I thought if we were lucky enough to get pregnant again after Cora died, I’d use my blog to talk openly about pregnancy after loss. I wanted to continue to raise awareness and share all the highs and lows (let’s be honest here; mainly lows at the moment) of life after Cora died and the difficulties that come with pregnancy after loss. But here I am, about 3 weeks away from meeting our baby boy and I’ve not written a single blog post about this pregnancy.
I often find the balance of writing about life after loss difficult when I know others are reading it. For those who have never experienced baby loss, I want to educate them whilst being careful not to scare and depress; and for those going through loss themselves, I want to give them hope for the future but not mislead or downplay the agony of it all. So, how do I write an uplifting yet informative blog post about an experience that has been wholly grim and all-consuming? Well, I just avoided doing it…until now!
I guess, I’d also underestimated how I’d cope with this pregnancy. I knew it would be tough mentally if Joe and I were lucky enough to get pregnant again but I didn’t think I’d find it quite so hard. My main coping mechanism has been to ignore being pregnant as much as possible. This hasn’t been a conscious decision and certainly doesn’t mean I’m not incredibly grateful to be carrying another healthy baby, but denial seems to have been a form of self-preservation during this time. For me, being pregnant no longer guarantees a baby you get to bring home and I haven’t been able to allow myself to feel that excitement I had with Cora just in case our worst nightmare (which is actually our reality) comes true again.
Since losing Cora, I can find pregnant women, images, announcements and baby related things in general triggering and being pregnant hasn’t change that. Being reminded of what a happy and exciting time pregnancy is for most people and how the majority of them will bring their babies home (thank goodness) – well, it’s all just a constant reminder that we didn’t get to bring Cora home and I’ll never have that innocence or excitement of waiting for the arrival of our baby again. To put it bluntly, if I could have avoided this whole pregnancy and skipped straight to having Cora’s sibling here, safe and sound, I absolutely would have done that. I do feel guilty saying that when I know there are so many people desperate to be able to carry their baby, but it’s not something I can control feeling and it’s not about this baby specifically – it’s how the trauma and associations of our loss have manifested for me.
All that being said, over the past couple of weeks, I’ve managed to write down some of my jumbled thoughts from this pregnancy with the sole intention of just being honest. I hope that those who haven’t experienced this kind of loss can take something away from this post and I hope those going through it can find some hope for the future in here.
When we found out we were pregnant this time, I was so relieved and grateful to see a positive line and know that I was able to get pregnant again but the excitement and anticipation we had felt with Cora wasn’t there. Joe and I hugged silently, thought of our little girl and then went on with the rest of our day as usual; too scared to talk about the future.
Trying to conceive after loss is so heartbreakingly hard. I thought I’d relax a bit if we finally got pregnant again but the anxiety of worrying that I wouldn’t get pregnant was just replaced with other worries. Within in the first few weeks of this pregnancy, I’d convinced myself I was having a chemical pregnancy, molar pregnancy, a missed miscarriage and then an ectopic pregnancy (none of which I even knew existed before Cora!) Every time I went to the toilet I checked to see if I was bleeding. I took a test nearly every day for about 3 weeks expecting the positive results to turn into negative – all such a stark difference to the experience we had had with Cora (I took one test with her and that was it!) If you don’t know me personally, then you probably won’t believe me when I say this, but I’m usually quite a laid back and carefree person. Unfortunately, once you’ve been on the wrong end of those statistics in such a life altering way, you assume all the bad things are going to happen to you. Not with everything but certainly anything with this pregnancy/baby.
I think because I was so sure I was going to miscarry, I wasn’t really focussing on the future so the first trimester, surprisingly, seemed to go very quickly. We had also made the big decision to relocate, so in-between feeling sick, I was busy sorting the house and preparing for viewings. There was of course, some relief when we reached the 12-week scan (we’d also had 5 scans before that for reassurance) but the naivety and innocence we’d had with Cora meant that reaching that 12-week mark this time didn’t really make a difference to our anxieties – we didn’t feel ‘safe’ at that point and so we just continued to plod along in a daze.
With the 2nd trimester came a mix of emotions; relief – that I could feel my baby moving inside me and the beautiful connection that comes with that, but also the increase of anxiety knowing you’re the only one who knows their movements and the huge pressure that puts on you. We had scans booked every 3 weeks and have also been cared for at the Tommy’s Rainbow Clinic in Manchester by Professor Heazell (an extremely knowledgeable guy). My consultant at Chester has been such a huge support and reminds me all the time that my mental health is just as important as physical and has offered me extra monitoring when I’ve been worried.
