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  • Writer's pictureBeth Wankiewicz

The Baby Loss Hub - Stillbirth - Gracie's mum

On the 16th August 2019, our lives changed forever and we was welcome into the congenital heart defect community. Gracie was diagnosed with tetralogy of fallots. If you didn’t know what that was, it meant there was 4 defects with her precious heart. We were offered a medical termination as her heart was broken. My heart broke, I blamed myself. However we were given further tests, and all was ok. We were being positive as there are success stories. We planned her open heart surgery, and key hole as soon as she arrived. We even started to plan her arrival. We were monitored every 4 weeks by Leeds, then every 2 by Doncaster. They were great. I did an intense amount of research, I reached out to other heart mums, I searched every website going just to find answers and more support. You name it, I probably did it. But I was ready, I was ready for our journey and I would embrace every moment as I was prepared to give Gracie this life, give her the chance to survive and fight as I knew she could.

Then on the 1st October 2019, my broke even more. It shattered in ways I never thought it could. I hadn’t felt her move. And that was it, it was confirmed. Our precious baby girl had lost her fight and sadly passed away in my tummy. She was warm, loved and safe.

Then on the 4th October 2019, we welcomed Gracie into the world, but we was also welcomed into the baby loss community. A community I wasn’t ready to join, but I had no choice. I had to. We had to. Why was this happening to me? Why Gracie? We had plans, a future? My heart broke, and it still is. She is my missing piece and she always will be.

It was a whirlwind of a labour, she arrived in the sack but so perfect. She had 10 tiny toes, her mums button nose, and was just beautiful.

When coming home with no baby, I found comfort in speaking with others mums. I came across Laura on instagram, who has spoken beautiful and openly about the loss of her son Arthur. We messaged a lot, she helped me in ways I can’t explain. I then joined SANDS online forum. I was nervous at first, but when my mind struggled in the earliest of mornings, I needed it. I needed to talk to someone, someone who didn’t know me, and everyone I spoke to, they understood. SANDS gave me the confidence to talk, to talk about what had happened and try and figure my life out. Where do I go from here? I didn’t feel worthy to be here, I couldn’t carry my own daughter. I didn’t feel like a mother. I felt like a failure. I felt like I just existed and wasn’t really here. And I didn’t know where to go from there. But they guided me in the right direction. My family, my partners family and also my friends guided me too, they were my right arm when I needed them, they gave me the strength to carry on when I didn’t want to get out of bed. My rocks.

My family reminded me of something I said during labour about how I just want to go with Gracie and be with my dad and I meant it, in that moment it’s all I wanted, I didn’t want to be here and go through the pain. But I had to. I just kept on speaking. Talking about Gracie when I wanted to. When I felt ready. But then first initial days are a blur, but some moments I remember so vividly.

But as soon as we left hospital, I went into ‘practical’ mode, I rang to register her but I rang to early so we had to wait. I rang the funeral parlour as I knew I wanted Nina who helped support and carry out my Dads funeral. It had to be her. I rang the pram company to tell them I don’t need the pram, I did everything I could to keep myself busy. But then I crashed. I crashed on a night where I hated myself and my life. Why me, why me, why me? That’s all I would ask, why does this happen to me? Why did I lose my dad and then lose my daughter? What did I do wrong? Was it the time I lied to my dad about my broken laptop, or the time me and my sister smashed a light and blamed the decorator? What did I do so wrong to deserve this pain?

But as the days went by, I slowly started to find the new me. The me who lost her daughter, and also lost her dad. I carried the grief, and the pain every day. I still do, it hurts. It never goes away. But we started to enter the new normal world, the world that still continues to spin. We did normal things, I went shopping and saw friends and did nice things. I started to continue my life as I realised this is what Gracie would want. I knew Gracie was close, just like my dad.

Over Christmas, my grandma kept telling me to do a pregnancy test, as I was late. She had a feeling she needed to give me a ring early which I should of inherited. Then after a day in town going to get it resized, on the 29th December 2019, I had my first BFP (big fat positive). I couldn’t believe it. It was so soon, but it’s what we wanted. I felt joy, happiness, guilt, hate, love, I felt every emotion. I just couldn’t get my thoughts together; I rang my previous midwife immediately who helped me gather my thoughts, she guided me through every thought and feelings and gave me the support I needed. I was very open with her, told her everything. How I felt guilty I drank at the Christmas party, worried I had harmed my baby. Told her I went on the mechanical bull too and I might of hurt the little one. But she reassured me. Told me that it was ok, and my thoughts were ok. And I will get scanned soon.

Then during my pregnancy, I had good days and bad. I was anxious, and scared. Would this be our take home baby? Is he here to stay? Will Gracie be proud of us? Is dad looking over me? Is dad looking after Gracie? But my consultant was amazing, he did everything for me, put me first. This is what I needed. He helped me to enjoy my pregnancy. As we were in lockdown during most of my pregnancy, this helped me a lot. I felt I didn’t have the pressure from the outside world. I never posted a pregnancy announcement, I just told who we wanted to tell. But I personally found this helped me a lot. It helped me not have pressure from others, and everyone saying ‘it will be ok’, ‘don’t worry’, because it might not be ok, I might lose my baby again. I might not bring this baby home. I thought the worse case scenario at any pain, any ache, I was scared. But the hospital welcomed me in every time and put my mind at ease. And I will thank them everyday I am here for that.

Pregnancy after loss is not easy, there is not enough support outside of scans and hospital appointments. I found myself on Tommy’s website a lot then also back in the SANDS forum and there site.

I then started to write, I wrote my thoughts I felt down and into my notes on my phone. This helped me. It was my personal little diary. I wrote a poem from Gracie to Theo, maybe one day I will share it with him. But it was my comfort, my safe zone.

Then after a few concerns, they decided to bring our baby early. We welcomed Theo into the world. Theo, our gift from god. I had flash backs during my labour with Theo, to my labour with Gracie. I found it very hard, I wish I had done more research, as I wouldn’t of had gas and air, but I tried the laid back approach. There was a few complications, but that’s another ‘story’.

I’m now a year into my motherhood journey with Theo, my take home baby. But it’s a hard journey. But a journey I’m making my own and treasuring every moment. But everyday, I think of my beautiful Gracie and see her in Theo.

Love you forever Gracie, hoping your keeping your grandad’s busy. Miss you always.

Other sources-

Instagram - @pal_guide

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