Why Leo Dying is Not the Same as Trying To Conceive

Its quite a natural thing in human nature to compare an experience that someone has, to one of your own. It makes you feel included, similar, able to offer support and advice. Some do it more often than others, some just sit and listen and wish not to compare. Some do have similar experiences, that are actually similar, and by sharing are able to go me too and that is such a comfort.

Unfortunately, it is when your comparisons are a little bit too much to the left or right of the other person’s experience that they fail to be a comfort. What they succeed in doing is telling the other person “I am not listening, I do not understand, I do not get it, and I cannot help you” and that is so isolating to hear. Particularly, as when you are that person, it is only you that hears it.

We’ve all been there, screaming in our heads that is not the same thing, yet we still do it to other people. I guess human nature really needs us to look for ourselves in other people’s misfortune.

Luckily (or probably because we don’t actually socialise that much) we haven’t experienced too many unfortunate comparisons. However, what I am really struggling with currently, is the comparison or assumption that the death of my child is the same as trying to conceive. I’ve been pondering for days to try and work out how best to explain this one. For some, its obvious, for others, it clearly isn’t.

Lately, we have had “It took us a while to conceive, too”, “they struggled too, you know” and my personal current favourite “when are you going to try again, I bet you are excited!”. 

Now, if you are confused as to why ‘trying again’ doesn’t have us achieving a jumping-up-and-down-piss-your-pants-with-excitement level of excitement, perhaps you need to re-cap and read a few blog posts.

Why isn’t Leo just a part of our trying to conceive journey?

Simply, because we conceived him. Destination achieved.

Our ‘trying to conceive’ journey started nearly four years ago, we went through four fertility treatments before finally conceiving Leo on our fifth. It was arduous, it changed us, it was exhausting, educational. Your sole focus in life shifts. For us, doing treatment, every penny was attributed to its relevant worth in fertility treatments. Shall we go on holiday? No, that’ll be 1 IUI. Shall we get a new telly? No, thats half our cost of sperm. (Yes, sperm is expensive). Everything revolved around cycles, and when we may or may not fall pregnant, and what ifs, and buts, and budgets, and saving, and dealing with other people’s pregnancies with a deep anger that you can’t achieve ‘pregnant mum’ phase. It was full of drugs, anxiety, whispers, the desire to keep it to ourselves because we couldn’t deal with the outward pressure, the seventeenth dentist appointment at work, the effects of the drugs, the walking around with golf balls for ovaries, the constant internal exams, and hopes and dreams falling on a teeny tiny miracle of life. This is my own experience of trying to conceive. We are relatively unique, in that being a two-womb family gives us a different perspective of conception and treatment. This is our trying to conceive journey.

I would describe our trying to conceive journey as like a small, slow chipping away at you. Quite like the tide does to the coast line. You don’t notice the day to day, but the year to year change is a little bit more noticeable. And with every tide, more and more gets slowly chipped away.

In May 2015, we conceived. We finally did it! We finally got a positive pregnancy test. It was so unreal – that tide chipping away at us was slowly telling us this won’t ever happen for you and now it did. It was just too good to be true. But we did it. We achieved. And everything was perfect. Until it wasn’t.

And he died.

If you need to put life in chapters, trying to conceive ended in May 2015. Pregnancy happened for 37 weeks and 1 day. And then, the worst chapter happened. Stillbirth.

To continue with my analogy, if trying to conceive slowly chipped away at us, Leo dying plummeted us head first, no life jacket, no warning, straight into a rip tide, and drowned us. In an instant. In the time it takes to say “Your baby has died”. No more chipping away, this little island of me, is non-existent. It exists on the history books of maps, but it is no longer present. That wave was just too big.

