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.