Category: miscarriage

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.”

That’s exactly how it felt to have my babies slipping away from my body, and not being able to do a single thing to stop them.

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).
And yet, I won’t lie – I am also still so angry at the universe, so bitter (why me) and while life goes on and there is a lot to be grateful and happy for, there’s a light within me that each time I fell pregnant was lit up and then bang…out it went.

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.

I just hope that she is looking after my two lost babies for me. I hope this Christmas the angels are looking after all our lost angel babies.

 

 

This is how it is, folks. For people who have a miscarriage (or two, or four, or twelve, or twenty). No more or less difficult is the miscarriage suffered by a couple who already have children. They are the ones who have the unfair and short-sighted label of being less affected, because they “already have [insert number of offspring here]“.

If you know someone who has had a miscarriage, please consider your placating words very carefully. Steer clear of any opinions that imply it was “for the best”, that the person who suffered the miscarriage has “plenty of time” left, or making any judgements regarding her level of despair compared to the gestation at which she lost the pregnancy.

None of those things will help. And actually, they may very well worsen and prolong her pain and grief. The following story highlights several of the most often-heard (and ill-received) gestures that are designed to bring comfort to a woman after miscarriage… Quite simply, for the vast majority, they really don’t.

When you’ve chosen the words you want to say, let them sit for a while on the tip of your tongue and think again. Does she really need to hear anything from you right now? Or is it more that you really want to say something, to show you care? If it’s the latter, try instead asking if she wants to talk – let her do the speaking while you actively listen (avoid all presumptive statements during that conversation, though, steering clear of things like the baby’s imperfection being the reason it died or that it was God’s timing or will or any other such thing). Ask if you can put the kettle on and make you both a cup of tea. Ask her how she’s feeling today (instead of inadvertently telling her how you feel about her miscarriage). Be honest and say you don’t know what to say to make her feel better but you wish you could take the pain of it all away for her (if you do feel that!). If in a few months any of these other statements are still floating around in your mind, perhaps you can approach them then… but sometimes, even if they are factual statements, nobody needs or wants to actually hear them. Truth is, she’s gone over them herself silently in those intervening months anyway.

She doesn’t need anybody to point out what might seem quite obvious to you. Certainly not in the first hour, day, month (or several) that she goes through her miscarriage ordeal.

I received the following anonymous submission during October – Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness month. Due to posting constraints with a few things I had to run, I didn’t get to deliver this incredibly important story then. Please welcome this guest poster warmly, as I know you will, as she opens up and shares a very common but often unspoken pain: that of the mother who experiences miscarriage/s, something that is felt keenly and quite justifiably remains painful because of the lack of understanding around it.

So now, it gets to stand alone as a stark reminder to anyone who happens across this post to please be mindful. Regardless of a woman’s circumstances – whether she already has children or is undergoing IVF or has at least a few years left on her clock… – it is up to her how she grieves, or whether she grieves, and it is up to you to try your damnedest not to prolong that.

I had the dream again last night. The one where I am in the Doctors office and has says there’s no heartbeat. He just said it like he was ordering a sandwich. I’m in a chair in his office, with my legs in stirrups and an ultrasound wand up inside me, and a still, silent blob on the screen right in front of me. He says “there’s no heartbeat”. How is that possible? Again? Two losses in a few months. I ache. It hurts to hold these emotions in and be brave.Our pregnancy loss has been downplayed by almost every person in our lives.
We already had other children so we “should just be grateful and focus on what we had”.
This was an IVF baby so “It was nature’s way of telling us it wasn’t supposed to be”.
It was early in the pregnancy and “in older days you’d still be thinking you were just having a late period”.
I was full of hormones for the IVF so “It was no wonder the poor little thing didn’t have a chance”.
We were in our early 30′s so “there’s plenty of time to get it right”.
We fell pregnant on the first cycle so “Everyone loses one or two in IVF, that’s the way it is…”And yet the loss was crushing. Destroying. Yes there are other children but that did not mean this little life was was any less wanted or worthy. It didn’t mean we hadn’t already decided where it would sleep, know the day it would be born or been discussing possible names. 

