I spent ages debating whether to add to the conversation for Baby Loss Awareness Week. I thought perhaps it’s too personal but I keep coming back to how important it is to speak openly about issues many of us face, often in silence.
You see, for me and millions of other women and their partners, baby loss, miscarriage or premature infant death is something we live with every day.
My own pregnancy comes as a complete surprise to us both but after the initial shock wears off we tentatively feel… excited.
I’m in my first trimester when I wake from a bad dream about drowning. I feel confused and it takes a moment to register the dull ache in my tummy.
I know what is happening. I think: ‘Please don’t go. Come back.’ An intense feeling of emptiness overwhelms me.
Later, a hospital scan tells me everything I need to know.
It surprises me how grief-stricken I am. The avalanche of emotion is harder to bear than the physical discomfort. I’m uncomfortable with grief. I’m saying things like “it wasn’t a fully-formed baby at that stage, just a small collection of cells.’
So what am I grieving for if it’s just a ball of cells? I’m invested in it physically and emotionally. I mourn for the human it may have become.
I feel like I’ve failed the ultimate female test – the one our bodies are built for – and the not knowing why gnaws away at me. What does this say about me? Why has this happened? Why, why, why?
Unfortunately in the vast majority of early miscarriages a cause isn’t found and answers don’t exist. I wish this wasn’t happening. I wish I could have done more. What more could I have done?
It’s such a massive thing to ‘lose’ and there’s nothing you can do. You can’t ask it to stay. It won’t come back. There’s no stop, pause or rewind button. I work hard to reach acceptance through the fog of the unknown.
The assumptions I’ve previously held about my physical capabilities are seriously challenged. I believe I’m a strong, resilient woman but feel weak, vulnerable.
It takes a while to recognise I/we are all those things: strong/resilient and weak/vulnerable. It’s not either/or. It’s what makes us human. Being human means not being in control a lot of the time, too.
Recovery is tough. Physically it takes a couple more trips to the hospital and least three months before I feel like my old self. Emotionally, it takes longer.
Alongside the darkness and despair there’s hope and humility. There are people who love you and will support you. I speak with other women who share my private grief. I lean heavily on my family and friends. I talk. I cry. I rage. In time I feel soothed.
Miscarriage and stillbirths are a common trauma (statistics show one in four pregnancies will end in miscarriage and nine babies are stillborn every day in the UK) and while each experience is different, we can unite in offering compassion and support.
If you are struggling right now then remember you are not alone. You can feel many things, or nothing. There’s no right or wrong. You can speak out if you need to and ask for help from those who care about you. Go easy on yourself. You’re only human, after all.