Tuesday, April 14, 2015

April 14 - Dear Nicholas Sparks (Guest Blogger Rachel Moffet)

Dear Mr. Sparks,

On October 14th last year I skipped along to my 20 week scan feeling like a slim and glamorous pregnant mum. I was still training at the gym and my energy levels were great most of the time. I went alone to the scan because my boyfriend was starting a new job that day. We were excited about the future and just being a little family. But the sonographer took ages to scan my belly. I remember having a big grin on my face seeing my baby in my womb. My grin turned to horror when she told me, "I need to ask you to come back. I can't see your baby's stomach."

"Why - is there a shadow over her?" I asked. "No," she replied, " I think your baby's stomach is up in the chest cavity and it has a diaphragmatic hernia."

I asked, "Is it serious?"

Perfectly deadpan she answered," Yes."

I wanted to punch her. I howled and turned over on the couch in the scanning room and couldn't move for what seemed like ages. A midwife, hearing my tears, came into the room and tried to get me to breathe through my shock. I kept asking myself, "Am I overreacting to this news? Do these people think I'm a lunatic and this is just something trivial?" I remember saying over and over, "My baby, what's wrong with my baby, my baby is going to die."

I can't write any more tonight about how the rest of the day and the rest of my pregnancy went. Even now the enormity of what has happened is too big to accommodate in my head.

Oscar Joseph Moffat died of an inoperable diaphragmatic hernia in the afternoon of 26 February 2004 at the Neonatal Unit at Elizabeth Garratt Anderson Hospital for Women in Huntley Street W1. He was 10 hours old.

Many times while I was pregnant and hoping he would survive I wondered was I being neurotic and was I being morbid. I was proved right. I bought a little yellow velour babygro at Mothercare in Watford with a little pink giraffe on it. It said on the front, "I grow in my sleep." I knew he would be dead when he wore it. I never saw him in it though. I used to listen to the radio and think,"That song will be good for the funeral." At that stage before Christmas I didn't know my baby's sex but when I realised he would die I wanted to know so that I could bond with him and give him a character. I was going to name him Aidan but didn't because I knew at the funeral it would sound sinister for my brother Aidan to hear it said about his dead nephew.

I'll have to write again about living with a pregnancy that I knew would more than likely end in death. Also I've never told the staff who guided me through the induction and delivery how nice they made the experience. Additionally I had the support of a lovely diagnosis counsellor based at the QE2 in Welwyn Garden City. I will say that I feel like an outsider. How can a love affair end with dead baby who had a serious anomaly? I feel remote from "normal" people and can't wait for the winter so that all these babies everywhere in their buggies sitting outside cafes go inside and stop reminding me.

I feel like a pathetic character dawdling home from my part-time job every day who should have been pushing her baby along the street or picking him up from my Mum's house.

Today I saw a pregnant woman looking near the end of her confinement, her partner patiently walking slowly along with her, both of them looking happy at the thought of a new arrival. I only had the arrival of death at birth to look forward to.

When these bizarre things happen that are outside of what should be the normal rites of passage in life, how do I stop feeling like I am some kind of monster who can't breed? I try to recall the weeks after I discovered Oscar was sick. I still kept going to the gym. I still tried to eat healthily although it was very difficult when I was so anxious. I took up some part-time telephone research work just to keep busy. I told only those people closest to me about my baby's problem. I wanted people to treat me like any other pregnant woman and be happy for me. I was hoping I wouldn't have to tell people my baby had died and that I might emerge with him from Great Ormond Street Hospital a few months after he was born.

I used to cry in my car, cry on the sofa, cry in bed and cry walking along the street. Luckily it was winter so I could cry in the anonymity of dark winter nights. I never took Oscar into smoky environments, I didn't play loud music around him, I still went to prenatal yoga and talked to him. He seemed to like it when I held my then 3-month-old niece to me. We went to the cinema and saw "School of Rock" and he loved it, jumping around inside me to the music. This was 4 days before I was to be induced with him. Strangers used to come up and tell me how well I looked. Pregnancy really suited me. I had no weight gain, no varicose veins, not even any constipation. I don't think Oscar's father really understood the seriousness of the situation and how, on top of my hormonally influenced natural pregnancy emotions, I was very scared and sad and anxious. It's only really dawning upon him now how difficult it was for me. I didn't get drunk or take drugs, hoping that he might have a chance. I even used to imagine in my mind his diaphragm closing up and all the organs squashing his lungs moving down to where they should be. I thought if I can draw upon this kind of strength I must channel this into something positive after I've had Oscar.I thought some days I would be taken into care because the strain was sending me mad. Gathering together the strength to get through each day was enormous. I knew however that Oscar wasn't coming home with me. No matter how much I tried to imagine my little baby here with me, cradling him in my arms at night looking out the window at the moon and stars I couldn't visualise him. Now I have two kittens and their furry warmth and affection makes being in this space bearable again.