We didn’t actually start telling our loved ones until I was about 15 weeks pregnant and even then, it was mainly because I couldn’t hide my bump anymore. I think not having others know helped my anxiety slightly; it gave me a sense of control which I didn’t feel I had in any other part of this journey. Because my mind was wanting to ignore the pregnancy as much as possible, it also meant that I didn’t want people talking about it all the time. I felt (and still do feel) very protective over Cora and I worried that people’s reaction to this pregnancy meant they cared less about her or thought that this baby would replace her (which I know isn’t really the case). I appreciate that everyone just wants you to be happy but there are so many misconceptions when it comes to pregnancy after a loss. I dreaded hearing the words ‘excited’; ‘I’m so excited for you!’, ‘You must be so excited!’ etc. because I didn’t feel any excitement. And I felt they shouldn’t either. Just because I was pregnant didn’t mean we were bringing this baby home and it felt offensive to Cora and our grief that people would assume this time would be different. What I wanted (and which many people did, of course) was the acknowledgment that while they were pleased for us, they understood our anxieties and how hard being pregnant again must be. I also didn’t want people thinking that our grief was ‘finished’ now a new baby was on the way. Of course, most people have been amazing and still mention Cora all the time but there will always be those who struggle to know how to support you in that way and that’s another difficult aspect of baby loss.
The 2nd trimester really seemed to drag. The goal of reaching a C-section date felt so far away and with Covid on the increase again I didn’t want to be going out much so I was limited with my distractions. Working full-time from home has helped somewhat but it’s hardly been a fun distraction!
It was only as I hit about 30 weeks that the tiny glimmer of hope we all hold onto seemed to finally burn a little brighter and I actually allowed myself to believe (only if slightly) that we may get to bring Cora’s sibling home after all. It was then that I seemed to be able to hold a conversation with someone about Little Brother, without saying something like, ‘If he survives…’ or ‘I don’t want to jinx it.’
As we reached the 3rd trimester, time seemed to drag like never before! The ‘end goal’ slowly came into view at this point which I think made it feel tangible yet still not close enough to reach. I’ve heard from other loss mums that once they’d passed the stage where they lost their other baby, the anxiety eased slightly. Because Cora died just a day old due to labour complications, there really feels like no safe point in this pregnancy. This whole journey feels like it’s building in anxiety to the ultimate day when we meet baby.
Pregnancy after loss is such a strange, incongruent experience; it’s new life mixed with memories and worries of death. It struck me when talking to another loss mum the other day, how many things I’d planned for if this perfectly, healthy baby growing inside me was also to die. In pregnancy, most people plan for which pram they’ll buy, who will meet the baby first, which classes they’ll attend. And while I’ve slowly begun to think about these things in the last few weeks, my past experience and self-preservation means that I also know what outfit our baby would be cremated in, where we’d scatter his ashes to be with his sister and which song we’d play at his funeral. Such morbid thoughts for someone about to welcome a new life.
All that being said, looking back over this pregnancy, I am really proud of how far we’ve come. It’s not been easy and a lot of the time it’s felt like I’ve simply been surviving. But I can’t say I regret how I’ve managed this journey as I don’t feel like it’s been a choice. It feels more like a reaction to the loss and trauma we’ve been through; a means to an end. And I know it’ll be so worth it when we’re holding Little Brother in our arms in a few weeks.
The Next Chapter
While I know this baby won’t fix everything; we’re really hopeful that he’ll bring so much joy and happiness back into our lives. Watching him grow up will be the greatest privilege we could wish for but that doesn’t make Cora’s absence any easier. He will be a completely different person to his sister; he will have different likes and dislikes and lead his own unique life to the one Cora would have led and that is both incredibly special and painfully heart-breaking. Each milestone we hope to reach with Little Brother will be a beautiful blessing and also a reminder of the life we missed out on with his sister. What I’m learning, and what I really want others to understand, is that love and grief, sadness and happiness, gratefulness and heartbreak, can all live side by side in our lives without something needing to be fixed or changed. We will always love Cora so we will always grieve. We don’t need to find meaning or purpose to make Cora’s life or death worthwhile. We don’t need another baby to replace her and move on. We will live with the love and grief we have for her alongside all the joy and happiness we continue to create and I hope that others can learn to accept that as part of who we are now without thinking we’re doing things wrong.
We do have so much to be grateful for amongst all the heartache and if we get to bring Little Brother home and watch him grow, I know our happiness and purpose in life will keep expanding. Cora will never be forgotten in our family. Her brother will grow up knowing all about her, as will anyone who will listen to me for that matter! And although the grief days will always be there (sometimes in the background, sometimes in the foreground) the love and life lessons Cora has taught us will always be fundamental in everything we do, including how we love and raise her brother.
Thank you for listening to my pregnancy after loss thoughts. I hope the next time I’m writing a blog post; it’ll be about what it’s like parenting after loss and I’ll be exhausted from all the night feeds and baby cuddles!