The end of this month marks two years since we miscarried our first pregnancy. Two years since we were thrown into the world of pregnancy loss. Two years, four pregnancy losses later and it feels like we are no closer to getting our ‘take home baby’.
This last miscarriage has hit me a little harder than I expected. I’ve spending a lot of time reflecting on the physical, emotional and mental impact recurrent pregnancy loss has.
There is still a stigma and ignorance around miscarriage and stillbirth. Phrases such as “at least you can get pregnant, you can try again” or “at least it happened early on” often get thrown around, and shows just how misunderstood pregnancy loss is. People fail to realise the affect it has on a women’s mental health.
You don’t have to look far to find copious articles and research pieces into pregnancy loss and mental health. Just one pregnancy loss is enough to cause a grief reaction, and this is perfectly justified. You’ve just lost something you love, something you made that was living and growing. Not only that, you’ve lost a whole future that was planned with your baby from the moment that pregnancy test came up positive.
Recurrent loss becomes a constant battle with grief. As a direct result, grief triggers anxiety and depression which greatly impacts many aspects of life – your relationships with family and friends, your ability to function at home and work, how you interact and socialise with others. And then there’s the all too common feelings of failure, guilt and hopelessness.
Counting our losses
Obviously, each loss is devastating. Reflecting back I’ve noticed that although the overall feeling is heartbroken, the heartache is unique each time.
The first miscarriage was a complete shock as our blissful bubble was punctured. It was our first pregnancy, we were excited and believed there was no going back. We were going to be parents. How wrong we were. We didn’t expect this to happen to us. Throughout your adolescence, sex education is purely focused on being careful, and NOT becoming pregnant. There is little to no education about miscarriage or fertility. We’d applied this to our whole adult life up to this point, being careful until the time was right. Buying a house, getting married. Although we knew of miscarriage, we were uneducated on the facts and completely unprepared that this could happen. We felt wounded.
The second loss left us completely and utterly devastated, heartbroken like we’ve never felt before. Nothing could have prepared us for Guy being stillborn. We had anxiously made it past the 12-week mark following the previous miscarriage and thought we were safe. Our naivety bubble was brutally burst. Our eyes opened to the cruelty of pregnancy loss and we learned in reality, there is no safe zone.
After our third loss, we felt complete numbness. We’d only lost Guy 9 months prior and were still grieving for him. In the grand scheme of things, an early miscarriage was no comparision to the pain we felt when he died. If anything we were angry. Angry because we felt we had suffered enough. We thought we deserved to have a ‘normal’ pregnancy and for some reason the universe disagreed and was stopping us from bringing home our rainbow baby.
And now, another miscarriage, our fourth loss. We are just filled with deep sadness and disbelief that this is happening again. We’ve had all of the NHS investigations done after the last miscarriage and everything came back normal. So to have another early miscarriage, a fourth consecutive, unexplained pregnancy loss, well I just don’t understand it at all. I really convinced myself that this was the one that would stick. I felt hopeless and helpless.
A Different Me
Pregnancy and baby loss changes you. You stop taking things for granted, because you know that pregnancy isn’t a promise and pregnancy loss does not discriminate. One pregnancy loss does not guarantee that everything will be ok next time, after all, 1 in 100 women experience recurrent losses. We have learned this the hardest way.
Recurrent miscarriage causes some ugly, and negative characteristics to surface. Severe anxiety, doubt, low cofidence. It makes you feel bitterness and resentment towards happy pregnancy/birth announcments, other pregnant ladies, newborns, children etc. It’s nothing personal towards those people (or babies), it’s the sadness and envy deep within that they have something you want/should have. That they get to be that naive person you once were and not have the worry that lightening will strike again… and again, and again.
It also brings out an inner strength you never knew you had. The strength to keep fighting for your dreams and get through each day, when life is constantly knocking you down. Living through what others can’t even bring themselves to imagine experiencing. People think your ‘strong and brave’, which I still don’t always understand. It also makes you love more deeply – your lost babies, family and friends. It gives you a greater appreciation for those you do have in your life.
I am a certainly a different person than I was 2 years ago, and doubt I will ever return to my former self. I am more anxious, less motivated and less productive at home. My work life has been affected – my time management is slower, my confidence, knowledge and skills feel impaired and I become overwhelmed easily in critical situations (all of which are not great when your a nurse). Being around other peoples children is difficult. I feel disconnected, like I have no clue how to interact with them and often feel unsure and uncomfortable doing so. I am more sensitive to the world around me, and I was a sensitive and emotional soul beforehand. This is all a direct result of trauma and grief.
I can identify my own inner strength and will power (although some days its harder to find than others). I am aware that not everyone can suffer losses like these and pick themselves back up so quickly, or at all. For some people it takes a while to heal before the time feels right to try again. And thats ok. I feel I’ve gained a voice which I hope I am putting to good use, and one day hope to use my experiences to help others in my professional career too.
When is enough, enough?
We are so ready to be parents, and not willing to let go of that dream just yet. These losses have certainly made that missing piece feeling much bigger these days. Especially after losing Guy. Our days off and free time suddenly feel noticably emptier than they did before. It’s as though our minds were mentally prepared to never have any free time ever again, and it’s not quite adjusted to life taking a different turn.
Over the last 2 years, I have been pregnant on and off for 12 months. I’m pretty sure my mind and body doesn’t know whether its coming or going. So far, its because of and for our lost babies that we keep fighting. But that fight is getting weak, and I’m starting to think a fifth loss might be the one that leads us to putting a pause on this chapter and take some time out for us. But who knows. I didn’t think I could survive another loss after Guy, and so far I’ve been able to pick myself back up.
I recently read a post on Still Standing magazine called “Not everyone gets a rainbow”, and some of it really resonated with me (it’s a very powerful article, I would highly recommend taking a look)…
I’m on the verge of saying “enough is enough” and facing the monumental task of making peace with the fact that I’ll never be able to raise a baby of my own in this life. To give myself a break from the tiring monthly cycle of putting all my hope and love out there only to be denied once again. To never have a pregnancy end in heartbreak again. But with each thought to give up, there is a spark of relentless optimism that says, “One more time, a baby to keep is worth it.”
– RaeAnne Fredrickson
Recurrent miscarriage chips away at your hopeful mind and you start to think about the things you feared. The reality of never having the family you so strongly wish and dream for suddenly feels like it could be your destiny. Each loss pushing your dreams further and further away. I’ve even noticed a change in how I phrase talking about having a family – ‘When we have children’ now becomes ‘IF we have children’, ‘IF this room ever becomes a nursery’.
Let’s stop remaining silent about this. Let’s stand together and say loudly “Not everyone gets a Rainbow”. Let’s talk openly about the torture of each new month when we get negatives instead of positives, the misery of seeing blood and knowing it’s the end of another life that’s only just begun, or soul destroying act of picking out another tiny casket.
– RaeAnne Fredrickson
Right, I don’t want to end this blog on a depressing note. So to inject a little positivity back into things, I can confirm we haven’t given up just yet (although I have had to throw the moses basket up in the loft out of sight before it goes through the window). Now that the fog of the last miscarriage is starting to lift, I can see a way forward. We feel that as long as there are still investigations to be done, and Professionals willing to help us, we have some strength and purpose to carry on. We are now planning to go for private testing in Coventry, and hope that the miscarriage Guru that is Professor Quenby and her team can help us! Fingers crossed.
I’ve really liked this quote for a while, so I’m posting it here as a little reminder that everything we’re going through is not all for nothing. Hopefully one day our persistant rain cloud will drift away, taking the pain and suffering with it, leaving us with a rainbow to cherish forever.