“I’m sorry, but you’ve lost your baby.” The words don’t fully register; they float around in the air, maybe they’re talking about someone else’s baby.
Everyone in the room is looking at me; waiting for a reaction. I’m thirty-one weeks pregnant with my first baby; it’s a girl.
I haven’t told my husband yet, but I want to call her Aoife. Everyone is still looking at me.
My jeans are pulled down below my big bump. The consultant stands beside the silent ultrasound screen.
“I’m sorry, but you’ve lost your baby,” she says again. I’m still looking at her with my mouth open.
Who does she think she is?
Telling me something like that – I had a scan on Wednesday, the baby was fine.
Today is Saturday. Babies don’t die just like that!
I don’t have cramps; I haven’t gone into labour – how can my baby be dead? This is obviously a mistake.
“But she was fine on Wednesday,” I tell them.
“I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat,” the consultant tells me.
“But I felt her moving when I was on the plane.”
“I’m so sorry, is there someone we can call?”
Call? Who am I supposed to call? My husband is in Dubai; my family is in Limerick.
I’m sitting in the day clinic in the Coombe Hospital in Dublin after flying for eight hours from my home in Dubai. My doctor gave me a medical certificate permitting me to fly.
“But she was fine on Wednesday,” I repeat.
“Your blood pressure is very high,” she tells me.
“I only came in because I had such a bad headache on the flight, and my blood pressure is high. I wasn’t worried about the baby,” I continue.
“I understand you’re on blood pressure medication,” the doctor says.
“Yes, the obstetrician said if my blood pressure goes over 150 that I should take the medication. I was worried a few weeks ago that my baby wasn’t moving that much, but my doctor said it’s because she’s breach.”
“You didn’t come in because you were worried?”
“No,” I whisper. My friend, who drove me to the hospital is sobbing. Her baby is due the day before mine.
And that was it. The beginning of our life after loss. Aoife Margaret Roos was born four days later at 7.22am on 20th December 2017. She was perfect.
We buried her next to my mother two days before Christmas. Grandmother and granddaughter – side by side.
It was the single most traumatic event of my life, and it’s changed me irrevocably. I am still broken – but the shattered pieces are beginning to mend.
I’ve always been a traveller, but this is the rockiest path I’ve ever had to walk, and I’m still walking it, slowly – step by faltering step.
Grief is like the sky; it spreads itself over everything.* It’s affected every aspect of our lives and became the catalyst for change.
When I returned to work four months after giving birth, a well-meaning colleague asked, ‘What gets you through the day?’
Despite the pain that I still feel in my heart and probably always will, there lies a resilience that’s kept me going – a strength that I never knew I had.
Something inside me pulled me up off the ground when all I wanted to do was lie there howling and screaming out my pain. Where has it come from?
• My sisters in loss. They can identify with every painful emotion I have felt. There is such unity in solidarity.
When you meet someone who’s been through the same thing, there’s an immediate bond that cuts through all the small talk and gets straight to the point.
We lift each other when we’re down and share the load when things get heavy.
• Writing. Writing letters to my daughter in the early days helped me to formulate my feelings and process complicated emotions.
I’ve also written newspaper articles to help people understand stillbirth and to soften the silence around it.
Getting involved in awareness campaigns helped me feel that Aoife’s death can have a meaning.
• Therapy. Aoife’s birth was incredibly traumatic. I knew I couldn’t deal with it alone. Both my husband and I have benefitted from counselling sessions.
I am currently doing EMDR – eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy.
It’s a relatively new type of therapy in Ireland, and I hope it will help me deal with the trauma of a difficult birth and loss.
16th December marked Aoife’s angelversary – the day we found out that she died. We marked the day by spending it with family.
They gave us a beautiful wooden bench that has her name carved on it and the one that will forever be carved on my heart – Aoife.