03 Sep A Magpie Changed My Life
Let’s Begin at the Beginning
Some of you may have noticed the little Magpie that sits in the bottom right hand corner of my website. He is there for a reason, a very significant reason. That Magpie changed my life!
In March 2006, after having been married to my second husband for 9 years, I discovered that I was pregnant. We were both a bit shocked as we thought it would never happen for us. Especially as I was going to be 42 that year! But happiness soon overtook the feelings of shock. My husband set about looking after me. Being a bit of a mother hen, he ensured that I was eating well and getting all of my vitamins.
First Signs of Trouble
After just a couple of weeks of receiving our good news, I developed pains and swelling in my legs. My husband called the doctor as the pains became so bad that I couldn’t walk and became bed-bound. The doctor diagnosed phlebitis, an inflammation of the veins in my legs. As I found even putting my feet to the floor too painful I had no choice but to remain in bed. My husband would leave me a sandwich and bottle of water by the bedside as he had to go to work. If I needed the bathroom I would have to shuffle along on my bottom, with a stick to help me lift myself up or simply pee in a bowl (not very dignified).
The phlebitis subsided after three weeks and I returned to work. I was a Civil Servant and had missed my colleagues whilst I was off work. Even though I was still in the early stages of my pregnancy, I thought it safer to notify my manager of the pregnancy in case anything went wrong!
A Real Sense of Panic
I woke one morning to find I had been bleeding. My husband was already at work so I phoned the maternity ward at my local hospital who wanted me to come in immediately. I called my husband who came home and we raced over to the hospital.
A funny thing happened at this point, which we still laugh about. I’d gotten dressed so quickly that I’d put a pair of casual trousers on, not realising that my gorgeous chocolate Labrador, who had a thing about eating my clothes, had chewed a big hole in the crotch of the trousers! (The things you remember eh?)
An internal scan was given to me and we were told the devastating news that we had lost the baby. Not only that, but it looked liked it could have been a twin but the second sac was empty!
The gynaecologist noticed how swollen my left leg was, something that I thought was just a ‘hang over’ from my recent bout of phlebitis. She, however seemed concerned. When doing the scan she discovered a massive fibroid embedded in my pelvis. She advised me that now that I was no longer pregnant, she would be able to do something about the fibroid.
Keep Calm and Carry On
I’ve always been quite a pragmatic person. Bad things happen to people and this time it was our turn. It was sad but true. However, I lay in bed one night soon after returning home and said to my husband ‘it’s weird, but I still feel pregnant’. We both put this down to having lost our baby but still having a longing to have a baby – hormones if you like!
I returned to work and tried to move on. But I just didn’t feel right. I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong but I knew that something was wrong.
Ding Ding, Round Two!
Just a week or so later I had problems catching my breath. I couldn’t walk a few meters without feeling like I’d run a marathon. Instinctively, I phoned the maternity wing of the hospital and as I spoke to them on the phone, they could hear that I was having problems breathing. I was told to get to the hospital immediately.
Again my husband rushed home from work and we made our way to the hospital where the staff were waiting for my arrival. Scans and blood tests were arranged with speed. I must admit, at this point I was really frightened.
Good News and Bad
I saw the same gynaecologist that I had seen before. After having a scan she announced that she could see the baby and it was doing fine! Totally shocked by her statement, both my husband and I asked, what baby? I reminded her that we had lost our baby just a few weeks earlier. It seems that I had a tilting womb and that when she did the first scan, she couldn’t see the second ‘twin’, as it had been hidden by the fibroid, which was growing exponentially, due to the pregnancy hormones.
Our happiness was quite short-lived as the blood tests performed showed that I also had a massive blood clot on my lung, a pulmonary embolism, which was causing my shortness of breath.
I was immediately admitted to hospital on complete bed rest and there I remained for the next three months.
Our Second Loss
After a few weeks, I lost the second baby. It wasn’t as straight forward as simply miscarrying. Complications set in with passing the placenta and in the early hours of the morning I was rushed to theatre. The hospital telephoned my husband and told him to come immediately as they were concerned that I wouldn’t pull through. I remember coming round and telling him how wonderful it had been to be anaesthetised to the sound of Frank Sinatra singing!
The devastation of losing our second baby in as many months was immense for both myself and my husband. We consider ourselves fortunate to have a daughter by my first marriage whom we both absolutely adored but our loss was palpable.
After The Loss
Although I was no longer pregnant, I still had this massive pulmonary embolism and fibroid to deal with. The maternity ward insisted that I was going to be staying with them. They were fantastic. I had become good friends with both the doctors and the wonderful nurses who had been treating me. To be honest, I think they felt sorry for both my husband and I.
I was given a bed by the window of a small ward. The window looked out onto a courtyard and I was grateful for the little bit of scenery.
I even wrote a poem in remembrance of our twins that is now held in the book of remembrance at the hospital :
We placed you in gods gentle arms to keep you safe above.