Gone almost as soon as it began. And yet, with IVF, you are so hyper-aware of every tiny detail of the formation of life I could tell you its age down to the hour.

The one thing that gets me, even now, 9 years later, is that little baby will be forever an ‘it’… no sex, no details… it still breaks my heart.

Time moves on. Our beautiful blessing came along 8 yrs ago after more IVF. We have donated both embryos and eggs to others. We are okay and grateful and complete.

No one ever, EVER mentions our miscarriages. It’s like they never happened.

 

We pick up from here in Natalie’s story. Please read on if you have already read Part 1

 

The headphones weren’t working, the drugs weren’t strong enough. The sound was the most horrifying thing I’d experienced. The pain was strong. The nurse held my hand sympathetically and I employed all the hypno-birthing relaxation methods I could. I tried to shut my mind down and go somewhere else. I remember everything – all the details – and I am beyond glad that I was the only one who went through it. I’m glad he was spared the experience. If I could go back and choose again, I’d risk the emergency for this was more traumatizing than I counted on.

The suggestion was that I wait 6-ish months to get pregnant again. My doctor said that physically this was a good marker but, emotionally, it would be up to me. She stressed the importance of emotional readiness. It took a year. I think it took a full 6 months for my body to get back to normal, for my cycles to be what they used to be without any weirdness. Medically, I was probably fine before that but I knew my body and it took 6 months before it felt “normal” again. The other 6 months held the battle of the mind and heart. Deep down I knew that I wanted another child. I knew that I didn’t want to end my pregnancy journey with that loss but getting over the fear of going through that again was hard.

I am a woman of faith, raised in a family of faith, surrounded by people who share my faith. Faith is what sees us through. Faith is what battles the fear, the guilt, the memories, the “shoulda coulda woulda” days. My faith is different because of this. My marriage is stronger because of this. My God is more tangible because of this. I had a friend ask me if I had questioned God through it all… or if I had lost my faith at any point. My immediate answer was “No”. I never lost my faith. I never wavered in my belief that God was in control and He had me in the palm of His hand. But, yes, I had questioned Him. I asked why. I also thanked Him for not letting me feel that baby, for not letting me get even more attached, fall even more in love. There were times I wondered if it were better when my arms ached to hold that child and my eyes longed to see its form – even silent and still – but, no, I remind myself it was His grace that the baby passed so early.

Through my doubt that I could handle the sadness, I received the comfort of His promises in the Bible.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
“I knit you together in your mother’s womb.”
“I know the number of hairs upon your head.”
“Nothing can separate you from the love of God.”
“His thoughts are not my thoughts…His ways are not my ways.”
“You are fearfully and wonderfully made.”
“Fear not.”
“Do not be afraid.”
“I will be with you wherever you go.”

Our faith grew even when our babies didn’t. 
So, we took that plunge again. In September of 2009 I was pregnant. I was excited. I was scared. I walked on egg shells for the first 12 weeks, breathed a little easier the 20th and then felt like I was out of the woods. It was my hardest pregnancy so far. I was in lots of pain for the last trimester. 2 weeks before my due date our little girl, Keira, was born. Easiest labor, most intense delivery, beautiful baby girl. We were so thankful!

In January 2011, I found out I was pregnant. I had miscounted the days and we don’t use birth control… oops. I was due in September. I truly worried that my body wasn’t going to be able to handle all of this. A 3rd child who was still an infant, 3 surgeries, full time work, graduate classes…I prayed very hard that God would protect this child and give me strength. I waited until a friend I had confided in told me I was starting to show enough to make people wonder before I announced it. Again, I walked on egg shells until the 20th week and was nervous until near the end. I was on lots of natural supplements for my adrenal system (which was so tired) and  had to undertake a strict diet for my hypoglycemia, which was causing blood sugar issues. Other than the fatigue, it was one of the easiest pregnancies I’d had. Little nausea, little pain, fast labor/delivery (3.5 weeks early), horrible nursing issues for the first month but pure bliss at the new life God had entrusted to our care.

It is estimated that approximately 50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage (that includes those who didn’t even know they were preg and figured they had a late period). It isn’t IF you will miscarry but WHEN you will… though some escape it by not continuing to get pregnant like I have!

