The Landfall

Can I begin please with the elephant in the room? This Baby Loss Awareness Week I’m writing from a place we didn’t dare hope to be: parenting a live child. I have the simultaneous privilege and heart wrench of listening to our son’s cries, his colic and reflux being tended to relentlessly by his daddy. Since sudden pre-eclampsia, an emergency caesarean at 36+1 weeks and intubation in NICU, we now exist in a space and emotional continuum that after ten years is both surreal and brutally immediate.  

There is, as everyone said, very little sleep. There is worry, but of a different kind. There is eye contact, smiles and giggles, delicately unfolding, where a second of magic catches your emotional breath and creates a memory that no photo or video can do justice. It feels there is no time or space at all to process, or come to terms with pregnancy after loss, with birth, with anything other than hitting the ground parenting. Versions of us in maybehood remain static on a screen, seemingly frozen in time. Everyone and everything is on the back burner, including us, as we get to know our beautiful son. The dust settles (lots of it, particularly if you don’t have a willing parent / cleaner) and it dawns upon you in the fog there are elements of your dream requiring similar survival, fostering similar isolation, to maybehood. The nuance, the emotional capability to rejiggle the rubik’s cube of infertility, loss and a now successful reality: this will always be a work in progress. I made landfall yet I’m still trying not to drown.

I know if I had read this twelve months ago, popping HRT like my womb lining depended on it (spoiler: it did) my mind and heart would have exhaled slowly at yet another couple over those two lines, riding the wave of luck, science and odds. Part of me would have thought good for them. Another part would have thought off you can absolutely fuck. The rest would have known we were doing everything we could, so much so that if our stepping stones led to a childfree life we could go peacefully. Painfully, but peacefully. I wandered around Frieze London in Regent’s Park, holding my bladder pre eighth embryo transfer, staring at the art that looked suspiciously like a giant cyclogest pessary. This shit was everywhere, all the time because reality merely reflected what I took everywhere with me; my head, my heart.

So why am I typing this from the so called promised land of parenting after loss? Why do I hope you will sit with your own emotions and keep reading?

When I look into our baby’s face, hoping to see an epigenetic whisper of me, falling in love with him more and more every day, I don’t need a week to be aware that my darling, beautiful boy is not our first child. That his elder brother Pumbaa is a star in the sky, loved and nurtured inside me seven years ago, his due date falling without fail in Baby Loss Awareness Week. That there are six siblings between Pumbaa and him, embryos created painstakingly by us and three laboratories; pinpricks of hope placed in my womb as gently as a babe in a crib. That our last two embryos from our first IVF cycle were non identical twins, transferred by our NHS consultant in a change of plan that left our hands shaking as we re-signed the consent forms outside of theatre. That donor egg IVF became our only stepping stone to a successful pregnancy, my desperation to parent a live child such that I weighed up the scale of loss, complexity and consequence and did not find this wanting. That when the tears eventually recognised my feelings and I felt a vessel in biology only, my husband held my hand and told me that on the contrary, “an egg was one of many key ingredients and you are, in fact, the chef doing the most important job of all: growing our child.” That our story, so intense and personal to us, is one of many voices that all seek refuge and recognition in a week that shines a charitable and social media light – a light that can have us shielding our eyes, reaching for its unifying warmth or wishing for the darkness to envelop again. That our grief, its sometimes intangible, existential nature, is now increasingly discussed and acknowledged in a social media age and community that was not open or obvious to me six years ago. That losing your baby, and babies, your dream, is the most harrowing stepping stone of them all. That whatever our story there is room for all of us here. 

We can support each other’s voice individually; as a collective. We can take time and space to grieve alone. We can seek joy. We can learn to feel again. We can stitch together, lovingly, kindly, a new, unexpected whole. We can with professional and personal support, embrace a different life and form a new route to our dreams. We can sit with the guilt, the ugly feelings, the highly tuned emotional radar of a woman who knows the line between heaven and hell is broken and blurred. This isn’t the misery Olympics although the competitive nature of achieving motherhood (another subject for another time) would have us think otherwise. It’s ok to think the unthinkable. 

There’s a scene in The Crown where Queen Mary writes to her granddaughter, the new Queen Elizabeth and lays out the emotional stall: “the two Elizabeths will frequently be in conflict with one another. The fact is, the crown must win – must always win.” I watched this holding our son, delirious through lack of sleep, appalled at how physically poor and emotionally compromised I felt, hating my perceived ingratitude, that what I thought was the happy ending was only the start. There will always be two Annabels, the before and the after. My matrescence must always win. I will forever rely upon the skills and resilience of maybehood. And, most gallingly, I have the luxury of writing this. 

You can tell me to fuck off. I do understand.  

For everyone else, perhaps they may want to read this. 

x Maybehood 

Written especially for Tommy’s for Baby Loss Awareness Week October 2022: stepping stones





3 thoughts on “The Landfall

  1. I was moved by your writing. And can see the 2 Annabels. Even tho you and Dave and Alex are a happy family unit you have never forgotten your journey and that for those around you and never will. Perhaps it has made you the wonderful person you are today. Love from LizSent from my Galaxy


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