Today’s interview is with Tamarah out of the Cape Winelands, who is 26 weeks pregnant with a very precious baby girl due on 26 September 2015.
Tamarah married her husband Hendri in December 2012, after being together for 5 years. The rest of their family consists of 3 fur babies. “We have a 9 1/2 year old tabby cat that I adopted the day I met my husband (I take it as a sign), a 5 1/2 year old tabby cat that I adopted a year before we moved in together and a 2 1/2 year old black and tan mixed breed dog that we adopted together the day after returning from our honeymoon. We’ve done loads of research on making sure our child and our pets get on well and are very excited about introducing dog and baby to each other, as they will ‘belong to each other’ in the end, we hope.”
A difficult year
2014 was an incredibly difficult year, with Tamarah facing seemingly endless losses starting with her job in April, and worsening with her father’s passing in May. There seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel when they discovered they were pregnant in early July 2014.
The first scan brought the devastating news that she had spontaneously aborted. This was followed by a painful D&C and dealing with the disappointment and heartache of letting go of an envisioned future.
Tamarah decided to share this part of her journey for two reasons. Firstly, it has shaped her current pregnancy experience on a few levels, and secondly, she found a lot of solace in blogs by other women who had similar experiences at the time of her loss. “It helped me to feel less alone, less like a failure, less broken and more hopeful.”
And she is wanting to do the same for any mommy on here who might be struggling to see the other side.
One of the biggest realisations for Tamarah was that miscarriage is extremely common, though nobody really says anything about it. “It doesn’t just happen to other people. I counted the other night; aside from myself, I know 10 women personally who have had a miscarriage or stillbirth. Two of those were more than once. It is an extremely lonely experience and it really shouldn’t be.”
One of the biggest strengths through everything was her husband Hendri and their promises to each other. “The moment we got home after hearing, I promised him that whatever else happened, I would not shut him out and that I would remember he had also lost a child, and he promised me the same. So we talked and we cried (mostly me). If one of us had been quiet for a while, the other would check in on how we were dealing. We would sit, facing each other, holding hands and just talk, about everything; our fears and our hurt and our anger and everything else. Sometimes he would hear me crying from his office and just come hold me.”
Having to call their parents, her sister and a few close friends to tell them that they had lost the baby was extremely difficult.
“My mother-in-law had an ectopic pregnancy before she had my husband, so that felt like an obvious point for understanding. I didn’t really think my mother would get it, so I pushed her away. She’s more emotional than I am, which is by no means bad, but I couldn’t deal with it at all. In the end, I realised that she did understand, I just needed to talk to her.”
“As to my friends, two completely understood that I had lost something very dear and that I was grieving; even though it wasn’t something they could really relate to, they were exactly the way I needed them to be and for that I am eternally grateful. The other I am no longer friends with.”
Being a person who deals best with things when faced with facts, figures, stats and a full understanding, Tamarah immersed herself completely in further research into spontaneous abortion and miscarriage.
“I withdrew from the world at large for a while there and when I didn’t hide, I buried myself completely in the administration of various sports bodies (my husband plays Ultimate Frisbee competitively). Some days, I just sat in front of my PC sobbing. I felt extremely betrayed and guilty and empty and like such a failure. I recalled a Genetics class that dealt with the various known mistakes that creep into the process of human procreation. It was a Powerpoint slide in font size 6 or something, with this massive list of ‘known mistakes’, each followed by the words ‘incompatible with life’. I wondered whether I could only produce that incompatibility, whether I lacked the ability to pass on compatibility with life.”
Then she started finding blogs by other women who had been through the same. “Slowly I realised emotionally that I was not alone in my situation. I always knew it intellectually, but reading these people’s experiences and seeing how they felt exactly the same, slowly got me out of it.”
A special birthday present
In January this year, Tamarah had this odd feeling that something was going on with her body. Hendri’s birthday is on the 25th and he was away for work in the week running up to it.
“I managed to secretly buy 3 pregnancy tests and hid them in the vegetable drawer. Somehow I kept calm until the day before his birthday, when I just couldn’t wait any more. I had to feed the dog and I needed the bathroom and so I snuck downstairs, let the dog out, took the test, fed the dog and came back to a positive test. My poor husband, he got a used pregnancy test as an early birthday gift at 06:00 in the morning.”
