. We knew we wanted babies and we didn’t see the point of waiting around, so we decided to stop being careful and just see what happened. We didn’t expect a positive pregnancy test just four weeks later, but we were over the moon!
Becoming parents was the most important thing we’d ever dreamed of doing, and we wanted to do it perfectly. We discussed parenting styles, we fantasised over what you’d look like, what kind of personality you’d have, whether you’d look like me or Daddy, and we even shortlisted names. We were soon to be married in Florence, and so of course Florence was high up on the list! You occupied my thoughts 24/7 and whilst I couldn’t feel you inside me yet, I knew you were there - the unbreakable bond and the love between us had already formed, like magic. I loved you so much already.
Despite not looking pregnant yet, I rested my hands on my tummy and I spoke to you all of the time.
I told you how Mummy and Daddy already loved you more than anything else in the world. I promised you that we would be the very best parents we could be, and that you’d always be safe, protected and happy. I stockpiled pregnancy books, and I read that at one particular stage you were roughly the size of an apple pip. From then on you were known affectionately as ‘Florence Apple Pip’.
It was still early days, but I couldn’t contain my excitement. I booked an early scan at a private clinic, as I couldn’t wait to see you, to know for sure that this wasn’t a dream. I was giddy, brimming over with love - I’d found my calling! I was going to be a mummy! “Thank you God, thank you Universe! I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve this honour but I’m eternally grateful and I’ll do you proud, I promise!”
Despite my beaming grin and animated pleasantries, the sonographer wasn’t overly friendly. I told her I’d calculated that I was roughly 7 weeks pregnant whilst she rubbed some cold jelly onto my tummy and pressed the doppler onto me with some pressure. I was immediately protective - “Dont hurt my baby!” I thought, though I knew she knew what she was doing.
I started to panic. I looked at her face for reassurance.
It was like stone.
More silence, as she continued to move the doppler over my stomach, with the bedside manner of an unkind army matron. My stomach knotted up and my heart was in my throat.
“There’s no heartbeat” she said, just like that. Neutral, matter of fact, cold even.
She got up and started to shuffle some paperwork. I was numb, speechless. What did she mean? Surely she was wrong? You’re meant to be able to see the heartbeat at 7 weeks, and I knew my dates were right.
She wrote down a telephone number on a piece of paper and told me to call the early pregnancy unit at the hospital and book in for a week’s time. They would be able to tell me then, if you, my baby, had developed further. I was ushered out of the room, no friendliness, no compassion, no empathy, no time for questions - I just had to stop and pay my £150 at the front desk. I somehow managed to smile at the receptionist, say please and thank you.
I went outside into the bright daylight and collapsed on the floor. The pavement was cold and hard underneath me as I sat on the curb by my car, heaving sobs coming out of me, noises I didn’t recognise as my own. My whole world had literally come crashing down all around me, right then and there.
I’d gone on my own you see. Daddy was working away, and whilst he was happy to wait for the 12 week scan (he’s so patient and calm), he knew how impatient and excited I was and was happy for me to go ahead, if it kept me happy!
It was the longest week of my life, that waiting. I didn’t cling on to hope, Apple Pip. I knew. I knew my dates were spot on, and I also ‘just knew.’ Friends and family rallied round and tried to gee me up, trying to convince me I probably wasn’t as far along as I’d thought, that I’d go for the next scan and all would be ok. A Mother’s intuition is never wrong though dear Apple Pip, and nothing could shake the feeling that I can only liken to someone gripping my heart with a clenched fist. I didn’t smile, I didn’t laugh, I didn’t want to talk to or see anybody. I just wanted to fast forward those seemingly endless days so I could face whatever it was I had to face.
It’s funny how you go through life not noticing pregnant women or pushchairs, until you lose, or are about to lose, a baby of your own.
Then they’re everywhere. On the TV, in real life, in magazines... It pained me to see them - women smiling and bursting with pride as they rubbed expectant bellies, cradled soft new babies or pushed their gleaming new prams. I didn’t resent them or blame them Florence, I just felt a scorching pain in my heart that caused me to stop and catch my breath every time.
The day came Florence, and your Daddy and I went to the early pregnancy unit. I just wanted it to be over. Your Daddy had been so positive all week, partly because that’s his default nature, and I guess partly for my benefit. The lady in this clinic couldn't have been more different to the army matron I’d met the previous week. She was kind, chatty, smiley. She sensed my fear and put a hand on my shoulder. When she too saw no heartbeat, she held my hand and said “I’m so sorry love, it’s not good news.”
“I’m so sorry love, it’s not good news.”
It was almost a relief - I could finally cry! I let out a huge heaving sob and I crumpled into Daddy’s arms where he knew the only thing he could do was hold me tight.
We were taken into a side room where someone came to speak to us, to tell us what would happen next. My body had not yet recognised what was happening and so I was not miscarrying - I would have to have an abortion. It seemed so cruel - I had to abort the baby I so desperately wanted. Why couldn’t I just keep you in my tummy and nurture you? If only love could have saved you Apple Pip. We were handed some leaflets and that was when Daddy broke down in tears. I was shocked, as I thought of this as ‘my’ loss, and I told him sternly I needed him to be strong for me right now. I regret that to this day Florence - he’d lost his baby too, and was hurting deeply. I know now that this affects Dad’s too, perhaps in a different way, on a different level, but they’ve lost something precious and they have every right to grieve as well.