Till we can claim you back again and shower you with love.
Until that day sleep peacefully in God’s sweet and tender care
A goodnight kiss from both of us till we can once again be there
During my three months of staying in that bed I noticed a pair of magpies that would venture down to the courtyard every day. I would spend hours just watching them dance in and out of the branches of the few trees there. They would always come as a pair and seemed to enjoy their privacy as they courted each other in that peaceful and tranquil setting.
After a short while they disappeared and I must admit, I missed them dreadfully. I had come to look forward to their visits which seemed to take my mind off of the difficulties I was going through, which were plenty.
From Bad To Worse
I developed a debilitating headache and was sent for a brain scan. Nothing was found. They concluded that it was probably a symptom of the growing fibroid. They decided to try an injection in the abdomen which had proven effective in shrinking fibroids. The injection simply made my headache worse, so much so that I was crying with pain. The decision was made to remove the fibroid and perform a hysterectomy at the same time. All they needed to do was to get my blood levels stable (INR) so that I could undergo the operation.
I waited and waited in that bed. Each day my bloods would get close to the levels required and then shoot up again, despite being on anti-coagulants.
Two Plus Two Makes Four!
My days were brightened when I saw my two magpies return. This time they had two babies with them! When my husband came to visit, I pointed out the babies to him. I said ‘wouldn’t it be lovely to think that those babies were our twins, now free to fly wherever they wanted to go?’. This thought was a great comfort to me. It was one that remained with me as I finally underwent my hysterectomy. Eventually I was discharged from hospital.
Returning to ‘Normal’
Going back to work and moving on with our lives seem to be the only way to cope with everything that had happened to us both. I felt that the whole experienced had been harder on my husband. He’d nearly lost his wife. He’d lost his babies. He kept things normal for our daughter whilst looking after her on his own. He was continuing to go to work full time as well as visiting me in hospital. And to top it all off, his father passed away just after I was discharged from hospital. You could say that 2006 was our ‘Annus Horribilis’ but soldier on is what we both did.
I returned to work, glad to have something to do that kept me busy. But I felt like I was in a vacuum. It seemed that I wasn’t quite connecting with the world. I felt emotionally battered and bruised, like a sailing boat out in the middle of a stormy ocean that had been blown about by a hurricane.
Fortunately the Civil Service have a program that offers counselling to their staff. A friend suggested that I may benefit from having some counselling. Talking things through with someone completely unconnected helped me immensely. My husband also underwent counselling too.
My husband and I very rarely arrived home from work at the same time. He would generally arrive about half an hour after I had. On this one particular day we both pulled up outside our house at exactly the same time. I opened the front door and walked into our little lounge. Our two Labradors were sleeping peacefully. The room, however looked like we had been burgled! Ornaments were on the floor and the cushions were all over the place. My husband went into the kitchen to check as I headed for the upstairs. We had a baby gate across our bedroom door. It prevented the dogs from using our bedroom as their private quarters during the day. As I ventured up the stairs I saw the biggest and most magnificent magpie perched on top of the stairgate. It sat there simply staring down at me!
I shouted for my husband, who came running fearing I’d found a burglar. He slowly walked towards the magpie. It didn’t move, but let my husband gently pick him up. I opened the window to let him out and off he flew, leaving both my husband and I bewildered. There were no doors or windows open. How had such a beautiful bird had come to be in the house?
In Search of Answers
I wasn’t particularly religious but did feel that this was a sign from someone or something. I decided to seek answers from a local Clairvoyant, Michael Kingscote. He told me that my grandmother had placed something in our house. Something that would tell me that our twins were being looked after. A thing that I would connect immediately with our twins – a magpie!
A Final Confirmation
A year after losing the twins, we decided to plant a cherry blossom tree in our back garden in memory of them both. It would give us something tangible to look at when we remembered them and we remembered them every day.
My husband and I ventured to the garden centre and found the most beautiful sapling. We brought it home and my husband began digging the hole for it. The bottom of the garden was an ideal spot. Here it would get the most sunlight.
He planted the tree and we both stood back to admire it. Suddenly from nowhere, seven magpies landed on its tiny branches. To say we were gobsmacked is an understatement. We took this as absolute confirmation that our twins were happy and that they approved of what we had done.
To see that cherry blossom tree mature and blossom every year gave us both enormous comfort. More magpies seemed to visit the garden too. It was as if they were letting us know that the twins were still around us.
Where Are We Now?
We moved to Somerset six years ago. A cherry blossom tree grows resplendent, in my garden and magpies visit quite often.
I decided, when I trained as a Celebrant, to call my business Blossom Ceremonies. It was also so important to me to have a magpie associated with my business. Hence my little magpie in the corner of the page.
How lucky are we to have had such a wonderful experience come out of so much turmoil and pain. Through connecting to a simple Magpie, I know that there is always someone looking down on me and taking care of me and my family.
For Counselling after the loss of a child :
For details about miscarriage: