04 Dec The lessons presented through misscarriage
Walking side by side with my husband through the nearby bush land, we begun chatting about our experiences over the last month. I beamed at him as we discussed how much we had overcome and how we were better people for it. I (so foolishly) noted that I felt surprisingly okay since we lost our baby almost a month beforehand. We launched into a discussion about how the next year would look and that we would most likely start trying again. We bounced about with excitements and reassured each other that it most definitely would happen – this year just wasn’t our time. We pulsated with positivity about our future together and our potential next pregnancy. In this moment, I felt so resilient, strong and very empowered. Little did I know, that in a few short days, I would be totally despondent and gripped with fear, afraid to take any step forward towards this dream life that I had so imaginatively dreamed up for myself.
A few weeks ago marked a month since I miscarried and lost my first pregnancy following 8 ovulation induction cycles and 2 IVF cycles. Any miscarriage is rough and I would never in a million years compare my pain to that of another woman. This loss (for me) seemed ridiculously unfair. Like life decided to pick me up and fly me high into the air and then soon flung me by the ankles back down to earth and reality. This “lucky” cycle followed 12 months of ongoing disappointment. It felt like the most suspense filled rollercoaster of our lives. Our pregnancy cycle begun with a number of negative pregnancy test results, with some positive ones sprinkled in there too. Just to add a little drama, we were warned of a potential ectopic pregnancy and finally, only at 7 and a half weeks – they confirmed I had a viable pregnancy and we saw the beautiful flutter of a heartbeat. It was at 8 weeks that I started to spot and finally, at 10 weeks, I was told that I had lost my baby and it only had a gestational age of 8 weeks and 3 days.
At times, I feel so angry that on the back of all this shit – we ended up losing our little miracle and going back to square one seemed like we were cheated out of all we worked so hard for. Throughout my journey through fertility challenges and now miscarriage, I have learned an awful lot. The life lessons you encounter are traumatic but also really beautiful. While I have felt the weight of grief, I have experienced the power of love, support and community. With every day or week that passes, I see the world and people differently. I am given opportunity after opportunity to reflect on human biology and psychology. The most incredible realisations I have come to centre around what I truly deserve and want for my life. If I don’t reflect on what I have learned, how do I know what I want to continue taking out of my life? These lessons are worthy and I would not have learned them otherwise.
Finding out my baby stopped living long before I realised is all kinds of messed up
The only emotion I can attribute to finding out my baby had stopped developing before I realised – is ‘embarrassed.’ This may sound strange, but I felt so stupid for thinking that for 2 weeks, I had a growing baby inside me. It was through out this time that I begun spotting and thought something was wrong, but was assured by doctors that I was still pregnant. My instinct served me well, but when you want to hold onto the life inside you, you will believe anything that a medical professional tells you. At times, I feel sick about the fact that I continued to create dreams about my future life with this little baby, when it was simply lifeless inside me.
Those first few hours after I found out I had lost my baby were some of the loneliest times I had ever experienced
After returning home following our ultrasound. I have never felt so alone and grief-stricken in my life. These couple of hours were when only Matt and I held the horrible news that we would no longer be parents the following May. Witnessing my husband express grief you have never seen from them before is what sticks with me. This time felt like there would be no sunshine after the rain, the air in the room was heavy with grief – the kind of grief that you worry will never leave.
The process of a D & C was painful and traumatic
My knees shook at I walked myself to the car on the day of my D&C. I could barely bring myself to walk down the driveway. As soon as Matt started the ignition, anxiety grabbed me by the throat and shook me to my core. I sobbed the whole way to the hospital as I moved closer and closer towards the end of a very draining 10 weeks. The trauma I experienced in that car ride with stick with me. Not only was a nasty voice in my head whispering taunting words about how I was cheating the system by having a D&C, but it’s snake like voice berated me with fear laden statements about my future prospects of ever being a mother. From the second I took the medication to begin the process of a D&C, everything sounded like white noise. I soon begin to experience what I can only imagine to be like contractions. The cruel part of this situation is that you never get that beautiful crying baby up against your chest at the end. All I woke up to was a nurse checking my vitals and the harsh realisation that I was moving around alone in this world again.
The loss of a baby leaves people speechless but it also brings out the voice in others
It has been interesting to observe how people react when you go through the loss of a miscarriage. We have experienced silence on the other end of the line as we sobbed words of disbelief and I have had friends and family courageously call us rather than texting their voices cracking with empathy and vulnerability. No way is more appreciated than the other. Any form of check in is valuable. What is has taught me is that many deal with grief in themselves and others in a range of unpredictable ways. People I thought would have all the words and answers are the ones who are challenged by our circumstances and others who have no obligation or duty to support have offered some of the most healing words.
More people have miscarried than you think
Through sharing our story, it opened us up to waves upon waves of support and stories. I had friends, family and colleagues reach out to tell me their story. All just as heartbroken as each other, it amazed me how many people close to me have suffered at the hands of miscarriage. This sisterhood of women reaching out was honestly what got me through the trenches. I didn’t feel so incredibly detached from the world and the evidence that it is 1 in 4 women who will miscarriage was presented to me in the form of brave women sharing their pain with me. If you are one of those women who reached out, I am so deeply grateful for you. Your advice, your solidarity and your kindness has moved me forward. Thank you.
People can rally together to support you when you open yourself up to it
I have always known my friends were amazing. I have a fierce tribe of girls who have been through the worst of it with me and still remain by my side, as stoic as ever. They have never judged me for doing a Houdini and vanishing for a few weeks at a time. They are empathetic towards my emotions and experiences and they love me and support me no matter how high or low I am. They were quick to plan time away for both Matt and I following our miscarriage. They cried with me – they met me where I was at and did their best to lift me up. Matt felt safe enough to release tears to the boys and I could open up to the girls. Not once have they failed us throughout this process. This is what makes loss doable – a supportive unit of unwavering friendships and connections.
Old friends come out of the woodwork
Just as much as your close friends show up, others you may not have heard from in a while are there to offer you love and support. I have had people from my past reach out which has been very comforting. I have had mixed emotions about some. While many have just gone in separate direction with their lives – so hearing from them is joyous, others have used this as a time to mend broken bridges. I have found that I become more and more sure that if a friend is not there during both good and bad times and only reach out because of terrible news like a miscarriage – I am only more deterred. In the last 12 months of battling infertility and IVF, I have suffered more pain, anxiety and grief and would have appreciated the support then. An experience like this opens you up to what you really know and value in your life. For me – it is authentic connections. I have become protective of my mental health and it is best utlised with people around me who are supportive of me, no matter what the emotional state. Realising this is hard for someone like me. I like to consider myself a forgiving and kind person. But as I have explored before – forgiveness does not always mean reconciliation if the relationship does not feel right any longer.
Grief comes in waves
Just when you think you have healed, you are thrown back to reality. I have days where I can barely get out the door to work. I have learned that trying to force yourself out of a grief-stricken state and into work or social mode doesn’t work. Working hard on sitting with the feelings of grief and acknowledging them is a huge part of my practice now. If I need to cry – I cry. If I need to take a day – I do. I didn’t expect to go through such huge surges. I thought that once I felt okay, there I would stay. I am often caught off guard and have only recently begun to appreciate that this is okay.
Husbands grieve as well
A husbands loss is double what I expected. Not only had Matt, like me, lost the life of our unborn baby, but he had to stand back and watch me fall to pieces. Like he was sidelined or watching me from behind thick glass – there was nothing he could do to end the harsh pain I was enduring. You both lose the future you imagine for yourselves and that is distressing enough. But I witnessed the angst in his face when he saw me in pain, when my happiness reserve was depleted and every time I went to bed or woke up crying. Often we forget about their pain as we endure ours. I got so caught up in it, at times reminding myself that he has just lost a baby and fears losing his wife to the choking grip of grief. I am so lucky to have an emotional husband, as he clearly indicated that he was battling this with me. I discussed with my psychologist how we are almost synced with our grief. When he cries, I cry and when I cry, he does too. There are many partners who remain enduring and emotionless throughout this time, and I can imagine women feel very alone. The male is simply trying to hold their partnership afloat and in the process isn’t able to demonstrate true feelings or be that empathetic shoulder that their partner may be yearning for. I have watched my husband show me pain that I never thought I would see. We both journey through the trenches together. He never tries to pull me out and rescue me too soon, he just walks alongside me at every point – listening and meeting me where I am at. I love him for his vulnerability and bravery to be devastated with me.
Everyone is pregnant all of a sudden
Holy shit! If I thought going through IVF drew my attention to pregnant women, I was in for a rude surprise once I miscarried. I feel as though with everyday that passes, someone else falls pregnant. Someone else is lucky enough to make it past the 12 weeks with a heartbeat still thumping inside of them. I have never, ever once been resentful of someone’s pregnancy as I know how beautiful the experience is. I run an infertility support group and people are falling pregnant around me. I have pregnant colleagues and friends and it is truly wonderful. But, you become hyper aware of these pregnancies and in awe of the incredible feeling those women must be experiencing and will once they hold their child in their arms. Some are harder than others though. I am very triggered by pregnancy announcements at the moment as all of them seem to be due in May around my original due date of the 20th. There are times when I have cursed my bad luck and compared myself to some women. I wish it was me getting to post my announcement and share my excitement with the world. At the end of the day, my time will come and I know that I grow more and become a better person with each day of patience.
Sometimes it feels as though I were never pregnant
It was over before I really had a chance to believe it. My life has continued to carry on as normal. I go to work, out with friends, to the gym and nothing is different. Being pregnant is all but a memory. My body hasn’t changed and my lifestyle is normal. At times, I really need to rack my brain and think back to those few weeks, where I had clarity and visions of a future being a mother. It seems so out of my grasp now. I am just back to maintaining the identity I had before.
I am absolutely petrified about trying again
My thoughts for the future are tarnished with doubt. I came to a harsh realisation not long ago. I realised that when I do try again I could be challenged to enjoy or connect with the process. While I do have a firm goal to address this, it is something I failed to consider. Next year when I do try again could be stressful regardless. Disappointing if IVF cycles fail or fear filled if I do fall pregnant. Will I continue to look for signs of miscarriage? Will I read into spotting? The anxiety will be gripping regardless and this is what makes me so incredibly petrified about moving forward. I am already in the pre-stages of this anxiety. Every time I go to the bathroom I desperately search for signs of a period coming which signals that I could be ready to start trying again. The voice of reason inside my head only lingers for a short time, before my emotional brain sweeps in to cloud all judgment and thought.
Time heals all wounds if you let it. With every day or week that passes, life returns to normal. People carry on with their lives and so do you. A big focus for me has been on allowing myself to feel all the emotions-good and bad. I have reflected on every feeling and what it is telling me. I have been driven to learn every lesson that is presented to me. I now know that I join the 1 in 4 women who suffer a miscarriage. I know that I can fall pregnant and surely can again. I know that my husband and I have the strongest marriage possible and it somehow manages to grow everyday. I know who my friends are and what people I would prefer not have by my side. But the most important lesson I have learned is that I now know that I can only continue to get stronger in my life and there is no limit to what you can go through. All of these experience dictate who you can become and I know I am set to become someone much greater than who I am now.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with misscarriage, please reach out. I am always hear to listen and support any woman or man on this journey.