Pavitra Roychoudhury (35) and Raagini (1.5). Pavitra is also mother to Rohan who died at 3 days old.
Bangalore, India | Nigeria, Ghana | Singapore
Photographed in Seattle, WA
Pavitra shares -
"Our son Rohan was born after a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy and we enjoyed a few wonderful hours together as a new family before our lives were turned upside down. We found out that he had intestinal malrotation that had led to volvulus and he needed emergency surgery. Unfortunately, after removing the damaged bowel, there was too little healthy tissue left and we had to make the most difficult decision of our lives. We held him in our arms for nearly 12 hours, enjoying his soft baby hair, the little dimple on his cheek and his little fingers and toes, imagining the little boy and man he might have grown up to be. He lived 3 days but changed our lives forever, in more ways than we could ever imagine. The next year was a blur as we went back to work and we dealt with grief by simply trying to get through each day, a few hours at a time. Eventually, we found the courage to try again and after a miscarriage at 9 weeks followed by what felt like the longest pregnancy in human history, our daughter Raagini was born.
When I was pregnant with Rohan, I worried about things that seem so silly now. I had a goal for how long I’d take to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight. I worried about my career and obsessed about what a typical day would look like with work, daycare pickup, drop-off, pumping milk, working out, volunteering, etc. When he died, I struggled with guilt—why had I spent so much time thinking about these things? Why didn’t I spend more time enjoying the pregnancy? I hadn’t routinely felt those warm, fuzzy, maternal feelings that my friends seemed to have and that made me feel very guilty as well. Maybe I wasn’t meant to have a child. What if that’s why I lost Rohan? It ate me up inside.
After the miscarriage, I wondered whether my body was even capable of bringing a healthy child into this world. What was I doing wrong? It was very hard to start working out again because it brought back all these feelings of guilt. I hated myself for enjoying a Zumba class and remember sobbing in the bathroom afterwards. Every stretch mark reminded me of Rohan and while that broke my heart at first, eventually I learned to enjoy that visible connection I had with him, a way of keeping him alive in my memories. With Raagini came a new set of worries, not about my body or my work, but just getting to the finish line and bringing a healthy baby home. Rohan and Raagini have taught me to love my body in completely different ways. I am proud of this body that got out of bed every morning even when it seemed impossible, that nurtured a child through fear and self-doubt, that found the strength to hope even when it felt completely dark.
Labour with Rohan was long and difficult. I’m told I lost over a liter of blood as a result of postpartum haemorrhaging. Of course, given the events that followed, there was no time to think about recovery and I have very few vivid memories from the weeks that followed. What I do remember is the worst pain I’ve felt in my life. Not labour, not pushing, not the stitches. It was, as any loss mom will tell you, when the milk came in. The physical pain was as bad as the heartbreak from the repeated reminder that this body was meant to feed a child. I have no words of comfort for moms who go through this. I just wish I could sit with you and hold your hand and cry with you. With Raagini, I was so scared of losing her that I didn’t buy any baby things other than one outfit. We just hoped that we would get to bring her home in that outfit and not have to say goodbye to her in it. Even today, I don’t have a baby book because I’m too scared that it will end abruptly. During the pregnancy, I found ways to manage the paranoia and fear—until I could feel her kick, I would use a Doppler to look for her heart beat and repeat in the mirror “today she is alive, today I am ok”. Some days were better than others. I thought the fear would disappear once we brought her home but it didn't. What if she died in her sleep, what if, what if... even today, I sometimes go check on her in the middle of the night. These are not things that baby books and prenatal classes prepare you for.
I don’t have any words of wisdom to share with my former self. I miss that naïve girl who doesn’t constantly ask herself “what if right now is all the time I have”. I try to live my life by asking how I can use this limited time to make a positive impact on whatever I’m doing right now, whether it’s science, walking dogs or spending time with family and friends. Because, really, what if right now is all the time I have?
There’s so much silence after a loss. I’m here today because programs like 4TBP help break that silence and I’d like to contribute to that. I want to share my story so parents who are going through something similar know that there’s at least one person out there who has felt the same way, the same fear, the self-doubt, the guilt and that tiny bit of hope. Maybe it will help them process their own experience? I don’t know. I'd also like to highlight the work of the Journey Program at Seattle Children's Hospital, to whom we are incredibly grateful. Through their counseling services and support groups, we've met some amazing people with similar stories who have now become dear friends."