To just roll this past four years into one ‘trying to conceive’ journey, to perceive it as such, hurts. It hurts because it undermines the value that Leo has, and the wrong that is his death. To take it as part of a conception journey is wrong – he was full term, he should be here, he was healthy, I was healthy, there is no justifyable reason why I spend my days writing blog posts about baby loss, and not weaning a baby. He was real, he existed, we held him in our arm. We have his footprints. From actual feet. Belonging to a real person. He is not and was not a figment of storytelling, a hope or a dream, he was him, he is Leo Phoenix, and he is our baby, our child. And he is in a grave.

That is not trying to conceive. That is stillbirth. 

It is different. Please, do not confuse the two.


Both aspects of our journey are our journey to the end result of a living child – but Leo should have been that. We shouldn’t still be on this journey. We didn’t plan to take an unscheduled stop through grief and the shit storm that it is, on the way.

But, aren’t you still trying to conceive?

So we ‘tried to conceive’ after Leo, and again, we conceived. We then miscarried. We will try again to have a living baby, but that thought has a more anxiety and dread than it does excitement. Its hard to say that we are trying, seeming as this is not your conventional trying to conceive. But this aspect of the journey is and will forever be different. It will be trying to conceive after two losses, and that makes a big difference too.

I don’t wish to undermine anyone else’s journey to parenthood, and all the possible detours that it can bring. Our journey to Leo was not easy. But I understand that it is different for everyone. This is our journey, and the only journey that I can speak of. There is no hierarchy, and there really shouldn’t be any comparisons either. Each journey has its own story to tell.

The “I wish I could…” 

Throughout the years, we have had all sorts of offers to help us have children. Some a lot less welcomed that others. These have continued since Leo was born. People offer us sperm, eggs, uteruses, ovaries, anything and everything.

And we know there is well meaning behind them.

However, please take comments like that with caution. The bereaved mother hears differently. By offering, you are turning up my inner thoughts that my body failed and I am unable to do what I am designed to do.

But I did conceive. I personally do not have any known fertility complications. I have been tested, and so far, so good. It took us a while, for no known reason. And 2/6 attempts, I conceived. In a one-womb-lots-of-sperm family, this is pretty good going. Leo died. He was healthy. I was healthy. We had no known complications. His placenta was small, but it was managing to keep him going. If he hung on a little longer, if something ‘acute’ didn’t happen, then we wouldn’t know any different. I know, in my rational mind, that taking a few attempts to conceive, Leo dying, and loosing our little Robin, is all unrelated. Because it is all unrelated. Please don’t confuse our misfortune as something other than that.

By offering, you are telling a bereaved mother that I could have done this better than you, that I wouldn’t have let Leo die, and I wouldn’t have failed so catastrophically as you have, because my body and my self is far greater than your body and your self. 

When we miscarried so many people, professionals included, instantly went was it the same batch of embryos as Leo? Complete with awkward faces. I’m no medical expert, but what I do know of our 6 week miscarriage and our 37 week stillbirth – these two events are unrelated. Just as they are unrelated to how long it took to get pregnant. It is something that happens. To SO many people. We have no risk factors either. I do not smoke, or drink, I’m (currently) in the safe age bracket, I had no conditions that elevated my risk… the list is endless, but there is no medical reason that we should have this life.

The End Goal is the Same…

The underlying theme here is loss, grief, frustration and sadness. The entire journey’s end goal is a living child being at home with us. But please do not assume that experiencing a loss is part and parcel of a trying to conceive journey. I see them as two different books.

A lot of this to me suggests that miscarriage is an assumed part (although silent) of most people’s journeys. That people expect that those who struggled ‘to conceive’ probably experience miscarriage. This may be true.

But please remember that, trying to conceive, miscarriage and stillbirth are incredibly different.

It is akin to suggesting to someone that you falling off your bike, pretty unscathed, is the same experience as a car crash, with serious injuries. And that all incidents of bike falls and crashed cars are the same.

Would you assume the physical and mental effects of these two scenarios are the same?

Would you expect both to resume cycling/driving with the same level of ease?

I know it’s a potential lazy analogy and please don’t get me wrong, falling off your bike is crap, it’s unsettling and you can easily come away with a mixture of injuries. Some people might break bones, others might just scrape their knees.

