People say having a child changes your life forever. I am here to say yes this is true, no matter if your child lives or dies.
Life threatening illness during pregnancy is also life-changing, especially if you do not get to take your baby home with you. I’ve lived both sides of this… to have and to lose.
A few years ago, my current partner and I were expecting our first baby together. He has two children from a previous relationship, as do I, and this baby was our first together, the one that would visibly unite our families in such a beautiful way. We were so excited to grow our family. We shared the wonderful news with our children. They were happy in the way a child would be happy. It hurt so much that we had to tell the children the baby had died.
Even though I was bedridden during my prior pregnancy due to Hyperemesis Gravidarum, also known as HG, I was ready to fight the battle again. Months of vomiting, severe nausea, dehydration, inability to eat and drink and a whole host of other symptoms. HG is NOT morning sickness. Morning sickness is not life threatening. HG is. HG can kill the child bearer and baby. Heartbreakingly our babies died due to TFMR because of my declining health. The worst three years of my life.
It is difficult for me to describe the intensity of losing three babies to TFMR due to maternal health, but I will try my best. There was so much darkness and heavy, suffocating guilt that I am trying to learn how to tame. My chest was always tight and I thought my heart would stop beating. At times I wish it did. I had suicidal ideation, which I received hospitalization and medical treatment for. I will always advocate for seeking help and treatment for suicidal ideation, plans and/ or attempts. You deserve support even if it doesn’t feel that way.
I thought, ‘What makes me so ‘deserving’ of life when I couldn’t even give that to my babies?’ I know logically there was a chance of both of us dying. I feel like it is a cruel joke that my babies would never have a real chance of life outside of my womb. I hold so much responsibility. Isn’t it my body that created this illness, not by my choice? But still I feel so responsible. I hope the pain will ease some day. Is that what it means to ‘have hope after loss’?
The well-meaning phrase ‘you deserve to live’ hurts so much because I think my babies deserved to live too. There are so many complicated layers of grief that I’m still unravelling, and I am trying to figure out some way of coping with life without them.
I see and hear often in the TFMR community that they made their decision out of love for their baby. That they took on the pain and suffering so that their child would not have to. I don’t feel that I did that. My babies were healthy and I took that from them. I was suffering. They weren’t. I feel selfish sometimes. How could I consent to ending their lives when all I wanted to do was give them life?
I have been told by a well-meaning medical professional of the example “If you were on an airplane and the oxygen masks fell down, who would you put the oxygen mask on first? If you don’t put it on yourself first you can’t save anyone else.” But I feel this is an inaccurate comparison that hurts my heart so much. It feels like I put the oxygen mask on myself and was unable to save anyone else. I was unable to help them live.
TFMR for maternal health feels like holding onto a cliff with one hand and the other holding onto my unborn child. Below are crashing waves and certain death. I am slipping. Do I save myself? I could go with my baby and die, or I can save myself. I let them go…
Sometimes, it feels like we were floating in the ocean struggling to survive. There is safety on a boat but I can’t swim with two of us. There is barely any strength left in me after fighting through the current. So I swim to safety, leaving my baby behind. They are pulled under as I swim to safety. This is what TFMR for maternal health feels like to me. Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) is the deadly, raging storm that does not always allow you to take your baby home outside of your womb.
I feel lost sometimes trying to navigate through this labyrinth of grief, leading me back to many places I have travelled before. I see and feel the world differently than before. I have seen the horror. I have felt great loss. It scares me to ever face it again.
If I could give a bit of advice to someone just joining the shittiest ‘club’, seek out support. Your tribe is out there. Even in the darkest descent of grief there can be a bit of light, but you have to look for it, in your own time at your own pace. Try to be gentle with yourself through this.
If I could say one thing to my babies it is, I love you and I always will.