As I edge ever closer to the third trimester, I feel just about ready to write something more about pregnancy after loss. Although I have written smaller pieces via Instagram, there has been something of a block between that and getting something more thorough and robust onto paper. I could put it down to being busy; returning from the States, announcing this pregnancy to family and friends, going back to work and then our first Christmas without Orla. But in reality, I think that there has been something bigger stopping me. My own mind.
It’s as though I fear that if I commit anything more substantial in writing, that this will be the end. That somehow I will cause everything to come crashing down around me. ‘Magical thinking’ in psychology speak. Except that the outcome would be anything but magical.
I can without a doubt say that these last few months have been the hardest of my life. The pain of losing Orla has remained as an ongoing hum, ever present, always occupying space in my heart and head. One that intensifies at times, just as I feel it always will. I found that once the initial horror sinks in after loss, the numbness wears off and the despair hits, you become acutely aware that the worst thing that you could have imagined has happened. You can no longer fear it, since you are living it. You cling onto life with your fingertips and grapple and grasp to find something, anything, that will give you a shred of hope that things will be okay. You go to the darkest places of your mind and soul and you wonder if you will survive. And you do, one day at a time. In many ways, I felt that I had already faced the worst, and therefore if I could still wake up and put one foot in front of the other, I would somehow be okay.
However, whereas with loss, the worst has already happened and you are finding a way to navigate life again, with pregnancy after loss, you feel as though at any point you may be catapulted back down into the depths of despair. Except this time, you don’t know how, or if, you would survive.
Pregnancy after loss is like being on a ledge. It’s a ledge that sits on the inside wall of a cliff that you have somehow scrambled up to from the darkness beneath. But it is not quite your old life: that sits at the top of the cliff, way, way back from the edge, where the grass is green and there is a space between you and the horror you were about to face. A place that you will never quite fully return to.
With pregnancy after loss, you suddenly realise that that you are teetering on the edge of this ledge. You look back up to the top that was your old life and you look down with utter terror that at any given moment, you could fall all the way back down again. That loss could creep up behind you and push you back into that deep, dark, terrifying place. Yet somehow this time the fear is greater because you worry that now, the fall could be even further. Even deeper. Even darker. And you wonder if you would ever be able to crawl your way back out.
And this perilous ledge is one that you walk constantly. Every. Single. Day. There are times where you come to a wider part of the path, where you walk inland a bit and you can breathe momentarily. But at any given moment, you could turn and find yourself looking down once again.
Which is exhausting.
The feelings are multifaceted. To name a few, there is guilt (of being pregnant again, of somehow betraying Orla, of ‘leaving behind’ other mothers who continue on their journeys after loss), anxiety (that everything could go wrong again), anger (at the loss of the innocent joy of pregnancy), regret (of all the things I wish I had done before), sadness (that this isn’t how life should be), and then more guilt (that I am not the happy carefree person I was when pregnant with Orla). The intensity of each ebbs and flows, but there is always one more prominent in my consciousness. Accompanying these are various thoughts of impending doom, that everything could go wrong at any time. I have lost faith in myself, my body and my ability to judge if everything is okay. Reassurance has taken on a different meaning and lasts for just a short time. There is no safe zone, no ‘when I get to x weeks I’ll be okay’. Every day is like an endurance test. But you’re never sure which obstacle you are going to be facing at any given moment on any given day.
Yet despite this terror and exhaustion, I know that it will be worth it. Every single ounce of fear. Every extra grey hair. Every tear that is shed. To get to bring home a baby – our baby – will make every single day of pain worth it. I am learning what helps and what doesn’t. I am trying things old and new that scaffold my mental wellbeing. And I am learning to say no and take things more slowly.
And maybe now I’ll write a bit more; to share this journey warts and all.