Children: Indy (forever 6 months, would be 3 years old), Bodhi 1 years old
Expectations of Motherhood: I was never someone who was desperate for children. My mum always said when I met the right person I would feel differently, and she was right. I met my man, got pregnant and moved back up north from London. We chose a family home in the countryside and went all out preparing for the arrival of our first baby, Indy Moss.
We planned a water birth in the local birthing centre. Of course, I expected the pain, I expected to beg for an epidural at the first twinge, I expected the euphoria of meeting my son for the first time, I expected to bring my baby home to his nursery and to live happily ever after in a blur of sleepless nights, breast feeding and dirty nappies – that’s what everyone told me to expect anyway. What I didn’t expect was the reality of what actually happened to me and my family.
Looking back at the photos of a pregnant me I feel such sadness, I think; she looks so happy, so excited, she has no idea what’s coming.
Reality of Motherhood: Indy was taken from me, 1 hour old. The doctors told us he was jittery, he had abnormal brain activity and poor muscle tone. What did it all mean?
The labour had been so traumatic, a 45 minute ambulance drive, episiotomy, ventouse with no pain relief, screaming in the face of a midwife, asking for someone to help me. Looking back, it all feels like such a blur, I still feel a horrid sense of shock that it all happened to me. Why me?
Indy spent 4 weeks in the neonatal unit, hooked up to machines, to oxygen, to a feeding tube, blood being drawn, test after test, being touched by different doctors, nurses and students, they touched my baby more than I did. When was I expected to bond? I never expected to know what I was doing as a new mum, but I was completely lost in a world of medical jargon and beeping machines. Not taking my baby home wasn’t anything that I had read about. I didn’t know anyone who had been through this and if they had, it wasn’t something they talked about. I didn’t expect to have to leave him in hospital and sleep next to an empty Moses basket. I didn’t get my euphoria, instead I felt like I was living in a nightmare. Every time I slept, I woke up and for a second I was pregnant again, I’d forgotten, looking down at my empty bump, my empty arms, I relived the pain over and over again.
Taking your children home for the first time: After 4 weeks of tests and no answers we took Indy home for the first time. We were told he would have significant disabilities, that as they couldn’t see anything on the scans, it was likely to be a rare genetic condition. We didn’t believe it. This wasn’t really happening to us, was it?
We had endless appointments, more tests, more prodding, more intrusion, no privacy, always more bad news. I became very depressed. I would spend days in bed, crying, on antidepressants for the first time in my life. Looking back I know I was grieving. Where the hell was my crying baby and my bleeding nipples? Why wasn’t I eating cake and hanging out with new mummy friends? Instead I was setting my alarm every 2 hours to tube feed my baby and pump him full of medications. I was going through the motions of living but at the time I felt like I was dying inside. This wasn’t what I expected.
A short time after, we were back in hospital again with seizures and again with bronchitis in intensive care. Indy became very unwell and was seen by a specialist neurology team. The day they gave us Indy’s diagnosis changed my life forever. We were told that Indy had a rare genetic condition called Pontocerebellar Hypoplasia and most babies do not survive infancy. Indy’s condition deteriorated.
We never stopped fighting for him, not for one second, but we knew when Indy was ready to go. We knew it was time to take our boy home to die… *takes a deep breath*… No more tubes, no more tests, no more visits, no more suffering. Just me, my partner and my perfect little boy, surrounded by love.
We took him to Cornwall, we showed him off to all our family and friends, we created memories, he stayed with us for Christmas.
At 6 months old on the 2nd January 2015, Indy Moss took his last breaths in my arms.
Expectations of being a mother (x 2): Naturally my expectations of being a mother have been rightly adjusted. The ideal, perfect scenario replaced by a much more realistic, prepare for the worst hope for the best kind of approach. That is my mantra for being a mother.
With number 2, pregnancy was tough. We had a 1:4 chance of having a second poorly baby so (some would say selfishly, I’m sure) decided to take the gamble. We had regular agonising scans to monitor baby number 2, each time anticipating the worst. We were late to prepare, we moved house at 37 weeks, we didn’t set up the nursery, I don’t think I even washed his clothes. I could never really let myself believe that we would have a healthy baby, that things would be ok. I was more prepared for things to go wrong. But we were ready, so bloody ready, we needed this to go right.
