"Is she your first?" One mum's truths about the aftermath of miscarriage
I lie when I’m asked this question about my daughter.
“Is she your first?”
“Yes,” I reply. And I smile fondly at her sweet face.
My mind says “No, she’s not. She’s our second. I lost our first baby through miscarriage”.
Every woman’s body and mind are different. This is just my story. Not right, not wrong. Just my experience. The two times I fell pregnant, I knew before the test read positive. I don’t know how I just did. I was not the type of woman who was holistic or “in tune” with her body, so I am surprised this happened to me.
At ten weeks, I knew something was wrong before any symptoms of miscarriage started. I can’t explain how I knew this either. But I knew that baby wasn’t ready.
A still life
There was no flutter on the monitor. Just a little smudge. The obstetrician was extremely kind and explained this and that. I can’t remember what he said. I just lay there, staring at the screen. Frozen in time. I didn’t cry. Was I numb? Maybe. Or shocked? I don’t know how I felt at that precise moment. I do remember looking at my husband and trying to keep myself composed so that he wouldn’t get upset.
“Just until you get home. Then you can cry all you want”.
I wanted to ask the doctor for a photograph of the scan, but I was afraid to. Maybe I wasn’t allowed to have a picture because there wasn’t going to be a baby.
I should have asked.
Was it painful?
The physical pain of miscarriage passed. Medically and physically, I was very well cared for. I did not envisage how emotionally traumatic a miscarriage would be.
Was it my fault?
Note the last sentence of the opening paragraph. “I lost our baby.” “I.” What was wrong with my body that I couldn’t carry that particular child? Surely, I had done something to cause this? Of course, this is not true. Nature is, indeed, cruel, with 25% of pregnancies ending in miscarriage. I was another statistic. Logically, I knew it wasn’t my fault. I knew there was no “reason.” But as I was the only one pregnant, it was difficult not to place some of the blame on myself.
Putting on a brave face
People meant well and were, mostly, empathetic. But there were times when I thought I would bite right through my own tongue. There were times at work when I went to sit in a toilet cubicle to compose myself because I could feel hot tears boiling at the back of my eyes.
Some people didn’t know what to say. That was okay. I understood that. I could see kindness in their eyes, and that meant a lot to me.
It was the assumptions that hurt. Assuming I would break down if I heard another woman was pregnant. Sure, I would feel sad that I wasn’t pregnant anymore, but I wasn’t going to be upset or annoyed that another woman had life inside her. I wanted to shout,
“That’s her baby. Not mine! My baby is gone! I can’t get him or her back! I’ll never know my baby! He or she can’t be replaced!”
But I couldn’t shout. I couldn’t even say that because people would think I was being ridiculous. I had to hold it together and “move forward.”
Ah yes! Move forward.
There are a few obligatory sentences that a lot of women who suffer miscarriage might hear. Here’s a few I heard.
“You’re still young; you’ll have plenty of time to have babies.”
“The baby might have had severe disabilities. Maybe that’s why you miscarried?”
“At ten weeks, well, it wasn’t even fully developed yet, so it wasn’t a person anyway.”
While these statements made by the medically uneducated may have some semblance of scientific fact to them, they were not helpful. Not helpful at all. At a time, when I felt vulnerable and alone, these types of comments served me an added plate of shame. How dare I grieve for a person that I did not know. How dare I dwell on my feelings of loss and sorrow. Because I have no body to bury, no ashes to scatter, no gender to assign to my child, am I expected to move on quickly?
Well, I didn’t. And that was perfectly fine.
Two people lose.
My husband lost a baby too. While the trauma may not have resonated within him for as long, he also had to grieve. We were two, young people, excited about the prospect of being parents. Even though it was “early days,” we had conversed about whether baby would be a boy or a girl? What colour hair would baby have? Would the baby inherit Daddy’s bushy eyebrows? In an instant, the dream was over. Gone. We were left looking at each other, not knowing what to do. And it is hard for the partner because there is no solution. It’s a problem that can’t be fixed.
Does time heal all wounds?
Every January 21st, I think about my first baby. That was his or her due date. I think about him or her at other times too because I know that I am the only person who will ever really think about that tiny soul. It’s not as raw or as painful anymore. The passage of time has soothed the ache.
For any woman who has suffered miscarriage and for any man or woman whose partner has suffered miscarriage, your experience, your loss, your grief and your recovery will be unique. It doesn’t matter whether you bounce back quickly or whether it takes you longer to heal, both physically and emotionally. Your experiences and feelings are valid. There is no right or wrong, in my humble opinion.
Why do we have two ears and one mouth?
This is an old question but a good one. To listen twice as much as we speak. It’s important that we listen when someone is hurting. Whatever the reason, miscarriage, death, job loss, stress, whatever. Facts, advice and personal anecdotes have a time and place, but when hurt is raw and palpable, maybe we should all just listen and give each other more space to be heard.
Irene Halpin Long is a stay-at-home parent to a beautiful little girl and an aspiring writer. She is currently working on a novel set in the Channel Islands and a children’s book set in Ireland. She is the author of two blogs: one for flash fiction at irenehalpinlong.com and on life as a parent over at, hervoicefromthekitchenwindow.com.