real life

"I have lost six babies. I have never said this out loud."

I have lost six babies.

I have never said this out loud. No one, other than my husband and eight-year-old son (and my medical team), knows this.

The reality of this fact is anxiety-provoking. The enormity of my loss has hit me like a tonne of bricks.

I have lost my babies at various stages of pregnancy. I have lost babies in my first trimester – including a set of twins. I lost my daughter, Kate, at 16 weeks after a quick labour and delivery at home that came out of nowhere. I lost my daughter, Madeline, at 18 weeks after three days in hospital desperately fighting off sepsis.

Madeline fought hard with me to the very end – Madeline was born alive but passed away peacefully when the midwife cut her cord. Words can not describe the grief – or the guilt. Madeline’s birth ended up saving my life. I am her mummy, I should have been able to protect her. I would have swapped places with Madeline in a heartbeat. But nature had other plans.

I desperately have wanted – still do want – another baby. To expand my family. Every time one of my precious babies died, a piece of me died with them.

So when someone asks me “when will you have another?”, or the classic “just the one?” – as if I ‘forgot’ to have another – it feels like someone is literally squeezing my heart.

I hate those questions. I find these questions so personal, so intrusive. Another cruel reminder of how much I have lost. How I desperately want to expand my family but my body is simply not letting me.

I find these questions incredibly judgemental. The question itself is judging me for not having another child. Accusing me of denying my son a sibling.

I don’t deserve that judgement. Nobody does.

Source: Supplied.
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I am a loving mother. I have the means to support another child and give him or her a really good life who would want for nothing. I have the love, the ability, the money, excellent medical care and the overwhelming desire to be a mum again. But it's just hasn't been happening.

I am fit and healthy. I am of the right weight. I exercise regularly and avoid alcohol, sugar, processed food and salt. I have been tested for everything under the sun to explain why I keep losing babies. Other than Madeline, there hasn't been any answers. The doctors don't think I have lost my other babies for the same reason Madeline passed away - the symptoms have been all so different. In a lot of ways it makes it harder to not have any answers, to not be able to grasp onto something and say "we can fix that", and not have anything to blame. But in other ways, it would be stupid of me to want something wrong with me.

Yet I continue to blame myself. I blame myself for 6 of my babies dying. I can't help it.

I have spent in excess of $10,000 trying to have a second child, for all those costs not covered by Medicare or my Private Health Fund: ongoing specialist costs, multiple tests, multiple hospital visits. And that isn't with any IVF attempts. Yet - if my family and I choose to go down that path. I don't know what the "right" answer is.

Chantelle with her son, Lachlan. Source: Supplied.

It has been a 10 year journey which has been filled with obstetric tragedy. The question for my family is no longer "when will we have another" - but rather, "is it time to give up?"

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It seems so cruel to be able to fall pregnant relatively easily to only have it snatched away. All of these pregnancy losses are taking their toll on my health - both physically and mentally. My weight and fitness have gone up and down. My hormones have gone up and down. My body doesn't know whether it is coming or going. Emotionally I have gone up and down from the joy of finding out I am pregnant to the devastation of losing my babies. This whole journey has almost broken me.

Is it time to give up? Does my journey end here?

The answer is that I don't know if it is time to give up. I desperately want another baby but is it the right thing to do for me, for my family, to keep losing babies? Because I have been pregnant so often over the last 10 years, there have been long periods of time where my life has been all about my pregnancies. Making sure I am eating right, exercising right, not overdoing things. Over-analysing and over-questioning everything I do to make sure I am not bringing harm to my baby. Walking on eggshells the entire time. The anxiety can be debilitating.

Madeline, who passed away soon after birth. (Source: Supplied)

Then, on top of that, scheduling additional appointments with specialists to make sure things are tracking the way they should be. My focus has therefore been on my pregnancies - and more specifically, being overly-cautious with everything I do to not lose the baby - that my focus on other areas of my life has been diverted for a significant period of time over the last 10 years.

Is that fair on my son?

I sometimes ask myself if it is all worth it. I have previously always come up with the same answer - it is always worth it. High risk, high reward.

I am nearly 41 years old. I don't know if the answer has changed now. I have to decide whether continuing this path and risking more losses is going to be more devastating to myself and my family than giving up on the journey. If I give up, will I look back in five years time - when it is far too late - regretting that I didn't try just one more time?

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I need to decide, with my family, whether we try for another and risk having another loss - or is it time to give up and risk regretting it later? What is going to hurt less? Because they both have the potential to hurt. Whilst one choice has the potential to give me everything I want - another baby; I just don't know if I can cope with losing a seventh baby. The other choice gives me back control of my life, and no risk of loss; except the ongoing torturing question of "what might have been?".

Bec Sparrow speaks to Mia Freedman about how her stillborn baby girl, Georgie, has impacted her life. Post continues after audio.

It is a difficult decision. It is not fair that I should have to make this decision.

This is the battle us women who are struggling to expand their family, or struggling to have babies at all, are having behind closed doors.

So when you next go to ask a woman "when will you have another?" or "when are you going to start having babies?" - stop and think before you ask. Stop and think - this woman may have fertility issues. She might have had multiple miscarriages, a stillbirth, a neonatal death. She may no longer be asking herself "is it time for another/is it time to start" but rather "is it time to give up?".

The very time you go to ask her that question may be the exact moment where she finally was able to stop torturing herself for five minutes. Trust me - those moments where you give yourself a break from the torture of blaming yourself are very few and far between. Asking her "when will you have another?" just reminds us of the pain we are trying to forget. We don't need to be reminded of what we don't have - we have shed enough tears.

So how have I been answering the dreaded question? I protect my heart and say I am happy with my one. Is it the right way to deal with this question? I don't know if it is. I am an honest person and would rather speak the truth. I would love to be able to honour all of my 6 babies that I have lost by being able to speak freely about them. But I can't - I'm not ready.

It is easier to not get asked the question at all.

~ In memory of my 6 precious angel babies. You were gone before I knew you, but not before I loved you ~

The Australian Red Nose Foundation provides ongoing bereavement support and counselling to families and the community following the sudden and unexpected death of a baby. 

You can donate to the cause here.

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