We’re Having a Baby!

Baby's First Photo

Baby's First Photo

Kathi and I are having another baby. The bub is due to arrive around mid-January 2011. It’s too early to know whether it’s a boy or a girl.

Pauses for audience applause.

We’re excited and anxious like other expectant parents and, since our twin girls Charlotte and Marianne died 18 months ago, completely terrified. But this post isn’t about our baby, our missing angels or our co-mingled joy and terror. There are other parents in the same situation – having a baby after a stillbirth or neo-natal death – who need to know that they are not alone.

We’re having a baby and we’re thinking about bub’s first steps, first words, decorating the baby’s room, and all the other common dreams which pass through expectant parents’ heads. I don’t want anyone to think that we’re not experiencing that happiness which only new parents can feel. But our situation is different to the average. This is our third child but hopefully the first we bring home.

Charlotte Elizabeth and Marianne Patricia were born premature a little more than 18 months ago and lived for 11 and 12 days respectively. They were taken from us after a battle, fought for an amazing length of time for such little people, against Serratia Marcescans. Kathi held Charlotte in her arms when we turned off her life support. The next day it was my turn to hold to Marianne as she died. We cremated them together in the one tiny coffin and keep their ashes at home with us.

Charlotte Elizabeth

Charlotte Elizabeth - Day 3

Marianne Patricia

Marianne Patricia - Day 3

These events colour our current experience in several ways.

First, we’re grieving a-fresh the loss of Charlotte and Marianne. Going through this pregnancy revives the memories and feelings we went through two years ago. They are again as new and as raw as they were then. The equilibrium we’ve struggled to achieve in the last 18 months has been completely upturned. We’re sure we’ll find a new equilibrium in time.

This is perfectly normal.

Second, we’re terrified of this baby dying as well, either in utero or shortly after. We know now only too well that there is no such thing as a safe or a sure pregnancy. Even afterwards, if/when we bring baby home, nothing is guaranteed. Doctors, nurses, counsellors quote statistics to us but they do not re-assure. A 99% chance of success means nothing because that implies a 1% chance of failure. When you’ve been part of the 1%, all of those little numbers seem incredibly large and pre-destined to occur.

This is perfectly normal.

Third, we are so fucking angry. We’re still and will forever remain angry about the deaths of Charlotte and Marianne. (To the god/goddess/demon/spirit/etc who killed my girls, I will find you and fuck you up. Be warned.) We’re angry that we cannot enjoy the growth milestones of our developing bub. Each monthly or fortnightly ultrasound or other test allows us a brief sigh of relief knowing that our bub still lives. Then the fear creeps in again. The happy Hollywood image of the pregnant couple lying in a field in the sun wondering what their child will become is all but unknown to us. More often than not, we are cowering in the dark imagining how our happiness will be shattered this time around.

This is perfectly normal.

To anyone who wants to comment with platitudes about trusting that all will be well, about finding strength to enjoy this precious time, about the miracles of modern medicine,  just don’t. You don’t understand and I sincerely hope you never do. Please keep your advice to yourself unless you have a bodycount of your own. Support, however, is very welcome – we need as much of it as we can get.

To anyone reading this who has buried a child and expecting another, take some solace from knowing that you are not alone. Please get in touch if you need to talk to someone who knows the score. Your feelings may be different from ours. Your thoughts are likely to be equally as wacky as ours yet still perfectly sane.

Here’s some books which may help.