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Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The Little Friend


It seemed that time had never passed so slowly as in those first twelve weeks.  After a year of trying, when the thin blue line of hope appeared on the pregnancy test stick in the bathroom, it were as if, by some magical force, every tick and tock of the clock became longer than before.  Time was like a metronome ticking;  persistent, frustrating.  Days felt like weeks, weeks felt like years.  All we could do was wait; we floated pensively on a fluffy white cloud of hope.

As we ticked each week off the calendar, our small bud of confidence unfurled and started to bloom. We relaxed.  Mother nature never gave us any reason to think that our confidence might be misplaced.   The sun was shining when our scan day came; it was spring. Radiating golden halos of pre-emptive joy we skipped through the busy London streets to our destination, already on the brink of euphoria.

The final rush never came. 

As I lay on the consultant’s bed, all I heard were the words, "I’m sorry" as he turned off his machine.  In that moment, the world started to move in slow motion; a drone of incomprehensible confusion.

There was a baby, it was still there, but it wasn’t alive.  They couldn’t say exactly when it had died. Twelve weeks worth of hope disappeared into the ether. We were shown to a room filled with medical journals; green leather bound volumes, with gold writing lined the walls, a padded cell of medical jargon. Through the mist of tears, we tried to compose ourselves, to digest what we had just been told. I wondered how many tear soaked words the pages of those silent books had absorbed over the years. 

The next few days were spent in a blur. Waiting. Sitting in our house, silent, reflective, sad. We took a walk one day, and bought a fruit bowl shaped like a banana boat, from a tasteful home decor shop. It seemed a strange thing to do, but gave us a small moment of normality, as we pondered, chose and relinquished our cash.   On the way home, our incidental purchase in hand, the pain inside me increased. Like the waves of an incoming tide crashing against the breakers; it got harder, stronger and I knew it was finally coming. The consultant had told me what to expect and had outlined the warning signs that would indicate I should take myself to hospital.  He’d obviously assumed that as a seemingly intelligent woman, I’d know what a blood clot was when I saw one. I didn’t. Not until they were dropping from me like pennies from a slot machine.

From the wave of the first breaker to the point at which we arrived in A&E, I changed my trousers three times. On arrival, I locked myself in the single men’s toilet in the reception, hiding from furtive sideways glances that enquired at the state of my blood soaked self.

The female doctor wore a white headscarf and a white jumper.  After an internal scan, she reached for a long steel implement; probing and scraping at the depths of me, to remove the red from my body. The tsunami of pain was unbearable. "Perhaps your husband should wait outside" she said. "No". I didn’t want him to witness it, I couldn’t bear to have him near me; the pain was so intense, but I didn’t want to be alone either.   Afterwards, she conducted another internal scan, "I think it’s all gone". She remained expressionless. It? My baby?  Despite the barbaric scene around us, she remained pristine white, clinical to the last. I wondered in that moment why Doctors wore white, when it must be so hard to keep it clean. 

I was admitted to the hospital, hooked up to an IV drip with painkillers.  A young, kind South African male Doctor came to check on me regularly. I was beyond asking questions. Too tired, too numb, too shocked.   If I could step back in time now, I would demand to know if what that female doctor did to me was ‘normal’ procedure.

Flowers filled the house when I got home. From friends who’d got the high and the low in one phone call. I knew the flowers were sent to offer comfort, but they just reminded me of what we had lost.  Heartfelt sentiments on cards from people who loved me bought more rivers full of tears.  My brother sent a box of chocolates, in a heart shaped satin covered box with a bow. The expensive kind, the sort my whole life, I’d hoped that someone would buy me for Valentines or a birthday. The kind of chocolates I always hoped I’d receive on the happiest of occasions, not the saddest.

The leather sofa we’d saved for months and months for, told the story of what had happened. A small scratched patch where the leather had at some point worn thin, was stained darker than the rest.  Lady MacBeth like, I scrubbed and scrubbed at it, but it refused to shift.  A  short while later, I gave it away, to a friend’s sister; a sofa-less student. I could not bear to look at it and be reminded.

