Breaking the Silence

I don’t think I am ever going to be able to find the exact words I want to entirely explain how miscarriage and baby loss makes you feel.

It’s unique.

Those who suffer miscarriage and baby loss can only truly understand the boundless heartache and emptiness it brings, along with the silence that surrounds it. By writing about it, I’m aiming to break some of that silence and help others to gain a little more knowledge as to how someone might feel. I am also hopeful that this might provide a little comfort to others, going through similar, knowing that they are not alone.

14th February 2016.

27th April 2016.

27th July 2016.

25th August 2017.

Four dates that are etched in my mind. The days we lost our babies.

We live in a society where everyone is comfortable sharing just about everything. Sadly, miscarriage still appears to be the anomaly and is seen, by some, as a ‘taboo’. This was, and still is, a real problem for me to accept. I discovered firsthand that some people don’t know what to do or how to acknowledge it in the ‘right’ way.

Baby loss leaves behind parents who are fragile – who are desolate.

The truth is, there is no ‘right’ way to face it. Miscarriage is inexplicably painful. Sadly, it’s a distinctive type of pain which can make it somewhat uncomfortable to know how to react and support those living through it. That said, I don’t believe there is any reasonable excuse for those who love you not to support you in the best way that they can – we were lucky that we had many people who did. Some people, however, did not.

After my first miscarriage, I remember someone saying to me, ‘At least you know you can get pregnant.’ That was true. I frantically clung on to this very fact. On the outside, I mustered a positive expression and said something like, ‘yes, that’s right,’ whilst inside, I wanted to curl up into a ball and sob for the loss of our baby – a baby who we would never meet – a baby who was an abstract. That person was correct; it was the furthest we had got in our journey to start a family. My mind was filled with ‘at leasts’. It didn’t remove the turmoil however that there was a baby one day and it was gone the next.

Nothing prepares you for miscarriage.

We had been so focused on trying to get pregnant that I hadn’t even considered losing a baby.

Living through three miscarriages before we embarked upon our IVF journey was exceptionally traumatic. The emotions and feelings we had ranged the whole spectrum. We felt like we were losing control and it was unbearable. We didn’t know what to do. We would obviously be distraught; on top of this would come a whole heap of other emotions too – anger, confusion, fear, exhaustion, jealously, guilt, hopelessness, to name a few.

After each miscarriage we had, in amongst my grief, I also had the horrific task of photographing each one; we were asked to do this by the consultant so that it could try to help them determine what was happening. It was dreadfully disturbing and terribly upsetting yet, each time, I forced myself to do it, knowing that it could help the doctors provide us with answers and solutions in the future. This didn’t make it any easier and the images will never leave me.

‘1 in 100 women in the UK experience recurrent miscarriage (three or more in a row). 60% of these women will go on to have a successful pregnancy’ [Tommy’s the Baby Charity]. Reading this at the time though, didn’t help me to feel positive. My state of mind would focus on the other 40% and think it would be me. Everything had been bad news so why would this be different?

Whilst at my most vulnerable, someone told me that I didn’t know what it felt like to be a mother. Those words still ring in my ears; they knocked me to my knees when I was already too weak to stand and pummeled what was left of an already broken heart. I wanted to scream.

I was already a mother – a mother to the babies we had lost.

We weren’t ready to give up even though on many occasions we felt like it was our only option. It felt like we were climbing a mountain and we knew we had to reach the top.

Those who did support us will never understand the full extent of their kindness. They let us be however we needed to be – day by day – never taking things personally and recognising that we were walking a tight rope. They lifted us up and carried us when we wanted to do nothing more than hide under the duvet and pretend it wasn’t happening. They were patient with us and let us take things at our own pace. Small gestures were monumental to us – a text showing love, a warm smile, a hug with no words, an invitation to dinner, really listening and letting us talk – just a few of the things that kept us going. Those people championed us. They believed in us. They were always there. They never gave up on us and they never judged our behaviour or our feelings.

My dear friend, who has become Mum to me and Nanny to our daughter, appeared on our doorstep the evening after our second miscarriage, armed with meals for the next few days. She would say that it was nothing but to us it was everything. I was slumped at the kitchen table, in my pajamas, with no make-up, red, puffy eyes from crying and my hair pulled back off my face. I didn’t even know why I was there; I wasn’t doing anything – just staring – my mind numb. Craig opened the door and she walked in. She didn’t say anything. She just came towards me, took me in her arms and held me. I didn’t ever want to let her go because, when I did, I knew I would have to keep going and I didn’t think I had the strength left in me.

