Mum’s Voice series: I’d rather be buying maternity wear

As it’s Baby Loss Awareness Week, I’m going to be sharing a new guest post each day. Here is the first, by Hannah, about the significance of certain items of clothing after miscarriage…

Ordinary things, like the clothes in our wardrobes can trigger so many memories. We’ve been taught that what we wear is important. You only have to glance through a magazine or watch a couple of episodes of Queer Eye and the message is clear – your clothes are an extension of you.

I’ve always loved clothes, and like so many people I simply have too many of them. How many of us rush off to buy a new outfit for a wedding when we have perfectly good options in our wardrobe? Holidays, job interviews, new jobs all trigger a shopping spree. Cheering oneself up with a shopping trip is seen as a legitimate form of therapy – one that I have relied on a few too many times now.

But a series of miscarriages has led me to have a different view of my clothes (a different view of everything really). I now make sure nothing is too clingy in case people look at my bloated belly and think it’s a pregnancy – being asked if you are pregnant a few weeks after a loss is not easy to deal with. And what do you do with the clothes you wore whilst pregnant, to your early pregnancy scans with a pregnancy that didn’t last? How can you look at things bought during a post-loss shopping spree without it feeling bittersweet? (Nice jeans, but I’d have preferred to have been shopping for maternity wear). I’ve never got to the stage of buying actual maternity clothes, but I do have an underwear drawer full of bras purchased in early pregnancy that are too big post-miscarriage.

The summer of 2018 will be remembered for the world cup and the heatwave. I spent the first half of that heatwave pregnant and the second half recovering from a miscarriage. This was my fourth pregnancy in 18 months and I was being resolutely positive that this one would be OK. My waist-line expanded quickly, probably because I was bloated in the heat, as much as anything.

Even so, I had to buy some new things to wear to work. One of the items was a green polka dot vintage-style dress, something I bought a size too big with so much hope that the pregnancy would continue.

But despite what some people might have you believe, being positive doesn’t always stop a miscarriage. It didn’t turn out OK. Another bad news scan at 9 weeks. Following my ERPC, I was kept in the hospital for a few days due to showing signs of an infection. My husband was sent to bring some more things from home as I hadn’t come to hospital prepared for a stay longer than a night, I asked him to bring a dress – a different dress, but this green dress was the one he brought with him.

That green dress now reminds me of the hope we had felt for that pregnancy as well as sitting on my hospital bed waiting for my temperature to decrease, crying silently behind the cubicle curtains.

Too many clothes mean a clear-out is needed once in a while. After my first loss, I wanted to throw out everything I’d worn to the bad news scan. But I managed to stop myself. I haven’t worn the coat since that winter though, it’s currently under my bed for a day when it won’t hurt so much to wear it.

Following my most recent miscarriage I did have a clear-out. It wasn’t necessarily the right time for this – it’s hard to tell what sparks joy after a loss.  As Lorelai Gilmore says to her grieving mother in Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life: ‘Nothing is going to bring you joy right now. Nothing’.

But it was cathartic, in a way. And a cheaper form of therapy than yet another shopping spree (and better for the planet). The green polka dot dress survived the cull because it was packed away with the rest of my summer clothes.

When I put it on again, on a hot day this summer, a year after I’d last worn it home from the hospital, it triggered all of those memories. I didn’t know how to feel or whether to go and change. In the end I kept it on and had a fantastic day out.

At this point, five miscarriages down, I can’t realistically give away every item associated with those pregnancies and the subsequent losses. It would be impractical and would feel as though I was trying to hide from the fact of them – or forget them.

I also feel guilty that I have so much: so many things that if I decide not to wear items associated with pregnancy loss I still have plenty more to choose from. There will be people who don’t have the luxury of clearing out some clothes because they remind them of bad days. In order to dilute those painful memories attached to these clothes, I have decided I need to keep wearing them. I will wear them to work, to meals out with friends, lounging around the house, as often as possible.

Just like the advice not to save best for best, I don’t want to save worst for worst.

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