They were naturally terrified of a repeat of the first pregnancy, so immediately went to have a blood test. Tamarah did what she does, and started reading every article she could find on the ideal hCG levels for where they were in the pregnancy. “We got back a really strong positive and my doctor agreed to see me a little earlier than 8 weeks, since I was clearly freaking out. Hearing that little heartbeat echo through the room nearly broke us both.”
That fear has definitely lingered for Tamarah, with both an upside and a downside. “I’m terrified of my scans – blind terrified. And I’ve only recently been able to say her name. My husband always refers to her by name when we’re alone, I still prefer calling her ‘the baby’. I just couldn’t use her name, I was so afraid of losing her too, that I couldn’t name her.”
“On the flip side, nobody has ever been so grateful to feel like death, cry for no reason, be exhausted constantly or be kicked/punched in awkward places. I appreciate every aspect of this pregnancy unreservedly, even the excruciating leg cramp that woke me gasping in pain and made my poor husband think I had gone into labour or was having a heart attack.”
Pregnancy has been far from what Tamarah expected. Although there are those of us mommies who talk about the basics, the hormone driven moods, morning sickness, cravings and food aversions, vague discomfort, no drinking or smoking, lack of sleep; most don’t go into detail (haha, I was NOT one of those).
“Nobody tells you what ‘morning sickness’ actually means, that it can be a vague and constant nausea, like mine, or twice daily vomiting, or that it could land you in hospital, depending on how bad it is for you. My mother had these super easy pregnancies, no symptoms other than a growing stomach, a glow and a vaguely superior attitude. She loved every second. I’ve had it easy compared to others, but there’s so much I never saw coming, nausea being pretty high on that list. Thank heavens I love reading up on stuff, especially stuff that’s happening to me, so I’m in less shock than I might have been.”
Hearing their baby girl’s heartbeat for the first time, and every time since, has been the highlight of the pregnancy so far, with the first fluttering of movement a close second. “Being able to tell hubby he was going to be a dad as a birthday gift was pretty awesome too.”
There are some definite ripples of loss that still affect her pregnancy. “The build up to every scan is hard for me, I’m terrified that this time the rug will be ripped out from under me again. And the realisation that my father will never know his granddaughter – we were estranged before his death, so he might not have, but I guess you always hope.”
The pregnancy itself has been fairly easy. “I had nausea (constantly) and could barely face food, but only really vomited twice. That’s aside from my newly improved gag reflex that wouldn’t let me brush my back teeth comfortably for a while there. And I wanted to sleep constantly and everywhere. At my desk, in the car, in other people’s cars, the couch, anywhere I could. All that has since passed.”
Things have begun to feel a little more real and a little less scary recently. “I’m showing and can finally feel her move; I have a forward facing placenta so it took a lot longer for me to feel her kick and I still can’t feel her smaller movements, like when she has the hiccups. Last week my husband also finally felt her for the first time, he’s been feeling a little left out, I think.”
Hendri is a software developer and works from home. He is very excited and very involved. “He’s not the most obviously emotional person in the world (his stoic demeanour scares the daylights out of most people, actually), but he is an extremely supportive and caring partner. He goes to every scan and test with me and reads baby articles in his spare time. He also insists on being involved in all baby shopping. He’s been considering expanding our weapons arsenal since the doctor first said, ‘I’m pretty sure it’s a girl’ at 12 weeks; and it is amazing to share this experience with him.”
He is taking his time trying to find her the perfect first soft toy. “It has to be perfect and he is very particular. Our deal is that nobody is allowed to give her a soft toy before he has. There’s a special bond in that small thing.”
“We are very fortunate to have a marriage that is truly a partnership. We are very good friends and we approach everything as a team. I am realising daily that this is not the norm for the world we live in and every day, I thank God for what we have. I also try to remember to thank my husband.”
