Many of you reading this will have experienced something similar or know of someone who has. The question is how can you get through the turmoil of losing a baby and turn it in to a healing experience?
I lost a baby when I was 20 weeks pregnant and even though it was a very heavy experience to go through, I did what I usually do, which is I turned a very hard experience and used it to learn more about myself, heal some wounds and grow from it as much as I could.
Many of you who read my work on the Huffington Post or here know that my goal is to give you tips to make a difference to your own lives. All the tips that I write are from my own experience and I only write what I know and practice, without talking about myself too much, as my articles are for you, not for me. However, today here is something different. A personal story that I have been asked to write many times about how I lost my baby at 20 weeks pregnant.
I know that many of you reading this will have either experienced something similar or know of someone who has. Whether it was you, your partner or someone you know of, many of us share similar stories that we don’t tend to discuss in public, but the affect of the experience runs deep and many of us bear comparable scars. Maybe you lost the baby before 20 weeks pregnant, maybe after, maybe even when the baby was born. The question is how can you get through the emotional turmoil of losing a baby and turn it in to a growing, healing experience?
My husband and I did not have problems getting pregnant, which is usually a very prevalent issue, and believe me I am on the upper end of getting pregnant. Maybe it was genetics, combined with the fact that I have hardly ever drunk, taken drugs or smoked. On top of that I eat 90 percent organic food, cleanse regularly, practice a lot of yoga, believe the colon is the key to your health and have taken prenatal vitamins for years.
Saying that, all seemed to be going well with the pregnancy up until 12 weeks, when my doctor recommended I do the CVS test, (Chorionic Villus Sampling), whereby a tissue sample of the placenta is taken to test for chromosomal abnormalities. I decided to take her advice even though I knew there was a risk in having the test, but at the time, also thought it best to do what the doctor recommended.
So my husband and I went together to a highly regarded specialist. When I booked my appointment the receptionist did not tell me on the phone to drink lots of water before the appointment, so that my bladder would be full, which would make it easier to get to my placenta through my abdomen. (The test can be done in two different ways, through the cervix and through the abdomen.) I was not told to do anything, except that we were to have a counseling session first. When the time came to have the test done the doctor decided to go in through the cervix.
The test should really only take a few minutes, but the doctor seemed to have trouble getting to the placenta and tried to go in about three times, for about 10 minutes or so. The room was freezing cold, my teeth were chattering, my legs were shaking and tears were streaming down my face. I remember at the time being in so much pain and it was pretty obvious how distressed I was. My husband also had a feeling at this point that something was going wrong but didn’t say anything as the doctor seemed adamant about getting the job done. And, many of you might be able to relate to this, but in a doctor’s surgery it is really easy to go against instinct and not question a doctor while he is working.
I left the surgery, started to bleed immediately and that night called the doctor. He said it would be fine in a day or two. The CVS test came back and the baby was healthy. But then the bleeding didn’t stop for days, in fact weeks. Two months to be exact. I went in to have ultrasounds every week because of the bleeding and they said the baby looked fine and maybe it was placenta previa. In fact, they gave every excuse apart from the obvious, that maybe, just maybe, the placenta might have been damaged during the procedure. One day I rushed in to the doctor with blood pouring out at such a rapid rate, I looked like Lady Macbeth, when she has blood on her hands. Still, they said the baby was fine. I lay in bed for days on end and it just got worse. In fact, I tried everything to make it stop but it went on for two months solid.
Then week 18, I had a blood test and was told to go in to the CVS specialist to have an ultrasound, as the result was not quite right. The nurse looked at the baby on the ultrasound, patted my leg and walked out the door with photos. The doctor came in, sat down and said “Sophie, there is no easy way to say this, but your baby is dying. The amniotic fluid has come out.”
I collapsed in to my husband’s arms. The grief and despair was unfathomable. I immediately blamed myself. Maybe I shouldn’t have said yes to the test, maybe I didn’t want her enough; maybe I should have laid in bed for weeks, maybe, maybe, maybe… In that moment, it all just poured in and on top of. The doctor came back in and said “Sophie, this was not your fault, these things happen, don’t blame yourself. Heal from this experience and you will be back next year.”
When we got home we called the clinic where we were to have the baby taken out, they had no appointments for seven days! I had to let her die inside of me and wait till the following week. The irony was that I had spent my entire dating life being extra careful and practicing safe sex with a religious fervor due to an extreme fear of what would happen if I had an unwanted pregnancy, and yet here I was about to have the worst termination possible.
It is impossible to describe to you how it feels knowing that your baby is dying inside of your own body at 20 weeks old and that there is nothing you can do about it. You just have to let it happen. There are no words.
