I’ve been thinking a lot about what I thought I would write for this week – it’s Baby Loss Awareness Week in the UK right now – and honestly? I’ve struggled.
I feel like it deserves my best ‘content’, my best efforts. Me at my most opinionated, campaigning, vociferous self. But my heart is just not in it.
And as I’ve worried on the problem, I’ve come to the conclusion it’s because I’m not where I thought I would be in relation to miscarriage ‘awareness’ this year. Last year, in the wake of our third miscarriage, I had the energy, the drive and urgent, pent-up need to Do Something (so I wrote about the pain of it, and also what I wanted to change – here and here, if you’re interested).
But this year, the second of these weeks we’ve lived through as recurrent miscarriers, I just feel like the air has gone out of me; deflated and unsure as to what to say that would be helpful, that would mean anything. I don’t want to be a stuck record, a clanging, crashing cymbal, banging on about how hard this is, how much it hurts. I still think it’s important to be honest about the dark, raw pain of loss – this particular, peculiar, invisible loss that the outside world doesn’t yet know how to acknowledge – but it can’t be all I do. I have to try to move forward.
More honesty? I thought we’d be out the ‘other side’ by now. It’s not that this week wouldn’t mean anything to me if we’d brought a baby home by now, or were pregnant again, it’s more that I feel I at least know how to tell that story. The fable of the rainbow baby. I know why that would be comforting and sustaining for other people, because I find those stories comforting myself.
But then I thought about how sometimes – only sometimes and on low days – I find those stories hard too. As though the teller has slipped behind a plate of glass, behind a barely perceptible barrier, keeping me ever so subtly at one remove now.
It’s not that I begrudge anybody their rainbow. It really, really isn’t. It’s more that not every story of baby loss fits that neat narrative. Sometimes it takes a longer than a year (sometimes much longer) to come home with a baby in your arms.
Sometimes it never happens.
Oh how I would have hated to read those words when I first miscarried. Back then I scoured the internet for stories of miscarriage followed by successful pregnancies. The only question I really wanted to know from anyone who kindly tried to console me by sharing their own miscarriage story was how soon after they got pregnant again – and what they did differently that time.
So Present-day Me is no good to Past Me.
But Present-day Me needs something different. I want to read about how people have healed whether they have babies or not. Those are the answers and stories I crave now.
So, I think what I want to say this week is simply: ‘hello’. Hello from the other side of the story. If you are here after a very recent miscarriage, I hope you will find it encouraging rather than unbearable, unthinkable. (Though I understand why you might not want to relate to me right now).
Because we are four miscarriages and nearly three years in, without a baby (and for now we are taking a breather and so are unlikely to bring a baby home next year either). And you know what? We are doing OK.
Unlike before, I can smile at toddlers who wave at me in post-office queues. I can contemplate outings with friends’ small children, even babies. If you know me and you have a baby next year you might actually get a card and a present I’ve put some thought into. I don’t flinch any more when I see a Baby On Board badge or someone wearing the particular brand of baby carrier I had a picked out the first-time round. Still have bookmarked on my computer, in fact.
There is still pain there. But it hasn’t broken us. Dan and I still have plans and dreams and full lives. Lives that will, I think, be enough if we aren’t gifted a child.
I have written before about how to feel better after a miscarriage but this was very much about the short-term, those initial raw weeks and how to get through them. What I find myself thinking about more and more is longer term healing. And what that means.
For a long time, I thought that only a baby would really do that for us. It can feel as though that is the only ‘fix’ (and I use the word advisedly) for that grief, that emptiness, that physical ache – and sometimes all you can do is give into that hunger. (I know, believe me, I was ravenous for another baby after losses one and two). But at other times after a loss, you can feel paralysed. Too exhausted to carry on.
And so I want to tell you that that’s OK. Even when it feels as though you’re stubbornly turning your back on the solution to your problem. Even when all the test results and laws of probabilities are telling you it’s just a numbers game, a matter of trying again.
But a baby is never a band-aid. And trying again takes fortitude. Resilience. Things that grief and previous experience wear away. Your threshold for when enough is enough (for now, or for ever) will be different to someone else’s. It doesn’t make you weaker, less deserving of your rainbow.
(Though I think it can feel that way when for such a long time the only stories we’ve heard in the mainstream about miscarriage and infertility were the miracle baby ones – the couples who endured 112 miscarriages and 57 rounds of IVF to bring their baby home. The subtext being: so what have you got to complain about, eh? Just me?)
