Real-life: My journey from miscarriage to pregnancy
“You’re still young. You have lots of time to get pregnant. Your body got pregnant once. Okay, it didn’t go to plan, but at least you can get pregnant”.
Stop! Please, stop it- is what I wanted to say to the well-meant advice and anecdotes. But I didn’t. I muttered the obligatory phrases a lot of women who have suffered the trauma of miscarriage do, “Ah yeah, definitely. Definitely”.
A few weeks after miscarrying my first child, I felt like I was in a fish bowl. Looking at the world I once knew, hearing familiar sounds muffled by introverted grief. My logic understood that people meant well and that their comments were sincere. They came from a good place. Part of me deeply appreciated that people cared. Part of me hated that they didn’t seem to fully comprehend my sense of loss at that point in time. People were telling me that miscarriage was common but few people were talking about the grief attached to my loss.
Miscarriage is a bereavement. It is a private mourning for a person you never knew and for a person you will never meet. It is a grieving for a lost love who will never know that you loved them and that you will love until you take your last breath.
I was in my thirties when I lost my first child. Naturally, when I met new friends, some would ask if I had children.
My heart and mind said....Yes, I have one little star or soul or raindrop floating somewhere in the universe. I have a tiny winged angel in heaven but in reality, I said no, not yet. Maybe one day.
My husband travelled to his home, South Africa, for a friend’s wedding. He kept getting asked when we were going to have children. Bear in mind that he had also suffered a loss - a loss that he had kept a secret. He wondered if they know what we had been through if they would ask such a question.
Instead, he would laugh politely- "not yet, maybe we'll get a dog first"
Of course, people were only making conversation and taking an interest in our lives, but when grief and emotion after miscarriage are so raw, these questions, unintentionally, rub salt into a very slow healing wound.
Pregnancy after miscarriage
Fourteen months after miscarrying my first child, I fell pregnant with my second. I was both elated and riddled with anxiety. What if what happened before, happens again?
I had lost our first baby at ten weeks. So in my head, I kept thinking if we can get to week ten it will be such an achievement.
We got to week ten.
At week twelve, I had a scan. My own heart was beating ten to the dozen. I was excited and scared for what I would see on the sonogram. There was a baby with a galloping heartbeat. Stay beating little heart for at least another ninety years - Mama will do her best to grow you.
Week twelve and beyond
I won’t lie. I found pregnancy really difficult. I was anxious and worried that something might go wrong. I was scared of giving birth. In truth, I was petrified. When other women told me their birth stories, I mentally told them to “Shut it”. I didn’t want to hear their labour room war stories.
But there was a part of my pregnancy I really loved. I would come home from work, put on my giant fleece pyjamas, sit on the couch and talk to my bump. Just the two of us. The pea and the pod. Those quiet moments, where no-one was talking and baby’s foot gave a kick are still tattooed securely in my mind. Those images still act as a sanctuary in my anxious moments. Images of hope and possibility when once I thought possibility was lost.
After the rain comes a.....
My beautiful baby girl was born on 2 April 2015. She made it into the world. My darling rainbow baby.
You see, I don’t have a gender to assign to my first child because I lost him or her early in pregnancy. I don’t have a face or a name. The raw feeling of loss has eased considerably over time. But I think about that baby often. I look at my daughter who is nearly two years old and I imagine what her older brother or sister would have been like. I think about my first because I know that I am the only person who will ever truly think of him or her. And, you know what, that feels like a healthy thing for me to do. I feel positive when I acknowledge my loss.
Whatever your journey is, whether you have miscarried, whether it is taking longer than you expected to fall pregnant, whether you are undergoing fertility treatment, whether having a baby is not a possibility and you are looking at other options; the emotions and feelings you are experiencing and living with are valid.
To survive in life, we all wear masks. But the masks need to come off sometimes. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people who love you and ask for their support and kindness. Don’t be ashamed to contact support groups or agencies if you feel this may help with what you are going through.
None of us can get through life unsupported. Acknowledging the truth of your individual situation can be daunting and scary but it can also be cathartic and powerful in the long run.
Your trauma and your feelings deserve to be heard in a safe and supporting place.
All too often, miscarriage is not acknowledged as a true loss. We are only starting to speak about miscarriage in public forums, mainly via social media or specialised support groups. Miscarriage is a loss. This loss causes grief. All grief deserves appropriate care and support.
Good luck mamas and (mamas to be) no matter what stage of your journey you are at.
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.