Nicola Gaskin’s Guest List: Pregnancy After Loss

Nicola Gaskin’s Guest List: Pregnancy After Loss

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Nicola’s instagram @lifeofpea is one of those which I stumbled on quite by accident and then found myself lost in it. It’s a beautiful diary of life after her son Winter Wolfe who died the day after he was born.

Nicola is now heavily pregnant with Winter’s younger sibling and I am honoured to share this brave account of that emotional journey:


On October 23rd, 2015, we welcomed our beautiful baby boy Winter into the world.  On October 24th, 2015, we held him in our arms as we said our goodbyes.  There really is nothing that can prepare you for the sudden death of your newborn baby.  The days, weeks, months and years that follow are unchartered territory, a war field of consuming emotions.  Our pregnancy was entirely textbook, my labour problem free.  We were handed our new human, pink and crying, his life had just begun when it began to end. He stopped breathing on my chest in the delivery room, he couldn’t be saved, he died in his daddy’s arms at midday the next day.  We felt his little heart drum it’s last beat, we felt the life leave his little body, and with it, we felt ours had vanished too.

In the time that followed our son’s death, it quickly became clear that we wanted another baby, and we wanted one as soon as we could.  Never a replacement baby, but a baby to bring home and keep, that was always the end goal after all.  We just wanted something beautiful amongst the heartache, a positive focus as we rebuilt our lives.  Having fallen pregnant with Winter so quickly, we were expecting to have good news quite soon, but it was 14 months until I took the positive test that has since flourished into my rainbow baby bump.  During those long and arduous grief-filled months, I fell pregnant and miscarried twice.  Each time my lungs were filled with fresh hope, only to have the air stolen cruelly from them again and again. Multiple miscarriages on top of an already painfully broken heart felt unbearable, but we could not stop trying, we wanted a bring home baby.  In December, two little pink lines marked the beginning of our rainbow journey.  Now I find myself with a full womb, a baby that we are hoping to hold safely in our arms in August and douse in both the love we have for them and their big brother.  But pregnancy after loss… well… it’s not quite the experience I was gifted with Winter.  It’s frightening, exhausting and full of continued grief for our son.  I’m now 6 months in, and my experience so far has prompted me to compile a survival list, not only for others treading this explosive path but also for myself for an ongoing future referral.

  • This pregnancy will be different to a pre-loss experience, this is just something that has to be accepted. Yes, I was carefree before, I took my vitamins but I sometimes ate soft cheese.  I lived comfortably with the fact that being pregnant meant I would have a baby, I had forgotten the real fact that life exists with death in it and nothing is ever for certain.  I was oblivious to the heartbreak, I learnt the hard way.  There are moments when I feel robbed of this beautiful life changing experience, cheated out of a joyful pregnancy.  But I work hard on not feeling bitter about that.  This time I feel anxious, frightened, running low on trust, but that’s ok, it the way it will be, it’s ok for me to feel vulnerable, I can just accept it and try my best to enjoy what I can of it.

  • There is no such thing as jinxing, running out of luck, or investing in this pregnancy so much that it will end. It is forever the balancing act between caution and courage.  How much can I celebrate this pregnancy when I’m so afraid it will end? I need to protect my heart, I daren’t entirely believe it is a possibility.  I look back over my own personal experiences; one pregnancy that was perfect and ethereal that ended with the sudden and unexpected death of my son, one which began several months later when we were full of hope, where we shared the news with our parents on Father’s Day and then lost the baby the day after, and one pregnancy where I declined scan photo’s for fear of becoming too attached and lay as still as a stone for weeks begging the baby to just stay in my womb.  All ended in loss. I take from those vastly different experiences the knowledge that whether I celebrate the pregnancy and frame the scan photo’s or hide away and decline a picture, the outcome is out of my hands entirely.  Nothing can end this baby’s life except the course of life itself.

  • Which leads me to this giant point. I have learnt from my past experiences that losing a baby hurts whether you have celebrated it or not. So, big note to myself here, enjoy what you can.  Those sporadic carefree moments, embrace them.  Have a baby shower, take the bump photo’s, allow yourself to hope and dream.  I will want to look back and have special memories of my time during pregnancy, and that goes for whether this baby lives or dies.