I hated my body. I hated myself. I felt my body had tricked me. How could I not have known?  I didn’t feel like a woman.  The grief and pain seemed too much to bear, so I applied myself to the task of getting on with life again. I changed my hair, I bought new clothes, I threw myself into my work.  I tried to forget.  I didn’t want to ‘try again’.  I felt empty.  I couldn’t deal with the pain, so I tried to ignore it with a false smile and forced gaiety. Deep inside, the wound stayed open, unable to heal.

As spring turned to summer, the nights turned hotter. I started to find myself waking in the early morning, unable to get back to sleep.  Sometimes I would go downstairs, to read or have a cup of tea.  One morning, I woke at 2.30am and went outside to the garden and sat on a chair, wrapped in a blanket to keep warm.  Our garden was tiny.  A pocket handkerchief of grass framed by some wild jungly borders. An old gnarled, elder tree stood in one corner, soaking up the roar of the traffic from the busy road behind.  The tree itself was nothing special but the jasmine creeper that ran, entangled through it’s branches, was magnificent when in flower, so the tree stayed, owing it’s place to the sweet smelling jasmine it had allowed to infiltrate it’s branches.

Finally that night in the garden, in the stillness and quiet before dawn. I let go.  The numbness left me and I was able to weep for what was lost, for the hideousness of the physical trauma, and for my inability to come to terms with it. What the trigger point was, I will never know,  the bottled up swell of emotion had just become too strong for me to stopper. 

As I sat watching the sun rise I noticed someone was observing me. Small, brown eyes flickered as he cocked his head to one side.  He was a stranger, I had not seen him in the garden before.  He came close; closer than I would have expected.  I sat very still, and so did he, we listened to the planes rise and fall overhead, as the dusky sky turned slowly into a brighter hue for morning.  Occasionally, he would move about, as if exploring, but then he would return to his sentry post, watching me intently, silent but reassuring in his presence.

In times of desperation, it is possible to find comfort in the smallest of things. During my sporadic pre-dawn garden visits that summer, a small tiny bird with a red breast became my companion and gave me comfort.

In daylight, I became more aware of him too. I came to the conclusion that he must live in the old elder tree, although I could never see deep enough into the thicket of branches to see a nest.  Save for a few fat pigeons, he was the only bird I ever saw regularly in the garden.  I felt that when he saw me, there was recognition between us.  Sometimes, if I was in the kitchen, he would hop on to window ledge peering through the glass;  as if enquiring, ‘Are you there?’.  His presence gave me more pleasure than I ever would have thought.

It was a warm summer’s day nearly four years later, when I placed the baby basket on the garden table under the shade of it’s large parasol. The journey had been long but, our dream was finally realised. Pip, a few days old, lay nestled inside like a biblical Moses in the rushes. Landing on the edge of the basket, Robin sat and observed Pip sleeping.  We looked at each other, and I felt he understood, that there were three of us now.

As Pip grew, he loved Robin as much as I did.  Pointing to him in the garden through the window, sometimes when outside, trying to get a little too close.  My father marvelled at his interest in the garden bird. "It’s amazing, how aware he is of that Robin". I didn’t share the story of how special he was. I couldn’t explain. The little friend was mine, and Pip’s.  Our friend, our secret.

As Pip grew, I felt that we should leave our house and move elsewhere. The road behind it seemed to have got busier and noisier. I worried about the traffic fumes.  Splashing sessions in the paddling pool were sound tracked by motorbikes roaring up the road. As I closed the door on the house that final time, I did not feel sadness, I felt excitement at the new chapter ahead. My only regret was that I had to say goodbye to the little friend, that he had to stay behind.

Our new home was only five roads away; but in a conservation area, away from busy roads and surrounded by mature trees. A huge variety of feathered friends now populated our garden. Magpies, Jays, Parakeets, Tits and Woodpeckers. But not once in our first few weeks did I see a Robin.

