Stillbirth & IVF - Hera's mummy
Updated: Oct 30, 2021
My name is Halima and I am mummy to a beautiful girl called Hera.
Hera is our desperately wanted and loved firstborn and only child. After years of trying to conceive naturally and then three rounds of IVF, we finally fell pregnant in 2020. All of the physical pain and emotional turmoil felt worth it because it got us pregnant. In the middle of a pandemic we felt so lucky! We were finally going to become parents and join this illustrious club, leaving the infertility years behind us.
Our time with Hera was truly the best days of my life. Feeling her grow inside me and bonding with her felt miraculous. Hera was a very active little girl, and I am so grateful that I began feeling movements from week 17. My little active baby was developing well, and my husband and I were over the moon. Although in the early weeks my pregnancy was rather uneventful, during week 20, I was diagnosed with an incompetent cervix and required emergency cervical cerclage to help keep Hera tucked inside. We were so thrilled when we reached 24 weeks as Hera was now viable and, if she were to come early, she would have a fighting chance. Everything was finally falling into place.
Despite the positive direction of the pregnancy, I still held back from dreaming big. I still hadn’t bought things for Hera like most first-time mums. I remained cautiously optimistic as IVF taught me life can be uncertain. I worried I’d jinx myself! I also had occasions of reduced movements and each time I would run to the hospital. Honestly, I was like a paranoid woman, but I just wanted to make sure my little pumpkin was safe. It wasn’t until 28 weeks that I allowed myself to begin the practical planning for our daughter’s arrival.
As I write this, I am transported back to that time of joy and happiness. When nothing could shake the feeling of optimism. But this is a baby loss blog, and sadly, our story didn’t end perfectly.
At 29 weeks I began to feel reduced movements again and went to hospital. Hera was poorly and they decided to do an emergency delivery that night. However, this decision was revoked in the evening as the doctors’ thought Hera improved. Three days later they discharged me on my 35th Birthday. I had no clue back then that that night would be the last time my husband and I spent time with Hera as a family.
In the morning of Thursday, 1st October 2020, Hera wasn’t as active again. I felt really worried so my hubby rushed us to hospital. I was so convinced I would have a c-section that day. Instead when I walked into the maternity triage, they couldn’t pick up a heartbeat and sent me to the side room. When the scanning probe hit my tummy and there was no thudding sound of heartbeat, I knew Hera was gone. I closed my eyes and covered my ears, shouting ‘no, no, no!’. I remember wailing and then staring at the ceiling. Just repeating ‘my world is collapsing’.
My old world truly ended that day. Hearing those six words all alone will haunt me forever. And telling my husband that his desperately longed-for child is gone is something I will never forget.
The following days were a blur of utter devastation knowing Hera is gone and would be born silent. And yet immense love and pride in seeing my daughter face to face, holding her in my arms and studying every inch of her. She is the most beautiful baby I ever saw and still can’t believe we created her. She gifted us parenthood. We spent three days with Hera creating memories for a lifetime. Those days were so bittersweet, but I will always cherish the time with Hera.
Life after loss is terribly difficult and living with the pain of loss and infertility is very testing. At present it pains us to know our beautiful Hera’s death was entirely preventable. We will fight for as long as it takes to seek justice for our baby and stop more babies dying.
To my utter disbelief I have survived over a year without Hera in my arms. Here are some of my coping strategies and organisations/people who help me:
Walking/hiking in the nature – If it wasn’t for visiting Hera’s resting place, I wouldn’t have gotten out of bed. A daily walk in the park or longer woodland hikes with my husband is what kept me going in the early days and still helps. It regulates breathing and allows conversations to flow.
Lavender – I found lavender roll-on or sprays really helpful to keep my calm my nervous system, especially when going to bed at night.
Flower sprays – After Hera’s funeral I noticed her flower tributes were looking frail. I began to repurpose the oasis foam and create new fresh flower sprays following Youtube tutorials. I found this very comforting as it felt like I was creating something for Hera and do this regularly. Decorating her resting place feels like parenting her.
Yoga – I am not a lady who exercises or does yoga. But after being inspired by @Still_a_mama, I took up yoga. I followed @Sarahbethyoga on youtube and started off with her 10min beginner’s yoga videos. I did this daily until it became a habit and increased the duration. I have found yoga so beneficial to help focus the mind, especially in the mornings. This helped create a routine during maternity leave.
Boundaries – This is hard to maintain but I have learnt in this journey that you must stick to your boundaries. You are going through hell and you must put yourself first. If people repel, then that is the answer that they cannot respect your boundary, and frankly, are not worthy of your energy. It will hurt to go through this process, but it protects you in the long term. @nedratawwab is a great boundaries expert.
Sketching – I’ve found this really therapeutic to express my emotions and feel a sense of achievement when I complete a piece. Art speaks louder than words sometimes.
Writing/Poetry – I highly recommend journaling either privately or publicly. I think it is a great outlet for thoughts rattling in the mind. Grief demands to be felt and writing helps to visualise and allow space for it. Same goes for poetry! I found it kept me busy thinking up poems about Hera or my life after loss.
Chess – This is an odd one but somehow I got into this after watching the Queen’s Gambit. I found it cathartic as it’s a slow process, strategic, and you can spend hours on it (over and over again). It gave my hubby and I something new to do together.
Gardening – Gardening and planting is very therapeutic. I’ve never been into this but it’s another new thing for me. There is something so cathartic about digging your hands in soil and seeing flowers grow.
Petals Baby Loss Charity – Specialised therapy is so important to manage baby loss grief. Petals have helped us so much to process our grief, but also helped to guide us in our journey. Our multi layered trauma of IVF, loss and negligence, requires a deep level of compassion that Petals can provide.
Remember My Baby – This charity helped us create beautiful memories with Hera and am eternally grateful to them. At the time it felt difficult, but they were so gentle and just helped me lean into my maternal instincts, allowing them to capture perfect shots.
Instagram Baby loss community – Now I would have never thought Instragram would be such a great support! It has helped me create a safe space to talk about Hera and connect with other loss mums. These women are just the kindest souls, and some have become lifelong friends.
There are so many, but a few pages that I find super helpful are:
@Still_a_mama – This mama went through IVF and lost her firstborn. Her posts are so relatable, raw and to the point. Lisa writes so well about secondary losses too which I felt were a big part in my journey.
@Missconception – This page is about infertility and grief, which really resonates with me. The dual traumas are explained so well and it’s very educational too.
@Babylossresource – This page is a guide for bereaved parents on knowing their rights and how to navigate interactions with healthcare institutions after baby loss. I have found this page immensely helpful.
I wonder what new distractions I will discover in this new life. I like to think they are gifts from my little Hera.
I hope my coping strategies are helpful to someone out there x