For years, I thought I never wanted to be normal. To me, normal meant standard, average, what was expected. A bit boring, really.
I liked being not normal. I liked being individual, a bit quirky. A taste in alternative music, films and books set me out from the crowd, as does my strange sense of humour.
But as soon as I saw that little blue line on the pregnancy test, all I wanted was to be normal. To have a normal pregnancy: standard, average, what was expected.
For 23 weeks, my pregnancy was normal: all-day-and-all-night nausea and extreme tiredness during the first trimester; glowing and suddenly full of energy during the second.
Me and my unborn baby hit every parameter and milestone right bang on. All normal.
Even the heartburn, weight gain and low mood I developed in the 23rd week I put down to being normal pregnancy symptoms. I never suspected anything sinister.
Everything that happened after that was not normal.
A diagnosis of two rare pregnancy complications – HELLP syndrome and preeclampsia. The involvement of scores of medical staff across several departments at a specialist hospital. The emergency Caesarean section, followed by waking up in intensive care. Having to wait more than 30 hours to meet my son. None of that is normal.
The first sight of your newborn baby son, in a clear plastic box with wires going into and coming out of him. Your son spending more time with nurses than with you. Having to ask permission to touch my son. Waiting four weeks for a proper cuddle. This is not normal motherhood.
Oh – but the intense love. The overwhelming pride. The sense that I would do anything and everything for Hugo. Normal emotions – in an unnatural environment.
Hearing the worst-possible news about your baby. They are unlikely to survive. Discussing with the consultant the withdrawal of treatment. A mother showing her love for her precious baby by singing to him and making sure he is calm and peaceful as he takes his last breaths in her arms. That should never be normal.
It makes me cross when people have told me that my emotions since Hugo’s death are normal. There should never be anything ‘normal’ about a mother having to bury her child.
I know what they mean is that grief is normal. But there really is no such thing as ‘normal’ grief. Grief is individual. My sense of dealing with the grief can change hour-by-hour, day-by-day. Martin grieves for Hugo differently to me. There is no ‘normal’.
There is just coping.
Dealing with it as best we can.
The loss of our normal pregnancy.
The loss of our normal hopes and dreams.
The loss of our baby. It should never be considered normal.
I’ve heard people talk of the ‘new normal’, once you emerge from grief. I don’t really know what that actually means. I don’t know if it is really possible to emerge from the grief of losing your child, not completely. I will never forget Hugo. I miss him every day. I cannot imagine a life where Hugo is not the centre of my universe. He is not here with me where he belongs, in my arms. He lives on in my heart, and in my mind. That should not be normal.
Perhaps what they mean by ‘new normal’ is that you learn to adapt. I suppose you have to. You have to find a reason to get up in the morning, to function. Do normal things. Even when your world has ended.
Never mind quirky or individual. Today I would give anything to be normal.
A normal conclusion to a normal pregnancy at the normal gestation. A baby of an average weight.
Smelly nappies, chapped nipples, sleepless nights. Endless feeds. Walks in the park. Showing off my baby. Seeing that first smile, the first tooth, the cry, the giggle.
Standard, average, what is to be expected.
But a fascinating adventure, full of love. Definitely not boring.
How I long for normal motherhood.