The year was 2002. My little girl was almost two years of age and after many discussions, my amazing partner and I decided to begin trying for a second child. I already had two older children when I met the Garden Gnome and (the Tween) was our first child together. She was conceived after many difficulties and brought so much joy to our lives that we really wanted another child. Although (the GG) loved my son, I know that he secretly hoped for a son of his own to carry on the family name. Therefore the decision was made to try for another child.
Being 38 years old and having a vibrant and active toddler was tiring for me but I figured if I could chase after one child, another child shouldn’t cause too many dramas.
If we had known of the difficulties we would face in achieving our goal then we may never have even begun the journey. Over the coming year, I became obsessed with trying to conceive another baby. I took my temperature upon waking each morning and charted this on a graph. I changed my diet. I did all that I could to increase the likelihood of falling pregnant once more. I had difficulty in wrapping my mind around why it was so problematical. After all, my first two children had been conceived as easily as just thinking about it. Even though we had some difficulties in conceiving (the Tween), the challenges were not too immense. This time however, it seemed to be taking forever.
And then it happened!
It was my 39th birthday. As (the GG) leaned over to kiss me goodbye on his way to work, I whispered “I’m pregnant”. We were both thrilled.
Then events began to go awry.
Every time something happened that I was uncertain or worried about, I called or visited my obstetrician. I’m sure he became weary of seeing my neurotic face in his rooms at least once every week. At 12 weeks and 6 days gestation, I finally heard the amazingly beautiful sound of my baby’s heartbeat and exhaled the breath that I had been holding up until that point.
I became certain that I was carrying a boy and would often refer to my expanding waistline as “your son” when speaking about the baby to the Garden Gnome. We began to announce our pregnancy to the world and the world was happy for us.
Imagine my fear, when at 16 weeks I awoke one morning with severe cramping and bleeding. However, I didn’t say a word to (the GG) when he kissed me goodbye before leaving for work. I figured that there was no use in worrying him if I didn’t know for certain myself what exactly was going on.
I called the OB’s office and left a message on their answering machine to call me as soon as they opened. They returned my call and made an appointment for later that morning.
Miss Two had no idea what was happening and was busily planning her trip to the local swimming pool for her weekly lesson. I decided to take her in order to retain a sense of normality to her day. When the lesson was over, I drove 40 minutes to my mother’s home so she could attend the OB appointment with me. I didn’t want to be alone but I didn’t want to burden (the GG) with something that could turn out to be not much at all. My mother remained in the waiting room and minded Miss Two whilst I went in to see my doctor.
As I told him what was happening, I could see my worst fears realised in his facial expressions. Awkwardly climbing onto the examination table, my mind raced as I observed the doctor readying the ultrasound equipment.
I felt the coldness of the gel being squeezed onto my stomach and then he placed the ultrasound wand onto where my baby should be. I lay staring at the monitor and saw immediately that our dream had ended.
I turned my face toward the OB and blurted “There’s no heartbeat”.
“No love. There’s not” he replied.
“But that can’t be. There was a perfect heartbeat at my last visit” I whimpered.
“I know. Your baby died not long afterwards”.
I wanted to scream and wail. I wanted to yell at the world for being so unfair and cruel. I wanted to rail against life. But instead I leaned forward into his shoulder and sobbed.
Then the practical side of me kicked in. I shook off my feelings and went out to make plans for what needed to take place next. Walking over, I joined my mother who was listening to Miss Two read a story in a waiting room full of heavily pregnant women. Her face showed concern as she saw my red eyes. I leaned toward her, lowered my voice and told her what had happened. She wanted to talk but I could not face the idea of talking. I had raised my inner walls in preparation for dealing with what comes next.
We took the elevator downstairs to the hospital administration area and made arrangements for my ‘booking in’ for surgery later that day as I wept silently the whole time.
It was a 55 kilometre drive home from the hospital. My mother wanted to drive but needing the distraction that driving provided, I told her that I was fine. I know she didn’t believe me but she sat silently in the passenger seat whilst I chattered on about this and that during the trip. Miss Two fell asleep in her car seat. Swimming and playing with Grandma had obviously worn her out.