I understand the struggle of trying to concieve. I understand it solely from my journeys point of view. Whilst I can understand another person’s journey, there are limits as I have only lived my journey.

This struggle is nothing compared to discovering that my baby, at full term, had died. Inside of me. And then birthing him, holding his cold body, watching him change, having to give him back, and then see him in the smallest of coffins and lowering him into the ground. And then trying to live life afterwards.

Loosing my baby has put a lot of my trying to concieve struggles into perspective.

Whilst we may be still be on a journey, the journey has different branches that should not be considered as the same road travelled.

Please, if you know someone that has experienced loss within their journey to a living child, acknowledge this. They are all babies, no matter when lost. Whilst, for some, the journey may not stop for long after a loss, it does not diminish the loss. And equally, many people experience a long journey after a loss. This isn’t one size fits all. There is (or was for me) an intensely primal need to concieve after such a devastating loss – a need to right the wrong, to feel life growing, to feel love for a little heartbeat, to discover that you aren’t a failure. To know you have something to live for. Believe me when I say, if we had the ability, I would have wanted to try again almost straight away.

Trying to conceive. Pre loss, after losses, in-between losses.

Stillbirth.

Miscarriage. Early, late, missed, ectopic – so many types.

Termination. For all reasons.

Neonatal Death.

Infant loss.

These are different experiences. And within them too, there are vastly different experiences. Maybe that’s a different blog post all together. Just listen to individual experiences, don’t jump from one to another, thinking they are the same.

You’ll do more harm, than good.

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24 thoughts on “Why Leo Dying is Not the Same as Trying To Conceive

  1. I understand exactly what you are going through . I have had 4 mc and I conceived my son (leo) . I thought I had cracked it I was over the mc stage and then my son died
    It’s shit ! It’s not fair and you are right they are not the same . They both hurt but the pain is different.
    After reading your blogs I realised we are both in simular situations our sons are called Leo ( ace name!) We have conceived in unconventional ways (for me sperm donation) and we are both members of the club no woman wants to be in. (I think we were both in same hospital jr?)
    Reading your blog has made me feel I’m not the only one feeling like this . Thank you .not that I want any one to feel this but I know im not alone xx

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    1. Hi Elaine, thank you for commenting. I am so sorry for all of your losses. Such a rollercoaster. So sorry that Leo had to die. It is really shit. You are right, we were at the JR. When was Leo born? Do you attend the local SANDS meetings? We are hopefully going to go again next month. You aren’t alone either, much much love xxx

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      1. THELEGACYOFLEO
        My son Leo was born at the end of June,he was born at the GWH but I had lots of appointments at the JR @ the fetal med dept . Its a lovely hospital with amazing staff but I saw a pic of the building in one of your photos and it filled me with dread!
        I do not go to any sands meetings yet , I would like to meet the lady who put my sands box together as it’s my most precious possession but not sure I’m ready yet x

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      2. I am so sorry that my picture had that effect – it’s a very hard place to go back to, and has the same effect on me. I am getting used to it, but it’s been a battle. Just take your time, I found the one meeting we’ve been too very helpful as it made me feel normal for the first time in months. We didn’t go until about 4 months in, but it’s all very different for everyone. I agree, our SANDS box is so special to us and for a while, we wouldn’t leave the house without it, just incase something happened. Go gentle on yourself, and feel free to get in touch anytime xxx

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  2. Thanks for writing this. Sometimes I tell myself that my daughter was a part of a bigger picture in order to build our family…which isn’t true…she is a part of our family and any subsequent children are completely separate from my experience with her and her life. I think I do that because I am still coming to terms with accepting her death.

