Phoebe Grace Hunt // 10.10.2020
Simply, where do I even begin? How? How do I begin to tell this story of a little lady that has appeared in such a time of uncertainty around the whole globe. Thousands of lives have been shattered this year and the invisible strings that connect us to our loved ones have felt pulled and stretched in almost every direction possible. For me, the year started under a perfect illusion of serenity and adventure as Jason and I flew to New Zealand for 3 weeks, travelling the north and south islands in a 2-berth converted Mercedes sprinter camper, in celebration of Jason’s big 30th birthday. Any words used to describe this time would simply make the months that followed incredibly jealous of Januarys gift; that being the hand of ultimate freedom, which incredibly soon would be a thing of the past.
I doubt we could have exceeded the term freedom any more if we tried as our days were spent jumping out of planes, luging down mountains and bathing in hot springs, absorbing the beauty of yet another corner of the world. I assumed that would be our last big trip for a while, mainly being due to the time it took to save up for a trip like that as opposed to a complete travel ban and a worldwide pandemic putting a halt on things. I’d at least settled for a European weekend away later in the year at some point. It’s quite nice to be naïve to the future I guess, for you simply cannot predict a thing.
Fast forward a month and I found myself pregnant. Sadly, this baby is no kiwi baby… the dates fell short by just a few days for those nosey ones amongst you, but the decision to try for this baby can be thanks to New Zealand entirely. It was almost as if being there hit a reset button for the both of us, a stillness and calmness that encouraged a mindset to match and allowed us the conversation of seriously considering embarking on this wobbly, anxious road to parenthood once again. We’d spent a lot of time over the past 9 months prior to this trip contemplating the what if’s and why’s, so that element of the decision felt as though it had run its course in being a factor that stopped any decision to try again. I also knew those questions would come back the moment I found out I was pregnant, so accepting this time, this time to feel like a normal married couple who are considering life with a baby was allowed to sink in my mind, even just for a little while. I literally wished upon the stars one night in NZ that I would soon fall pregnant, at a beautiful spot that will forever connect me to Maddison and the emotion I felt at the time. Just a few weeks later, that became a reality for us and I mean it when I say that I feel incredibly blessed to have only waited such a short amount of time, despite the difficult journey through our loss of Maddison – I still realise how lucky we are not to have had a long and tormenting experience trying to fall pregnant.
I had barely pee’d on the stick and already I was emailing my consultant with our news. I was assigned a consultant following Maddison’s death as we requested investigations into the potential cause in the hope of having some leads, should we fall pregnant again. It is now I must emphasise the blessing that this lady has been to us throughout the past 19 months and the hope she has given us has played a crucial part in Phoebe’s arrival, but for selfish reasons, she can be thanked for the fact we have been able to give in to moments of excitement and joy. There’s often very little ways as parents you can feel content with a way to thank someone of such influence in quite literally making miracles happen – whether her treatment and advice actually had anything physical to do with this positive outcome or not, having the correct bedside manner, knowledge and letting us lead the way to a certain extent is something never to be taken for granted in the health care system. It shows they are in their job for the right reasons and we have just been examples of that.
Maddison’s death is still very much unknown. There are a few factors that combined, could have led to stillbirth and for the purpose of others, I’m not going to mention them as on their own they can very much still result in a healthy baby, however one of the main considerations I did have to be careful of was blood clotting. I was tested for something called Antiphospholipid Syndrome whereby naturally the blood clots more than the average person. This result came back borderline. In any pregnancy, a woman’s risk of blood clotting is naturally increased due to the excess volume produced to keep a baby and vital placenta growing for 9 months, however prior to and post pregnancy, your blood should return to a natural process of travel. Because mine was considered borderline when tested months after the birth of Maddison, it cannot be ruled out as a factor that could have caused some placental malfunctions i.e. creating tiny microscopic blood clots that cannot be seen by eye which could interrupt the feed through the cord to the baby. Therefore, it was agreed that if I ever fell pregnant again, I would be treated as somebody with the condition and be required to take daily blood thinners in the form of aspirin and heparin injections alongside remaining under the care of the rainbow clinic ran by my consultant to ensure I underwent regular routine scans to monitor the baby’s growth and something they call a ‘doppler scan’ which checks blood flow through the arteries and cord. By 30 weeks I was in and out of the clinic every week leading towards every few days towards the end.