Words of Wisdom
One thing you wish somebody had told you about pregnancy
Your body completely betrays you in favour of this new life. And your mother becomes weird and checks up on your eating habits all the time, I wish someone had warned me about that
The best advice you’ve received since being pregnant
“Every single thing you do or decide will be the absolute best thing you can do according to someone, and the absolute worst thing to someone else, you need to do what works for you”
“To be a mother, you have to be the mother you are, be true to yourself, it is the only way to be true to your child”
“Ask for help before it’s too late, having a child is exhausting and immensely frustrating, if you’re in over your head, ask for help. You can never get back the baby you shook or undo the things you did out of sheer, desperation”
Advice for other mommies-to-be about pregnancy
Ask. If you don’t know, ask, but for the love of all things holy, ask a professional. Call your doctor, midwife or doula, don’t ask medical questions on Facebook. The only stupid question is the one you didn’t ask.
Advice for daddies-to-be from a pregnant mommy
That’s a tough question because my husband is super awesome. Really, really. Uhm, be present. Don’t get so busy with everything that you miss experiencing this with your partner. You were as involved in creating this life as the mother. She’s carrying that child now, but you’re a father already, just be present, do the little things.
My husband works from home and is on flexi-time, so he is lucky enough to be able to attend all my appointments and even all my blood tests. We’re really very lucky in that sense and it isn’t possible for everybody, which really sucks. For the past six or seven weeks, my husband has had a really tough time with the project he is working on, which has meant overtime and stress and various other things, but when we went for our 20 week scan, he made a conscious decision to push work aside and focus on his daughter. He was 100% present for that time. Again, not everybody can compartmentalise the way he can, but you can try.
Also, make little rituals. For us, that means that hubby applies the Bio-Oil after my shower every night. It’s a silly little thing, but I feel cared for and he feels involved.
Boys are so much more visual and easily fascinated than we are, seeing your partner’s body change must be super daunting, but it is fascinating, too. Be fascinated, it’s OK.
Advice for mommies who have lost angel babies
Remember that there’s a daddy who lost a baby too. So many marriages fall apart because of miscarriages or stillbirths. The biggest reason is that both parties shutdown and grieve separately. Men are so used to grieving silently and being stoic that some don’t know how to be any different and women often resent them as we perceive them to be uncaring or cold; while they are actually trying to figure out how to reach this woman they love beyond all reason, whose pain they desperately want to take away. Before you know it, you’ve lost touch and you’re both just so very hurt and angry.
If anything is going to get you through this, it is acknowledging the one person in the whole world who is going through exactly what you are. He really didn’t get better or just forget, he just knows no other way to cope than to be quiet and “move on”. But that loss hits him right in the gut when he least expects it just the way it does for you. He also can’t replace your “angel baby” with a new baby, he also feels guilty and like a failure.
Let this build your marriage, not break it. That child, though gone, was (hopefully) a product of a great love, that love should be treasured now more than ever. If you are not in a partnership where any of this is valid, which you hopefully knew before you fell pregnant, get the hell out and remember you aren’t alone, we are many and we are strong.
And it is NOT YOUR FAULT.
Families are made up of people who care about each other, not who share genetics. My family life was a bit of a mess in the past and I have learned to build one up, so you really can choose your family. Living in Stellenbosch, most of our friends are younger than we are and nowhere near our stage of life, but we have huge amounts in common and we care deeply about each other. There is only one other parent in our social circle at all. But every single one of the people in our lives is extremely excited to be a part of our journey and to meet our daughter. We are so fortunate to have people around who care this much about us and want to be a part of our daughter’s life, despite having no blood relation to her and no other experience of children besides their relatively recent memories.
Oh, one last thing, if you have pets before you have children, please remember that you made a commitment to their lives as much as you are making one to your children. I know there is a hierarchy of importance, but there don’t have to be issues between baby and pet. A tiny bit of preparation and work can solve so many potential problems. Pets didn’t ask to be a part of your world any more than babies did and they are equally dependent on you, except they will never be more than a toddler in some senses. Don’t forget them, don’t neglect them, don’t throw them away. They can bring so much to the little life you are carrying within you.
Thank you so much to Tamarah for opening her heart and sharing this journey and all of her wisdom with us. The love and warmth and joy we all feel for you as you wait to meet this little love of your life knows no bounds.
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Next week sees the wrapup of this round of the Pregnant in (_) interview series with the sweetest mommy-to-be Zowrae. I am so very grateful to all the mommies who have shared their stories with us. I will do a follow up story on all of them once all the babies have arrived so you can meet them and love them too!
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Sending all the love xx