Life After Loss
Warning: this blog details aspects of pregnancy loss.
When a pregnancy loss happens, it’s unfortunately not like a regular death. When a loved one passes away, there is a funeral, a period of mourning, and people don’t expect anything of you. They give you the space to sit and mourn. To cry, to be angry, and then to accept.
I feel like, through no one’s fault, a miscarriage just isn’t like this. It’s not something we prepare for, really. It’s not inevitable. The chances are not huge even though they aren’t too slim either. Some people downplay it. Some people coat it in so much toxic positivity it ends up hurting so much more. The show goes on. Life keeps happening. There is no funeral to pay respects to what could have been. There is no wake to celebrate the pregnancy for what it was. In many respects, a woman can go through not only her mourning period but her whole life not telling friends and family about her baby that she lost. There is a level of awkwardness around miscarriage and as someone who has been through it but has also supported others through it, the awkwardness comes out of it being a seriously sick tragedy.
We lost our baby at 7 weeks and 1 day, and that following week was one of the most dark and harrowing weeks of my life. I felt as much as I had a super gentle and supportive GP, who assured me how common miscarriage was, it still left me feeling like a failed. It wasn’t common for me. It was earth shattering and I didn’t feel like a statistic because that was my baby I had created. Even though our 18-month-old was as healthy and lively as ever, it is near impossible to ignore the thoughts that creep in trying to convince you that you’re the problem. We had bonded with that baby, and after our chemical pregnancy in January, it was meant to be our rainbow baby. The baby that thrives. The baby that redeems. But it wasn’t meant to be. Again.
I was angry. I felt betrayed by myself. I felt that no one understood the gravity of what I was feeling. I felt like I had to keep my head up because that represented strength, which was a lie. Being strong has nothing to do with keeping your head up amid tragedy. It’s a lot deeper than muscle and requires much more than a ‘positive outlook’. After the initial shock, I sat in the sadness and surrendered to it. I was allowed be sad about missing my baby. I was allowed to be upset and angry that it was a missed miscarriage. I was allowed to feel jealousy for the stack of isolation pregnancy announcements that were flooding my newsfeed while my baby was literally leaving my womb.
The bleeding was constant. It was far heavier than a period. Far more painful in every aspect than a period. It went on for weeks. I was thankful that I miscarried totally naturally, but it was in my face constantly. I worked through my miscarriage. I was silent during my miscarriage to many. What was I meant to say? I was pregnant but now I’m passing it and it’s gone? At the time I wouldn’t have been able to get that sentence out. But life goes on. Parenting doesn’t stop. Marriage doesn’t stop. Housework doesn’t stop. Life goes on, and my miscarriage proved to me how strong women are, without even needing to puff out our chest. It proved to me how strong we can remain in secret.
Pregnancy and infant loss never leave you. It unfortunately is a scar that can sometimes feel like a thief. It robs joy. It robs innocence. It robs naivety. It robs ignorance. All things that really come in handy and are a blessing when you are in a season of trying to become pregnant. I do not dwell on missing out on these things, and I do not fall victim to them, but the reality is loss changes you. In a positive sense, it can open your eyes to what an absolute miracle conception and viable pregnancy truly is. It can make you feel so thankful when your body is finally able to carry a healthy baby to term. But it also makes you second guess yourself and it can feel like you are clawing for confidence when you decide it is time to try again.
When we feel pregnant with our fourth baby in July, the baby we are currently pregnant with, I was met with this momentous tension. We fell pregnant quite easily and quickly again, and we were so excited. In the back of my mind though, I totally disconnected to the baby at first in order to self-protect. In some ways I was so in love with it, but I didn’t trust that we’d be taking this one home just yet. Once bitten, twice shy. Why would this baby work out if the two before didn’t? But then again, why wouldn’t this one work out knowing we have a perfectly made Henry? It’s a tension. It’s being torn between two mindsets. It’s being torn between being over the moon and being scared frozen.
No one has rights over your grief. It’s your grief, no matter if you have experienced an early chemical pregnancy or a stillbirth. You decide how you want to manage it. Don’t let anyone else tell you how you should feel. A baby is a baby at any stage it is a baby to you. There is always hope, but you’re allowed to surrender into the grief at the same time. In fact, it’s healthy. I found myself feeling so much better as the weeks and months went by, because I felt like I had space to mourn my way.
What did life after loss leave me? It left me with fear. It left me with a rattled sense of my own fertility. It left me feeling like I was back at the start. It left me feeling the absolute worst sense of physical emptiness.
My eyes went up though, and I knew there was a greater plan for us. It was no consolation, but it was a promise I felt in my bones was being kept for us. I had no choice but to keep moving and keep on believing there was another baby out there for us to enjoy on earth. Because out of everything we had lost, two babies, our innocence, our happiness, our sense of joy for that awful period of time, losing hope would have been the biggest devastation of all. We clung to hope because that was ours. And we were never going to let hope go.