It starts with a missed period. Or a second line on the pregnancy test. With morning sickness, intense tiredness and an expanding belly.
The beginning of a bright new life brings so many emotions to the surface. Joy, fear, anticipation, surprise and trust are among them. And of course there is the love, which is blind, unconditional and fearless. This all-consuming love is always accompanied by hope.
As the tiny ball of cells grows within you, so does your hope for his or her future. You hope the pregnancy will go smoothly and that a healthy baby will arrive at the end of it. You hope your child will grow daily in health, happiness, safety and wealth. You hope your child's life will continue long after you close your eyes for the last time.
This hope for your baby follows a plan. It has a schedule, starting with pregnancy and building with your growing child. Every day of your child's life, you have hope. You hope they won't miss you too much at nursery. You hope they will eat all of their dinner. You hope their first day of school goes without a hitch. You hope they make friends easily. These daily hopes follow a logical pattern.
So what happens if this pattern of hope is interrupted? And worse, what happens if one day it is gone?
It was during my second pregnancy that my hopes for my unborn baby were cruelly diverted from their natural path. In their place only one hope remained; that of a mother desperate for her baby to survive. I hoped that she would be given a chance to live. There was nothing else to hope for.
Our doctors didn't speak hope when they diagnosed my baby with a serious heart defect. They spoke realism, probability and facts. Yet, throughout my pregnancy, my hope defied them. It guided and nurtured me; it never gave up and it held my hand through many sleepless nights. It stroked my hair and reassured me. Hope became a faithful friend who, with every kick, punch and roll from my belly, jumped, cheered and spurred me on.
Hope hooked me in and I became completely reliant on it. I clung to it with every ounce of strength I had.
This one-sided dependence lasted up until the second my baby was gone, taking my dear friend hope with her. Then there was nothing.
Love and hope are interwoven - they go hand in hand. Yet, while love never dies, hope isn't blessed with immortality. When my baby girl died, hope very suddenly deserted me too. For a long time I felt totally bereft, bitter and angry at its absence.
However, as time passed by, I gradually discovered that my hopes for my baby could be reborn.
If you're going through your darkest hours right now, please let me reassure you that you will find new hope.
I'm not sure whether I found it or it found me. All I know is that the hope I once held for the tiny life growing inside me did materialise again, albeit in different forms.
Hope steered me as I built a legacy for my daughter. With every penny we raised for charity and every time her name and picture appeared in print or online, these new hopes flourished.
My baby's birth flower is the daisy. These days, whenever I see tiny white and yellow flowers springing up from the ground, I'm always filled with hope. She still surrounds me. Hope still surrounds me.
You never know how new hope will appear in your life. It could be a cause dedicated to the baby you lost. It could be new job or a new hobby. It could be a memorial garden, travel or art. It could be all or none of these things. It may eventually be in the creation of another life.
I can assure you that however you discover new hope, it won't replace that which came before it. It will feel strange at first. Like a new pair of shoes that you need to break in and get used to. You'll find it hard to trust and attach yourself to new hope because you know what a fickle friend it can be. But, please don't let fear prevent you from engaging with it.
New hope can't swallow up your grief or answer the inevitable 'why me?' questions. Hope can't dry your hot, heavy tears or fill the hole left in your heart. I'm afraid nothing can do that.
But, if you let it, new hope can take you in other directions, often helping you to celebrate and commemorate the life you lost. Don't feel guilty, just embrace it. You need this.
Let new hope take you by the hand and show you a new path. It will be uncharted territory and wholly different to the path you should have travelled.
Put simply, finding new hope after baby loss will help you to carry on.