Little Bhai gave us hope at a time when then world was the darkest place imaginable. Bhai is the name we gave to our second son – it means brother in Hindi.
Let me explain – around 3/4 months after our darling boy Lenny died, we got a positive pregnancy test result. We knew that another child could never ever replace Lenny and that was never a thought. But our wish to be parents to a living child didn’t die with Lenny. When we found out, we were joyful for the first time in months but also felt guilt, fear and a complex mix of other emotions that only Brene Brown could describe.
We received the positive test result the same week that we received Lenny’s post-mortem results which showed he was a perfectly formed healthy little boy. The next day, the consultant fitted me in for a scan for this baby – just to give you an idea of what an absolute mindfuck pregnancy after loss is.
We needed time to get ours heads round being pregnant before we shared the news. Obviously losing Lenny at 40 weeks at birth meant the idea of a “safe point” in pregnancy was out of the window so we weren’t waiting for a particular time to share the news. We shared with a few close people and only face to face – just too complicated for a text. Now I wonder whether we should have shouted it from the rooftops – our second little boy deserved that – bereaved mum guilt is how I imagine ‘normal’ mum guilt to be times a thousand. So many people now only know he existed because they found out we lost him.
Our biggest fear was that people would understand this pregnancy as a replacement for Lenny especially as the due date was December. Or people would think we were ok or had moved on. It also felt distasteful for people to congratulate us when our son had died.
We had an amazing medical team at the hospital and by chance I ended up with the same midwife who cared for Lenny (and saved our lives) being my community midwife. I had ultimate trust in the team.
Slowly but surely I began to acknowledge I was pregnant. The thing about losing a baby is that you become aware of ALL forms of babyloss and you aren’t immune to a single one of them – no one is. Still, after the 12 week scan we began to gain confidence – even though we had been on the shit side of statistics before, we are both scientifically minded and we knew our chances were good. There was a weird dichotomy in my mind – on the one hand my pregnancy with Lenny was perfect and he was perfectly healthy – he died in a tragic accident and surely lightning couldn’t strike twice!? On the other, all indications were and are that Lenny was healthy but he still died so no scans etc could reassure us! But slowly slowly we started to make gentle plans, talked names, bought maternity clothes and of course Roy bought a hat!
Physically, my second pregnancy was a breeze compared to Lenny’s – less sickness, hip pain, insomnia etc, I felt pretty well and had a growing bump. All my appointments were spot on and everything seemed to be going well. My midwife listened in for a heartbeat at 15 weeks and could hear it perfectly – all signs the pregnancy was progressing well. At 18 weeks and 2 days I went to hospital with a small amount of bleeding – a healthy heartbeat was detected, my cervix was closed and we had an explanation for the bleeding – an ectropian a normal variation which can cause slight bleeding when irritated, the bleeding stopped and we went home reassured. Everything seemed absolutely fine until 24 hours later when the bleeding started again – we went back ‘just in case’ but this time everything wasn’t fine and we were losing another baby.
Second trimester losses are complex – I was too pregnant to have a D&C and wasn’t pregnant enough for a C section – surgery could damage my uterus and ruin our hopes of ever having a living child. So I was faced with the reality of giving birth to another baby who I knew I couldn’t take home. Our incredible community midwife came in to be with us and having her and Roy there with me amongst the shittest of shitshows somehow made it a tiny bit more bearable.
We had time to make decisions – the situation was long and protracted and complicated but this also meant we had nearly 24 hours between finding out we were losing our baby and delivery. At first I was too scared to think about meeting our baby, but by the next morning I did. – I asked the questions I needed to ask to the people I trusted most – what will this baby look like? I asked my midwife to meet him and describe him to us before we met him. We made different decisions – we took more photos as that was our regret with Lenny. Maybe it is because we had more time to think than we had before. But then again its probably nothing to do with having more time to think – because you can’t possibly process that your baby has died in that time. More likely it is because we had done it before and we knew what our regrets were. No one should ever have to become experts in how to spend time with their dead baby because they had already done it before. But people do – and we are sharing our story because we know we aren’t alone.
We named him Bhai meaning “brother” in Hindi. We wanted to acknowledge and honour our second child but in a different way to Lenny. He looked just like Lenny and therefore just like his amazing dad. His tiny little feet were a perfect replica of Roy’s. His perfectly formed little face looked just like his dad and his brother. Perfect little boys. Also pretty cheeky – I carried them in my body and yet they rock up looking just like their dad. Bhai was normally grown and formed for his gestational age – indications are so far that Bhai and Lenny’s death are two independent, tragic, unpredictable events which are not related. Heartbreakingly, second trimester losses are not that uncommon – what is very uncommon is to have experienced two such random tragic events – one at full term and birth and one at mid term. We decided to have another full post mortem – it’s a very personal decision but for us as many answers as possible may help. The medics who know about Lenny find it utterly inconceivable that we could be so fucking unlucky. I wish we didn’t know so much about statistics right now but we do, we reckon the chances of this happening are roughly around 1 in a million. Lightning does strike twice then.
Losing little Bhai made us realise how much hope and joy he had brought us in the four/five months he was with us. He was a light at the end of a dark tunnel sent to us by his brother. Being pregnant with Bhai didn’t make losing Lenny any easier, but it did give us hope. We learned to hold emotions of joy and sorrow at the same time. We were starting to look forwards and live with Lenny in hope. Now we only have sorrow, pain and grief. Our two sons are dead.
Our light has gone out. Our hope is gone. I have given birth to two children in 8 months. We have had to leave the same hospital without two children in the space of 8 months. I have been pregnant or immediately postpartum for 18 months and yet we have no baby or hope of a baby – even just the physical effects on my body of that are hard.
We will survive this. Not because we are ‘strong’ or because it is in anyway easy but because we have no other choice. We made a promise to our little Lenny to live in his honour and now we have to double down on our promise for Bhai too. We don’t feel any more equipped to survive because we lost Lenny – this is different, a different type of loss, different feelings, different trauma and of course – our second – it compounds everything we have already experienced.
We don’t share our story for sympathy. We share our story because the world needs to know and understand that babyloss in all its forms is a heartbreaking reality for so many people. In hospital we were told that they have never had anyone who experienced a full term and a mid term loss – but we know that we aren’t alone. Lenny’s legacy has always been about raising awareness so that means sharing our story in the hope of doing this. We are also sharing Bhai’s story because he existed and because he matters and because he is Lenny’s little brother.