Reality of motherhood (x2): Bodhi Moss was born on the 16th August 2016 weighing 8lb 4oz. Induced with an informed team of medics on stand by and a big fat, pain numbing epidural- believe me, I needed it.
Like Indy, he was perfect, but he was also healthy and no-one took him anywhere.
Taking your child home for the first time (x2): I couldn’t get out of the hospital quick enough. I think a part of me was still expecting them to take him away. I practically ran, ok maybe waddled, straight out of the door, baby in arms.
The best/worst advice: I have learned not everyone knows the right thing to say to a mother who has experienced loss. Why would anyone know what I wanted to hear? To be honest, some days I wasn’t willing to hear anything without feeling angry inside. I learned to appreciate that, to remember that any advice I was given was always from a place of love, care and hope for our future. I always try to appreciate that. I don’t worry about people saying the wrong thing or asking the wrong question, I love that people are just cheering me on.
Sentences that started with “at least” were tough and no child ever replaces another. There is nothing that softens what I went through. I appreciated much more acknowledgement of what has happened. I love it when people mention Indy, compare my sons and ask me questions, remember his birthday but also the hard days in between.
The hardest parts of being a mother: The most difficult thing since I was pregnant with Bodhi is the question from strangers; “Is this your first baby?”. How to begin to answer that at the supermarket checkout. It has been nearly 2 years and I am yet to find the right response. “No, my first baby died” is a sentence that I will never find easy to say.
For me, being a mum involves the greatest feelings of love and happiness ever imaginable, but also feelings of fear, guilt, loneliness and a little bit of crazy.
I was so desperate to experience “normal” motherhood with Bodhi that I forgot to prepare for how hard this could be. In a blur of sleep deprivation, breast-feeding and on-going grief, 3am was my crazy time.
Some days I just didn’t feel like I could do it, I can’t be a mother, I questioned whether the loss of Indy was some kind of sign from nature that motherhood wasn’t for me.
I worried so often that a new baby would somehow be overshadowed by what had happened to us. That we would always feel a bit like we were living in a dark mist. But I was wrong. Anyone who has met Bodhi knows just how wrong I was. He has brought with him the greatest amounts of joy and laughter. It’s impossible to not feel brighter when he is the sunshine.
The best parts of being a mother: Through all the lows in my journey, there have also been an equal amount of the most intense highs I have ever experienced. I feel such pride in being a mother, I am so proud of my sons.
Bodhi is just wonderful, he is fun, he is bright and he is fiercely strong willed, he is just like his big brother. My boys are the best parts of me.
Has becoming a mother changed you: Without a doubt. I thought parenting would just be about modelling and guiding our small people through the world. In fact my children have and continue to teach me something new about life every day. Indy taught me that I could be strong, but also there is immense strength you can take from a team of people. My people were there for me every step of the way. My team also included wonderful mothers on the internet sharing their love and their personal experience, that was a lifeline. I have ‘met’ the most inspiring people and I feel extremely privileged. I am forever grateful to my family and friends for carrying us through and for loving my sons. The loss of Indy has changed me forever, I know I will always have a bit of me missing.
But it has also changed me for the better, it has given me a greater understanding of life and a greater love for the humans in mine.
Hopes for your family: We would love to expand our family one day but right now we are enjoying some calm after a really difficult storm.
What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: Don’t be scared by horror stories you read (mine included) but also adjust your expectations of perfection. We can all hope for the best labour, birth and perfect child but just prepare that things might not go to an exact plan. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed just that things are not meant to be perfect.
We are all different, are babies are all unique and no one story of motherhood is the same. Be prepared to start your own journey but talk about it, as much as possible. The more I share my experience of my children, the more I have realised that every woman has their own difficult journey. I have so often been scared about sharing my story, fearing I will be seen as different and I wouldn’t fit in. I realised the biggest obstacle to that was me. There is always someone willing to listen. Build a team of people around you; your children can never have too many people who love them.
When I moan about how tough motherhood is, I am yet to meet another mum who doesn’t say “yeah me too”. Even the ones who look like they’ve got it all under control!
Life is relative and all moans perfectly valid.
Trust your instincts, cuddle your babies as much as possible and when it’s all gets too much, laugh, breathe and take some time for yourself.