One week later, my husband, Oliver, and I went to the clinic and waited about four hours to be seen. The doctor had the bedside manner of an SS officer, and seemed so cut off, but I guess she needed to be, to do what she did. The first day I went under anesthetic so they could force me in to labor, then they sent me home with a series of drugs and I was to come back in the following day for the same thing and on the third day they were going to take her out.
Oliver and I again had to wait the second day for hours and we tried to divert our attention by playing computer golf while we waited. I said to him, “I am going to go through so many emotions in the next period of time and am going to let them pass in and out without censoring any of them as if they are wrong. Oli, don’t feel that you need to take on any of them as you have had a different experience and I will be letting them pass through me. All I need is for you to hold my hand as I go through them, hug me, do what you usually do, but you don’t need to feel guilty if you don’t feel it to the extent that I do, as you weren’t the one carrying the baby.” And that’s exactly what he did. He was incredible.
I finally went in to the operating room, they asked me if when I wake up, I would like to hold my baby or have a footprint of her. I declined. They put me under anesthetic again and when I woke out of my drugged state they told me that they had managed to take her out. I cried and found it hard to stop. “How was she?” I asked. “Mangled.” The doctor replied. I shouldn’t have asked.
We went home and that night we decided to light a candle and let it burn until it went out by itself. We both sat by the candle and said to our baby what we had learned from her being in our lives and the gifts that she had given us without even being born. We got pregnant so quickly that I wasn’t sure at the time how ready I was to be a mother and yet after this experience I knew that I was ready. I was at first concerned about having a girl, as even though I get on well with my mother now, as a child we tended to clash. So there was a fear that that would happen for me as well. It was a concern that actually disappeared during the pregnancy. One thing was for sure, this baby taught me so much without ever bring born.
In the next number of months I didn’t deny any of the feelings that came up, instead just let them be there whenever they wanted. I knew that in order to heal, grow and have a very different experience the next time that I had to go in to this deep, dark tunnel of grief, guilt, anger, sadness and loss, as those were the feelings I felt at intermittent times. I didn’t force any of the emotions to be there or to not be there, but just let each one envelope me whenever it wanted, without letting any particular one grab hold permanently and then walked through them, as if walking through a fog and eventually, in time, out the other side.
Nine months later we changed doctors and we decided to try again. I deliberately decided that the next time I was pregnant not to bring any baggage from the first experience in to the next.
Once again, we were very lucky, the first time we tried, I knew instinctively half an hour later that I was pregnant. Eleven weeks in, we did the First Trimester Screening and it was recommended, because of my age, to do the CVS or Amnio. I knew that I did not want to wait till twenty weeks to see if there was anything wrong with the baby and by the time we got the results we had only a 2-day window if I was to get the CVS. All the doctors that were recommended were away or booked up except the doctor who did the CVS on me before. Maybe fate was making us return to him and that’s exactly what we did. We needed to speak to him about the last experience and to let go of any blame that Oli or I might still have been carrying.
Doctors are fallible, they don’t know everything and sometimes bad things just happen and you take the lesson and move on. When the doctor came in to the room, the first thing that he did was apologize for the last experience. He said that I was one of the fatalities that they talk about when doing the CVS. Although I can’t help thinking how many more there are as mine certainly was not put on record! This time, he went in through the abdomen and the CVS examination went smoothly with no problem at all.
Every moment of my second pregnancy was incredible. There was no fear, no distress, nothing except complete joy. Somehow I knew I wasn’t meant to have that last experience again. My next lesson was in having a baby. Forty-one weeks later Judah arrived by C-section at 8lb 5oz, a full head of hair and completely perfect.
He is such a happy baby and I am sure the complete joy that I felt in the pregnancy had a lot to do with that. He is always laughing, smiling, full of joy and flirting with the women. A few weeks ago he said “Mama” and looked at me. Heaven! This week he got his first two bottom teeth and has now learned how to crawl. He is 9 months old and glorious.
Every day I thank God for this miracle baby and feel blessed that he chose me to be his Mother. I look at him and tears can so easily come in to my eyes, as I am so grateful for this blessing. Having a healthy baby is truly a miracle. And yes, I am going to go again.
I am doing a webinar in the New Year on how to heal, grow and get over losing a baby, and how to use the experience positively. If you have experienced a loss at any time and feel that you could do with getting some great tips or if you would like to gift someone or send some one that you know who has had that experience at any time in their life and still needs to heal from it, please go to my website at www.howhappyis.com. Otherwise you can go to my website anyway to read more articles, see my Balanced Life segments on the KTLA 5 Morning Television Show, ask me questions and sign up for the monthly news letter. Have a great week. Love Sophie x