the LOST ones


Why it still hurts

It still sometimes seems ridiculous to me that miscarrying our second baby hurt so much, and has affected me so profoundly. In the cold light of day it was nothing more than a bunch of cells that hadn't formed properly, that had clung to me for a few precious weeks before finally giving in to the inevitable. But it DID affect me, it still affects me today, and maybe getting it all out there will be cathartic.

The journey to conceiving our angel was a long one. I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Maya, in February '03, but her Dad and I separated when she was three months old, and so I got rid of all my baby clothes and concentrated on my growing daughter and building a writing career around her. Shortly before her second birthday, Willie and I got back together after months of trying on his part and some pretty persistent persuasion. We decided almost straight away that we had wasted enough time - we wanted to make Maya a big sister.

We didn't expect it to be a problem, we were both fit and healthy, and had conceived Maya despite our efforts NOT to get pregnant, we were sure our TTC journey would be a short one.
It wasn't. 11 cycles passed and I began to wonder if there was something wrong. I charted my temperature every day, and I was definitely ovulating, yet still no baby. I saw a specialist and began the fertility testing process with some initial blood tests.
That same cycle, my period was late. I was confused, as I'd been away for the weekend with family when I ovulated so I didn't think I could be pregnant, and initially the pregnancy tests were negative, but a few days after my period was due I took another test and it was positive. I was finally pregnant.

I had my hCG levels done initially and they were low, but a follow up blood test a couple of days later looked promising. I was nervous, but I had no reason to expect anything to go wrong. I flew to Sydney as planned when I was 5 1/2 weeks pregnant to spend Christmas with my family and Willie stayed at home to work.
30th December was my birthday. I had a great day with my family, we all went out to lunch, and I went and got a facial and a pedicure to spoil myself. I felt a little queasy, but nothing like the morning sickness I'd had with Maya, and went to bed early.
I woke at 4am to go to the toilet, and it was thru a sleep clouded haze that I realised I was bleeding. Not heavily, just spotting, but in that second I knew that it was over. I woke my mum in hysterical tears, but she convinced me to go back to bed until the after hours doctor opened at 7am.

It was New Years Eve. We drove to the doctor in silence. We passed a heavily pregnant woman walking along the path in the heavy, humid morning air. I wondered if she was in early labour. I could smell my own perfume. It lingers with me still.
The doctor was optimistic, bleeding 'can be normal' in pregnancy, but I knew enough to know that it was over. He sent me for a scan, but that too was ambiguous - there was a gestational sac measuring 5w5d and not the 7 weeks that it should be. The sonographer recommended a repeat scan in a few days, but still, I knew it was over.

I went home to Mum and Dad's and curled up on my bed in a foetal position and cried. Poor Maya was desolate, she didn't know what was going on, only that her Mummy was devastated. I stayed in my bed all night while the rest of the world celebrated the New Year coming in, the bass from the speakers at a party next door thumped in my brain like a heartbeat, reminding me over and over that our baby was dead. Dead. All I wanted to do was run home to Willie and sob. He cried when I told him over the phone. I felt like it was my fault, I had failed him.

I spent New Years Day with friends as planned. I seriously considered not going, but I needed the distraction, and what a distraction it was! We got stranded by the bushfires when the F3 was closed, the hottest day in NSW history at 47 degrees centigrade. I sat under a tree on the beach nursing my friend's baby boy, Kalen, while everyone else swam.
The next morning, with the F3 open again, I drove home, and straight to hospital. The bleeding was too heavy, it wasn't subsiding. For some unknown reason, miscarriages at Royal North Shore Hospital are treated by an obstetrician, and not a gynecologist as they are in New Zealand. It seemed obscene to be seeing a doctor whose primary role was to deliver babies, but we agreed that a d and c would be the best option. She said it would preserve my fertility and reduce the risk of infection. I felt like a fraud asking how soon we could try again - how dare I even think about that, it felt like betraying our poor, miscarried baby, but it was the only thing I could think of. I felt an aching, hopeless need to be pregnant again. I felt bleak and empty. A house surgeon came to insert an IV line. I cried. He sent a social worker to see me - apparently he was worried that I was "too upset". Our much-wanted baby was dead. What is "too upset?"

The next few hours passed in a blur. I went into surgery. I went to sleep crying and woke up crying. I remember through the fog of anasthesia and tears seeing the Xmas decorations hanging from the ceiling in the recovery room. It seemed so inappropriate. It made me nauseous.
The d and c was supposed to be a day procedure, but my blood pressure was too low and I was surly and unco-operative so they made me stay overnight. I would have stayed forever if they'd asked, I didn't want to move.

It was ten long days before I came home, some of which were good, others horrific. I made a CD tribute to our baby. I went to the hospital to pick up what was left of our baby after the d and c. It was an unusual request for them, in Australia they aren't subject to Maori protocols surrounding such things. But they were very accomodating, and the pathologist explained clearly to me the results of the testing they had done on the tissue - it appeared to be a classic 'anovular pregnancy', also known as a blighted ovum. A freak mishap of nature, an error in the chromosomes neccessary to sustain life.
The night I came home, we had sex. I cried and cried, it felt so wrong. I wasn't ready. To me, sex = trying to conceive and I didn't want to try again. I didn't even want to think about it. Willie held me and promised there would be another baby. I cried some more.