Naturally, Jason and I felt that this time was incredibly precious. I was pregnant for a second time and to a certain extent, knew the road that lay ahead and the possibility that we could again attend scans that portray the baby to be growing safe but later face devastation. It sounds very cynical but after losing a baby, there’s no way to clear that vision from your mind and no amount of ‘every baby is different’ pick me up lines would ever remove this thought from us. The process felt like it started a lot earlier this time, I was sent for a viability scan at 6 weeks to ensure a heartbeat could be detected and that the baby was growing in the correct place. I then had a scan every two weeks until our 12 week scan. Sadly, the pandemic was stirring up outside of this and all but the very first 6 week scan, I had to attend alone. Jason would drive me to each appointment and sit patiently in the car awaiting a text from me to say the baby is ok. It was dramatic. It pulled at my heartstrings if for any reason I was kept in the scanning room longer than anticipated and the thought of what would be circulating in Jason’s mind wondering what was taking so long. After all, he’s already had the phone call that no dad ever wants to hear in their life, so to be sat in that helpless position once again wasn’t easy to revisit. Once I had surpassed a scan at 23 weeks, some of the restrictions lifted and my consultant allowed Jason back in the room with us again – thank god. I lost Maddison at 24 weeks and so the next scan that came up was a particularly triggering one and something I really couldn’t having imagined doing alone.
From this point onward things ramped up a bit. I could feel incredibly obvious routine movements and this was both a blessing and a curse. Should the baby fall silent for a prolonged period of time, that was when my mind immediately went there – the dreaded worst conclusion. The ‘what if’s’ creeped right back in and the Medicom number made it to the top of my recent calls list. I had midwives come to check on the baby at home in the middle of the night and I had trips to triage for continuous monitoring. I don’t regret those calls now, as much as I wish I could have reassured myself throughout those moments, I knew the only real reassurance was going to come once I heard that little horse carriage or train on a track sound on repeat… and it came, every time.
I hope that by reading this, some of the closest people to us now understand why we decided not to share our pregnancy news. I know that I don’t need to justify this but its so against my nature that I feel I want to help explain for my own piece of mind. I have written about this in more detail separately at the time I was actually going through the emotions so perhaps I will share those entries at some point too for a clearer insight but to wrap it up in summary form – we were scared. We had no idea if this little lady would make it home with us and there were hurdles and triumphs at each stage so we decided to share those moments between only ourselves and a select few. Of course I didn’t lock myself away as much as the pandemic encouraged that, and if you spotted me in the supermarket I felt pretty proud to show off a growing bump, one that had never grown so big before. However, to turn up the involvement on the more intimate side of the pregnancy I feared would encourage some cliché questions and premature congratulations that we just weren’t ready for. It’s a beautiful thing to see someone who has previously suffered such heartache, be finally expecting something to bring so much incredibly joy and with all good intentions that is often emphasised to show that those typical sayings are true. ‘Time is a good healer’, ‘With every storm comes a rainbow’, ‘It happened for a reason’ etc… Whilst they may be true, they can be incredibly raw to hear during pregnancy after loss and often a lot of time is spent mourning the baby that didn’t make it, whilst enjoying the preparations for the one that could. I just didn’t want to have any of those conversations, perhaps for my own self-preservation. I didn’t care what the sex of this baby was and therefore I never found out, I knew that it wouldn’t arrive on the predicted due date because I would never be left that long to deliver and pandemic aside, I wouldn’t choose to have a baby shower for a baby that hadn’t yet arrived… these typical topics that give others a cause to celebrate meant very little to us and that feels a bit harsh to state but again led to the decision to keep quiet. I found it easier to cope day to day and also, it felt a little magical to be reaching new milestones with just my husband to celebrate them with. I feel its important to mention now that this was OUR way of coping through PAL, its not the right or wrong way and I completely applaud anyone able to share early excitement who has been down this road before. It is totally and utterly the right thing to do by what YOU feel is best, after all, support is only there for those who seek it.
So how did this little one make her entrance into the world? I think that deserves a post of its own, because after all.. thats the fun part! Thank you to anyone reading this for taking the time to do so and for many, you will follow because of our experience through loss therefore a huge thank you for the support gained as a result of that. Maddison is a special little girl and always our first born, bright star that undoubtedly gave us the courage and strength to progress through another pregnancy. We miss her with all of our being every day and watching Phoebe grow is a beautiful credit to her, albeit at times an emotional one.