Miscarriage is something you never think will happen to you, until it does. It’s something no women should ever have to prepare for or experience, it’s something that no family should ever have to worry or think about. And yet, as I recently learnt, so many of us do. I experienced a silent miscarriage earlier this year. At 12 weeks pregnant the bleeding began and my tiny little baby only measured 5 weeks. It nearly broke me, it nearly broke us both. But it didn’t, we are still here and still going and I want to keep the conversation going too.
I want to keep talking about baby loss, keep breaking down the barriers which make women want to keep this heartbreak secretly locked away. I want to keep writing, keep healing, and keep encouraging other women who have faced this incredibly awful experience to speak up too (if they feel it might help them). I want to say the things that society says we shouldn’t, and share my whole experience just in case hearing it will help someone else. All experiences of loss are different and each miscarriage will be different; both in how we deal with our grief and what happens to us physically, but here are some things that I wish I had known about miscarriage and baby loss.
*The following post contains discussion of miscarriage and baby loss, please avoid if you will find this triggering in any way*
Miscarriage really does affect 1 in 4 women
Statistics don’t mean much to me. Usually they are just meaningless numbers, questionable sources, quite unrelatable to most of us. But if you ever have a miscarriage, and you’re fortunate enough to have a tribe of women ready to support you, then you’ll very quickly see how many of us have been through it. Your friends, your relatives, your neighbours; both loved ones and people who you barely know. People you speak to every day who may have never mentioned it before may choose now to confide in you, people who you rarely see may choose now to reach out. To share their stories, to share their heartbreak, to bring you a tiny piece of comfort. If this is happening to you now, if it has ever happened or if it does in the future, the first thing you have to know is that you are not alone.
There may be a lot of blood
As my miscarriage was “missed”, I experienced the incredibly difficult period of just waiting. Waiting for it to really begin. Waiting for my pregnancy to properly end, for my body to accept that it had, and move on to the next stage of miscarriage. While I was stuck in this awful limbo many women reached out and shared their stories with me, and lots offered to answer any questions that I had. I wanted to know what would happen next. Some made it sound horrific, and some seemed to have had a slightly easier experience in terms of the physical act. I obviously had no idea what kind of experience I would have which was incredibly unnerving, I wanted to be as prepared as I could be.
The truth is there is no preparing for something like that. I spent a few days stocking up on maternity pads and pain killers, I spent a few afternoons batch cooking meals to keep in the fridge. I spent hours googling and reading everything I could find. But nothing prepared me for what happened once it began. Nothing prepared me for the amount of blood I saw dripping down my own legs, or the feeling of large clots falling out of me every time I tried to stand up. Nothing prepared me for seeing Adam’s face as he sat with me in a bathroom that looked like a murder scene, as he watched me drift in and out of consciousness due to the blood loss. They tell you that if you bleed through a pad within 15 minutes you need to seek medical assistance. I kept a pad in place for about 90 seconds before blood was dripping out from the other side. It terrified us both.
Miscarriages are very different for everyone, I would imagine that those who experience multiple losses probably find that each loss is different in it’s own ways. I don’t know what you should expect, and I don’t think that anything I say will really help to prepare you for what may happen anyway. No one talks about the gross bits, about the mess and the graphic details of what you might experience, but that’s something I found to be one of the hardest and most traumatic bits. So if you find yourself just waiting, with nothing else to do but try to prepare yourself, then just know – there may be a lot of blood.
It’s worst in the morning, before you rememeber
For quite a while there’s an awful minute of every morning when you have to remind yourself that you are no longer pregnant. You wake up full of happiness and innocence, before the cruel truth hits you again. Throughout the day when you find your own hand placed on what should be your baby bump, you have to gently tell yourself that it’s actually now an empty womb. Sometimes you’ll browse a few shops, always drawn to the baby section, and then realise that there will be no baby to fill those tiny things. I was pregnant for 12 weeks, and most of those 12 weeks were spent thinking of that precious baby; thinking up names, planning the birth, imagining what life with two children would be like. I guess it’s only natural to need a little while to stop day dreaming about those things.
You may feel an overwhelming sense of misery
Obviously losing a baby is an awful thing to experience, and you will very understandably feel incredibly sad. But what I felt at times after was beyond that. It was as if a grey cloud had appeared and it was impossible to shake. I couldn’t remember happiness, I couldn’t imagine even feeling happy again. I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t motivate myself. I just felt foggy and I couldn’t shake it. It really peaked around my first period, which came around 5 weeks after I was admitted to hospital so I assume it’s down to hormones, but it was a really tough thing to ride out. It made relationships hard, it made all my priorities take a backseat, it made parenting really really tough. It made me question a lot of things about myself and my life and my choices, and it’s only really now nearly 8 weeks later that I’m starting to pull myself through the haze.
You may also feel happy, you might even begin to move on, and then you’ll feel terrible guilt for it
At first all you can think about is the pregnancy, and the sweet little baby you were supposed to have who has now been cruelly snatched away. Eventually you think about it all a little less, and then you realise that you’ve made it a whole afternoon. Then suddenly you feel awful for allowing yourself those few hours, you feel terrible for thinking about anything else. The first few times I laughed or felt happy, I immediately felt huge waves of guilt. “How can you be happy after what has happened?? You just had a miscarriage. You lost a baby that you were supposed to love, and now you’re laughing and feeling content?!” It’s so strange, but I have basically been beating myself up for moving on.