Four weeks after the d and c, my period arrived as normal. We were officially back in the trying game. By this stage I thought I was ready, and I thought it would take as long as it had to conceive our wee angel.
I was wrong on both counts. Eight weeks after our d and c, on Maya's third birthday, I found out I was pregnant again. It was a rollercoaster of emotions, I felt scared, but at the same time hopeful - lightening wouldn't strike twice, would it?
The very next day I started bleeding. I was so angry with myself for testing, if only I had waited I would never have known I was even pregnant, I would have thought it was a normal period. More tears.

But the bleeding never amounted to anything. I was still a nervous wreck. At 5 1/2 weeks I had a scan as I had convinced myself the pregnancy was ectopic. The scan showed a perfectly formed gestational sac, with a tiny yolk sac, something which was missing on the scan of our angel.
At 6 weeks I had another scan. To say I was anxious is an understatement, I sat up the whole night before the scan playing web boggle, and trying not to overanalyse every pregnancy symptom. But on the scan, everything was perfect, one tiny, flashing speck on the screen the much-awaited heartbeat.
I relaxed, but only a little.

At nine weeks, more bleeding, and convinced that I was going to lose the baby again, I went for another scan. I tried to be pragmatic, to focus on the fact that it hadn't taken long to conceive this time, but I was still hurt.
But again the scan showed everything in order, in fact instead of ONE tiny jellybean, there were two. To say it was a shock would be an understatement!
I had prepared myself for the news our baby had died and instead I was faced with twins. I rang Willie and had him come home from work, and we both sat in stunned silence, happy, but also anxious. I was all too aware that the chances of something going wrong with the pregnancy had just doubled along with our babies.

The next 6 months were a turbulent, emotional and difficult time, in fact I often say that it is a testament to the strength of our relationship that Willie and I came thru it in one piece. Physically it was tough, I vomitted every day for 32 weeks, from 5 weeks pregnant until the day my babies were induced at 37 weeks. Mentally, it was even tougher. I had another bleed at
25 weeks, and a false labour at 26 weeks. By the time I was induced I was convinced that one or both babies would be stillborn. I think I made myself believe that so that it wouldn't hurt so much when it happened.

On 14 October 2006 I had my waters broken to induce labour and after 6 hours our precious daughters emerged, 3 minutes apart and identical in every single way. In the delivery suite afterwards I remember feeling shell shocked. Both babies were perfectly health, they breathed on their own at birth and had APGAR scores of 9 and 10. They weighed just under and just over 7 lb respectively. I couldn't believe that they were both here, and both alive, that neither of them needed to go to SCBU, in fact we left the hospital for Birth Care when they were only 3 hours old. Willie was besotted with them, he cried his eyes out and almost refused to put the first baby down to cut the second baby's cord. I was numb.

The numbness persisted for months. At 3 weeks Mercedes was admitted to Starship with cyanosis (turning blue around the mouth). At 5 weeks she stopped breathing and her apnoea monitor went off so she was again admitted to hospital. At 8 weeks Sienna had surgery to repair a blockage in the tube between her bladder and kidney, a procedure which involved 4 days in hospital during which she had an IV line, pulse-ox monitor and catheter in 24 hours a day. I didn't feel worried or upset as I had when Maya had minor surgery on her foot a couple of years earlier. I just felt numb. I couldn't tell the babies apart, and had no great desire to. I had flashbacks to the moment I first discovered I was bleeding with our lost baby, and imagined what could have been had that baby survived. The twins screamed up to 20 hours a day, had reflux, and had nearly a dozen hospital admissions in their first three months. I still felt nothing for them except resentment that there were two of them, and that I had been robbed of the special experience my earlier pregnancy might have been had it not ended so abruptly and so prematurely.

I can't pinpoint a moment when I looked at my girls and realised that I did actually love them underneath it all. It was more a process than an astonishing revelation. As they slept better, were less demanding and their personalities began to emerge, I started to fall in love. Every night I woke them before I went to bed for a dream feed and snuggled their tiny, sleepy bodies close as if I would never let them go. I felt (and still feel) profoundly guilty that I couldn't love them the minute I laid eyes on them as I did with Maya. One day they sat on the kitchen floor and passed blocks backwards and forwards between them and I suddenly felt overwhelmed by love. They were nearly eight months old.

My precious 'gremlins' turned one this past weekend. It has been a time of great reflection for me, looking back on the "what might have beens" and the things I would do differently if I could have that time again. How I would cherish that pregnancy instead of worrying it away, and nurture those newborns instead of closing my heart for fear of being hurt.
The gremlins were to be our last children. But we have changed our mind. I feel like I'm not done yet, that I can't leave my baby days behind me in such a turbulent haze. I need to do it just one more time, for healing.

One day I will tell my girls about the turmoil that surrounded their arrival into the world. Not that they weren't wanted, for I always, always wanted them, in fact I wanted them so much it hurt, but more that it's OK to feel the way I felt, and that just because I didn't feel that instant bond doesn't make it wrong, just different.
I still think about our angel baby. We gave our first twin the middle name Anahera, which means angel. I still have the engraved wooden box with our baby in it in the drawer next to my bed. When I am ready, I will bury it with the twins placenta. Someone once told me that we had to lose our baby to make room for the twins. I'm not sure I believe that, I don't think anyone NEEDS to lose a baby, but I do truly believe that our angel gave us the gremlins for a reason. They have been, and continue to be, a source of inspiration and fulfillment, along with Maya who is the best big sister ever.

I feel blessed to have them.

By Emma Fahy

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