“Why are you so desperate to be a Mum?”
This is a question I’ve been asked on many occasions by Counsellors, GPs, colleagues, family and friends. As a writer and lecturer, I consider myself to be fairly good as a communicator, but despite that, I always found this question really difficult to answer. I’ve often thought about the reasons I found it so hard to put it into words, but I think it is because, for me, wanting to be a Mum was always just in-built. I have always had that ‘need to nurture’, which is reflected in many of my professional roles, but also very much in my personal life, with the happiness I get from spending time with my niece and nephews, friends’ children over the years, and my animals.
There was no point in my life I ever thought I wouldn’t be a Mum. I took it for granted that it would just happen at the right time. All my family and extended family had children, and most of my friends, so with every new arrival, I just kept thinking that it would be me next. Even following emergency surgery to reconstruct one of my ovaries, as a result of a ruptured cyst, a diagnosis of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and subsequent removal of that ovary some years later, I still had no doubts it would happen.
I’ve always been very optimistic, some might call it being a dreamer, but I was in no doubt about my prospective motherhood. The early loss we had before Sam when we were preparing for IVF, was really sad and unexpected, but I was Pragmatic, and knew that early miscarriages were sadly very common, and often as a consequence of an embryo not being viable due to cell quality or chromosomal abnormmalities, so I tried to think positively.
The success of our first IVF cycle was a dream come true. That was it, we were going to be parents. I was over the moon, and through all the morning sickness and reflux, I was the happiest and proudest I’d ever been in my life. Around the time of our 12 week scan I even bought a foal and called her Cookie. It was always a dream that, like me, my children would grow up with animals.
Despite a couple of worries, I pushed any concerns to one side and I just couldn’t wait to meet our little one. Receiving a diagnosis of Trisomy 18 (Edward Syndrome)at Sam’s 20 week scan tore our world and me apart. We made the decision to let her go in her own time, and on the 16th January 2012, during her 32nd week of development, Sam chose to hang up her dancing shoes.
It was 2 years before we found the money for another IVF cycle, but sadly that failed, due to being unable to stimulate sufficient follices. I was beside myself, and as a distraction, Sam’s Dad helped me find a young rescue lurcher (Ernie). No, animals don’t fill that hole, and I am not encouraging people to take on animals, unless you have the knowledge and experience to do so, but for me he was a life saver.
I then wrote a book for Sam called’A Cookie for Christmas’, as my way of keeping her memory alive, but also I guess, to help me feel like the Mum I should have been at that point. Much to our complete surprise, just 3 months after the failed IVF cycle we found out I was pregnant, and naturally. I was eccstatic. Having completed A Cookie for Christmas, and had asuccessful early scan, and not wanting Sam to feel forgotten, just a couple of weeks before our 12 week scan, I decided to publish the book on Amazon. Two days after publishing, during the 10th week of pregnancy, we found out I was losing this baby too.
2 years later, following drugs just to enhance my ovulation, I fell pregnant again, and supported by hormones, we reached 10 weeks, before losing baby 4.
At this stage, I took out a bank loan, and we went abroad for egg donation treatment. Despite implanting 2 embryos, this too failed.
I was completely bereft. We tried to put my lovely horse, Abbie, in foal, as ridiculous as it sounds, to have a babyfor me. Incredulously, she lost her foal, which was very nearly as hard as me losing our babies. I couldn’t cope with the trauma of trying to put Abbie in foal again, so Sam’s Dad bought Marley for my birthday, he was 18 months old.
We lost our final pregnancy 2 years ago, at a very early stage, and that was it.
At the age of 46, with no financial options for further treatment, significant mental health issues and a broken heart, I had to call it. I had to accept we had reached the end of the greatest dream I had for my one life, the terminal station, end of the road. It had torn apart my relationship, me, finances, friendships, relationships with family members, my career, just about every aspect of my life. I was devastated and so angry with the world.
I was a Mum, to all the babies I had carried, but I had come away with nothing. I had all the feelings of any other parent with a living baby, but no baby to love or nurture.
I ploughed my feelings into my ridiculously expanded four-legged family. I wrote children’s stories and books. Then finally, I decided to plough my energy into ‘Dancing in the Wings’ and now, the development of Our Sam as a charity, to try and support other parents like us.
I think I will always go through waves of complete disbelief that this happened. Knowing I will never hear the words ‘Mum’, or ‘Grandma’, directed at me, will always haunt me, particularly when I hear those words directed at others. Seeing pictures of other families will always hurt, but I have learnt to manage that, and I have survived, and that is my key message I guess.
“Having children isn’t the be all and end all!” was one of many comments offered to me on many occasions, as a way of trying to make me feel better. There aren’t words you can give to instantly make anyone feel better about never achieving the dream of having their own family, and if I won the lottery today, my first google search would be ‘surrogacy’, but I have to be realistic now and focus on me. So I am focusing on where I am, and using my skills, experience and energy positively to raise awareness, understanding and support for other parents who have had to face baby loss in their journey to become a parent.
If you are struggling, having reached the end of the line, and as a result of baby loss, yes life can be hideously unfair, and I am not going to pretend it is easy, but, there is always a way through, don’t give up on you or your life, no matter what form that life now takes. There are wonderful charities out there to support you, the way Hope House Hospice (Ty Gobaith) in North Wales supported me, you just have to ask for help.
As Our Sam develops it’s own projects in the coming months, I hope that we can work collaboratively with the other fantastic charities and NHS to provide support too.