I speak openly to those who ask about my miscarriages. I feel that miscarriage shouldn’t be so hush-hush. I feel that there is healing and freedom in open discussion of pregnancy loss. I think too many women stuff their feelings and feel they must trivialize the loss. They feel silly for being so attached to something that “never was.” I disagree. I firmly believe that life begins at conception. EVERY life has value. EVERY life lost is worth mourning and celebrating. Talking about it helps. I journaled, very detailed, about my first loss. I didn’t about the 2nd one. I am very open about discussing my journey but stop short of sharing about the D&C. I say that I had to have one and that, if given the option again, I would refuse. I say I wish I hadn’t but leave it at that. For me, it’s a memory I’d rather not rehash often.

Have I really healed from it? Have I really dealt with it? Perhaps not. I still have my moments of guilt for willingly participating in the D&C. I felt, at the time, it was the most logical choice but now I know that logic has little to do with choices concerning miscarriage. I wish I had waited and taken the risk of an emergency. I wish I didn’t have the haunting memories of that day. I wish I hadn’t miscarried. I’m glad I know so that, if someone is in the same situation, I can give them my opinion (though I have never given details of my memories of that day). I am glad that I can help someone else. I wish the drugs had worked better. I wish the headphones had blocked out the sound. I wish I had been put under. I wish I hadn’t miscarried. I wish there wasn’t a 3 year gap between my kids where I constantly see that little life that never was. Another baby didn’t fill the loss…I waited a year…enough time that the baby would have been born and then some…enough to see the gap filled by a little one who never joined us.  I wish I hadn’t miscarried. The 2nd loss was, by far, the hardest for me. I wasn’t expecting it. I wasn’t prepared for all that came with it. I still tear up when I think of those babies…but even more so for the 2nd lost one. I am excited for the day I will meet them when the Lord calls us Home.

So, have I “moved on?” I don’t think we move on after a loss. I think we move forward. And by God’s grace I move ever forward, though little bits of my heart remain behind.

 

 

 

 

 

There is so much about the story you are about to read that I, as a reader, find harrowing, heartening and fascinating. One woman’s way of expressing what her pregnancy losses did to her and for her, how her relationship with her partner and friends was made different, and bravely sharing her experiences in the trust and knowledge that information shared is empowering for all.

Despite the loss, there is so much life throughout this following story. A vitality about the way Natalie writes this that speaks to my survival instinct. It knows. It always recognises another who has walked the path. And Natalie is so descriptive that you can’t help but be drawn in to this incredible journey and witness her faith and resolve through miscarriage and a D&C that can only be described as an horrific ordeal.

It is not light reading. But it is invaluable and real. It happens.

Please join me in welcoming Natalie to Sunny Side Up as she opens up with a vitally important story. And, as always, please share this on your social networks. You never know who needs to read it today and will be grateful you did.

 

Part One:

There are times, in the face of greater loss, I feel that my story is minor compared to the stories of others. My husband and I have always agreed that we are grateful that God has not asked us to walk the road of losing a child born or having a child born silent and still. There are other times I feel that a loss is a loss and every life, no matter how short, has value and is worth remembering. Here is our story of losses, blessings, and a deeper faith from the road we’ve walked.

Our first pregnancy was a miscarriage. On October 6th, 2004, I took a pregnancy test and was thrilled to find it positive. I had my first appointment on the 12th and we were so excited we really didn’t want to wait to tell family. We planned a trip to surprise our parents and Jonathan made this cute website with all the different terms for “pregnant” and a baby due date count down. On October 18th and 19th I noticed some off-colored discharge and, of course, investigated online to see if I should worry. Strangely, one of my first thoughts when we found out we were pregnant was, “what if I miscarry,” so I was worried. I also called our doctor to plan another appointment to see if all was well. On the 20th I had traces of fresh blood and that set my heart to panicking. I went to see my midwife and she did some blood tests and told us a few things it could be, including a miscarriage. On the 23rd the test came back and showed no increase in numbers and low overall numbers. It was heartbreaking. I miscarried that weekend.