As time passes after a miscarriage, the pain doesn’t leave you – you just learn to live with it a little better each day.

You learn how to function, to put one foot in front of the other and make your body move. I had many days where I couldn’t leave the house or get myself to work. Other days, I would make it out, breakdown and have to come home. I felt safe in my home. I could react and behave in whatever way I needed to in the moment. Some days, I would manage. People would see me and think I was alright. Those who know me best, knew I wasn’t. One minute I could be laughing and the next I would be in floods of tears. Anything could be a trigger. Small triggers – an advert for nappies or a mother at the till in the supermarket with her newborn – would pass relatively quickly. Large triggers – a pregnancy announcement or an insensitive comment – would take much longer to get over, most often resulting in a panic attack where I would be doubled up in a very real physical pain. Mostly, I managed to confine these moments to the privacy of home. Sometimes I didn’t. I had no control over it.

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I discovered this picture on a terribly hard day and it really resonated with me. I don’t know who painted it but they have captured how I felt perfectly.

Every day was a challenge. Every day there was a dark cloud looming over us. Every day, for me, was another day done, where I could go to bed, shut my eyes and not have to face a world that, to me, was miserable, unfair and cruel.

In addition to our recurrent miscarriages, on 25th August 2017, the consultant at our clinic told us that one of our precious twins had stopped growing. He told us that the baby would very likely have had something genetically wrong with it and that it was nature’s way of stopping that.

It was different to the miscarriages as the baby was still there – in my womb.

I had to carry this baby around inside me, whilst I watched my body change and grow with our healthy twin.

We looked at this baby on every scan we had for our daughter until the twin was eventually reabsorbed and disappeared on the scan images after about 20 weeks of pregnancy. Watching our daughter grow bigger and stronger at each scan whilst seeing our tiny twin lying there, peacefully sleeping, the same size each time, was bitter-sweet. We loved our babies – both of them.

The consultant assured me that it was nothing I had done. It wasn’t my fault. In amongst the fog in my head, I heard him but I still felt wracked with guilt and I was infinitely ashamed that my body had failed me yet again – and Craig too.

We had been so excited for our 9 week scan and, after our previous one where we had been elated (and a bit shocked) that we were expecting twins, we couldn’t wait to see them again. I had actually started to relax a little. It had been a rollercoaster of emotions. Our second round of IVF had worked and then we had to process the prospect of being parents to not one baby, but two! I remember Craig saying to me that we had skipped being a family of three and were going straight to being a family of four. We felt incredibly lucky and blessed. It finally felt as if we were getting through the darkness and embarking upon our new adventure.

I even allowed myself to make our first ‘baby’ purchase – a book for Craig called ‘Dad’s guide to twins.’

We couldn’t help but tell people about the twins – it just felt different.

When the consultant looked at the screen and paused, I knew there was bad news. I asked him what was wrong and, before he could say anything, I whispered, ‘has the baby died?’ Part of me thought that if I voiced my worst fear then it wouldn’t be true but it was. He said ‘yes’ and that he was extremely sorry.

My heart stopped and then shattered.

I don’t even know what went through my mind – I just crumbled into pieces. Even when he checked the other baby and said that it was doing really well, I almost didn’t hear him. Bravely, Craig squeezed my hand and reassured me that one of our babies was ok but I just couldn’t focus. I felt sick.

We left the clinic and I fell to my knees on the steps in the street and sobbed. I didn’t care who saw. In my eyes, London had paused. The whole world had. It was the first time I had ever seen Craig cry and it killed me.

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This sketch was drawn by Curtis Wiklund after he and his wife found out that their 6 week old baby had stopped growing in the womb. I find this incredibly moving and a reminder that fathers suffer after a miscarriage too. 

I often think that fathers can be overlooked when the tragedy of a miscarriage happens. Physically, the loss has happened to the mother yet both parents have lost their child. Fathers are robbed of their hopes and dreams of a family too. Men are expected to be the ‘strong’ ones – to support their partner and console them. This is exactly what Craig did but I often wonder how he really grieved. He grieved with me, of course, but I know he was keeping himself together to protect me from further pain. I admire him so much for that and for putting my feelings well above his own.

Men can be utterly incredible: my husband is certainly one of them.

