Today marks two years since what would have been the due date of our first baby I miscarried at 11 weeks. Last year I was pregnant with Jasper and although we acknowledged the date, my heart didn’t feel as heavy. This year, I’m reminded more of how I felt and my heart feels a little heavier as a result. We had lovingly nicknamed the baby, ‘Bean’ on account of him being the size of a kidney bean the last time we saw him alive on a scan. Over the last few months, I’ve found myself thinking about Bean and what could have been more often. I recently revisited something I wrote two years ago in time for Bean’s due date.
‘It seems fitting that our amaryllis should finally flower this week. If things had been different, we would have been welcoming our little one into the world. Today we spent the day on the hills remembering and wondering what could have been, but also trying to look forward to what is yet to come.
I never could have imagined how the glimmer of life that was a part of me for just a couple of months could have such a profound effect on our lives. I’ve felt so frustrated that I just couldn’t ‘get over it’ particularly as so many women go through miscarriages. When I considered how many women miscarry even further into pregnancy than I did or worse still, have a still born, I even questioned what right I had to continue to feel so desperately sad. I’ve come to realise that you never do really ‘get over it’. I’ve also realised that you have to allow yourself the time and space to feel all those emotions. You have to give yourself permission to feel all those things. Until you do, it all festers below the surface, blocking all the other emotions, preventing or prolonging the grieving process. While you never forget, you regain strength and hope that allows you to look forward again.’
I wrote this as a result of finally seeking mental health support after suffering two miscarriages in the space of five months, having had another loss at around 6 weeks, five months after losing Bean. The six months after we lost Bean was a really dark time for me. We had a rollercoaster of a time while pregnant due to issues that arose, then having a bad time with a medical management of miscarriage, combined with my autoimmune thyroid condition deteriorating postpartum, all magnified my struggles. The truth is, I knew I wasn’t coping, but I didn’t want to admit it. On hearing that I had had a miscarriage, so many women offered their stories of miscarriages and followed it with their ‘happy endings’ of falling pregnant soon after and having a gang of healthy children to prove it. It did offer me some hope to begin with, but in my head, in being told how common it was, I felt I was robbed of the ‘right’ to be sad. It’s one of those things, it happens to so many, everyone I spoke to seemed to be able to get on with it. So then, why was it that I struggled so much? It has taken me time to truly process how I felt and why I struggled so much. Apart from the medical factor of a deteriorating thyroid condition which does affect both your physical and mental health, I have come to realise that there were two main factors that affected how I felt.
The first, was the lack of support offered after the loss and the difficult experience we had with the medical management of miscarriage. Shortly after hearing the dreaded four words, ‘sorry, there’s no heartbeat’, we were handed a pile of leaflets to read to decide what we wanted to do. Although I should have been a little over 11 weeks pregnant, my baby was only measuring between 9 and 10 weeks. I had had a ‘missed miscarriage.’ If you’d like to read a bit more about my experience you can read it here https://ourlittlebeanblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/13/in-the-beginning/, but in short, we opted for a medical management of miscarriage. For a long time I did not allow myself to acknowledge that we had had a ‘traumatic’ experience. Once again, I did not allow myself to believe that on account of it still being an early miscarriage and it was something that you were expected to deal with and get over. But the truth is, I can now see that our experience was in fact a traumatic one due to the complete lack of care we received. I didn’t realise it at the time, but the anger and the hurt I felt towards enduring this experience had had a huge impact on how I dealt with my loss. I am certain that had I not felt so let down and had we been better informed and better supported, I would not have struggled nearly as much as I did.
The other thing that undoubtedly hindered my recovery was the feeling that I was not entitled to my feelings on account of miscarriage being such a common occurrence and due to my losses being early on in pregnancy. I think there is often this idea that gestation is what determines the ‘hierarchy’ in grief and reading what I wrote two years ago, I think I was conditioned to think the same. It is one of the reasons reading what I wrote two years ago conjures up a sense of embarrassment. (That, and the fact I thought I was aware of all the different types of losses you could experience. I was terrified of once again being told that there was no heartbeat. I knew that babies could be born prematurely, but not once did I consider that I could go into labour so prematurely and that my baby would be born alive but would die several hours later.) I really wish I could go back to tell myself that that gestation does not determine who has the right to grieve. Although losing Jasper at 23 and a half weeks was the worst thing that could have happened to us, it doesn’t make what I felt after my earlier losses any less valid or any less painful at the time and that’s something I want others to understand. I really feel that had I realised that at the time, I would have recovered sooner from our experiences. When you lose a baby at whatever gestation, it doesn’t change the fact that you lose all those hopes and dreams that had been planted within you. I also know that the care you receive at the time of loss has a huge impact on how you cope. In most people’s eyes, what happened with Jasper would qualify as a traumatic experience, but the truth is, due to the exceptional care we received at the time and in the aftermath of our loss, it didn’t feel as traumatic as it could have been. In my eyes, my experience of my first miscarriage was far more traumatic on account of the lack of care we received.
How we deal with loss is such a personal thing and everyone’s journey is unique. There will be people that miscarry and are not deeply affected by it but that is absolutely OK. But equally, if you do struggle, do allow yourself the permission to feel those things. I certainly wish I had done that sooner.