Walking out of that hospital ward with just your bags and a memory box is a harrowing experience and one I would never wish upon anyone. Being surrounded by the cries of other newborn babies and seeing visitors arriving with balloons and gifts was heart-shattering. Yet somehow, you navigate your way out, down to the lift, out of the hospital doors and home. You are tired and sore from giving birth, but that pales into insignificance compared to the pain in your heart and the ache in your empty arms. It is life altering.
Back at home, many people choose to pack everything away – the nursery, the clothes, the car seat and pram. Some people store them in an attic, out of sight. Others choose to give them away. We decided however to keep everything. Although we weren’t able to bring Orla home, she was still our daughter and will always be a significant part of our lives. In those early weeks, I loved sitting in her nursery and touching all the things that were purchased or given to us with such love. And when we found out that we were pregnant again, we knew that this space and these possessions would be shared with our second baby, as is the normal and expected process when growing your family: the only difference being that everything remained unused and pristine.
If I found preparing for Orla’s arrival difficult, preparing for Esme’s was infinitely more emotionally charged. It was almost impossible to believe that we would get a baby of our own to take home. Every day of that pregnancy was fraught with anxiety. Every quiet moment led to a dark place in my mind, filled with thoughts that this baby too had died. Each and every minute that passed was a minute that our baby had survived – and one that I had too. No one can prepare you for the extremely gruelling challenge that is pregnancy after loss and I have nothing but the upmost respect and admiration for any couple who have endured this.