The measure of our happiness

Today marks ten months since we said hello and good bye to our beautiful boy and I miss him more than ever.

They say time is a healer, but the truth is, I feel it is getting harder, not easier. To most of the outside world it hasn’t been visible, but I’ve cried more tears in the last month than I had done in quite some time and there has been a heavy cloud or maybe even a fog that has been lingering over me. This wave of grief suddenly and unexpectedly hit me on Jasper’s nine months anniversary, and it has stayed with me for much of this month. The nine months anniversary was a strange milestone. I couldn’t help but notice that in the time he had been gone, a new life could have been conceived and been born, and with that a torrent of emotions came to suffocate me.

In the months following Jasper’s death, I was often surprised at my own optimism and strange sense of hope that had blossomed within me despite the devastating loss we had experienced. I feel that since the New Year things seemed to gradually diminish, then in the last month, I’ve often felt like I’ve been running on nothing. My broken heart seems increasingly delicate, and feels like it could crumble at any minute. In fact, some days it has felt like nothing but a little pile of rubble with no means of repairing it. Fortunately, that state of disrepair has not been permanent, but even on the better days I don’t feel like the person I was, maybe four or five months ago. I look back at things I had been strong enough to do and wonder how I ever managed it, as now, on some days, I seem to be finding the very same things near impossible. I’m finding being around babies and pregnant women increasingly difficult. It has never been easy but it was something I felt strong enough to bare in the past, yet lately there have been occasions where I’ve had to run away from it. I’ve even had to cancel social events because I haven’t been able to face being around people. Looking at pictures of Jasper has always filled me with pride, and it still does, but I find that those emotions are increasingly tinged with a painful sadness. That fact in itself makes me sad as I don’t want the sadness I feel to overshadow the pride and joy I feel of being Jasper’s mum. I wonder whether despite what happened, we were drunk on the joys of finally becoming parents and as the dust settles, the effect of that magic is wearing off.

One of the reasons and I think perhaps the biggest reason for my recent struggles stems from my desperate desire to be pregnant again. Actually, it’s not pregnancy that I long for as the thought of it terrifies me, but I do long for a ‘rainbow baby’; a baby that we get to bring home. I’m finding the longing I feel for having a child to be nearly as painful as the pain of losing Jasper, and dealing with the two together seems unbearable. That together with the mixture of joy and fear I feel towards the prospect of being pregnant makes for a tiring and bumpy ride. I had been quite laid back about the thought of trying for another baby (or so I thought) and at first felt that ‘if it happened, it happened.’ But the honest truth is that I was naïve in thinking I would be pregnant by now. It’s not that I’ve ever been under the illusion that being pregnant again would in any way cancel out the loss of Jasper. I know that would never be the case, but as a couple with no living children, the prospect of never having any is a scarily real one. Now I find myself in this vicious cycle each month of preparing myself for the possibility that I might be pregnant, and just as I’ve talked myself into the idea of being pregnant and that it will be OK,  I then have to deal with the disappointment of not being pregnant and with it I miss Jasper even more.

When you have experienced ongoing issue like we have, it’s hard not to let the quest of having children take over your life. The last three and a bit years have either been about trying for a baby, being pregnant or recovering from a loss. Don’t get me wrong, we have been extremely lucky to have had some fantastic experiences in between it all but on the bad days it’s hard to see past the fog at the happier memories. It’s also hard not to plan your future around possible pregnancies when you have had so many issues. It may be because I’ve felt hopeful, but I’ve felt unable to plan anything too far ahead in case I fall pregnant. It sounds silly I know, but having experienced so many different issues throughout pregnancy, it is going to be difficult to live life as we normally do if I should fall pregnant. I’m just a bit tired of feeling like I’m putting my life on hold for the sake of something that may or may not happen. It’s not that I’ve lost all hope; one of the things Jasper has taught me is how good it feels to have a bit of hope. I just feel like now, I need to strike a balance between staying hopeful and living my life and enjoying what it has to offer. Like most other parents who have experienced a loss, having a rainbow baby is something we strive for and aspire to. Despite knowing that another baby would never replace Jasper, I feel like it has become a measure of my happiness. I know we are very lucky that it is still something we are able to hope for, as for some, there is no option for that hope. I just feel like I can’t let it be something that my happiness depends on. I don’t want to lose hope, but equally I don’t want to rely on it to be happy. It’s not something that is going to come easily, and I think I need to allow myself the time but I almost feel like a weight has been lifted in realising it.

Someone said to me recently that I’ve done so well in ‘just getting on with things.’ I thought I was dealing with things and surprised myself in how well I seemed to be doing at times. Now I wonder whether what I was doing was not facing up to reality. I’m not really sure, but what I do know is, rather than wonder why I’m feeling like this now or feeling like I should be doing better, I need to give myself more credit for surviving the last ten months. When I look back, I don’t know how I managed some of the things I’ve done. It’s only now as the dust settles and perhaps I become more aware of my emotions that I realise how well we have both done. When I consider that, I feel it’s no wonder I’m now suddenly feeling rundown and exhausted. For now, I’m going to allow myself to feel sorry for myself, try and be kind to myself, look after my health and try to find ways to enjoy life for what it is. After all, I have so much to live for and be thankful for. 

 

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Our little Bean

amaryllis

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.

 

clee hill
Taken two years ago when we remembered Bean, in the exact spot we sat again, the day after we lost Jasper.