Our mental health ambassador Selina has been brave enough to share her experience of miscarriage in lockdown. This is her story:
4 months ago, in lockdown, I had a miscarriage.
I was attending a routine hospital appointment, where I would meet my consultant and the date of my C section would be agreed and confirmed. The excitement was immense. In a few hours I would be able to tell my two boys (age 8 and 6) what date their baby brother or sister would arrive. If you have kids, you too will know the excitement that this had brought through our house.
As I got ready to leave for my appointment, I got out my good Tiffany perfume that my husband had surprised me with for xmas, and I sprayed away. I wanted to remember every second of this pregnancy as it would be my last and smells always remind me of things, of memories. I had went through the same routine for my early pregnancy scan and my 12 week scan.
I drove to the hospital without a care in the world. The excitement was real. I was alone because of covid, my husband couldn’t be with me, I would ring him with the date as soon as I spoke with my consultant.
I waited in the waiting room and seen a few other mummies-to-be, some early on, others very close to their due date – I just wished that was me. I am the most impatient person in the world and I just wanted my baby here in my arms. Strangely, at 39 years of age, I felt so settled and “ready” for pregnancy. So far my pregnancy had been really good – no sickness, just a bit tired, like my other two pregnancies so I was pretty sure my baby was another boy.
My appointment was at 9:30am, the doctors at the hospital were running behind so it wasn’t seen until 10:10. I was getting sooo impatient. I just wanted the date and hopefully another scan. Anyone who has been pregnant knows how exciting the scans are. It’s another wee step closer.
So, the doctor finally called me, it wasn’t my consultant, it was another doctor and she went through my notes and asked me to hop up on to the bed, which I did. I lay on the bed and she put the gel on my tummy and started to scan me. I couldn’t really see anything in the scan nor could I hear anything. The doctor said, do you see this line? She said that is an amniotic line, with a worried look on her face. I asked her if everything was ok, and she said the scanner wasn’t working properly and that I would need to see my consultant as her scan was better.
I’m not a religious person, but at 10.20 I sent my husband a message “I think there is something wrong. 1st doctor couldn’t see anything in the scan and now waiting to see someone else. SAY A PRAYER!”. The desperation I felt as I sent that message was like nothing I had ever felt in my life. I saw the nurses faces, I knew what I was about to be told.
A very long 5 minutes later, my consultant was free to see me. Straight away she told me to get on the bed and she scanned me. I swear, I hoped and prayed so so hard. In my head I was screaming “please don’t say what you are about to say to me, please no. This can’t happen. I wont be able to deal with this. I can't tell my kids this news – I just can’t!” My consultant looked at me, and I knew. She pointed out the baby, his wee head, his perfect arms and legs and his spine, my pulse “but I'm so sorry there is no heartbeat”. At this moment, a million things went through my head – I need to tell my husband, how do I tell my kids, I am alone, it’s my fault, they are wrong, how did I not realize, how do I tell my kids but the one thing I didn’t think about was what happened next.
The consultant made a phone call to Gynae while I was getting myself sorted out and went to ring my husband. It was the hardest phone call I have ever made in my life. The devastation, the shock, the hurt.
I then sat with the consultant and she explained that I would need to deliver our baby. Well that hit like a bolt of lightening, I dunno what I thought, but I didn't think that this would be the case. But it was. I was walked from the Maternity ward to the Gynae ward and that’s when it hit me – I broke. I walked down what seemed like a really long corridor, trying to withhold the emotion, and when I got to the nurses station I just cracked. Overcome by shock and grief, I can hardly even remember what the nurse said to me. All I could think about was how I was going to tell my two kids, my heart was breaking for them, for us as a family.
I stayed with in the nurse for some time, until I settled as I was alone (thanks covid) and had to drive home alone. Again, longest journey in history. I don’t know how I made it home safely but thankfully I did. It was 12:30 and I had an hour and a half before the kids would be home.
They came in and ran up the stairs excited to find out what date the baby would be here. They both knew that something wasn’t right and I explained that the baby had died and that they now had their own personal guardian angel. Obviously, both were devastated and sobbed their hearts out, which, again, was heartbreaking. They asked loads of questions to try and understand in their own wee heads
The next day (Thursday) I had to return to the hospital to take a tablet that “would soften everything” and I could have another scan just to ensure that the doctors were right. In my head I was holding on to hope that perhaps there was some sort of mistake. There wasn’t!
On Saturday 27th February I was admitted to hospital at 9 am to be induced to deliver our baby. I was fortunate that my husband was allowed to be with me. I was given my first induction pill at 12 but the pain and contraction really only started at about 4pm, by 6:30pm the pain was really severe and I needed pain relief. At 8:38pm our baby boy, Torai was delivered.
Unfortunately, because of severe clotting and blood loss I wasn’t able to see him straight away. The doctors were attending to me and made a decision that I needed to go to surgery straight away. I wanted to see our baby first. The nurses brought him in in a beautiful wee box, the look on my husbands face is one I will never ever forget. Grief, heartbreak, future plans destroyed. Torai was tiny but everything about him was perfect. His wee collar bones were so prominent and nail beds were just perfect. I need to remind myself of this when I feel that I don’t have a right to grieve.
