Trigger warnings: Medical miscarriage/termination and pregnancy loss mentioned.
He hopped off the escalator in the local shopping centre as if it had been magic that had transported him upwards, spinning around with his wand and zapping something, unseen to us Muggles, in the air.
I don’t know why it was him and not one of the other hundreds of babies and children I had seen over the previous year – perhaps because, if my little boy had survived, I would have wanted him to be just like this one, in his own happy imagined world – but something in me changed at that moment.
I had been returning to work from my lunch break when I saw him and even though he was gone in a matter of seconds, off in the opposite direction holding his mum’s hand, it was like my cracked world, held together with glue and tape, imploded.
Before that, I thought I had the grief at the loss of my first pregnancy under control – although I was confused at first as to what I should be feeling because, as someone pointed out, “it was not like losing a real baby” at only 12 weeks pregnant. It took a while for me accept that, to me, he was very real and had been from the moment I realised I was pregnant.
I had two months off sick from work following a medical miscarriage, after discovering the baby had the fatal condition anencephaly, while I adapted to what they call the “new normal”. Although we had a follow up appointment to discuss the results of the postmortem, I was not offered any emotional help and, to be honest, at that time it did not even cross my mind to ask.
My parents were amazing, especially in the weeks afterwards where they came to visit simply to keep me company. They never got fed up of me talking about what happened and for that they will always have my thanks. It was more difficult with the wider world because we had not told anyone I was pregnant so it was hard to then say “I was but now I’m not”. As as result I also found comfort in an online group for other mothers who had experienced A Heartbreaking Choice.
I really thought I had a handle on things, and then the boy wizard happened.
From then on, when I needed to concentrate, it was like a brick wall would gradually form between me and what I was doing. I was trapped on one side with all the negative thoughts so that I became surrounded by them and unable to do anything.
At the time, it was coming up to the one year anniversary of the loss and I assumed once it was over things would go back to normal but, if anything, they got worse. The grief seeped into every aspect of my life, not helped by the fact that after losing a second pregnancy (this time a blighted ovum) I seemed unable to get pregnant again.
If someone had told me I would ever seek “therapy” (and I would have said it using my fingers as quotation marks with probably an eye roll for good measure) I would have laughed.
I was tough.
As part of my work as a journalist I had seen the human toll of famines and droughts and had witnessed the aftermath of natural disasters. Not only that, outside of these special trips, I was surrounded by all of human life in the type of stories I covered. Of course, when the job was done and the working day was over, I would try and process some of the things I had seen or people I had met. But while one or two stories in particular stuck around, they did not break me, not like this broke me.
I was signed off again by a very understanding doctor and, after a telephone assessment, was offered a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) course in stress management via the NHS. While I am sure this would have been helpful – who doesn’t need help managing their stress levels? – I wasn’t stressed, I was sad.
So very sad.
In the end I found my own counsellor via the internet, someone who speciliased in people who remained troubled or trumatised after pregnancy or childbirth. I checked her out thoroughly before attending the first session and researched the Person Centred Therapy she offered to make sure it was something I was comfortable with.
The weeks that followed changed my life – and I say that in all honesty.
I am very grateful to my former employer who, through an amazing occupational health scheme, agreed to pay for my counselling sessions. Simply talking to a stranger about things such as the pain and guilt, the strain it had put on our relationship, the fear that I would never become a mother was…liberating. That’s the only word for it really.
It freed me.
Obviously, I still had and have down days but that is ok, they are just days not weeks or months.
And, a week after I finished my final counselling session, I discovered I was pregnant for the third time – with my sunshine after the rain.