A month after we had moved, I found myself walking along the road that ran behind the back of our old house.  The elder tree had been massacred, it’s branches hacked to stumps barely visible above the fence. Tears stung my eyes;  I walked the rest of the way home fighting the overwhelming desire to cry. The little friend had been evicted. My heart weighed heavy.

Later that evening, as Pip played outside and I watered the plants, I noticed someone watching me.  Perched on the back of a garden chair, inquisitive and intent, a lone Robin stared at me and cocked his head from side to side. Coincidence? Possibly.  But, I preferred to tell myself that the little friend had found me once more - and I felt at peace again.

 
                   
I wrote this post a while ago, but never felt able to publish it. I’ve done so now to support pregnancy and baby loss awareness month.  If my words help one person suffering loss, then writing it has been worthwhile.

http://www.sayinggoodbye.org/ 
http://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/

I am also linking up with Older Mum in a Muddle and ‘Once upon a time’.  

Once Upon A Time

45 comments:

  1. Well I had to sit silently for a moment before I was able to comment - I have tears tightening in my throat. This is such a deeply personal post, one that you now feel is the right time, for you, to publish. I can't imagine what you went through when you had the D&C procedure (I'm assuming) inflicted on you (I'm guessing this was at Queen Charlotte's?) - very traumatic - I can however very much relate to having your body treated so impersonally - and the after shock, holding the grief, the emotions at bay. Then coming home to well meant gifts of sympathy - another reminder of what had happened. I'm so glad you were able to find comfort and solace in your back garden, and a little friend who was able to help you let go, unburden your sorrow - this must have helped path the way to getting pregnant again.

    Who's to say at what point one 'loses a baby' - whether it's at 12 weeks, 20 weeks, or 42 weeks. Over those twelve weeks you'd totally emotionally invested your whole being in the life growing inside you. You were together, connected. Your story is as valid as any other mother who has had the misfortune to lose a baby at term. There's no comparison - it's your story, your feelings, your life.

    And I've no doubt this beautiful post will help other women in a similar position to know that they are not alone in their feelings, and experience.

    XXX.

    Ps.Thank you for linking up your post to Once Upon a Time

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  2. PPs. Nature can seem so cruel sometimes - to have waited until your first scan to see that things hadn't gone as planned. I remember the first question I asked the sonogarpher at my first scan - is there a heart beat? Did you have extra scans when you were pregnant with Pip, or did you have to play the waiting game all over again? If so, that could not have been easy!

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    1. Thank you for your very thoughtful comment. I don't know why now felt the right time to publish it - closing the circle perhaps? I did have extra scans with Pip. With the subsequent miscarriage after him, and this time with EB. I found them sanity saving - I think I might have gone mad otherwise. x

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  3. Such a beautiful post, I'm sitting here with tears pouring down my face! I have had 9 miscarriages, the last one at 6 months, so I know just what you went through. I'm so glad you didn't give up hope and eventually had your happy ending - I did too, my son is now 15 and I'm grateful every day that I didn't let the grief and despair overwhelm me.
    xx

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear of all the loss you have suffered. I'm so glad you had a happy ending too. Thank you for your lovely comment. x

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  4. I'm sorry to hear of the loss of your baby, and how you were treated by that first doctor. Thank you for sharing your story, and with it - the tale of your robin friend. x

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    1. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. I appreciate it.

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  5. Your story, like my daughter's (Zoe Clark-Coates), is beautifully, touchingly and poetically told. I sense it must have been a cleansing experience. I am so glad that your story has a happy ending. I hope lots of people reading it will gain deeper insight into the pain and turmoil that accompanies miscarriage and loss, and in doing so, are better able to offer appropriate support with appropriate sensitivity.

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    1. Thank you for reading and commenting. I agree with everything you say.