 

  • There are feelings of guilt. At times when I look at my photographs of my son, I feel guilty that I am giving another baby life when I couldn’t give that to him. I feel guilty that I will be fulfilling all the dreams I had for him with another baby. I feel guilty that from now on I won’t be able to spend so much time on his memory as I juggle maintaining his legacy and another growing baby. But these are such wasted emotions.  Don’t ever forget the bottom line; That you love the baby you lost, they know they are loved, and they love you back, why wouldn’t they?  And when you love someone you want them to be happy.  Your lost baby is floating around, sitting on a cloud, or wherever you believe them to be, and they are loving you and willing you to be happy.  Banish the guilt, allow yourself the happiness.

  • If you’re anything like me, then you will swing from excitement to doom on a daily, hourly, minutely basis… ‘Ok yes, we are having a baby, it’s happening, I can’t wait to hold them…

  • Oh my bump feels hard, it’s aching, something’s wrong, my baby is dead, it’s over… They just kicked, I think everything is ok…’ It’s near on impossible to not be hyper aware of kicks and movement in a pregnancy after loss, and my mind always races to the most darkest of places that tells me my baby has died.  I can’t help but hear those words that were sprung on me in the delivery room, when the words ‘baby’ and ‘die’ forever became a package.  If you are afraid for any reason, call the midwife, go to hospital to be monitored, it is just the smart thing to do for your baby and your own peace of mind.

  • Just because you are pregnant, it doesn’t mean you stop grieving for your lost baby. It’s ok to feel sad.  No matter how many babies I have, there will always be one missing, I will forever go through life without one of my children.  I’m so thankful to once again have an occupied womb, I feel incredibly fortunate and this pregnancy has bought hope and a welcome relief to the onslaught of grief that has enveloped my life in the past 18 months, but it also does not erase the loss of my son.  I’m happy to be pregnant and I still cry for my missing firstborn, that is normal, healthy, and ok. Screen Shot 2017-06-20 at 2.22.51 PM.png

  • Ask your midwife for all the support you can get. Kicks Count make bracelets that help you track baby’s movements and stickers for your notes that allow health workers to see you have previously lost a baby at first glance of your notes. Lullaby Trust offer Care Of Next Infant packages that include extra health visits, baby first aid training and sleep apnoea mattresses on loan.  I discussed with my consultant about what support will be in place during my labour and have been offered detailed scans and appointments to check baby’s development.  There is a huge amount of support available from the NHS so don’t be afraid to take what you can.

  • Do things at your own pace. Buying a romper might seem harmless and exciting for many expectant mothers, but if it is a big deal that you have prepare your heart for, then wait it out until you feel confident and comfortable.  It took me until 22 weeks in to feel brave enough to buy a baby outfit, I was just too afraid of another forever empty outfit folded into a drawer.  I’m glad I waited, it felt special to bring it home.  And now, we are looking at Moses baskets… one step at a time.

  • Allow yourself the difficult days. For some mothers, it is passing the gestation in pregnancy when their baby died at that can feel mountainous, for me it is labour which suddenly feels one hundred times more terrifying.  Take any support you can get and know that you’re not alone in how you feel when you are confronted with such doomsday dates.

  • I think Dads – or partners – can feel out of control on the pregnancy after loss path. I keep my husband included by always texting him when baby kicks and reassuring him when I’m feeling well.

  • Is this your first? How many children do you have?  A simple passing question can feel like a lorry hitting you full force if you’re not prepared.  Take some time to think about how you will answer these questions, it’s a personal choice and different for everyone.  It can be easier to say ‘yes, this is my first’ and that is perfectly ok, no you are not letting your lost baby down by erasing their memory, you are making a decision to protect your heart and keep some difficult personal information to yourself.  I have role played this out to myself and my growing bump has provided many opportunities to practice.  I choose to say ‘It’s my second’ and then I only give a deeper explanation if the conversation continues as such, where I will say ‘Our first baby was poorly and sadly we didn’t get to bring him home from the hospital, we are looking forward to meeting his brother or sister’ then I smile and give my belly a rub, I feel like it’s a gentle way of ending an emotional blow and hopefully doesn’t make a kind passing stranger feel unnecessarily uncomfortable.

  • It’s hard. Pregnancy after loss is a really tedious and terrifying journey.  Tell those people around you that it is difficult, that you are full of happiness and hope but it’s not always easy to be optimistic. 

  • Remember that healthy, live babies are born all day every day all over the world. It is entirely possible that yours will be too.

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** Earlier this year Michelle of @dear_orla wrote this incredible list for Mother of All Lists: ‘A Letter to a Woman Who Has Just Been Told Her Baby Has Died.’ **

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