Instead of writing this article, I should be on Instagram posting a grainy, black and white ultrasound image showing a tiny human, along with some witty banter telling the world I’m expecting a baby.
But when I went for my 12-week scan, instead of seeing a little baby full of excited, flashing heartbeats, I saw a shape; a still, white shape. And then I heard the words that have engraved themselves into my brain: “Have you had any pain or bleeding, Rebecca?”
I was told that there was no heartbeat and that my baby had died two weeks earlier.
The aftermath — the messy impersonal, coronavirus-led aftermath — was horrendous. There were masks and screens and staring eyes and gloves — and no Rob. My husband had not been allowed to accompany me to the scan; coronavirus cruelly robbing us of contact when we both needed it the most.
And then there were the decisions. Should I let nature take its course, go home, and wait to start bleeding? Or should I take the pills that bring on the miscarriage Or do I opt for a surgical removal? The questions and language barriers between the medics and me were only made harder by masks.
And then, after the longest time, Rob arrived, and the nurses made an allowance as these were ‘exceptional circumstances’. They let him in, and finally there was comfort in touch, and relief, more pain, but shared pain, the explanations, and the begging of the nurses: “Are you sure? Could you have made a mistake? Maybe it’s just too early for a heartbeat?”
What followed was nearly a week of drugs, scans, questions, and procedures. There was so much confusion between doctors about what the ‘safe thing’ was to do during the pandemic, but eventually, five days later, after the drugs I was given to bring on the process had failed three times, I had emergency surgery to remove an incomplete miscarriage.
The hurt of losing a baby is inescapable and unbearable. I’ve never known anything like it. It scorches you from the heart outwards and then, when the initial burn fades, it’s replaced by a deep, dark, ache.
I did everything right. I gave up drinking well before we conceived, I took folic acid, I didn’t eat rare meat, soft cheese, tuna, or egg yolks. I exercised, but not too strenuously. I self-isolated to be safe from the virus, and I was 100% diligent… and it still happened. It wasn’t my fault. Baby loss is never anyone’s fault.
Although ‘missed miscarriages’ are not as common, one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, and it’s out of anyone’s control.
You never really hear about it, though. It’s painful to read about, and easier to pretend it doesn’t happen, because miscarriage is brutal and harsh, and no one ever knows what to say.
The baby hasn’t yet seen the world, so the loss is almost brushed aside as ‘less than a baby’. But what is totally underestimated is the impact that the baby has already made on the world of the mother. We shared our bodies, we planned the birth, we chose names, guessed birth dates, times, and weights.
“We’re all still stuck in this place where we think it’s only acceptable to show the shiny, aesthetically pleasing side of ourselves. Miscarriage is dark, and it is ugly.”
We’re all still stuck in this place where we think it’s only acceptable to show the shiny, aesthetically pleasing side of ourselves. Miscarriage is dark, and it is ugly. Yet reaching out and talking to friends who I knew had experienced this aching despair, has been the only thing that’s brought me anything approaching comfort: knowing I’m not alone.
In the absence of face-to-face comfort and physical contact with my friends and family, I began to write. I shared my story on a public Facebook page, and within hours it had gone viral. I received more than 2,000 messages of support, of love, of solidarity.
So, I made a space for women, ‘One in Four – Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss Support Group’, and overnight found myself with more than 1,000 new friends. All hurting, all desperately wanting to be heard, to be given a platform to grieve together, without shame or judgement. To be able to talk openly about a subject that has been ‘taboo’ for far too long.
Without exception, these women said: “I wish it was more acceptable to talk about miscarriage, I wish we could normalise it so it isn’t such an isolating experience.”
And what about our partners? Rob has had to watch on helplessly. He couldn’t be present for the scans and conversations, and to hear the options, yet he has lost a child, too. The physical pain and emptiness isn’t the same, but the grief is all still there.
Losing a baby is new, fresh, and raw for us, but we’ve experienced previous trauma in our lives, enough to know that healing lies in sharing and kindness. Despite the fact that this is way out of my comfort zone, I’m talking about it because it only takes one person to speak out to help, and I want to give help.
The last few weeks have been challenging to say the least. As a wedding photographer, Covid-19 has put paid to my work, while Rob is out every day working as a tree surgeon. This space has given my imagination unlimited boundaries, along with limitless possibilities. I’ve put things in place to prevent myself from visiting dark places in my mind. The social media support group has been invaluable, along with exercise, reading, and writing.
Experiencing this grief during lockdown has felt very lonely at times. Being unable to hug, touch, hold and be held by my closest friends in a time of extreme grief, has felt alien and wrong. It added a new depth to the sadness of losing our baby. It showed me how important human contact is, something I’d taken for granted all of my life. I realised that when you experience trauma, you look for it; that contact, that connection, that comfort in touch.
But lockdown has also given us the space and time we needed to come to terms with what has happened, to cry without inhibition or time restraints, to lock ourselves away and begin the healing process, and to continue to love each other in the quiet peace of a world that has been put on pause.
Bex’s heartbreaking story emanates strength as she allows herself to connect with the pain – as difficult as that may be. She speaks with authenticity and openness, shining a light on a taboo topic. It’s impossible to be prepared for this kind of grief, and the process of loss must be experienced for the pain to be less present over time. Bex courageously connects with people online, and in doing so is able to continue her process of healing, while admirably helping others.
To connect with a counsellor to discuss a miscarriage or grief, visit counselling-directory.org.uk
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