I’ve been meaning to write this blog post for a week or so but I wasn’t sure where I wanted to publish it. I did know, however, that I had to publish it, if it was to do me any good at all. And this seems as good a place as any, relatively anonymous except to those who know me, and away from my own website which is important.
You see I miss him, yet I never really knew him and that’s hard to explain. But for four and a half months as he grew inside me, an inextricable bond developed between Horatio and I. Even his Dad noticed it, and that’s saying something. Or it was before even he had to grow up in such a short space of time.
His Dad, we’ll call him “R”, was not wholly impressed when I first told him I was pregnant. We’ve been together forever but he never felt ready to start a family, despite being the most amazing teacher and entertainer of children when required. He’s been a school teacher for many years and is incredibly skilled at helping and relating to young children with or without special needs. Whenever we go to parties at friends’ houses, he can be found playing with the children – he’d much rather kick a football around with them, play volleyball in the pool or perhaps invent a game with a bag of pegs than chat to the Dads over a beer. So his immediate reaction, while not completely unexpected, was still upsetting.
Then we went for our first scan at five and a half weeks. It showed that we were expecting twins. Now that was something to get our heads around. We hadn’t even planned the pregnancy, let alone thought about having two nippers in our one bedroom apartment (which we already share with a rather long legged but adorable labrador). R’s reaction in the doctor’s office was hilarious. He said “Oh” followed by the F word and sat down heavily in a chair that the nurse supplied with timing only experience can provide. It did at least break the ice. He forgot that he was mad at me and I forgot that he had upset me. We laughed. In fact the doctor gave up talking to us and sent us home. Every time we looked at each other we exploded into giggles! Outside the clinic, the remote broke for the car and the key wouldn’t work. We were stranded, had to call a taxi but carried on laughing!
As the days and weeks progressed, I became entirely overwhelmed by the prospect of two babies at the same time. Walking around the supermarket would create panic – Mercadona doesn’t have many trolleys adapted for one baby, and none adapted for two. How long before they were born would I have to stop working? How was I going to go back to work with two babies? How much would the nursery cost? How would I pay the mortgage?
I first realised that R’s attitude was changing radically at our second scan (eight weeks five days) when we found out that one of the twins had died earlier that week. R commented in the car (now fixed) that he’d never really appreciated or even considered how much a part of the mother the babies were right from the word go. You may think that’s a strange thing for him to have said, but remember he’s a guy and sometimes their thought processes are just that bit slower.
So, to say it’s been a rollercoaster of a journey right from the start is a slight understatement. I felt bad not being more upset about twin number one not surviving but deep down all I felt was relief. Those in the know thought that I was hiding my emotion and that one day I would break down and mourn him or her. But no, I was grateful (and still fairly shocked) that we had one baby safely developing inside us and that I could envisage our lives ahead much more easily than I could when we were expecting two babies.
We began to plan for what lay ahead and although the last few weeks of the first trimester seemed to drag on, we eventually made it out of those crucial first twelve weeks and into the relative safety of week thirteen. It hadn’t been easy. I lost 8 kg, was sick most mornings and so nauseous the rest of the time that cooking and eating were hard. Kind people commented on how I’d lost weight – I wanted to scream at them that I shouldn’t because I was pregnant but, of course, couldn’t. I gave in to those who knew me too well and realised that something was up. It’s hard to hide the fact that you’re feeling horrendous but have happy news behind it all.
So the thirteen week scan went well. “Horace” or “Horatio” as R insisted on calling him waved at us on the screen, showed us his arms and legs, his organs plus his all important nasal bone and nuchal tissue. The gynecologist chuckled at me as I interpreted for R and added gems that I had learnt through my reading, commenting that I spent too much time worrying and reading on the internet.
And then he sent me for blood tests…
… which I failed miserably.
Horace was very high risk for Down’s Syndrome and we were advised to have an amniocentesis which I was viciously against (again probably from having read too much online about the associated risks). Our lovely gynecologist gave us his mobile number so that we could go home and think about it before deciding one way or another. We sought a second opinion, visiting another gynecologist in Marbella who undertook the most amazing 4d scan that lasted for nearly two hours. We came out quite reassured with loads of pictures and a DVD of Horace from all angles (definitely a boy), with measurements indicating that he was doing okay, not likely to have Down’s Syndrome even if there was a risk that his limbs were just a few days behind the rest of his development. We saw his feet, his fingers, the vessels in his heart and umbilical cord – even his face. At one stage, probably bored by the paparazzi (as R so succinctly put it) and being made to jiggle around and pose, he rested his chin on his fist just like his Dad does while watching the footie.