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    1. I do that too, you are not alone. I have come to a peace with trying to see all of this shit as chapters in a very large, depressing book with a hopeful happy ending. But thinking that was doesn’t have to dimish them does it? They were here, they matter, they won’t be forgotten by us. I don’t think I’ll ever accept, or understand, to me that makes it okay, and it really isn’t okay. Much love to you xxx

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  3. I agree that everybody’s experience is different yet at the same time I think there’s not enough empathy between those who have been battling infertility and those who have miscarried and have never delivered a live healthy baby. I’ve gone through six rounds of infertility treatments and received absolutely no empathy from someone I thought was one of my best friends because she considered her miscarriage history more traumatic than my loss of ovarian function and repeat failure with donor eggs. The thing is, trying to bring a baby into the world for the first time should never be a competition among whose story is worse and therefore more deserving of compassion. On our 6th infertility treatment I miscarried at 8 weeks… does that mean I should finally get her compassion? And I do agree with you that stillbirth is something completely different, something completely unimaginable for most, and I do agree that those who think they can offer solutions can unknowingly be doing more harm than good. Just having been through infertility treatments, loss of my own eggs and therefore genetic connection to any child I might bring into the world, miscarriage and finding out our other track of adoption has been slowed at least 2 to 4 years, I have seen way too much in the blogs and in the real world that compares pain instead of encouraging us all to join together as all of our goals are the same: to start a family.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your heart and your story. I hope I didn’t come across as to be placing an heirarchy at all, if I did, I apologise. You are right that empathy seems lost some times and we all work out own unique journeys and some just seems to get more roadblocks in the way than others. Comparing them as the same isn’t helpful sometimes and can you feel misunderstood. I find more peace in recognising the different aspects of our journey (IUI, IVF, Leo, and a miscarriage) as unique in their own right. I just find it really hard when Leo’s right to life that he should have had (as any baby that we fall pregnant with, no matter when lost) in swept into another aspect of our journey. I am so sorry that your journey to a living child has been like this, and I truly hope that light and hope is still keeping you going. It’s all there is. Much much love xxxx

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  4. I’ll never forget my next-door-neighbour saying “I have a friend who couldn’t hold a pregnancy either” after Freddie was stillborn at 38 weeks.. I am often in disbelief at what people come out with… Often people make comments about my fertility and “trying again”, as you said in your article “destination achieved”.. we are mothers. Our sons died, it wasn’t some figment of imagination, some whisper of hope or dream unfulfilled… having had a MMC at 12 weeks before Freddie, I can relate to the different types of grief.. I just hope one day we all get to the destination of having more beautiful but living children. xxxx

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      1. Hey Jess, You always write such great blogs from the heart and hit the nail on the head. Did you get the picture I took of those cute lion toys the other day? I tried tweeting it to you.. Looking forward to our 2nd sands meet up in London next Tuesday 🙂 xxx

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  5. I can relate to so much you have said! We have been TTC for 4 years and conceived Harrison naturally after 2 failed embryo transfers.. He was still born at 36 weeks, he was a healthy baby his placenta was small and we were told he died due to placental insufficiency. I really enjoyed reading your story but I am so sorry for your journey, it really is a living nightmare! We have just used our last embryo and I am currently in the TWW, emotionally this is soooo tough and everything feels intensified and I am just not sure how to cope with TTC after Harrison.. I am broken but desperate for a living child.. It consumes you.,.
    I wish you strength and love on your journey to a living child and pray you achieve your new future one day xx

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. It really does consume you. I am so sorry that you can relate to so much of it, and that Harrison couldn’t stay. Placental insufficiency is so frustrating for me, we are so blind to it, how can we help? I don’t like the lack of control. We too are on to our last embryo although we will have a few months before we put all our hopes on 5 little cells again! Sending massive amounts of love and positivity during this emotional time for you xxx

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  6. I understand although our ‘stories’ are different. It took my ex and I 28 months to fall pregnant with our son Bobby but he then went and died too. I was 28.

    I was so desperate to fall pregnant again – sometimes to the detriment of my sons memory. And yet all of my new friends which I had made after we all lost our babies around the same time, all went on to fall pregnant months after.

