Alix Cooper, of Masterton, holding her friend’s grandson, Harry Prior. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
The heartbreak of losing an unborn baby
By Hayley Gastmeier
Masterton’s Alix Cooper has experienced the indescribable heartache of miscarrying not once, but four times.
It was at between eight and 12 weeks with each pregnancy that Alix lost her unborn babies and with each one, her hopes and dreams of becoming a mother slipped further from her reach.
Having had a dysfunctional upbringing in which she never knew her father, starting her own family was all Alix wanted.
She was happily married and in her mid-thirties when she first fell pregnant.
“I knew for the longest time that I wanted to be a mother. I had so much love to give that I never got myself.
“Finally, I could create this family I never had.
“The day I found out I was pregnant I was just ecstatic – my dreams had come true.
“Starting a family was profoundly important to me – I didn’t grow up with your typical cookie-cutter childhood.”
Alix’s father left before she was born, never to be seen or heard from again.
Following this, her mother, pregnant with Alix, left England and sailed to New Zealand with her four-year-old son.
Alix’s mother was battling mental illness and finding it hard to cope alone in a foreign country, so she sent Alix’s 12-year-old brother to live at Epuni Boys’ Home in Wellington.
Aged eight at the time, Alix was “crushed at the separation” and she and her brother, David Cohen, now an internationally published writer and journalist, haven’t reunited.
At an early age, Alix took to the streets and into her teenage years she faced other hardships.
Like many women, Alix was keeping the news of her pregnancy quiet until the 12-week mark.
Working as an interior decorator, she planned the baby’s nursery and bought clothing in anticipation for her new arrival.
It didn’t take long to fall head over heels in love with the baby growing inside her, she said.
“But then that dreaded day came.”
Alix experienced bleeding and excruciating pain and a scan revealed she had miscarried.
“I was completely and utterly devastated.
“It’s one of those things, if you haven’t been through it you can’t describe the pain you’re feeling.”
Statistics at the time showed one in four pregnancies ended in a miscarriage.
She regained hope, with her logic concluding that the odds were now in her favour.
“Low and behold, I got pregnant again.
“I was wary and cautious, but I was hopeful – my mentality was it can’t happen to me twice.
“But at 11 weeks, the bleeding started again, and I thought ‘this just can’t be happening’.”
Alone, she went to the hospital and collapsed in the bathroom.
“I remember being stretchered out on a trolley thinking ‘it can’t be’, but it was.”
She underwent a procedure to remove the “little bean” and bullied the reluctant doctor into letting her leave at 11pm that night.
“I walked into the hospital carrying a baby and I walked out carrying nothing – not even a card with a phone number for a support service, no pamphlet, nothing. I’d never felt more alone.
“I was numb and in disbelief … it took a lot longer to get over the second one.”
Alix says she felt like a failure as a woman, and a failure as a wife.
She was then referred on to a high-risk pregnancy specialist, who found no obvious issues, but despite this, there were two more miscarriages.
Alix lost four babies within two years and was devastated.
“There is no greater sorrow than only being able to carry your baby in your heart and not your arms.”
She had no family and didn’t feel as though she could share her pain with her two best friends who had their own troubles.
“One thing I remember vividly at the time, was it seemed every woman I met or passed in the street was pregnant.
“Everything on TV and in the magazines was pregnancy related – it was everywhere I looked.”
Keeping her pain to herself, Alix sunk into a deep depression with “crippling” panic attacks and says had it not been for the support from her doctor, Aage Terpstra and nurses, Sheryl and Jenny, she wouldn’t be here today.
“It was a helpless feeling … I didn’t understand anything about self-compassion and being kind to yourself.”
Looking back, she said, “I was trying to protect my husband by being staunch, but inadvertently I was pushing him away when we needed to talk, cry, and grieve together.”
They drifted further and further apart and ultimately separated.
Alix went on to marry well-known Wairarapa MC Craig Cooper, who soon-after was diagnosed with terminal cancer and passed away five-years-ago on Monday.
With October being baby loss awareness month, Alix is now speaking out in the hope her story will inspire other to seek help and not suffer alone in silence like she did.
“Find support, someone you trust, a friend, a relative, and be gentle with yourself,” she said.
“It’s so important to talk about how you’re feeling, because suffering in silence only magnifies the grief.”
She said women were fortunate support services were now available to help them through hard times.
“One thing I have always felt – regardless of how painful each loss was and always will be – is I consider myself so blessed to have carried my four angels for the time I did.
“I have been a mother four times, and this is a privilege not everyone has. So, for that I am so grateful.”
Crisis Pregnancy Support Wairarapa provides free support to women facing a crisis or troubled pregnancy. According to its website, the non-profit organisation assesses women, in a respectful, confidential and non-judgemental manner, for unmet needs and provides unhurried emotional and practical support. Support coordinators are practising health professionals, such as nurses and midwives, and counsellors, who are supported by volunteers.
Wairarapa hours are 8.30am-4pm, Monday to Friday. Contact 0800 006 277 or email [email protected]