It was enough for me to decide for definite not to have the amniocentesis and R agreed. We carried on planning for the future, wary that Horace may have Down’s Syndrome but believing it to be something we could handle if necessary. Friends gave us loads of pieces of baby equipment, play mats, rockers, baths, clothes for me and for Horace, and a gorgeous pair of little shoes. A very close friend even gave me a changing bag that was incredibly dear to her as her brother had given it to her before he passed away. Our little apartment was becoming very full of things and we were looking forward to moving house and getting it ready for Horace’s arrival in May. I was a bit preoccupied that my belly wasn’t growing as much as I had expected but to be honest, there’s a lot of padding there so may be it was just difficult to see.
R was quite blase about the next scan, scheduled in for eighteen weeks minus two days, the Thursday before Christmas. So was I, to be honest, until the day itself. I was nervous but then I always am before seeing the doctor. But R couldn’t come this time and in the car on the way there, I felt a sense of foreboding. I had a feeling I was going to have to ring R to tell him I was going to hospital. Bizarrely, after the gynecologist told me there was no heartbeat and when I told him that I had had a feeling there was something wrong, he said that he felt it too as soon as I walked into the clinic.
I didn’t have to ring R as the gynecologist had told me to report to Urgencias at the Costa del Sol hospital the next morning rather than go straight there. It was awful telling our parents that the baby had no heartbeat but it had to be done. I told mine while R told his. Dreadful conversations they were but there was no way to avoid them.
We have to learn to ask more questions as when we headed to the hospital the next morning, I had no idea what to expect or how long we would be there. From Urgencias we were taken up to Obs/Gyn and I had an amniocentesis and then was admitted. They administered drugs to bring on labour and that night I delivered Horatio and four hours later his placenta.
The physical after effects have lasted a lot longer than I had expected and still go on now nearly three weeks post delivery. A constant reminder of what you have lost. And I guess it is these physical symptoms that can make you weaker and thus the emotional side of things more difficult to bear. I’m no longer crying a zillion times a day like at first but it still happens, when you least expect it. I’m not feeling very brave or sociable, I’d rather hide out at home but then I became more like that when I was pregnant anyway.
There are a couple of reasons for me wanting to write this blog post. Firstly to praise the staff at the Costa del Sol hospital who were amazing. Things are different here in Spain to back home and poor R was required to do a lot of the dirty donkey work around my nursing, especially once the contractions had started and I was no longer allowed to get up off the bed. He really proved his worth that night, and has been wonderfully protective ever since.
Secondly, I don’t want other people going through this to feel alone. It wasn’t that I felt like I was the only person to have experienced the pain of losing a baby so far along in my pregnancy but I felt, and still feel to a certain extent, that there was no-one around who could answer my questions. R put a note on Facebook to say that we had lost the baby as he felt this was the best way to let the maximum number of people know so we didn’t have to keep telling everyone. He wrote it brilliantly and succinctly, and very delicately asking people not to respond publicly. It was the best thing he could have done. I received so many emails and wishes of support, none of which I have managed to reply to yet but I am going to pluck up the courage to read them again and reply this week. So many of my friends, in particular, my friends from school, have lost babies at various stages through their pregnancies and in some cases suffered the incomparable grief of stillborn angels.
Still, I don’t feel able to ask them some of the questions I have particularly about the physical side of things but then that’s probably British reserve kicking in. One person wrote that although she knew I wouldn’t want to compare miscarriage stories, she wanted me to know that she had been there too. I disagree. I think we probably should share our miscarriage stories for our own mental wellbeing – perhaps particularly those of us who live abroad with different friendship groups and dynamics less suited to sharing the intimate details. Who knows – perhaps we should write a book. I for one certainly can’t put it into verbal words – the written word is so much easier to handle.
As I force myself in 2013 I’m trying to be optimistic. The unavoidable “13” in the date isn’t helping but there’s no getting round it! The world didn’t end for all on 21st December, just for me (and probably a few other people too) but I live in hope that the world will be reborn for us before too long.