Somehow, we managed to navigate our way to the train and back home to the comforts of the tiny country cottage we were living in. We closed the door behind us, shut the curtains, got on the sofa together and didn’t leave the house for three days. I vividly remember stirring that night and thinking it had been a brutal nightmare only to fully awake to the horror that it hadn’t.

We grieved.

We grieved for our baby whose tiny heartbeat we had heard on the monitor. We grieved for our baby whose perfect black and white image we had watched grow on the screen. We grieved for our baby who grew next to our daughter. We grieved for our baby who we had already begun to plan a future for. We grieved for our baby who we would never meet. We grieved for the baby who would never know us. We grieved for our baby who died.

Even now, we still find shame/awkwardness/embarrassment (I’m not sure which) from some. We talk about our daughter’s twin quite frequently and I can see by people’s reactions (or lack of) that it makes them feel uncomfortable. I can’t understand why. It is part of our story. We loved our baby and we will remember it, along with the others, forever.

Grief is tiring. I have since learnt that grief is also really just love.

You want so desperately to love something that you have lost – that has been viciously snatched away. That love you have has nowhere to escape and wants to explode out of you. Infertility is certainly a unique form of grief and people outside of this just cannot fully understand.

You might not be surprised to learn that I am a talker; I definitely wear my heart on my sleeve. This has caused some uncomfortable moments, as, naturally, not everyone is like me. But, it didn’t help me when we were grieving for our babies and we needed others to recognise our losses – rather than brush them under the carpet. Perhaps we told too many people but, at the time, we needed to. It was our cry for help, support and love. And, in actual fact, we rarely really knew what we needed. We just needed something.

What we didn’t need was silence.

I took silence very personally – it came across to me that these people were ashamed of what had happened to us – that they wanted to erase it.

Some people erased us too.

If they couldn’t see us, they wouldn’t have to feel awkward. It hurt us enormously. I can’t understand why people can talk so openly about other difficult subjects, like cancer, yet baby loss is still swarmed with shame and silence. Our emotions were raw and we so desperately wanted acknowledgment for our suffering.

People couldn’t see our loss so it was easy, for a few, to pretend it hadn’t happened.

Losing our babies has strengthened us, as individuals and as a couple, more than we could ever have possibly imagined.

Our values have changed.

Our priorities have changed.

Our lives have changed.

It’s part of our story which led us to meeting our daughter. Love has an even stronger meaning for us now.

I am acutely proud of where we began, what we managed to face and where it has led us – namely to exuberant joy at the arrival of our brilliant daughter. Without the hardship, we would not have met her and, for that, we will forever be blessed.

Shame and silence will never fill the walls of our home – just that of real love.  

6 thoughts on “Breaking the Silence

  1. Nodding along to this… Our miracle arrived two weeks ago and the pain has gone, and the fear he wouldn’t arrive was there until he was born! Now we have the ending we wanted I need to find the words too, as I said to people when I got to near full term… It’s been four years and 39 weeks…

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    1. Congratulations on the arrival of your perfect little rainbow baby boy! I’m sure you’re enjoying every second – and 2 weeks old – I bet he is just amazing! It’s lovely to know (in a not so lovely way – you know what I mean) that there are others out there who completely ‘get’ what I’m saying. Thanks for the message and for speaking out – I appreciate it. Enjoy the journey into parenthood – Totally was there with you too regarding the fear until they are born and in your arms, healthy and happy x

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  2. Very brave and I still don’t know how to talk about my 3 nor how to cope with the guilt of letting my husband down. Worst one for me was the heavily pregnant lady who was scanning me telling me that the baby had stopped growing…..

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    1. I really understand and agree that the ‘how’ to talk about it is really difficult. I found that just letting it come out in whatever way it wanted to was the only way I could manage. What a terrible experience for you so have to endure such a heartbreaking scan with the added trauma of a pregnant woman carrying out the scan. I cannot imagine how awfully distressing that must have been for you. I’m so sorry to hear of your losses. Thank you for sharing and for speaking out. You must be very brave too x

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  3. That bit about every day being one day done so you could just go to sleep feels so familiar to me. And the fact that out angel babies makes us mothers! I’m so sorry for the loss of your sweet angels. February 14th, 2016 is etched in my heart, too, as the due date of my first angel baby– my first ever pregnancy after 2.5 years TTC. Sending you so much love. Thank you for sharing your story in such depth ❤

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    1. Thank you for sharing these words. Knowing that you can relate and understand is comforting to me too. I’m so sorry got your loss – that must have been extremely painful especially after a long tine waiting to get to that point.💗 x

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