Today someone told me that an experimental operation has been carried out on a baby with the same condition somewhere in England and it has worked. Why couldn't we have been involved. I can't look back though. We can't help being afraid that some metaphysical forces are at work and that something might jinx the next pregnancy."

Grief is an ongoing process. I'm trying to get pregnant again and it is proving to be a real rollercoaster. Things can trigger it off easily at the moment. I got pregnant the first time I used an ovulation test and got a reading. Now I don't even know if I'm ovulating according to the tests. So all sorts of concerns come up.

I've been in touch with a young woman who has just lost her little boy. I guess I can measure my "recovery" from grief against her new raw pain. I try to demonstrate to her that somehow you climb out of the awful darkness but I'm sure I'll never be the old Rachel again. Oh I'm not making any sense. Perhaps I'm already pregnant if you remember how it affects your brain. I'm starting to remember the happy days of my pregnancy before I had THE scan and it makes me sad. I'd put everything out of my mind that I was looking forward to about being a mum. I took my Mum's dog for a walk along the lane near her house and I felt teary thinking about nature and showing Oscar the seasons changing and watching insects. He would be 18 months now and splashing in the bath and throwing food around and kicking balls. I have not allowed myself to even contemplate motherhood since that 20 week scan. I'm fantasising again about my own baby in my arms before I even have one here!

Last week I was crying at the end of yoga class, sad because my period came and grieving because I was thinking about Oscar. I wasn't sobbing loudly just crying quietly as I lay meditating at the end of class. The teacher noticed and put her hand on my arm and asked me if I was okay. How do you tell someone in the kind of situation what is wrong? You can't because it would impinge on all the other strangers around me. I had to run out quickly and grabbed a coffee from a cafe and sat on Primrose Hill so I could cry in private with the BT Tower on the horizon which I could see from the hospital room where I held Oscar after he died.

I can sit there now without being afraid of being reminded of that day most of the time but trying for my next baby is going to be a rollercoaster sometimes.”

I never thought I'd enjoy listening to music again or eating gorgeous food again or laughing at a comedy or dancing in a nightclub or falling about laughing again. Sometimes I walk along in this busy noisy city and think how much I love it here. I have to almost pinch myself because here I am walking along Charing Cross Road at 10 o clock at night soaking up the vibrancy of London by myself. I never thought I'd leave the house again; I never thought I'd look in the mirror and recognise myself again. I never thought I'd enjoy dressing up and looking good and buying perfume or indeed anything frivolous and fun. I never thought I could stand up straight and stare the world in the face without sobbing at the slightest stress. Every love song seemed dedicated to my dead son Oscar. Every piece of melancholy classical music made me cry. Now I can listen to beautiful music and enjoy it for its own gloriousness.

Last week I held my best friend's 2 week old baby girl and feared I would break down feeling her little heart beat next to me. This beautiful little girl is a new individual nothing like my little boy and I just revelled in this new addition to the world and my friend's gorgeous baby without feeling jealous and bitter. I left, smiling as I drove away.

Does this mean I've recovered? I feel a lump in my throat as I write this and that anxious ache in my heart and my eyes feel as though they might water. It seems a long time ago now and a distant misty memory. Admittedly I do take antidepressants and life without them was difficult because I am a depressive rather than because of grief. So for grieving parents please remember, as someone said to me, IT DOES GET BETTER. You have to do your bit and try to take little steps at time. Accept an invitation to a party, you can always leave. Look at your little baby's clothes you bought for your little angel, you'll cry but don't be afraid to feel deep loss. The world feels as if it has no meaning and nothing is important and you might even want to die and meet your baby but somehow keep remembering nature has bestowed us with the facility to recover from tragedy. I still haven't had another baby and Oscar was my first baby. His spirit has a special place in my heart and his things take up half the space in my wardrobe. His ashes sit in a children's lunch box on a shelf behind the sofa and I eat the sweets that children bought for him at his funeral "birthday" party.

Sometimes I cry when I'm drunk, sometimes I'm hit by grief and I have to go home and lie down. I know it will pass. I'm sorry for anyone who is currently going through the dreadful confusion of leaving hospital without your baby and trying to work through this chaos and make sense of it all. But one day you will.

Written by Oscar’s mom, Rachel Moffet (Great Britain)

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