Today the sun is shining. My two year old is playing in the paddling pool and my eight year old is at school. Today is beautiful.
I often struggle however with feeling like I should be appreciating every single second of the day. Every second of my son’s existence – but like for most mother’s, this can often feel like an impossible task. I have two beautiful boys, but I have also lost two beautiful babies. These losses have massively impacted the sense that I am just not doing enough for my beautiful sons.
When I found out I was pregnant with my first son it was a huge surprise. Me and my (now) husband had only been together for six months at the time. We were besotted with each other but to have suddenly been landed with the reality of bringing a child into the mix was a scary thought.
I knew from when I first set eyes on my husband that he was the one. I was in a relationship at the time. My boyfriend was on holiday. I am a nurse and was sleeping during the day as I happened to be working night shifts at the time. I woke to find someone trying to break into my flat. It was a frightening experience. The following day, the police visited to take a statement. I opened the door, and there he was. I’m not exaggerating one little bit when I say there was something other worldly that happened when we first looked at each other, it was like a magnetic force.
My other relationship swiftly ended and we started out on our own new journey together. Six months later, two blue lines showed up on my pregnancy test – and our relationship was about to become something else entirely.
After the initial shock, we embraced the idea of change. I moved in with him, we started to make his batchelor pad a home and we got a dog – because of course, the very practical thing to do when you are about to have your first baby is get a dog! Life was however pretty perfect. And then Valentine’s day came. I had started feeling pains in my legs when I was doing my long shift but put it down to pregnancy. The pain got progressively worse and began to affect my walking.
I phoned a colleague at the hospital and next thing I know I was in A+E waiting for an ultrasound. At this point, the pain had become very quick, very bad, that I had convinced myself I had Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). But no one else seemed to agree with me. Two hours later however, it was confirmed. I had an extremely large blood clot in my femoral artery extending to my iliac; in layman’s terms it was a bloody big clot.
I was started straight away on injections to thin my blood and was then sent home. I was unable to move, let alone walk. Over the next few weeks, my mobility did start to return however – helped by the Heparin injections I was having to administer daily. Then one day my body started to react to the Heparin drugs. I was quickly moved on to an alternative medication but seemed to react to this too. My injection sites would swell horribly and become violently itchy, and I had rashes all over my body. The doctors were at a loss as to what to do.
Luckily before the reactions could worsen I went into labour with my son. My beautiful baby boy was born two weeks early. The second he was placed into my arms, I knew in an instant what I had been put on this earth for; to be his mummy. My goodness, I have never felt anything like it.
After the birth, I was put on tablets to manage my blood clot – these were tablets I wasn’t able to take whilst actually pregnant as they could have harmed my baby. I had to take the tablets for three months with regular checks to make sure my blood was not getting too thin. At this point we were told that if we were to get pregnant again, that I would have to have the injections throughout the entire pregnancy, but they were convinced that I would be ok on a synthetic heparin injection that I had not yet tried.
They sat my husband and I down in preparation, before collectively recommending that the safest thing to do would be to end the pregnancy.
Life carried on and two years later, we found ourselves moving from Yorkshire to the Lake District and, I found out I was pregnant again. It was another surprise, just as last time. You would have thought that by then, I’d have understood how these ‘surprises’ happen, but nevertheless, this time we were caught out just as much as we were the first time. We were referred to the obstetrician and haematologist and a plan was put in place for me to start on the synthetic injections.
For the first five weeks, things were absolutely fine, but then the reactions came back with a vengeance. Again I tried numerous alternative medications but worryingly, I ended up reacting to all of them.
By the time I was thirteen weeks pregnant, I was called in by my team of doctors and advised that they could not guarantee that my reactions would not turn into full blown anaphylaxis. They sat my husband and I down in preparation, before collectively recommending that the safest thing to do would be to end the pregnancy as the risk to my own life was so high. We were in complete shock – it was a truly horrific situation to be put in. I couldn’t stop thinking about my beautiful boy. How could I go through with the pregnancy and injections and run the risk of leaving him without a mummy? I knew that for me, as horrendous as the situation was, I had no choice.
We had a date set, we went to the hospital, I was wheeled into theatre and through absolute hysterical sobs, I was put to sleep. When I woke up, I was no longer pregnant. My baby was gone. I have never hugged my son as hard as I did that day.
The following years were spent with me having to undertake many tests. Then one day, I received a letter from my medical team saying that the tests had shown that the reactions would never be anything but local to the skin – that anaphylaxis would not be a risk. I was elated, because this meant we could finally start trying for a baby knowing that I would be safe! But the news came with the devastating blow that I had to lose my baby through termination for nothing – that actually, I would have been ok. It was an unthinkable revelation.
We started trying to conceive immediately, and within a month, I had fallen pregnant. We were elated and found ourselves planning immediately – pushchairs, clothes, nursery design etc. Two weeks later, the spotting started. I felt silly for planning everything so early – like I should have known better.
On my little boys first day of school, I had to go to hospital for a scan and was told they could not be sure if I was miscarrying or not. I picked my son up from school, bathed him and put him to bed. Then I went to bed and that night with a pain that unfortunately too many women before me will have experienced, I went on to lose my baby. And with that, I immediately started to lose hope for any future with a second child.
Three months later however, after a beautiful weekend away to Rome with my husband, we found out we were pregnant again. This time it was meant to be. I started the injections and even though I was reacting to them – this time, I really did not care. My miracle was growing inside me. It was another boy. My first child was now five and overjoyed. I ended up going into labour with my second baby two weeks early, just like with my first son. My baby was perfect – a feisty, strong willed, tiny force of nature.
But he was the most hard work baby I have ever come across – up every two hours until he was 18 months old, breastfed until he was two – but I wouldn’t change a second of any of this, because I had him. Which brings me to now.
Ronin, my first son, is now eight years old, and little Finley is two. They argue and bicker and wind each other up and I find myself feeling very un-chilled about it all, losing my temper and wishing I was a better mummy.
When I look back on all we have been through to get here, I think, ‘Carly look how lucky you are!’. So why, why when I’ve been through such hard times to get my children, do I still act sometimes like they make life that little bit harder? This is a journey I think I will be fighting for a very long time; that sense of guilt every night that I should have done better that day.
My boys are my world and I simply can’t imagine a world with them not a part of it – I wouldn’t want to be a part of that world. But still, most days, as most women do, I have to remind myself to appreciate it all. Soon my sons will be all grown up and I will find myself longing for the bickering and needfulness of my children.
To be a mummy is the greatest gift on earth, but it’s important to acknowledge that it can also be one of the hardest jobs ever. Through my words, I want to encourage other mums and dads to be a little easier on themselves and to not berate themselves for not being present every second of the day. No matter what journey you have come through to get where you are, you are human, and entitled to every emotion that comes with that.
Parenting is both a joy and a challenge – and we’re all in this together.