Through this experience, we discovered that we are a great team when faced with sad and trying times! Our marriage was stronger. The miscarriage also brought along a sense of hesitation and suppressed happiness with each new pregnancy. My friends who haven’t experienced a miscarriage thought it silly of me to not want to tell others early on. They just don’t get it. After the first loss we agreed to tell only those we’d want to explain another loss too.

I wasn’t uncomfortable talking about loss but I hated the sad looks and pats on the shoulder…the “you can have another” statements. I wanted to avoid it if possible. After that cycle I got pregnant again. I was so worried. We didn’t pass the word along until much later this time. I held my breath until 8 weeks passed, walked on eggshells until 12 weeks and then felt freer to settle in and enjoy. Our firstborn child, a boy, was born a week ahead of his due date on August 24, 2005.

I got pregnant again in 2006 and had spotting in the 7th week. I insisted on an ultrasound this time and there it was… a tiny blob with a beating heart… All was well! We again waited to tell people. We nervously anticipated our little one and at his 20 week appointment I knew that no matter if he made it to term or not, this little boy was forever in my heart. It was time to enjoy pregnancy and celebrate life. Liam was born 2.5 weeks early on May 9, 2007. What a blessing!

I became pregnant again in September of 2008. Again, I had that sense of hesitant happiness. I waited a little less in terms of time to tell others with this pregnancy. I mean, I’d had two babies and a first pregnancy loss wasn’t that uncommon so I thought I was good to go. My doctor even asked if I wanted an ultrasound to check (she couldn’t find a heartbeat at the 9 week appt) but I declined. It wasn’t uncommon to not hear it so early. I wasn’t worried.

“Here we go again”
The next week while shopping at the beach on a short break I noticed bright spotting. Hardly any at all – not enough to even say spotting – but my heart fell and I just knew… I was 10 weeks along and had already felt my body changing. I KNEW the pregnancy got beyond the blighted ovum stage. I knew a life had really started, that a heartbeat had been there. I called my doctor in tears. She tried to convince me that it was probably nothing and reminded me that I had spotted with Liam too. But I knew. I just had a feeling.

I made it through the next 24 hours at the beach and then went straight to an ultrasound appointment at the hospital. The tech was nice but as soon as she found the baby I looked at my husband and said, “That is not a 10 week baby.” She couldn’t find a heartbeat. Time slowed down as the realization of what I already knew hit. She said something about a “spontaneous abortion” and I remember thinking, “She is crazy to say that word to me.” We sat for awhile and waited for the doctor to call. It seems the baby died at about 8 weeks. The spotting had also stopped. More worrying, by now it had been 2 weeks and the doctor was concerned that I wasn’t bleeding at all. She wanted me to go into an OB/GYN to be examined. I met with the OB/GYN who was very kind but insistent that a D&C was necessary. I was running a temperature by now and still had no bleeding, almost 3 weeks now since the baby died. Granted, she said, it could take longer but we were coming up on a long holiday weekend and there was a very real chance that if I did spontaneously miscarry I’d lose too much blood and face an emergency situation where I could not call the shots as effectively.

I went home and talked it over with my husband. We agreed that we’d rather not risk an emergency. The fever was also worrisome. So the appointment was made and we both headed in. 

 The doctor said they wouldn’t give me a general anaesthetic but they’d give me so many drugs I wouldn’t feel or remember much, and that they had these special earphones so I wouldn’t hear anything. I had been having my moments of panic about this. I’d had both of my boys naturally. I was a natural sort of girl and this was so… unnatural. This ripping/sucking the baby out. What if the first ultrasound was wrong? I mean, I still wasn’t bleeding. I asked for another ultrasound to be sure. She seemed a little irritated that I’d ask. I remember thinking to myself, “And who the hell do you think you are to tell me I can’t be sure?! Just put my mind at ease that I’m not killing my own baby and do it fast.” Instead, I asked for a picture too. She zipped through it and then gave me the drugs. I felt woozy but decided that there was no way I was going to put my husband through this. I insisted he wait in the waiting room. To this day I am very glad I did.

 

 

Addendum: Part 2 may now be read here.

 

 

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