‘People Say Lightning Doesn’t Strike Twice… Well, It Does. Could It Strike Three Times?’ Grieving Two Stillbirths While Being A New Mother and Dealing With Survivor’s Guilt

Last year during Baby Loss Awareness Week, Capsule caught up with Business of Influence founder Amanda McConchie, who had gone through the traumatic experience of having two stillbirths in 18 months, the second of which was during a pandemic. A year later, we’re still in the same pandemic but Amanda and her husband, Andrew, are now experiencing a new chapter of their baby journey after giving birth to their third child, Arthur, who sits happily cooing next to Amanda as she joins Capsule for a Zoom chat from their Tokyo home. 

The couple are thrilled to finally have their rainbow baby, after such a difficult few years. Their first pregnancy, Henry, ended at five months and then their second pregnancy, Rose, ended at seven months. There is, Amanda says, an unbelievable range of emotions running through her at the moment, after being at home with their healthy baby boy for the past five weeks.

“I don’t know if it’s talked about enough – like so many things – but the survivor’s guilt hit me really hard,” Amanda says. Because of how their two previous pregnancies had ended, Amanda and Andrew had kept their third pregnancy very quiet, only letting in a few family and friends, because it was so stressful.

By sharing the stories of her first two children, Amanda had made a lot of friends in the baby loss community who had reached out to her during the past couple of years. “It’s been something I’ve been really conscious of, because I don’t want to alienate them. When I was going through the loss, and trying and trying and trying, seeing anything online or pregnant people or little ones… it’s triggering. And you don’t want to be ‘look at me, this happened’ because some people are not so lucky.”

“I don’t know if it’s talked about enough – like so many things – but the survivor’s guilt hit me really hard.”

This third pregnancy with Arthur was truly a perfect storm of stressful conditions as well. Not only was Amanda only too aware of how her previous pregnancies had ended, but this pregnancy fell during one of the hottest Tokyo summers on record – with the Olympics going on and Delta surging through the country. The isolation took its toll, Amanda says. “My mental health was struggling – I was on antidepressants and my husband worked from home a lot, just so that I had mental support and company. I hadn’t really been able to go out and meet people for so long, with two pregnancies on bed rest and Covid-19 thrown in.”

There were also added questions like when to have the vaccine – Amanda says she isn’t anti-vax by any means but after enduring two pregnancy losses, the decision to have a vaccine came with a lot of distress so staying in the apartment felt like the best way to keep herself and her baby safe. Rising Covid-19 cases in the hospitals can also make getting a bed for delivery difficult, she says – she was lucky, not all mothers are.

“I was scared that this kid was going to come out and he would be dead, or there would be breathing issues. When I heard him cry, I thought ‘thank God!’”

But the hardest Covid-19 restriction meant that when her labour did start, Andrew wasn’t able to join her in the operating room for the required C-section. “It was pretty gutting,” she says. Language difficulties meant that while the operating team were great and enthusiastic – claps when the baby was born – there wasn’t anyone who could explain to Amanda what was going on. “I was scared that this kid was going to come out and he would be dead, or there would be breathing issues. When I heard him cry, I thought ‘thank God!’ But his crying was too quiet, and that’s when they told me he wasn’t breathing properly.”

Baby Arthur was rushed to NICU – with a brief stop to see Andrew on the way – and for the next week, Amanda and Arthur were in hospital, separately, as they waited to see if he would recover.

“I was spooked, big time. It’s like… I’ve lost two babies already. People say lightning doesn’t strike twice… well, it does. Could it strike three times? You’re always on edge. I found myself looking around in NICU and thinking, ‘Are all these babies going to make it out?’”

But Arthur is a very strong baby – even in utero, he broke through Amanda’s stitched-up cervix, hence the early labour – and he’s doing very well. They are a sleep-deprived but happy family, she says. But the grief for her two angel babies is very much part of the package as well and holding all of those emotions at once is not easy.

“it’s the milestones – it’s a smile, or a little giggle, and you do wonder what that would have felt like with the other two.”

“You’re so sleep deprived and busy, that you’re like ‘Oh, shit, I haven’t thought about my angels for a while.’ Because, before this baby came along, they were always on my mind. Always. And you feel guilty when this one comes along and you can go a few hours or maybe even a day,” Amanda says. “And it’s the milestones – it’s a smile, or a little giggle, and you do wonder what that would have felt like with the other two.”

“Everything is heightened – the guilt, the happiness. It’s quite bizarre experiencing those emotions at the same time. Grieving isn’t linear – but we’re here, and this is it. I don’t think we’ll have another one, because it’s been so scary. We’ve got our little rainbow baby, and that’s all we need. I don’t know if this sounds like silly talk but I want to put all my positive energy and juju now towards all the other mums and dads that need it, that haven’t got their little one yet. And be so happy with our little one that we’ve got.”

To read more from this year’s Baby Loss Awareness Week content, visit our interview with author Annie Anderson, who wrote the book Your Soul Is Wintering about her two experiences with baby loss, and our How Are You Today chat with Hayley Holt, about the stillbirth loss of her son, Frankie, last year.

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