The weeks and months following a miscarriage can feel so unbelievably bleak at times. Can anything positive ever come from something so devastating? I originally wrote this after our first miscarriage and before our second. One of my closing sentences had been ‘I’m not sure how I’d survive another miscarriage (I hope I never have to find out)’. Well I did find out and I have survived. I re-read this and felt that the content was just as relevant a second time around though so I’ve left it as it is.
October 2017 started magically for us as the month that we saw our second baby's heartbeat for the first time - just 3 weeks later, I felt that my world had caved in when I went in for a scan to be told that our baby's heart was no longer beating. No matter how much you exercise caution in that first trimester (or at any point in pregnancy really), you still can't help but plan the life that lies ahead when those two lines come up on the pregnancy test. We were heartbroken. In a daze of shock and emptiness, I booked myself in for surgery a couple of days later, sent messages to friends and family who already knew we were expecting - and then went home to sit on the sofa and cry, grieving for the life that would never be. This was the position I resumed most days and it gave me a lot of time to reflect. It was a couple of days in when I was willing the days to pass until I ‘felt better’ that I decided that this little person’s loss would not be in vain. Instead, I would channel this overwhelming sadness and be guided by him/her to achieve something positive, something that would make me smile again - it felt that if I didn't, I would drown in this sea of grief. I used this to propel me forwards and actually, once I’d opened my eyes and my heart, I suddenly felt full of hope at one of the most desperate times of my life.
1. Changing our jobs and our home
I have written about this before but I knew I couldn't go back to my job as it was - it had been causing me incredible anxiety in the run up to the miscarriage and I decided that had to change. The miscarriage was the catalyst really - I emailed my manager from the sofa and explained that I just couldn't continue as I was. She was so supportive and encouraged me to think about other options whilst I considered my longer term life plans. I found an alternative that was ideal - and importantly able to support remote working. We were already in the process of selling our house in London to release us from the financial burden (big mortgage meant big, scary jobs) and give us flexibility to be able to move when we decided where. My husband had always yearned to live by the sea. So we actively set about house and job (for him) hunting in the West Country, finding both within a matter of weeks of each other. We were headed for a tiny coastal village in rural Dorset. We found out we’d miscarried on 25th October and were down in Dorset the following May. I cried and cried leaving the city I loved so much, where our son came in to the world, where he'd made his first little friends. I was daunted, scared even but I knew in my heart that this was the best move for all of us. Reducing our overheads meant we could both work less and spend more time with our son - suddenly something that was more important than it had ever been. When I spoke to Lucy Lucraft about my experience for an article on the positives from grief, she played things back to me in such a beautiful way. That our little one was sent to help me break free from a life I didn't want into one that I did, even though they didn't get to meet us and join in that life. I loved this and hold on to that with pride in my heart – he/she was a pretty powerful force in their short life (I think it was a she).
2. The power of incredible friendships
Sharing my story of what happened led to reconnecting with friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen since school. This was definitely one of the silver linings of suffering miscarriage. Suddenly you were in the same club - one that you all wished you weren’t in but you were in it all the same. We shared messages of sadness and took comfort from the fact we weren’t alone. Other people’s reactions to miscarriage was something I struggled with most after losing our baby. When our cat died, I got flowers. When our baby died, some of those people didn’t even send a text. (I should say that many did – texts and flowers and cards but some of the closest people to us found the situation very awkward). Having others who understood was so important in feeling less alone in this totally shit time and confirmed that being open about it was the right thing for me. My best friend from school showed up in the most supportive, loving way possible. She’d sadly been there herself a couple of years before. For the months following our miscarriage, Gemma unfailingly messaged me at least once a week to see how I am, to tell me that she was thinking of me. After a conversation back in May, she sent a message saying she was worried about me, there seemed to be such underlying sadness that perhaps I should seek some further help. So gentle, so kind. I called the employee helpline at work the next day and broke down in tears at how sad I must be for people to see through the brave face and trying-to-be-cheery attitude. It was just what I needed, some extra (professional) support to help me to process the grief and come out the other side. How amazing that those friendships that you form as a child come back to catch you years and years later when you need it most.
3. I grew more love and empathy
Miscarriage is common – it happens to 1 in 4 pregnancies – and I’m sure we all know someone who has been through it or perhaps you’ve experienced it yourself. It’s being talked about more and more, and whilst this helps to open the eyes of those who might not have been there (as well as being a huge source of comfort for those who are going through it), being in that position yourself was really the only way of knowing, truly feeling what others before me might have experienced. I regard myself as a caring and empathetic person but having a miscarriage has made me even more so. The baby loss community on social media is full of wonderful souls – all with a heartbreaking story to tell – and until you find yourself with the need to draw support from that, you can almost remain blissfully unaware of the horror that so many experience. Some might say don’t read such sad stories, they’ll only make you feel worse. But actually, I think we should know and understand what people are experiencing every day no matter how uncomfortable it may feel. And as humans, I think we have an obligation to understand the crappy parts of life, even if we’re not experiencing them ourselves. Because this is real life. I had known of friends and family experiencing miscarriages before I had and whilst I expressed heartfelt sadness and empathy to them at the time, I really had no idea of the trauma they’d experienced as I hadn’t been there myself.
So of course I’d give anything for our baby to be here today, sitting on my hip and looking forward to his/her first birthday in a few months. How I wish I hadn’t experienced something so painful. There are many, many negatives to miscarriage – some of which never really leave you. The magic is suddenly gone from pregnancy and something that should be wonderful and exciting is suddenly something to fear. But I am pretty proud of where I find myself today – somewhere I wouldn’t have been without the miscarriage (maybe I would’ve found myself here eventually but it certainly wouldn’t have happened with such guts and determination). I feel like a different person. I feel like I'm living again, in a way I haven't done for years. We still mourn our baby whose presence will always be felt in our family and at times I am still floored by the grief. But I thought I'd sink that day and I somehow found the courage to start all over again, somewhere completely new. It's a cliche perhaps but losing our baby has made us realise nothing in life is guaranteed and rather than talking about changing things, we just decided to do it.