    I met my now partner four years after Bobby died. Those 4 years post Bobby I still couldn’t fall pregnant with my ex and I resented him for it. I felt as though he was holding me back from the baby that I so badly wanted. We didn’t grieve together. Infact he fked off for a week, 2 days after Bobby died and left me in our flat where I sat, living off of cereal, ignoring my friends calls. Sounds so harsh now but at the time, pregnancy was all that I had to live for.

    I fell pregnant by accident the first time I slept with my now partner but I had a very early mc. I felt it was punishment for trying to replace Bobby. Grief does crap things to your brain.

    The two losses I can not compare. Infact I still now – that pregnancy should now have just turned three – feel guilt that I did not mourn the loss of that pregnancy as much as I did Bobby. Maybe Bobby seemed more ‘real’ because I held him. I have pictures.

    Bobby was born seven years ago in July and my very cheeky but beautiful daughter turned two in March of this year. Her pregnancy was terrible. I ended up with PND, unable to bond with her and once telling my partner that I didn’t think that I loved her. I was trying to protect my heart from breaking again. She comes to visit Bobby in his special bed and enjoys helping me carry the flowers from the car to his grave and then she runs around, playing with the windmills that are on Bobbys friends graves surrounding his.

    I’m sorry this has turned into an essay. I’ve completely forgotten what it was that I originally wanted to type. I guess I just wanted to say that the longing in your stomach and heart is horrible. I remember it well. But please don’t give up the longing. Having those years to grieve seemed like the worst thing in the world – bar burying your own child – at the time but in fact it was preparing me for the next chapter and allowing me to extend my heart wide enough to fit another child in to it.

    Bobby is forever with me and no matter if us Angel mums go on to have two, three or heck ten other subsequent children (God forbid can I do this a third time lol) they will always be here guiding us along our journey, until our paths cross once more.

    Lucy X

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to read my post and for opening your heart and sharing your story, and Bobby with me. I am so sorry that you are on this journey too. It really is crap. I agree with what you said about grieving the baby you lost through an early miscarriage – I feel that we are much the same, it has got swept into our general state of grief and almost accepted far more that the loss of Leo. I do feel that’s because of how long Leo stayed, being able to hold him, etc. I don’t know if I have the energy to grieve more. It’s so lovely to hear that your daughter goes to visit Bobby, to be able to have them both together, in your our special way. Much much love to you and your family xx

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  7. I absolutely agree. After we lost our daughter to stillbirth, then miscarried, someone said to me, “don’t worry, it will happen for you!” I felt like screaming, “IT DID HAPPEN! MY BABIES DIED!!!” No, they are not the same thing.

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  8. I lost a daughter after 10 days of birth. I’ve heard so many times, “this person had a miscarriage”, “this person is struggling with infertility”, the worst one “I was in bed rest with my first two babies, so something could happen – so please don’t be upset” . I can acknowledge your losses and feelings of sadness for each different loss or struggle But me making a conscious decision to take my sick baby off life support is not comparible to a miscarriage. May I share your blog post? How would you like me to credit you for it?

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to read and for commenting too. I am so sorry that you truly do understand – I’m so amazed that so many people have commented to share similar things being said, it seems it’s a much wider spread misunderstand than I thought. Absolutely feel free to share anywhere and everywhere – I am on FB, Twitter and IG as The Legacy of Leo, but sharing be blog in itself is just fine 🙂 thank you and much love to you and your daughter xxx

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  9. Your post was perfectly written and I 100% agree that grief and other situations should never be compared. This topic is such a sensitive thing because whether you are suffering from a miscarriage, infertility or a loss of a child we are all going through our own personal hell. I know after I lost my daughter someone compared their miscarriage to what I had been through and wanted to claw her eyes out. Looking back I realize that its the loss she had experienced and she felt she could connect with me somehow to give me comfort. Thanks again for your post and I’m so sorry for the loss of your sweet Leo ❤️

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