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  6. We lost three, two of which were missed like yours. there simply are not the words to describe how being told 'I'm sorry' hurts. I'm so glad you got your happy ending. we got ours, and he's now 9 months old and just amazing. we're trying for number two now, and part of the reason why is it took us two years to go from trying to bringing our sob home. this is so beautiful. thank you for writing it x

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear about your heartbreak, and so so pleased for you that you got a happy ending. Good luck with trying for number two. x

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  7. This beautiful, heartfelt post touched me so deeply I almost couldn't comment. I'm so glad that you found comfort in your little friendly robin and that you also found your happy ending. I've recently been working with Older Mum to post our fertility story. I hope that through our stories we can help others who are in a similar position. Take care x

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    1. Thank you for commenting. It means a lot. I'll look out for your fertility story. Deciding to share these things is not easy, but if it helps others, then, personally, I think that can only be a good thing. x

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  8. that was so lovely MP, the floodgates opened as I read this. As you probably know I have had miscarriages and a lost child too, none ever forgotten & hope to meet again one day...
    Your new baby will bring you great joy, I could have a newborn by my side for all my days, it is such a wonderful time of life, gone so very fast!
    We have a proliferation of birds here from seagulls to wrens & everything in between. We have Robin too, he may not be the same Robin returner every year but he is a welcome sight.

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    1. Dear MLM. I did not know about your miscarriages or the loss of your child. Something you wrote once made me wonder, but I would never have wanted to pry or ask. I sincerely hope this didn't upset you, and I am so sorry for all you have been through. *Hugs*.
      I must say, I have become a bit of a 'twitcher' in recent years. Must be a sign of forthcoming old age :0). Nature is amazing, in how at peace and content it can make you feel. Thank you for commenting xxx

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    2. ((hugs)) back, no you didn't upset me, please don't think that, it was a very touching post and I couldn't stop till I'd read it to the end.
      I am been into birds since I was a child, have my bird identification book from back then and still look at it. Nothing.To.Do.With.Old.Age :)) xx

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  9. I don't know where to begin. Your beautiful, heartfelt writing, the sadness of your story. The beauty in the sadness that you wrote. I teared up reading this. I can only imagine what a nightmare of heartbreak this was for you. And how it hurts still I imagine. Thank you for sharing. I always feel moved by your posts.

    And as a side note - I just realized you updated your layout and it's amazing. I envy this blog layout!

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  10. Dearest Mummy Plum. This post is so beautifully and eloquently written, that even through tears and the urge to run to Plumstead and give you a hug I could not stop reading. I have just recently been at the side of a friend who also went to her 12 week scan and found the words 'I'm sorry' meeting her rather than the ones you long to hear, and this post has given me an insight into what she must be going through and will in turn, mean I can help her so much more now. Thank you.

    I had to have extra scan during my second pregnancy because of what happened with J1. I think the final total was 19 in all! But I loved every single one of them, looked forward to them with the excitement of the first - and like you - think I would have been driving to madness had I not had them.

    *Hugs* xxx

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    1. Thanks for your lovely comment. I'm so sorry to hear about your friend. 19 scans is a lot, nearly every other week? But so worth it, for the peace of mind they can give you.

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  11. This is so beautifully written, powerful and illustrates your feelings and sentiments in such a natural way. What a blessing Pip is to you. Your willingness to share such a moving story, will I am sure, be of great comfort to someone out there. x

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    1. Thanks Suzanne. And yes, Pip is a blessing. I am so grateful to have him. x

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  12. Such a beautifully written post about such a traumatic time. Miscarriage is one of the things that I've dreaded the most in both my pregnancies but have never had to face. I can't imagine how hard it must be to cope and deal with such a loss. You're so brave to put it all in to words. I had goosebumps and tears reading it. xx

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    1. The fear of miscarriage is hard to deal with, especially in early pregnancy. Time can feel as though it goes so so slowly. Thank you for reading and your very kind comment. x

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  13. This brought me to tears as well. Beautifully written, utterly heart rending and all too familiar a tale. The pain of my own three miscarrriages kept me utterly captivated in yours and the gruesome 'finishing off,' shameful. I know how hard it is to enjoy subsequent pregnancies, but am so, , so glad you have your babies now, Pip and bump. Sending extra love for your bravery and expressing so well what many women can't. You will be a great help to many of us. XX

