Headteacher, Lisa Sharrock shares her devastating story of baby loss and trying to conceive following a loss. She tells us about the truth behind what she and many others experience, and what she has learnt along the way.
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The Need To Be a Mother
For 10 years I pined so desperately to be a mother, it consumed my every thought. But, fertility issues had other plans for me – what comes so easily for others was unobtainable for me. It made me feel so unworthy, so undeserving, even punished – what had I done that was so wrong?
I desperately wanted to become a mum after losing my own mum in 2006. In 2012 I found out I was pregnant, but at the 12-week scan when I was told there was no longer a heartbeat, the relationship I was in then broke down. In 2016, and in a new relationship, I was then gifted my daughter, Gracie. I had the title of ‘mother’ that I had longed for all of my life; only my daughter was dead and I begged to be dead with her. This perforated my whole being and I punished and berated myself further. The word desperation doesn’t even cut it – the desire to be a mum after losing Gracie consumed my being even further. However, I wasn’t searching for another baby, I was primal in searching for my own baby girl; the howling screams in the night, the trauma, the flash backs – I just wanted to be a mum to a living baby and my mind couldn’t compute that my baby was gone.
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Dealing with Devastation
I thought I wanted another baby, or did I? As weird as it sounds, in the early days I used to think ‘when Gracie is here’ like she would be born again as the next baby and then I was further confused by society saying ‘you can have another’, another what? Another Gracie? I started trying to conceive after my baby loss – months and months of gruelling failed fertility treatment whilst grieving the death of my child. On the day I started ICSI IVF injections (aka last chance saloon), my then partner said that he didn’t want children. Well, imagine that – we agreed on a frozen transfer but the five eggs failed to fertilise at all. Everything was over, my relationship, my hopes, my dreams of motherhood to a living child, gone. I’d just moved into a family home which was signed over in the midst of the IVF. The idea was a new start with successful IVF and for our children to fill the home – only I was alone with Boris (my pug) and no boiler in the coldest of winters, as I couldn’t afford the bills alone.
Just when I thought life couldn’t get any worse, my close friends became pregnant with girls; all of my support at that time was then gone – I couldn’t handle any more pain. After two failed relationships (maybe a consequence of the pursuit of motherhood – who knows), I then did research on using a sperm donor, but decided the universe had clearly been conspiring against me and that I should accept that motherhood (after ten years of desperation, failed infertility, a miscarriage and a stillbirth) clearly wasn’t meant for me. I finally caved and hit rock-bottom, so I decided to start living for me and the best thing about hitting rock-bottom is that the only way is up. I felt like I had been buried alive. Later in the year I went to a Child Loss Ball and met my now partner and I fell pregnant naturally the very first time. it felt like an absolute head-mess, suddenly I was thrust into pregnancy after loss.
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Pregnancy After Loss (PAL)
Ironically, pregnancy after loss has been the loneliest place for me. I don’t want to tell my truth, as after ten years struggling with infertility, I know only so well that I should feel lucky that I’m growing a miracle. ‘You look blooming’, ‘you’re so strong’, however there’s a web of lies and a world of sophisticated masking techniques behind every smile. When I have spoken up about feelings around pregnancy after loss, I have had an influx in my inbox of baby loss mamas currently going through the same thing, who are drowning in seas of anxiety, trauma and stress…succumbed to silence.
Here are my lessons so far:
Permit yourself to feel sad emotions which will allow you eventually to feel happy ones
Suppressing grief and feeling guilty for not feeling joy are not helpful, you are a bereaved mother unable to process many issues, trauma and feelings
There will be many different reactions to your pregnancy announcement…some people will presume a new pregnancy is a fix to your baby loss and withdraw support. Some non-loss friends might feel they cannot support you because you were unable to support them and their pregnancy and new baby
Rightly, relationships with other mums affected by baby loss will change but know that this may only be temporary, depending on the individual’s pain, grief and life events. Your rocks will be your rocks, unchanging in your life events…weathering all of the elements with you. I love you – my missiles are very few. Do not be fooled by Instagram, whilst it is my lifeline I am as lonely as you.
Don’t be afraid of losing people – be afraid of losing yourself whilst trying to please people around you…and if you can’t do this for yourself. Do this for your new baby, you have limited resilience to deal with everyday occurrences and it may feel as though you have been cast back to the early days of grief.
It is normal to think both babies are somehow the same and it is also normal to swing in guilty feelings towards both babies feeling somehow you are putting one before the other and vice versa.
Strong feelings about gender are normal
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I knew my life after losing Gracie would be difficult, but I don’t think anything can prepare you for your new reality. After all, you gave birth to death when you wanted life and you are now on the crux of it again. People who haven’t suffered child loss genuinely believe everything will be ok, professionals may think you’re going overboard, but we know only too well the fragility of life and actually, if I’d have gone to the hospital with Gracie instead of thinking I’ll see how I go, chances are she would probably be alive today.
It is also difficult to distinguish between anxiety and instinct, as the two become one, because instinct has failed you previously. Once the 24-week viability marker hits, your anxiety quadruples. However, I would like to finish this off with some eternal optimism…Some days I’m ok, we can only take it day by day, hour by hour. I know that when my baby is hopefully, safely in my arms, it will all be worth it.
If like Lisa you are experiencing pregnancy after loss, there are great support networks out there, such as pal_guide on Instagram.
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