The first challenge was getting pregnant in the first place. Two years, many fertility investigations and a round of Clomid later, those longed-for two little lines finally appeared on the stick.
The next challenge was making sure the baby stayed. Scans at seven, 12 and 20 weeks revealed a healthy foetus with a strongly-beating heart. We felt so blessed and were so excited.
Being diagnosed with HELLP syndrome and preeclampsia at just 24 weeks was very challenging emotionally. Not knowing whether my baby would be born alive. The guilt of feeling that my baby had to be born much earlier than he should have been to prevent my organs failing and him dying in my womb.
Parenting a baby in a neonatal intensive care unit is very challenging. So many highs and so many lows. Exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure. It can feel challenging to stay positive, challenging to cling on to every scrap of hope that you will be able to take your precious baby home, challenging to put a smile on your face every time you walk in to your baby’s nursery.
Hugo was worth every moment of it, though. Such a precious baby. So wanted, so loved. So, so missed.
Discussing the withdrawal of Hugo’s treatment when there was no longer any hope for him is the worst kind of challenging conversation any parent can imagine.
After his death, leaving Hugo behind in the hospital when I had to return home, two hours away was a challenge that broke my heart.
Planning Hugo’s funeral, trying to hold it together during the service. Watching his tiny little coffin being lowered in to the ground.
Much of the last few months has been challenging, dealing with grief. Coming to terms with the illness that caused it all. Living without my precious baby boy.
Trying to not sink into self-pity and ‘why me?’. Trying to find a reason to get up in the morning. Trying to give a purpose to my life, life that my precious baby was denied.
I have set up Hugo’s legacy, Bright in Mind and Spirit to give me that purpose. To help others in Hugo’s memory.
Challenging the authorities to improve care for sick new mothers with a sick baby. Challenging the authorities to improve bereavement care and information. Challenging the authorities to improve access to perinatal mental health services.
I have been challenging conventions about baby loss. Talking about it openly, helping bring this often taboo subject out in to the open.
Challenging conventions about dealing with grief and bereavement. Helping people understand how to start a conversation about baby loss, to understand what (and what not) to say to a bereaved parent.
Challenging those who appear to take their precious children for granted. Those who freely gripe about their children’s behaviour by being melodramatic, or using misguided humour in the very open, public arena of social media.
I wish these parents a long and happy life of being blissfully ignorant of the other side of the coin. I would not wish this pain on anyone.
They say that challenges can make you stronger. I’ve certainly become a lot stronger as a result of this challenging year.
However, it is a strength I would much rather be oblivious to – or at least, not have discovered it at this cost.
There is nothing I would not give to have Hugo back in my arms again.