Day 11 brings us a story of hope after pregnancy loss. I love how this family keeps their tradition of visiting the same park every year in honor of their miscarriage. Lovely things can come from great grief and sadness. I am humbled by the stories of loss families have chosen to share with me, and the courage it takes to keep moving forward afterwards.
It’s 6 years since the day we found out we had lost our first baby. I was 12 weeks pregnant and, after experiencing the teeniest amount of spotting, I had an appointment in the Early Pregnancy Unit for a scan. There was a serious baby boom back then and ‘booking’ appointments were happening incredibly late – mine was at 21 weeks – so this EPU appointment felt like a chance to get a sneak peek at our baby. In our innocence, we were giggly and excited, and didn’t for a moment imagine there was anything wrong as we headed into an early morning appointment. We were back on the street a half hour later, our future changed forever after an instant of horrible stillness. Our much-loved baby had become ‘retained products’. It was 8.30am. Where to now?
Missed miscarriage wasn’t something I knew much about – but now I had to decide what to do about it. This was my pre-GentleBirth life. I wasn’t informed about hospitals or maternity services or options. I consulted Google, found a very mainstream pregnancy forum and asked advice from some wonderfully supportive and sympathetic strangers, who had had similar experiences. Everyone said the same thing: have the surgery (ERPC – Evacuation of Retained Products of Conception. Bad enough having it, and the name adds insult to injury). I rang friends – lots of sympathy, but it didn’t help me decide. My gut told me that waiting it out was right for me and my baby – even though my baby had been gone already for around 4 weeks, I instinctively felt my body would be able to take care of business. But then, fear – I had a cramp and completely freaked out at the thought of miscarrying at home. I rang the hospital and booked in for two days time, to have the ERPC.
That left a day in between and for some reason we decided that morning to go to Mount Usher Gardens in Wicklow. It’s a beautiful place and I felt as I had to be sad, I might as well be sad somewhere lovely. I think the trip may have been prompted by good weather, but I have little recollection of the day other than breaking down in the car on the way home and crying about my lost little baby for the first time. I wailed in a way that felt like it would break my body, as though I could literally break my heart.
I think the experience in the hospital is for another post – suffice to say, I was not cared for emotionally in a way befitting of the emotional pain I was going through. The weeks that followed were tough. Why is the devastation of miscarriage not spoken about, when it is so common it is almost a rite of passage as a woman? It changed me in a way I wouldn’t have thought possible and marks me still. The grief went to a place inside me I hadn’t known existed, but I know now that place is motherhood. I wanted to conceive again as soon as possible and although I don’t think my desperation was very attractive, we somehow managed to do so very quickly and, just 7 weeks after that awful day, I was pregnant again.
I have no idea why I chose Mount Usher on that day, but it has become a very important place to us. We had no remains returned to us after my surgery. There is no grave, no other place to associate physically with our baby. The following year, we went to Mount Usher on the anniversary of the miscarriage, to honour our lost one. It was joyous to be there with our 6 week old, having wondered the year before if we would ever have children. Each year, we go to the gardens in April, to celebrate the short life of our first baby. It’s become a very special way in which to remember, mark time, and take stock. Going there is simultaneously returning to a moment in time, where I can meet my baby by remembering that sadness, and celebrating how far we’ve traveled each year as a family.
Since the miscarriage, I have carried two healthy babies to term. Both pregnancies were emotionally challenging in the early weeks, for different reasons but physically easy, and wonderful once we got to the 20 week mark. I’ve had beautiful births, thanks to the GentleBirth programme. There is so much to be grateful for. But this year I could have been at Mount Usher again with a full term bump, or a slightly smaller one. I lost a baby last year who would have been with us within the next few weeks, and another a short while later who would have arrived this summer. They were very early losses, with no physical trauma and I was thankful that the pregnancies hadn’t struggled on, only to fail at a later stage. There being two consecutive losses was worrying – and Google didn’t help matters as it told me fertility drops off a cliff at 39 and only 1 in 4 of my eggs are likely to be of much use. The last few months have been difficult at times – being in the ‘baby business’ , I am in contact with pregnant women constantly although, strangely enough, bumps that I meet professionally don’t induce any jealousy. I have naturally enough felt pangs at seeing what sometimes seems like everyone I know becoming pregnant over the past few months. But it’s been entirely bearable – not the running-my-guts-through-a-mincer feeling that was so overwhelming after my first loss.
The day we spent in Mount Usher this year was our most memorable yet. My 5 year old, who has been extremely challenging lately, was an angel for the day. The sun came out as we arrived and, as the weather had been unpromising, it seemed we had the place to ourselves. We had a fabulous picnic, followed by a gorgeous meander that magically took us to spots we’d never been before. And the highlight…I got to see the sheer excitement on my first rainbow baby’s face as we told her, in our special place, that we will be welcoming another into our family this autumn. In time for Hallowe’en. We all agreed – this was the best day ever. Until next year…
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)