On the way, I called into the Garden Gnome’s workplace to see him and bring him up to date with what had happened that day. The look of utter despair on his face almost brought me undone once again.
I had two more stops to make. The first was to my oldest daughter at her place of employment and the second to my son at his high school sports day. They were both devastated.
Arriving home, I found that the Garden Gnome had beaten me there and was already making preparations for the journey back to the hospital. I could hear my son in his bedroom sobbing. I couldn’t cope with his grief so asked my mother to speak with him. Miss Two was oblivious to everything and was happily pulling out her toys and books to show Grandma.
After arriving home from the hospital that night, I didn’t want to go to bed and put it off for as long as I could. Finally hitting the pillow at around midnight, I tossed and turned and lay in silence. I got up around 4am and quietly made my way out to the kitchen area. I turned on my computer to check emails. The first email to hit my inbox was from an on-line friend who had been told the news by my best friend. She sent her love and best wishes. Deciding that reading emails was a bad decision, I switched off the computer and went to sit on the couch. The dam broke and I howled for the next hour or so until I dozed off.
I was woken by the Garden Gnome sitting beside me and holding my hand. He didn’t know what to say or what to do. He was as lost as I was.
Over the coming days, I swung between crying and sleeping and withdrew into myself leaving my family to deal with things in the best way that they could. My mood swings became erratic and my older children soon learned to ‘fly under the radar’. One day I ‘lost the plot’ and yelled at Miss Two for acting like a two year old. At that point I realised that I wasn’t coping and called a S.A.N.D.S. (Stillbirth and Neo-natal Death Support) counsellor. We spoke for almost an hour and she helped me to begin dealing with my grief.
Over the following 18 months, I conceived and lost four more pregnancies. My dream of having another child (another son) ended on the day that my GP told me that I could no longer continue doing this to myself. My body was growing tired and so was my mind.
By July 2005, I could see that something was seriously wrong with the Garden Gnome. He wasn’t the type of person to share his feelings and he certainly didn’t discuss them with me. One day, he was driven home from work by his boss. I could see that he had been crying. I was helpless to assist him as he pushed me away with every attempt I made at communicating with him about what was going on in his life. It was one of his colleagues that informed me he was never the same after losing our baby. And so began our relationship with that black dog “Depression”.
In April 2006, I wrote in my journal:
“What do I feel? I am still in shock. I am angry and in pain that the decision about whether to have another child has been taken from my hands. I still grieve and feel pain. I have been told that I am strong. Funny that I don’t feel strong………I don’t cope well with meaningless platitudes. I am searching for a meaning to the pain. I know that no matter what happens to me in life, the sun will always come up again tomorrow and a new day awaits. What I choose to do with that day is my choice alone.”
It is now 2013 and in the past seven years, life has found other curve-balls to throw at us including the losses of other loved ones. Depression comes and goes for me. Right now, it has been told that it is no longer welcome in my life but I can still feel its tendrils. Waiting……
The GG is still struggling. However we are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel.
I still honestly believe that what I choose to do with each day is my choice alone.
If life were easy, then I wouldn’t be writing this. Life is about choices. However when we suffer depression, those choices become more difficult to make and even harder to follow through on.
I want to write a book. This book will not be about curing depression, PTSD, baby blues, anxiety or any other mental disorders.
I don’t have the necessary qualifications to do that.
My wish is that those who read this book use it as a handbook to assist them in managing this illness and living each day with purpose.
Illnesses such as depression never really go away. They sit just below the surface waiting for the next life crisis so that they can show their face once more. Depression is like an unwelcome houseguest that arrives on your doorstep when you least expect it. Whilst I can’t tell you how to stop it from visiting, I am hoping through my book to give others strategies for cutting its stay shorter and shorter.
The Garden Gnome and I are learning to live each day to its fullest potential and look for the joy and beauty that is present when we take the time to find it. Life is full of blessings. I wish for you to find these also.