Real Life A rain­bow af­ter a storm

Af­ter her baby died, Natasha Wil­son was lost in grief. Then she met Torz Rus­sell. To­gether, the new friends have found the strength to carry on...

Woman (UK) - - This Issue -

There’s the word ‘or­phan’ for a child who has lost a par­ent, and ‘wi­dow’ or ‘wid­ower’ for some­one who has lost a spouse. How do you de­scribe a per­son who loses their child?

The fact is you can’t. It’s an in­de­scrib­able sit­u­a­tion, filled with unimag­in­able pain, and one that I found my­self in.

Un­til then, my hus­band Ben and I had lived a bliss­ful life. Af­ter meet­ing in 2008, by Oc­to­ber 2009 I was preg­nant.

By now, we were liv­ing to­gether in Swin­don, along with my son, Tyler, then three, from a pre­vi­ous re­la­tion­ship. Tyler and Ben’s lit­tle boy, Oliver, who was the same age, were both so ex­cited to be­come big brothers. When Is­abelle was born in July 2010 they adored her.

Look­ing for­ward

Four years later, Ben and I got mar­ried and a month on I fell preg­nant again. When we found out we were hav­ing an­other girl, we were ec­static.

Ev­ery­thing was pro­gress­ing well, but at 30 weeks I started suf­fer­ing with se­vere lower back pains. A scan at the hos­pi­tal re­vealed I was in early labour. It was halted with med­i­ca­tion, but the doc­tor ex­plained the baby was breech.

‘It makes a pre­ma­ture birth all the more risky,’ he said. ‘When you even­tu­ally go into labour again we’ll need to de­liver by Cae­sarean, or we can turn the baby man­u­ally.’

The lat­ter, a pro­ce­dure called an ECV, sounded like a safer op­tion.

So, six weeks later, I went back to hos­pi­tal for the pro­ce­dure. I was alone as Ben had been held up at his job as a builder.

As the doc­tor be­gan to ma­nip­u­late my bump by push­ing her hands over my belly the pain quickly be­came ex­cru­ci­at­ing. Af­ter 45 min­utes, my body was in agony, but thank­fully the baby had turned.

When I left the hos­pi­tal, my ribs were so sore I strug­gled to walk. And wor­ry­ingly, I hadn’t felt my baby move since the pro­ce­dure. I told my­self it was prob­a­bly just the mus­cle re­lax­ants I’d been given. But by 10pm the baby still hadn’t kicked. I de­cided to go to the hos­pi­tal while Ben stayed at home with Tyler, then eight, and Is­abelle, four. Oliver, eight, was with his mum. I told my­self it would be OK. But when the nurse strug­gled to find a heart­beat and went to get a doc­tor, I started to panic.

Af­ter a few min­utes, the doc­tor pointed to the mo­tion­less image of my baby’s heart on the screen. ‘I’m afraid there is no heart­beat,’ he said gen­tly. ‘Your baby has died.’ I tried to speak, but my voice broke. My baby was dead. The beau­ti­ful, lit­tle life in­side me was gone.

When I phoned Ben, I couldn’t hold it to­gether. ‘She’s gone, Ben, our baby has died,’ I wept. He was just as dis­traught, and af­ter rush­ing to my bed­side, we held each other des­per­ately, united in grief.

But then there was more ter­ri­ble news. The mid­wife ex­plained I needed to be in­duced as soon as pos­si­ble. It felt so cruel, that I’d have to give birth to my baby, know­ing she would never take a breath.

But of course there was no op­tion, I had to de­liver my pre­cious lit­tle girl.

The next morn­ing, I was given my first round of in­duc­tion tablets. A day later, on 5 March 2015, with Ben by my side, our baby girl was born. When she fi­nally

‘I craved a baby To nur­ture’

ar­rived, her si­lence was deaf­en­ing.

I’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced heart­break quite like cradling my new­born baby af­ter 36 weeks of preg­nancy, know­ing she’d never open her eyes. Ben and I were bereft. We called her Re­becca, a name Tyler first sug­gested. Af­ter a day to­gether, a mid­wife car­ried Re­becca down to the mor­tu­ary. I was dis­charged that night. But nearly ev­ery day for the next three weeks, I vis­ited Re­becca – singing and read­ing to her.

Ben threw him­self back into work as a way of cop­ing, but I strug­gled to func­tion. I was on ma­ter­nity leave from my job as a sup­port worker at a refuge, but I didn’t have a baby to care for. It was dev­as­tat­ing.

In the same week we buried Re­becca, I was di­ag­nosed with post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der, but I re­fused to take any an­tide­pres­sants. Why did I de­serve to be happy when my baby wasn’t here? Ten weeks on, the post-mortem re­sults con­firmed Re­becca’s death was due to com­pli­ca­tions that arose dur­ing the ECV. Al­though grief and anger ripped through me, I still felt strongly that I wanted to have an­other baby. It wasn’t a case of re­plac­ing Re­becca, or for­get­ting her, but my body craved a baby to nur­ture. Ben wasn’t so sure it was a good idea.

But, in May 2015, I fell preg­nant. By now, I’d started go­ing to group ther­apy ses­sions with Sands, the still­birth and neona­tal char­ity. Slowly, they helped me to process and ac­cept my grief. And when I mis­car­ried in June, they were a fan­tas­tic sup­port to me.

Grad­u­ally, life fell into a calmer rhythm. So when I be­came preg­nant in Oc­to­ber 2015, I felt more in con­trol of my emo­tions.

Still, anx­i­ety loomed over me like a cloud and, with ev­ery pass­ing mile­stone, I felt guiltier, like I was leav­ing Re­becca be­hind.

Even when baby Ella was born in June 2016, my grief for Re­becca didn’t leave me. Yes, I adored my new daugh­ter. But she could never re­place Re­becca.

Through a sup­port group run by Sands, I met a wo­man named Torz Rus­sell. She’d lost her son, Dy­lan, when he was born at 36 weeks in 2015. She now had baby Lewi, who’d ar­rived just five days af­ter Ella.

Meet­ing for the first time at a lo­cal café, I’d never felt more in sync with an­other mother. She un­der­stood what I’d been through. The truth is, the grief for your lost baby doesn’t leave when you have a rain­bow baby – a baby born fol­low­ing the loss of an in­fant. As I watch Ella grow and de­velop, it’s in­cred­i­bly bit­ter­sweet.

But, in Torz, I’ve found the friend I needed. To­gether, we can talk about our lost ba­bies with­out fear of judge­ment.

We are moth­ers united, not just in our grief but also in our grat­i­tude and strength for the sec­ond chances we’ve been given.

Torz rus­sell, 29, says... af­ter my son Dy­lan died, it was hard to ex­plain why I needed to be a mum so soon af­ter my loss. so when I met natasha, it felt like a bless­ing. I think most moth­ers ex­pe­ri­ence a maze of emo­tions when they have their rain­bow ba­bies. watch­ing lewi and ella grow up with­out their an­gel sib­lings is be­yond dif­fi­cult. natasha stops me from sink­ing un­der and helps me to cel­e­brate our an­gels, re­becca and Dy­lan, to­gether.

Baby Ella (above and right with mum Natasha)

Rain­bow ba­bies Lewi and Ella now

Natasha with Ella and Torz with Lewi

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