Miscarriage is a very strange and individual thing for the parents that are going through it. For us it was traumatic. I always knew it must be tough but until I experienced it, never knew just how tough. There is stigma around miscarriage and people tend not to talk so much about it, or when they do, don’t really seem to know what to say and often avoid saying anything at all.
I can only speak as a mother who has went through this experience (4 months ago). I know four months isn’t an awfully long time and I know I haven’t fully healed , but what I have found is that there are days when I am ok, and then out of the blue, this overwhelming feeling of loss comes over me. Initially, I tried to suppress this, but now I just let the tears come. Sometimes this happens in the most inappropriate of places but I know I have to release this emotion and let the grieving happen. In my head I would be telling myself to pull up the big girl pants and get on with it – I didn’t even know the baby so I had no right to grieve, this is so so untrue. Our baby was a part of me, we had made plans for the future, we had two overly excited kids that just couldn’t wait to have a baby brother/ sister, we had talked in detail about how life would be, we were excited and, that had all been snapped away from us. So of course we had a right to grieve.
At 39 years of age, there has been a constant battle going on in my head. Do we try again? What if I am too old? What if I can’t have anymore? Do I even want to try again? I had actually convinced myself that I may be going through the menopause. Then the self-hate would start to creep in, I need to put this notion of trying again out of my head – I’m not healthy enough, it’ll happen again. I need to lose weight urgently. I looked in the mirror and saw a failure, someone who had put on serious lockdown weight – not a post baby body. I would urge all you mummies and angel mummies to go easy on yourselves.
To anyone reading this that has someone in their life that is going through something similar, please reach out to them. Let them know you are there. This is a very lonely journey – one that some people just don’t get but it is lifeline to know that you have someone there that won’t make insensitive comments, that won’t invalidate your feelings and won’t try to solve this for but will just listen and just be there to let you talk, or let you sit in silence, whatever you need. Please, please be sensitive, comments like, “it just wasn’t meant to be” “you can try again” “at least you have two other kids” – these things just aren’t helpful.
To some of the amazing medical professionals, thank you for all that you do. For those that are not so amazing, and make comments like “at your age getting pregnant is a gamble, some win and some lose and you lost, but there is always a silver lining, think of the fun you will have trying again”, that is not so helpful 3 months after a loss. Guys, please, please be sensitive – I can’t say that enough.
If someone you know has experienced a miscarriage:
· Be a safe ear, even a text to say ‘thinking of you today’ or ‘here if you want to talk’ can go a long way.
· If they have older children or toddlers, offer to mind them for an afternoon/night to give the parents some space to grieve.
· Drop off food.
· Come over and clean up.
· If you call round, don’t expect to be entertained, make them a cup of tea and be there to support them however they need.
· Remember their baby’s due date, and call or send a ‘thinking of you today’ message.
· Use their baby's name. When others are uncomfortable using the name, it can feel as though the baby's name is disappearing, which only adds to the hurt.
· Treat this like any other loss or grief, because that’s what it is. Someone has lost not only the baby growing inside them, but also the hopes, dreams and plans they had for that child and their family. It can be incredibly heart-breaking, so being aware of that and sensitive to it is helpful.
If you don't know what to say:
Whatever you do, please refrain from saying any of the following:
‘It’s probably for the best, there might have been something wrong’,
‘ah sure you can try again’,
‘think of all the fun you’ll have trying’,
‘these things happen’,
‘it’s not that bad’,
‘XYZ person I know had one and she was fine, why are you so upset’
‘you need to get over this’ etc.
Some things that are helpful to say:
‘That’s so hard’,
‘I’m so sorry for your loss’,
‘How best can I support you?’,
‘I’m so sorry this happened to you’,
‘My heart goes out to you’,
‘Sending you big hugs’ etc.
If you have experienced a miscarriage, some things that may be helpful include:
· Online support groups like the ones here, here and here. Support groups can be hugely beneficial, as no matter how awful you think a thought or feeling is, someone else will definitely say 'yeah, me too'.
· Professional counselling, especially if experiencing any symptoms of PTSD. The Flawed Journey provides a free 20 minute consultation which can help in finding the best care for you. You can read more about PTSD here.
· Holding boundaries with family and friends around how much to share, and how often.
· Communicating your boundaries to your partner so they can help you uphold them
· Being gentle on yourself. There is no 'correct' way to grieve, and this is a heart-breaking and difficult time.
Some statistics about miscarriage:
· 1 in 4 women have experienced miscarriage, this means it has likely happened to someone you know.
· 1 in 6 women who miscarry experience PTSD. For more on PTSD and it’s implications, you can read our post here.
· 88% of all miscarriages occur in second pregnancies.
· Most miscarriages occur in the first trimester (first 12 weeks).
· Miscarriages happen for a variety of reasons, many of which are unknown.
Fertility problems and miscarriage are some of the most challenging and heart-breaking things people can face. A good rule of thumb is; if you have to ask, don't. What I mean by that is if you don't know someone's family plans do not ask. Ever. If you're close enough to them they will have already told you. I can't tell you the amount of times Jason and I have been asked, and while we haven't tried yet, I can only imagine the stress and upset of being put on the spot by someone if we were struggling to conceive or had just lost a baby. Comments like 'you don't want to wait too long' or 'XYZ deserves a sibling' might be well intentioned, and usually are, but without knowing the background can be hurtful and damaging. Sensitivity and kindness are the key. Always.
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