*As with every element of fertility, pregnancy and parenthood, everyone’s experience of miscarriage is different. This is simply mine.
I think I’d write this differently if I was pregnant again.
I wouldn’t have felt the anger I felt at Christmas from the absence of the bump I once imagined I would have at that stage. That stage where you’re starting to feel little kicks.
If I was ‘back on track’ to having a baby and had the warmth of knowing I wasn’t walking alone, I would have escaped the fear that maybe this isn’t meant to be. Maybe it won’t happen again.
I would have carried forward only the gratitude I feel to that powerful little soul for the valuable lessons they taught me over the past few months.
I was shocked by the impact that having a miscarriage had on me.
I had read and listened to other women’s accounts in recent years and there are those close to me who felt broken by their experiences of miscarriage, so I was under no illusion that it would be difficult.
But how ‘difficult’ looks and feels is very subjective.
For me, the greatest challenge has been grappling with the side of me that’s been saying I ‘should’ be ready to get back at it and the rest of me, which at first was too physically exhausted to get back at it, and then just lacking all desire and motivation to do anything.
My expectations of myself were ridiculous. Two days after miscarrying I thought I should be working from home and was annoyed with myself that I couldn’t concentrate.
Four days after, I found myself in a daze at the park with my two daughters, thinking: ‘if anyone asks me how I am doing right now I am going to start bawling’.
Five days after, I stood at a children’s birthday party, assuming that at that stage I ‘should’ be getting on with life even though I was still bleeding heavily and exhausted.
Ten days after, when I was really sure that I ‘should’ be fit to go back to work, I spent a sleepless night filled with anxiety at the thought of facing the next day.
And when I just couldn’t do it, I was so annoyed with myself.
Thankfully my boss had different expectations than me and said she’d been surprised that I had planned to come in that day, of course it was understandable that I needed more time.
But she was the first person outside my close circle of family and friends to give me an indication that it was OK to need to take time off work to recover. Extended time.
No medical practitioner had said that. No medical practitioner had seen me.
An ambulance had been called in the early hours when I was miscarrying because I was close to passing out from the pain, but we cancelled it two hours later when I started to come round (the ambulance hadn’t been dispatched at that stage).
And when the process visibly reached a conclusion for me a few hours after that, it wasn’t deemed necessary for me to be seen by anyone.
The GP advised me over the phone to take an iron supplement and that was pretty much it.
(I know that for many women the process of miscarrying is much more protracted and does require physical intervention. My heart truly goes out to anyone who has to endure further trauma.)
Because I didn’t sit down with anyone and really talk about what was to come, I didn’t understand that between hormonal chaos and low iron, it would be totally normal for me to feel physically exhausted ten days later.
And on a societal level, we’ve never been given the message that women who have experienced miscarriage need time to recover for x, y and z reasons.
In the same way that we diminish the experience of a woman who has just given birth by expecting her to care for a newborn baby alone that very first night, we don’t acknowledge out loud that those who have experienced miscarriage can be in a physically and emotionally vulnerable place for quite some time.
For the most part, we don’t acknowledge them at all.
They emerge silently from their grief and physical turmoil, and get on with life.
We’re not used to speaking about it openly and I understand that it is difficult to do so for many reasons.
It’s so personal. Even though I am pushing myself to speak openly and honestly about it, there’s a part of the experience that feels so sacred to me that I want to hold it very close to my heart, forever known only to me and that wee soul.
And then when I do say the words “I had a miscarriage”, I understand that those are confronting words for another person to hear and it’s hard for them to know what to say in response.
They clearly want to say the right thing but are unsure what that might be.
Then there’s just the silly but real fear of coming across as attention seeking if you do speak about it.
Fact of Life
At the end of the day, miscarriage is a very common experience. According to the NHS, about one in eight known pregnancies end in miscarriage, with many more happening before someone even knows they are pregnant.
And it’s an experience that matters.
It is my hope that the more we say its name, the easier it will be to talk about and the easier it will be for those going through it to get the acknowledgment and support they need to heal.
I am so grateful to those who kept telling me what I needed to hear until I got the message that recovering from a miscarriage doesn’t necessarily happen overnight – or in ten days or three months.
There are no time limits and no shoulds when it comes to how you feel.
If you are going through anything difficult right now, it is my absolute wish for you that you get to put your healing first.