Grief impacts us all differently, and there are many different types of it. Sometimes when I read about another mother who has experienced loss, I feel guilty for not feeling the same way as she did. If you’re struggling to move on, and you need more time to grieve and process before returning to any kind of normality, then you should absolutely take that time and do what you need to do. If you crave normality, if every day life with all its to do lists and chores it what you need then throw yourself into it. Don’t ever feel guilty for the way you grieve. For the time you spend crying or for the time you don’t. For the days you spend in bed with the curtains shut, or for the days you act like everything is normal – because you want to feel like it is. Do what you need to do, feel your grief in any way it comes to you. Be sad, get angry, cry, scream, turn the music up loud and dance it all away. But please don’t feel guilty for doing it differently to someone else. And don’t think that by feeling ‘better’ or ‘moving on’ you are forgetting about that sweet little one. You will never forget.
You may feel jealousy
Jealousy is not a pretty emotion, but it is something that I think is very normal to feel after experiencing a loss. Something was taken from you, and now suddenly it feels like you’re surrounded by pregnant women and the universe is taunting you right to your face. I’ve never seen so many pregnancy and birth announcements as I did in the few weeks after our miscarriage, or at least that’s how it seemed. I felt so much genuine happiness for every single one, but it’s so hard to not think “Why them but not me?”. I had already found several friends who were due at a similar time to me – bump buddies we had called ourselves. And now as I watch their pregnancies progress and see the new milestones they reach, I’m reminded of the fact that I’m not a part of it any more. Most of them are approaching 20 weeks now, planning elaborate gender reveals and buying everything they’ll need. It’s hard to fight off the feelings of jealousy that brings. It’s hard to not stare longingly at the pregnant lady in Tesco, or the tiny little newborn on the bus. August will be a really tough month.
You may find that talking helps
This miscarriage actually taught me a lot about myself. I thought I was tough, strong, independent and hard. I thought that I coped best by bottling it all up and keeping everything to myself. I thought that in times of suffering I preferred to be left on my own. Never before have I spoken about my emotions in so much depth, but over the past two months it’s the only thing that has helped me to heal.
I have found writing or talking, sharing all of my thoughts and feelings in any way I could, to actually be incredibly helpful. I’ve found that by reaching out and having others reach out to me I have been able to vent, clear my head, make sense of my emotions and ride out the many storms that have hit. Putting down all my thoughts on to a screen or to paper have helped me channel them into something productive, and once they are written it feels much easier to let them be. I have found that having people to listen, people to offer words of support, people who truly understand how I feel, is a million times better than suffering alone in silence, pretending that I’m okay.
Some people who usually really benefit from talking and sharing may find the opposite. As grief takes hold some women may prefer to be alone, to change the subject, to talk about the weather. Either is perfectly okay. I’m just glad I know now that there’s no medal for being the strongest, no harm in being vulnerable or seeming weak. Surviving this makes you strong, no matter how you get through each day.
You may want to try instantly, or you may never want to try again
When I asked recently on Instagram about how long it takes periods to return after miscarriage, I was surprised by how many women didn’t really know, because they had become pregnant again before having one. Obviously for lots of families trying again is something they are ready to do straight away. Trying again brings a lot of comfort I think, being pregnant again as soon as possible brings some much needed joy and for those who are so desperate for a little baby to love, I totally understand trying again.
To me though the thought of trying again brings a lot of worry, stress, fear, anxiety, and upset. Although we didn’t struggle to conceive the first time around I really worry that it may be different next time. I worry that months of negative tests and unwanted periods will take their toll on me, and I feel like right now my heart has taken enough. And, although the fog is starting to lift, I still don’t feel quite right, so I think that even a positive pregnancy right now wouldn’t fill me all the happiness and joy that it should.
It is a little like my innocence has been taken, the ridiculous notion I had that it will never happen to me is gone, my naive bubble has well and truly been burst. I’m not sure I could bring myself to dream of another pregnancy, of another baby, of another birth, because now I know how easily it could all become another nightmare. Recurrent loss is something that truly terrifies me now that I have experienced loss once, and I do almost feel scared to even consider trying again.
It will be okay
I don’t really know about this one, but I’m writing it in the hope that it comes true one day. Eight weeks on and it doesn’t really feel okay. Eight weeks on and I’m still angry, confused and upset. I want answers. I want our baby. I want to be growing a bump and wearing maternity jeans. I want to go to midwife appointments, and struggle to get off the couch because my bump is too big. I want to not be able to see my toes, I even want to feel exhausted and bloated and fed up. I want to forget the heart ache, forget the misery, forget the traumatic experience we’ve been through.
I know I won’t forget, but I do think that one day we will be ready to try again and I hope that I do get to do all of those things. I think that one day we will look back on this as an incredibly sad period of our lives, but a period that we survived together. Something that nearly broke us, but actually made us stronger. Something I wish no one ever had to experience, but unfortunately something that we have. Something that will lead us to the path we are meant to be on, and something that has taught us many, many things along the way.