Perhaps selfishly, perhaps sensibly, right now I want time to myself, a space in which the wounds are less fresh, in which my body feels more my own than it has in months, to breathe, to travel, to read, to eat, to run, before submitting myself to the clenched fear of another pregnancy or the waity-Katy game that is trying to conceive.
I want to tell you, from a position of relative experience, that it is OK to pause. To regroup. To rediscover the things that formed your identity outside of pregnancy – and pregnancy loss.
You can take a break and start to feel better. There are other things that heal you.
There are many sides to this story. Hello from the other side.
Beautifully written post. You have so much strength and are amazing. It is okay to pause and regroup. In fact it is such an important part of the healing process. I’m always here for you if you need me. Lots of love and hugs Lucy xxxx
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Thank you, lovely. xxx
I really really love this post. I’ve been completely overwhelmed by this years BLAW. After 3 miscarriages this is exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you so so much and sending you loads of love and fun times ahead for you (and hopefully me) on the other side enjoying life 💕 xxx
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Thank you… wishing the same for you. I found it really overwhelming too (so much so I’m only just emerging from a bit of a funk sparked by it – hence only just getting round to replying to lovely comments like this one). xxxx
Thank you for writing this, and sharing another narrative. Our experience is different but also similar, and often these awareness weeks/days create a space that I feel I don’t quite belong to, so sharing a different narrative to the most common (rainbow) one, helps remind me there are many different narratives out there and mine is one of them. And I just want to say, I hear you and I see you xx
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Thank you. I agree, and the more I write and read about this stuff, the more you realise while there are uniting strands that help us to feel less alone, everyone’s story is also different in subtle and not-so subtle ways. Which is why I think it’s important to keep talking and writing about it – just because you’ve heard one miscarriage story (or infertility story) doesn’t mean you’ve heard them all. xxx
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I needed to read this today. Thank you 🙏🏻 I have just had my second miscarriage in 5 months and I’m struggling and in a real state of fear. It’s so true that you can feel like you lose yourself along this journey and I feel I needed this reminder, that it’s okay to take time out. So thank you for writing this and I’m sending love your way 💛
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I’m so sorry (and sorry I’ve only just seen/replied to this now). It is a really frightening place to be – I remember from our second, it was such an uncertain time. Sending lots of of love to you too. I hope you are feeling more ‘yourself’ now. Jennie xxx
I have suffered over 30 losses and have no children I’m now 40 and really don’t have anything in life I spent 20 years trying and water my whole life now my bones hurt and no doctors have an answer
Hi Cassandra, I’m so so sorry. I don’t know what to say that would bring you even a tiny bit of comfort. I really hope you can find some support. You maybe know this already, but the Miscarriage Association have a helpline, for anyone who is struggling and needs to talk: https://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/how-we-help/helpline/
Miscarriage is a process that until you have been there is totally without understanding is empty feeling failure and everything else. I got up to pregnancy number 11 when the GP stepped in and said was enough I so much wanted the failure to go away but to this very day is still with me. I am now 60 heart brake does not heal this loss.
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That’s awful – and I’m so sorry for what you went through. I think things are slowly improving though. In theory everyone here should be now be referred for tests after three (and there’s some effort being made to change this to after two…) although I know it doesn’t always happen. I agree there is a perception that you will heal or ‘get over it’ with time, where actually it is always something that will have happened to you, that will have changed you. Perhaps one day there will be more understanding for this sort of loss. Jennie xxx
Thank you for this. I had 2 miscarriages in 2018 and the emotional, physical, and psychological pain really took a toll on me. I’ve told my husband that I feel like a part of me has died. I have never felt so angry, frustrated, sad, jealous before. I felt like I was stuck in a rut that I couldn’t get out of. And the only thing that would make things better was if I could have a baby. I am still healing and learning to be kind to myself. I still cringe at the baby on board signs and look the other way when I see a stroller/baby. I feel like a crappy friend as a bunch of friends have given birth the past year and I really want nothing to do with it. But thank you for showing the other side. I wish you the best
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Hi Em, I’m so sorry – also, my heart stopped a little bit when I read those words ‘I feel like a part of me has died’. That’s how I felt for a long time, too. I think lots of people feel exactly the way you describe, and yet too often the significance of miscarriage is underplayed – by society at large, and by other people’s reactions to you. It can be an enormous psychological upheaval, and a real dent in your sense of self. But it *does* get better, slowly. Thank you for reading – and I really hope this year brings you much happier things. Jennie xxx