30th January 2020. The day that the world around me crumbled. I was 10 weeks pregnant. I’d spent the few days beforehand feeling nervous at the tiny spots of blood I’d found when I went to the toilet but was desperately trying to reassure myself. I googled. I told myself that spotting in pregnancy could be normal. I had no pain. No other signs that anything was wrong. I looked at the statistics. The vast majority of miscarriages happened at 5-6 weeks. The chances of miscarrying at 10 weeks were so much lower. But there was a niggling doubt that something wasn’t right, so I spoke to my midwife and was booked in for an early scan. Sat in the waiting room of the Early Pregnancy Assessment Centre I again told myself everything was fine. I would get that reassurance from the scan and in a few short weeks we would announce to the world our wonderful news…
But then the world stopped. Silence in the ultrasound room. A silence that haunts me to this day. A silence that seemed as though it would never end. That just went on and on and on. I knew. The tears started to roll silently down my cheeks as Andy clutched my hand, stroked my face and told me it would be okay. And then the confirmation of what I’d most dreaded to hear. Of what I’d told myself would never happen to me. They couldn’t detect a heartbeat. I can still hear that torturous cry of pain ringing in my ears. A cry that felt like it wasn’t coming from me. A cry that ripped me apart from my body as I felt the enormity of loss bearing down on me. I tried desperately to breathe but I couldn’t. There just wasn’t any air left in the world. That’s the only way I can describe it. There simply wasn’t any air. I stared vacantly into space as the kind nurse told us that the scan showed an embryo that had stopped developing at 5 or 6 weeks. A missed miscarriage. A silent miscarriage. Apparently it was quite common. I’d never heard of it. My body still thought it was pregnant, was still producing the hormones to sustain a pregnancy. But our beloved little angel was gone. Those minutes in that hospital (or were they hours) were such a blur, I kept thinking that it was all a dream and I would wake up soon. She told me it was nothing I’d done, it was just one of those cruel things. The spots of blood I’d had were probably a sign of nature starting to take its course. I should go home and wait for it to happen. The walls started to close in on me. I pleaded with Andy to get me out of there. We sat in the car just crying, both in disbelief of what was happening.
I waited for nature to take its course, but it didn’t. In those early days there was so much anger at my body for not having told me something was wrong. I was supposed to be so in tune with my body, how had I not realised what had happened? Why didn’t my body tell me? Why wasn’t it now doing what it was supposed to do? One week later I started bleeding. I thought this was it, I prepared, I told myself to let go, but I couldn’t. The bleeding stopped, nothing happened. Desperate for the miscarriage to happen naturally, I continued to wait. I tried everything – essential oils, yoga, supplements, Chinese herbs, acupuncture, reiki, castor oil packs. I meditated. I surrendered. I waited 6 long weeks, praying every day that it would be over, but still there was nothing. My body simply refused to accept that it was no longer pregnant, that this baby that I had so wanted and longed for was no longer with us. Six long weeks later, I had a strong message come through during meditation that it was time to accept medical help – it was the exact thing that I hadn’t wanted and had feared most, but for this reason it was the ultimate surrender. I had been terrified of having to have surgery – I didn’t want to go to sleep and it just to be over. I wanted, needed, to feel that pain, to really feel it in my body, in order to start to let it go. So I accepted the medication they offered and in 48 hours it was over. I felt a relief, a numbness, but above all a great emptiness that is hard to put into words. Two days later – March 2020 – The UK’s first national lockdown was announced.
During that time of waiting to miscarry, a part of me just wanted to let the darkness consume me. But I had a little girl at home that needed me, that relied on me, that adored me. So I dug deeper than I have ever had to and found the strength to continue being all that she needed me to be, whilst simultaneously trying to manage my own grief. I held her close during those lockdown days, grateful for the distraction but also suddenly terrified by the idea that bad things could happen. What if something happened to her? I used all the tools at my disposal, I dove into my spiritual practice and was quietly grateful that I didn’t have to interact with the world outside. I faced a lot of shadows during that time and used the opportunity meet myself with greater awareness, understanding and compassion. I have faced dark and challenging times before but it was the first time I realised how integral shadow work is on the spiritual journey, how all must be seen and integrated in order to rise. I didn’t purposefully shut the pain out, but in those early days after the shock had worn off, I didn’t feel it as intensely as I thought I would. To be honest I found it difficult to navigate the process of grief whilst being a mother to a joyful toddler at the same time. The juxtaposition of emotions was too much. I couldn’t simply turn it on and off. So I guess, inadvertently, I turned it off. And in those quiet moments by myself when I thought the tears would come, they often didn’t. I guess that’s the thing about grief. It comes in different and often unexpected ways. All we can do is accept and surrender and allow the path to unfold.
27th August – a day I had been dreading. The day that was supposed to be my due date. As the day approached, I once more felt the urge to hide away, to not see anyone, to retreat back into my own little cave. But then something wonderful happened. I realised this day could take on a completely new meaning. I took a pregnancy test that morning and it was positive! I couldn’t believe the perfect synchronicity of it. One cycle ending and another beginning. I felt so grateful, like it was a little message from the beyond that everything was going to be ok. But despite this knowing, pregnancy has been a very different experience this time round. I always knew it would come at some point and for me, a large part of grieving has happened throughout this pregnancy. I think being pregnant after loss can be a very lonely place to be. At least that has been my experience of it. There is still that societal belief that having another baby immediately fixes it all and takes away the pain. It doesn’t. We don’t know how grief and the experience of baby loss will affect us until it happens but all we can do is be honest with ourselves about how we are feeling and allow whatever needs to be felt to be felt. To continually allow whatever comes to come and to gently, with the utmost compassion, let it go. This is how we heal. And I know that as I continue the process of healing this wound, I heal it not only for myself but for all those who have come before me.
Most of the medical staff I encountered were wonderful and I’m very grateful for that, but I feel there is still a way to go in supporting women through this trauma. One Dr I saw watched me sob as she told me very matter of factly that this is a very common thing and that I may go through two or three more losses, before hurriedly rushing me out of the room. And it felt like a dagger to the heart as another Dr repeatedly referred to my baby as ‘the retained products of conception’. I still feel like I’m going to vomit whenever I hear that phrase. Generally I feel lucky that the majority of medical staff I encountered were sensitive, kind and allowed me the time and space to process what was happening. Sadly, I know that many women have not been so lucky.
As more and more women share their stories, it can empower us and help anyone going through this horror to feel less alone, but I think that care also needs to be taken so that women don’t feel pressurised into sharing. I read many things saying how ‘sad it is that more people don’t talk about it’ and in my vulnerable state, I felt almost ashamed that I wasn’t talking about my experience more openly. But unless someone has been through this horror they have no idea how they will react and cope. There is no wrong or right way, some women will find sharing their story to be very healing whilst others find quieter ways to process and cope. Baby loss is a major trauma to live through and it is estimated that 1 in 3 women who go through it suffer with PTSD to some varying degree. Women need to feel supported through this, in whatever ways they find to cope. Sometimes just making it through the day is enough.
For me, I continue to allow this healing to happen, knowing that it is a journey and not forcing my way to any destination. I believe that this was just something I had to go through and I know that it has made me so much stronger, taught me so much and deepened my relationship to myself. If you’ve read this, thank you for being a part of my journey and if you have experienced or are experiencing baby loss please know that you are loved and supported and that my door is always open if you ever need it.