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    1. Thank you for reading. I'm sorry to hear of your own miscarriages, and so happy for you too, that you have your two boys. I am so thankful for my boy and my bump. xx

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  14. What a moving post. I've had three miscarriages and will never stop being grateful for having two healthy babies. I'm so pleased you had a happy ending too. I love Anita Klein, by the way (have a few prints and an oil) so I love your choice of picture! X

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    1. I'm with you. I will always be grateful for mine too. Anita Klein is fab. That picture hangs on my wall, and I have another one too. I love her work. x

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  15. A very heart felt post, and I am sure it will bring comfort to anyone who has had such heartache too. It must make you so much more grateful for the child and bump you do have now. x

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    1. You are right, on days when I find mothering difficult, I do find myself thinking...but I'm so so lucky to have him. x

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  16. My tears won't stop falling. Such a beautiful post in so many ways. The depth of it leaves me speechless. I have a lump in my throat and I am struggling to put into words what I want to say. I'm relieved that through the sadness and isolation you found a happier path. So powerful.

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    1. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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  17. while I am so sad for you that you went through what you did, I am thankful for your post and connect to you as have had a similar experience with a blackbird, minus the safe arrival of a baby after two traumatic losses. This has warmed my heart, and made me cry and smile all at my desk at work. I wish you all the luck in the future and I believe there are no conincidences x x x x

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    1. I am so sorry to hear of what you have been through. Thank you for comment and I wish you all the luck for the future too. x

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  18. This is a beautifully written moving account of what was obviously a most painful time for you. It was with great relief I read about the arrival of Pip and also your small robin. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thank you for reading and commenting. I've just been over to your blog (via Britmums) and visited you too. x

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  19. Cathartic writing, I have a similar post in my archives when we lost our baby at 5 months. I feel your pain and take my hat off to you for raising awareness.
    I hope that robin is proof that even when life goes horribly wrong there is always hope to fall back on

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    1. I hope writing your story was cathartic for you too. I'd like to think that even in the darkest times, there is hope.

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  20. Thank you for sharing your experience, and your feelings in such honest depth. Xx

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  21. So beautiful as ever with your writing. I am so sorry for your loss. I don't have any clever words. I do get the Robin though - there is more to life and passing than we know. I have had a similar experience with a ginger cat recently which I will blog about and how it provides comfort when I see it.
    Thanks for your support too - much appreciated. I feel privileged to know you.

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    1. Thank you Kate for your kind words. I think in grief, sometimes the blinkers of normal life are removed, we see the world, and experience things in a different way. x

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  22. Hello, I am sorry to hear about your loss and also the treatment you had in hospital. I lost my baby on 27th April this year it it broke my heart. I had much better hopital treatment which I wrote about on my blog http://vlbeattie.typepad.com/blog/2012/05/over-but-just-beginning.html I am also writing for the Awareness month on my blog and on facebook https://www.facebook.com/events/101506653340779/
    Kindest wishes
    Val

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, and I'm sorry for your loss too. I have been over to your blog and read your very moving story, but was unable to leave a comment. I think you were very brave to share such a personal story. x

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  23. Hi Mummy Plum

    What a beautifully written blog and has made me very emotional too.

    I lost my baby at 11 weeks on 20/10/2012 and was sent home as not bleeding enough and not told what to expect, only to be rushed into hospital two days later with major blood loss. Luckily at the A&E department in Redditch the doctors and nurses were fantastic with me and treated me so well during the most traumatic time of my life.

    I wish you much love and luck.

    Thank you for easing my pain.

    Becky
    xxx

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  24. Dear Becky, thanks for reading and commenting. I'm sorry to hear about your recent loss, I'm sure everything still feels very raw. But, I'm so glad to hear that the treatment you received at the hospital was so positive throughout such a traumatic experience. Thank you for the love and luck, I wish you the very same. x

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