Many of you will be aware that October is Baby Loss Awareness Month, something very close to my heart. Quite simply put – miscarriage needs to be spoken about, awareness needs to be raised and people need to realise that they’re not on their own. I had no idea until it happened to me just how common it was.
When I started my DefiningMum blog I intended to write my whole story, chapter by chapter. I had it all mapped out but stopped just before this chapter in our story, moving onto other topics in my quest to raise awareness about infertility and donor conception. I’d attempted to write the chapter two or three times but abandoned it to write about an easier topic, one that wasn’t so painful. I see that in doing this I was unknowingly avoiding re-visiting this difficult time.
Just a few months before it happened, my whole ability to have a child had been unexpectedly thrown into question. The Drs weren’t even sure whether I would produce any eggs under IVF stimulation, never-mind an embryo. It was a miracle when we made it to day three transfer, then the ultimate miracle to see my first ever two lines on a pregnancy test. Being a naïve IVF first-timer, I believed the hard part was over. I was pregnant…I’d defied the odds and finally I was going to be a Mum. I felt relief that I no longer had to worry about the potential loss of my genetics – here they were, right inside of me…the perfect mix of mine and Matt’s DNA. Daily pregnancy tests showed text-book line progression – I was on top of the world and in moments alone I would say out-loud to myself over and over the words… “I am pregnant”. My mind had raced forwards and I’d planned everything – the due date, my visions of announcing to wider friends and family, maternity leave and how we’d spend it. I simply couldn’t wait to finally start the rest of our lives, having spent the past year on a constant rollercoaster of emotions. I’d not even remotely considered that things wouldn’t go to plan.
To cut a long story short, things started to go wrong when I felt some pains just before 7 weeks. We went for an earlier scan than planned to find my HCG high but only a pregnancy sac to be seen. Returning a week later, with the hope of seeing progression, it was confirmed that I had suffered a missed miscarriage. I was given a week for it to start ‘naturally’, a heart-wrenching time when I just wanted it to be over, but equally couldn’t bear the thought of losing this pregnancy. With nothing happening I was then booked in for medical management another week later, the most awful experience of my life, which ended in D&C after I wasn’t able to pass my “products of conception” myself. I still absolutely detest that term used by medical professionals to describe our pregnancy. Overall it took three long, painful weeks for the entire experience to end – the absolute lowest point of my life. To this day I still vividly remember lying on the hospital trolley, watching rain pour down the window at Queens Medical Centre, feeling numb as I waited to go through to surgery to have the life that I so desperately wanted to bring into the world removed from me. Life just felt so incredibly cruel.
I was open about our loss with those close to me so I didn’t suffer completely on my own, but even still I remember feeling incredibly lonely. I’m not sure why, but because our loss was at an ‘early’ stage I remember feeling like I needed to just ‘move on’, so as not to dwell too much. Having suffered a blighted ovum, I’d tell myself “there wasn’t even anything in the pregnancy sac”, I think as a way to try to suppress my emotions inside. Every time I felt an overwhelming need to grieve, I’d minimise the loss in my mind by focusing on the fact that it happened before any baby could actually be seen. You’ll notice that even now I refer to it as losing our ‘pregnancy’ rather than ‘baby’, as I’m just not sure I could bring myself to acknowledge that is what we lost. Even recently I still try to suppress the wave of emotion that sometimes rises when I allow myself to think about it too deeply. I remember Matt saying that at the point we lost “the pregnancy” it was simply a group of cells. I know this was his logical, practical way of looking at the situation but I also wonder if this was his own way of coping.
The one time of the year I’ve given myself permission to feel and really allow the tears to fall has been during Baby Loss Awareness Week. Coincidentally and unknowingly at the time, we finally suffered our loss during BLAW on 13 October 2014. I remember seeing the ‘Wave of Light’ on social media just two days after returning home from my D&C. Instantly I felt comfort in seeing others quite literally shining a light on these lives lost far too soon. Not only the loss of life but also the loss of so many hopes and dreams. Lighting my candle, I suddenly knew I wasn’t alone and finally felt like I could do something tangible to recognise and remember the happiness, hope and love I had experienced during my pregnancy.
As it turned out, it was the only pregnancy that I would ever experience with my own eggs. Being completely honest, this then leads me to a whole new level of complex emotion – mainly feelings of guilt for still mourning this loss. I’ve now got everything I’ve always wanted in my girls and couldn’t love them anymore, yet I somehow feel guilty for still hurting so deeply over something that happened five years ago. Without this loss, they wouldn’t exist…something that is completely unimaginable to me – the whole situation is a complete mindf**k!
I know my example probably isn’t the healthiest way to deal with grief, but it’s honest, raw and will probably hit a nerve with some of you. It’s a problem I believe was exacerbated by my infertility – it literally paralysed my grief as I tried to block it out completely, feeling the only way to lessen the pain was to move forward and try again. To just have the strength to get back on the IVF rollercoaster I felt the need to try and forget about what had happened. Sub-consciously I now see that I was layering up my grief, something that no doubt impacted my mental health. Even now as I write this I can feel tears pricking at my eyes, ready to spill out as we near the poignant wave of light.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned since starting DefiningMum it’s the power that can be harnessed by sharing. Talking about this topic is so desperately needed, I know now that I needed to let it out and so many others need to hear honest accounts of the grief felt from loss, intertwined with infertility grief. That’s why during Baby Loss Awareness Week 2019 I’ll be dedicating my platform to sharing stories from a group of inspirational women who have all tragically suffered loss. Every day from 9-15 October I’ll be sharing a different guest blog, each with heartfelt personal experiences. I’ll also be sharing Instagram accounts to connect with as part of a Fertility Support Saturday special – if you’d like to take part please let me know. I’d like to thank each and every one of you for helping me to break the silence and open up conversations about this tragic reality for so many of us. Let’s show those who are suffering that they aren’t alone.