What’s so special about August? you ask.
Before I answer, I’d like to issue a baby loss trigger warning, right here.
As you probably already know if you’ve been following this blog for a while, or had a look around when you found my blog, I have experienced baby loss and I talk about it on occasion. If you don’t want to read about anything to do with that subject or the grief associated with it, this is where you just skip my post. I’ll even put a handy ‘Read More’ cut.
So yeah, August…
This is the tattoo on my left forearm representing my children. The two butterflies are Miss11 and Mr7. The ladybug is the baby I miscarried at Christmas 2002 (funnily enough, that baby was due in August). The sunflower is for Chloé, the little girl I lost at 24 weeks in 2006. I chose a sunflower because it was her birth flower.
Every day from around mid-July I look at the calendar and my brain reminds me that the 17th is coming. I tell my brain to STFU but I know it won’t shut up.
And now it’s August. The thought that the day is coming is forever present at the back of my brain as I go about my day, as I take the kids to school, as I write smut in my notebook at the library while my wife studies, as I listen to the radio in the car, dreading the moment the station I am listening to will start playing that damn Ed Sheeran song.
It was on 2 years ago on August 17th, I listened to the lyrics properly for the first time, and let me tell you, driving while bawling your eyes out isn’t easy, or safe.
Apart from that, I’m doing OK. I think. This whole thinking about anything but, while thinking about nothing else at the same time gets confusing and exhausting and brain-scrambling.
On Friday 4th of August 2006, while on a 3-month holiday in France visiting my family, I went for my 23 week scan (I was away at my dad’s holiday house in the mountains so the 20 week scan was a bit late). I went with my mother, my then 2 1/2 yo daughter and one of my mum’s friends. We were going to the ultrasound then lunch in town and some shopping.
When the doctor doing the ultrasound asked my mum to take my daughter out of the room to her friend I knew there was something wrong and I started crying. He waited until my mum was back to show me, on the big huge screen on the wall and in vivid detail, what was wrong with my baby. And boy was it a doozy.
He showed us and explained that my baby had Spina Bifida and that 8, yes, EIGHT, of her vertebrae weren’t closed. On top of that, she was showing signs of hydrocephalus.
Basically it was very bad and didn’t leave me with a lot of options. Once we were back in his office the doctor explained a bit more what was wrong, using pen and paper to illustrate the vertebrae thing. He said he didn’t believe my baby would make it to term, she was too badly damaged already.
I signed the papers for a termination for medical reasons, the fact that the ‘case’ had to go before a panel of geneticists just a formality at that point.
When we left his office we headed straight for the OB-GYN who announced he was going away on holidays for 2 weeks at the end of that day but would put me in touch with another doctor. I also rang my then-husband, who was all the way in New Zealand & freaking out after my text telling him there was something wrong with the baby, to explain to him what the doctor had said.
He got in touch with the travel insurance people, they flew him over to France 5 days later. The day after he arrived we went to see the new OB-GYN who explained to us what was going to happen.
On Tuesday 15 August I went to the clinic and spent the night. Her dad got to feel her move that night (last chance, really, as I’d left NZ when I was 9 weeks pregnant) before he went back to my mum’s as I needed that night by myself.
Around 9am on the morning of the 16th they took me down to the ultrasound room and injected chemicals through the cord to make her heart stop and ensure she didn’t suffer any longer. Once that was done, they took me up to the delivery suite and the waiting game started.
Around 11am they put the epidural in. Chloé Isobel Rébecca was born at 12.30am the next morning. By the time we got to have some cuddles, it was 3am then they took me back to my room and I slept for a few hours.
We went to see her again around 10am and took more photos and had more cuddles. She had perfect little hands and feet. She was only 510 grams, but that felt heavier than I thought it would be.
My mum came in with my little girl and took my husband home with her. She came back after lunch by herself and the three of us girls went to a park nearby and a bakery and it felt very weird knowing I’d had a baby the night before and I was already out and about.
That night I had a HUGE meltdown and I was glad my husband was there with me to hold me as I bawled and bawled. I went home on the Friday and my sister came to see me for the weekend.
The funeral director brought Chloé’s ashes, in a little white marble urn, back to us on the Wednesday and that urn travelled back to New Zealand 3 weeks later in my hand luggage.
It’s on the chest of drawers in our room now with a plaque with Chloé’s name and the day she was born on it.
It’s been 9 years this coming Monday and it feels like yesterday and ages ago at the same time. The pain and the grief never goes away, really, you just learn to live with it.
And sometimes it hits you like a ton of bricks. Or a freight train.
Like that day last month. The day after that, we went out for lunch and were given the number 17. And the foam of my chai latte looked like a tiny baby.
I GET IT, UNIVERSE, THE 17TH IS COMING!
Oh and we got given the number 17 at that same café yesterday as well.
So yes, there are bad days, but on the whole, I think I’m doing OK, as OK as one can be, really, knowing one has lost a child and has to live with that.
It doesn’t matter if it’s an early pregnancy miscarriage, or a late pregnancy loss, or a stillbirth, or a loss after birth, a loss is a loss, no matter how small.
The death of your child hurts in ways there are no words for.
But you know what? You are not alone. Talk about it and you will realise that you know someone or you know someone who knows someone who has experienced a loss.
Let’s talk about it.