We’re heading into a poignant time of year. One where families typically draw nearer (and some realise how painfully far apart they are), where any children in the family tend to be the natural focus.
This festive season, as always, I will be holding near in my thoughts all those parents who lost a child at this time of year. And to all those who never went far enough to even share their little secret to the world. That hurts; a painfully hidden grief that barely gets recognised, for we have been conditioned for however many countless decades not to be open about any pregnancy loss that has occurred, let alone losing a born child.
I can’t tell you how many hours I have spent searching for the meaning and the reason for this. But there you have it. It is there.
Speaking to this empty, lonely, silent grief-out-in-the-open, at this time of year in particular, comes a stunning guest post from reader, Joanna. The messages and personal lessons in her offering reverberate with me strongly. I feel so deeply privileged, as always, to share another’s words with you here on my blog.
Thank you so much for your generosity, Joanna. It is my humble honour to mark the passing of your two miraculous beginnings who could not stay.
|Christmas has been bittersweet for me since my beloved nana passed away just a week after Christmas, seven years ago. Really if I am honest, it has only felt like Christmas for the last four years since my son was born. This Christmas, however, has that slight bittersweet tinge again. I should have been heavily pregnant, complaining about the heat while I put up decorations. And on Christmas Day, I should have been nursing a tiny baby, born on 13 December or thereabouts, and complaining about sleep deprivation.
My story is hardly uncommon, nor is it the worst story about pregnancy loss that you will read (and while I don’t believe that there is a hierarchy on grief, solely from my own perspective, having had two miscarriages in early pregnancy, I can truthfully say that it would be even more awful to lose a child later on or even worse, still born or shortly after birth; my heart goes out to those who have walked this path). I am one of the lucky ones – I am blessed with a beautiful little boy, four years old, the light of life and my heart.
Two miscarriages in 18 months – what are the odds? Pretty high at my age (43). And pretty amazing that I even managed to fall pregnant naturally both times. Both angels lost at seven weeks. A short time but long enough for me to bond with both of them completely.
There is a line in a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye which describes miscarriage perfectly:
“Before you know what kindness really is, you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth.”
Miscarriage – especially repeated miscarriage – robs you of the innocence of pregnancy. The first time was pretty awful emotionally and very painful physically (to the point where I ended up in the maternity ward of our local hospital, listening to the sounds of newborns while I felt my baby slipping away). The second time was a little easier physically but emotionally more deadening.
I came to motherhood late. Not because I didn’t like kids but because I spent a lot of time trying to figure out my own past and was damn sure that I didn’t want to make the same mistakes when I had children. When I look back over all the years I spent in therapy, going over the pros and cons of having a child, two things spring to mind. Firstly, how naive I was to think that I actually had a choice. And secondly, and perhaps most importantly, what I was MOST afraid of was that by becoming a mother, I would create the one person that I was most terrified of losing. Little did I know back then what the Baby Gods had in store for me in terms of lessons about letting go.
There are so many lessons and gifts that I have learnt from my fertility battles. I have become far more compassionate, empathetic and understanding of this somewhat secret club of women that I have joined. For despite the high rates of miscarriage, it is so often secret – the world doesn’t seem to know how to deal with it and a lot of women walk this path alone. I found strength within myself that I didn’t know I had. I am passionate about women not taking their fertility for granted (even though this is an enormously tricky subject to navigate).
Most of all, I have learnt that there are things that I simply cannot control. Yes, I can do my best to do all the right things around becoming pregnant and then staying pregnant but really in the end, it’s outside my control. And this perhaps has been the most bitter lesson of all: I remember years ago, a colleague advising me not to leave falling pregnant for too long because, as she said, “When you want to, you may not be able to”. At the time, I brushed away her words. Me, not make things happen? I truly believed that as long as I worked hard, I could make anything happen. What a rude awakening to know that in the end, it’s simply not true.
One of the hardest things about grieving a miscarriage is that you are grieving the loss of someone that you never met, someone who was still unformed and yet someone who you have longed for, sometimes for years, and who you already love so much and who is part of you. In the end, you start grieving the loss of a dream. There’s an emptiness that comes with this kind of grief. When my nana died, as hard as that was, it felt complete. Our relationship was incredibly beautiful and her passing taught me a lot about continuity. I feel her spirit and her presence every day. I can visit her gravestone. There is evidence that she existed, most of all in me, in my son. I have a strong sense of knowing where she is, even now and knowing that her spirit is at peace.