The Obstacle (or the Sinkhole of Miscarriage)

10:49 am Amanda 3 Comments


Monday, 8 June 2015

I've turned to writing as an emotional outlet many times throughout my life, and it seems apt that I return to it at this life-changing obstacle into which we've hurtled this week.

On April 13, I was overwhelmed with surprise and overjoyed to find that the pregnancy test showed a positive result. Immediately incapable of stringing together a sentence, or breathing regularly, I managed to use a form of eyebrow raising and charades to tell my husband that I was pregnant ... in the thirty seconds we had at 5:49am before he left for the station to catch his train. Appropriately timed to a Blur song, like some of the best moments of our relationship, we shared the briefest exchange of joy.

And now, in the aftermath of Thursday, I reflect on the irony of that brief exchange.

Just like the brief exchange that was our impending excitement at being parents, right up until the moment that the bleeding started without notice, without pain ... Right up until the moment that all hope was shattered when the doctor couldn't find a heartbeat.

Miscarriage is the unspoken Club of Exclusivity, one that you never want an invite to join and, yet, one to which the secret handshake is given as soon as you utter the password, without the need for an application, or the vetting of your personal qualities by even one character reference. The one for which you join the immeasurable register of members with the simple words, "I lost my baby."

I knew that the figures and statistics for miscarriage were high; 1 in 4 women in the UK will suffer one during the first 20 weeks of their pregnancy. I also knew that 80% of those miscarriages occur during the first 12 weeks.

The magical safety barrier of 12 weeks. That time when it's socially acceptable to announce that you are expecting...

But what about all those women who, like me, fall short of those 12 weeks?

I carried our baby for 11.5 weeks. I became a mother at the moment in which the test returned positive. I experienced all the symptoms while our baby transformed from an idea to a growing reality. Our baby developed limbs and all its organs. Our baby was planned, wanted, and most importantly, loved. I talked to it every day, and I dreamed so many dreams of the future.

We made the decision to share our news, in our own time during the course of the opening weeks, with selected family and friends before the 12 week period was up. As an Australian, married to a British man and living in London, I am sorely deprived of geographical access to my family and long-standing support network. I needed to know that, if anything were to go wrong, I would be able to turn to people in England to hold my hand.

In hindsight, I am so glad that we did. I have been blessed to have so many offers of support, to have people checking in just to say that they are thinking of us.

Yet, at the same time, I have never been so ashamed.

The stigma of breaking silence on early pregnancy is thick in our society, as is the topic of miscarriage ... and never more so than when one is combined with the other. In a time when the prevalence of miscarriage is so high and, as a result, medical professionals encourage you to keep your pregnancy secret until the magic 12 weeks, we are actively telling women that we are only interested in celebrating with them if and when their pregnancy reaches the safety zone. If you are in the 25% who don't make it, the secrecy of your pregnancy is now overshadowed by the expectation that your miscarriage should also be a secret, for how can you suddenly announce your suffering when nobody was aware of your joy?

It is wrong. So incredibly wrong. We are painting women into a corner from which they cannot escape. How many will never tell anybody of their pain, of their loss?

Too many times already, people have said in the same sentence as "I'm so sorry" the unbearable "but at least..." and inserted any number of supposed positive spins, or silver linings.

Such as, at least you know you can get pregnant - that's really lucky/fortunate.

Or, at least it didn't happen any later on ... often followed by an example of someone they know who suffered a stillbirth.

Or, that's why they say you shouldn't say anything until the 12 weeks is up.

I cannot, and will not, deny that we are indeed fortunate that we were able to conceive. We are supremely lucky that it was not at 37 weeks.

But who decided that the way to console a person in a time of unbelievable loss and grief is to try and compare their misery with that of someone else? How is trying to minimise my grief by putting the plight of someone else above my own going to make me feel better about losing my baby? About never knowing them? That despite the fact we will move on from this, we will never forget and never stop loving them?

All you are doing is making me feel ashamed: ashamed that I wasn't one of the successful ones, ashamed that I am taking the time to deal with my pain, ashamed that I was so in love with the baby I had yet to meet, ashamed that I said anything at all.

My grief, my misery, is not a competition.

We are hurting. We are devastated. We will never see the face of our adored one or hear their little foetal heartbeat. I will never feel their hiccups or kicks, I will never deliver them into our loving arms and try to help them find a way in this world.

But I am supposed to be relieved because it didn't get any further.

Something needs to change. People need to start talking. The walls of the Exclusive Club need to be broken down.

I am not saying that every woman should shout news of her pregnancy from all possible rooftops, nor am I suggesting that every person should feel comfortable discussing miscarriage and its finer points.

What I am saying is that society's response to antenatal death should not be centred around shaming a woman for not carrying far enough to be classed as a still-birth. It should not consist of "at least" and "there's always next time" or "you've just got to look on the bright side".

It should be the love and support of "I am so sorry for your loss... I know that nothing I can say is going to make you feel any better at the moment, but I am here for you if you need me to get you anything/talk to/hold your hand/for anything at all."

Equally as importantly, it should be about giving men the freedom to also express their grief outside of the house. Just because they don't carry a child, in no way means that they don't also feel the loss of fatherhood and dreams. Perhaps they shelve it and bury it to be strong for their partner, perhaps they feel like they don't have the right to the keen feelings of loss because they had yet to physically experience their child. They have every right to be consoled, they have every right to be recognised.

We all have to die. We all experience loss. Some of us are just unlucky enough to lose our babies before society consider them worthy of an expression of sorrow, without a cut-and-paste silver lining tacked onto the end.

My grief, our grief, is not a competition. Nor is the grief of anybody else who is suffering the effects of a miscarriage.

We have no reason to be ashamed - we should not be made to feel like pariahs.

Somehow, soon, something must change.

To our little poppet: Mummy and Daddy loved you unconditionally from the moment we knew about you. We were prepared to give you the world. You were not ready for us, and we know that this time was just not ours to become a family...but we shall never forget you, and we will hold you close in our hearts always. We can only hope that your great-grandma is looking out for you in that special place, and keeping you safe now that we cannot. Due 21 December, farewelled 4 June 2015.


3 comments:

  1. A very moving story. Hope you will find, in time, a way to get over this. Thoughts are with you. Stay strong xxx

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  2. Very moving, and exactly what happened to us - 30 November 2012. Time does heal a little, and we have a beautiful boy now who wouldn't be here if we hadn't lost our first baby, but s/he will always be a part of our little family, and sorely missed. I'm so sorry for your loss. x

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  3. How beautifully and strikingly you articulate the thoughts of millions of parents in that 'club'. Lots of love to you. So sorry for your loss x

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