I just wanted to go home and crawl into bed. I was lucky to have support, I had a mum and two sisters who knew just what to say and do, but I also had to experience less welcome comments from less sensitive people - “It wasn’t really a baby yet was it, just a blob.”
You were a baby! You were MY baby! You had a name!
I had to wait a good few days, perhaps even a week before visiting the hospital again for the procedure - the procedure that meant I would walk into hospital ‘pregnant’, and walk out a few hours later ‘not pregnant’. Like I was having a tooth extracted. It was a strange feeling, during that time. Was I pregnant or not pregnant? I didn’t know! I had you inside of me (as I slept, as I showered, as I ate) but you were no longer alive. Life seemed so cruel. I knew it was too good to be true. Something that amazing couldn’t happen to me. What had I done wrong to deserve this? I blamed myself.
Back to hospital we went, this time to another ward. The abortion ward. I’m ashamed to admit it Florence, but I judged everyone in there that day. I was bitter and angry, but underneath it all it was because I was wholly and utterly heartbroken and I didn’t know how to deal with it. As I sat in the waiting room with a number of other women, I couldn’t help but hate them. I know that’s wrong, and I certainly don’t feel that way now - I know there are many reasons why women choose to give up their pregnancies, and it’s completely their right, their choice. But at the time I was broken, and grief can make you feel things you wouldn’t normally feel. I just couldn’t help but think how unfair it was, that so many people were given babies who didn’t want them, and here I was, desperate for a baby, yet I wasn’t allowed to keep mine, I didn’t get a choice. I hated myself for feeling the way I did, because I didn’t want to think or feel like that, so I bottled it up, ashamed and confused, and suffered in silence.
The procedure was pretty straight forward. I’d been given a pill to take at home the night before my appointment to lower my hormone levels in the hope that miscarriage would start. I was settled into a room, and given an internal pessary that would make my uterus contract, the contents of which would pass out over the course of a few hours, along with you, my baby. I was given a cardboard bowl, into which any ‘toileting’ had to be done, so the nurses could monitor the contents. I was advised that some people liken it to a heavy, painful period, and some people don’t cope so well, so I was given a magazine, a cup of tea, and some pain killers. “So this is it, then” I thought. “This is how I’m going to bring my baby into the world - in a toilet cubicle, and into a cardboard bowl.” I was still in disbelief at the sick cruelty of it all.
I won’t go into detail, but the experience is one I’ll never forget. The waves of pain came and went, but I will always remember the moment (I think) I passed you into this world. The pain of my uterus contracting coupled with the pain of my heart literally cracking open, rendered me completely broken, unable to breath. I sobbed, huge roaring uncontrollable animal like sobs, as the baby I so wanted came out of me, and then was no more.
I couldn’t protect you anymore Apple Pip. You were no longer with me, and I couldn’t bear it. How could you be taken away from me? Why? It felt so unbearably unfair.
I left the hospital feeling empty, completely spent, hollow. I couldn’t cry anymore and I felt like I was part of some sort of weird dream, floating out of the automatic doors and into the grubby car park. Life was just meant to resume then I take it? Pick up where I left off 10 weeks ago, before I did the pregnancy test? It wasn’t that simple. I bled for weeks, I had to call the surgery and cancel midwife appointments, tell people I was no longer pregnant. I know now why people wait until their 12 week scan to announce the news - save themselves this heartache should all not work out. I had to hide my pain as people casually told me how common pregnancy loss was, how it wasn't exactly a baby - more a bunch of cells, and how really it was nothing more than a heavy period.
“She was my baby” I wanted to scream, but I hid my pain, because I felt like I had no right to grieve.
I now knew (now that I was in the club) that early pregnancy loss was common, and that there was no reason I wouldn’t conceive again and have a successful pregnancy. I was also acutely aware of what other people had gone through, losing babies much later in pregnancy, at birth, or even in those early months at home. What right did I have to be heartbroken at my ‘early’ loss? They were going through much, much worse. I now know Florence that I had every right to be consumed with my own grief, but I still can’t bear to think what some families have had to go through, or are going through now, having lost their babies or young children. It’s inconceivable. My story, although devastating to me at the time, seems trivial in comparison. I pray for all the families who have suffered loss in any way. I pray for them all Florence, just as I still pray for you my baby.
I was one of the lucky ones. I went on to have three healthy baby boys, and they know all about you. They’re 4, 7 and 8 now. We have an apple tree in the garden that Daddy and I planted in your memory, and the boys tend to her and talk to her, calling her by her name ‘Florence’. I know if you’d continued to grow, and had you come into the world, things would be very different now. I wouldn’t have gone on to have James, William and Edward.
I would never wish to change nature, or the path I believe has been mapped out for us, but I’ll never ever forget you Florence Apple Pip.
You were so wanted, and you were so loved.
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ABOUT BOSSING IT!
BossingIt! aims to empower and inspire women to be strong and independent, and to illustrate that life is there for the taking and that YOU are in control of it. I want to encourage you to realise your potential, so you can grab life by the balls and carve out the life you wholeheartedly want to live, so you can feel joy and gratitude each and every day, and ultimately be the very best version of yourself. I want to share the belief that if you’re not 100% happy with any aspect of your life, be it work, relationships, parenting, health & fitness, or life in general, it’s never too late to change things or even start anew completely. Every day is a new opportunity to start over, to be who you want to be, and YOU get to write and rewrite your story!