The problem with non-acknowledgement

Advance warning: this may get graphic and will undoubtedly be highly opinionated. If you feel this may upset you, feel free to step away now…

Last weekend was Mother’s Day here in the UK, and managed, for me, to be a weekend of quite spectacular upset, however, what I wasn’t prepared to acknowledge, admit or accept at the time, was that it is quite likely that I experienced my second miscarriage.

It was bad enough to have had one, albeit months ago. Remembering that this was the first Mother’s Day where I Should Have Been Pregnant (though there’s really no ‘should’ about it – these things do happen) was something I’d managed to mostly not think about, protecting myself from the pain of it, until my lovely best friend made me realise that it was important to acknowledge and, in a way, cherish.

In all likelihood, though, with hindsight giving us that shining 20/20 vision, I have very strong suspicions that the combination of being two weeks late for my monthly, the amount of tiny clots and brown weird gunky stuff, the sheer quantity and the fact that my boobs stopped hurting shortly after it started may confirm what I wasn’t willing to as I sat there and decided not to take another pregnancy test because I couldn’t stand the possibility of confirming, without shadow of a doubt, that I was losing another child.

And since then I’ve variously felt guilty (because is it a terrible thing to suspect you’re losing your child but to make sure you can’t know for sure), anxious (because if it wasn’t a miscarriage, then my cycle’s WAY out of whack, which will make conceiving in this 4 month window we have, very difficult), pleased-ish (because if it was a miscarriage, then although it’s sad,  it’s proof that I can fall pregnant and that my cycle’s OK) and then back to guilty for feeling pleased-ish about it.

Oh my life! Poor brain. And poor Husby, who’s been on the wrong end of my stress a few times this week, but who’s been an utter brick through it all (even though I didn’t tell him about it – another thing to feel guilty about – how can you not tell your husband you’re probably losing his child. Again.)

 I did tell him in the end. And I told him why I didn’t take the test, and, bless him, he was very understanding and kind about the whole matter. And in the meantime, we got on with trying to move house and I busied myself and tried not to think about it.

So the likelihood is that I’m 2 for 2 on the Neverborns, and the thing which is bringing me most comfort is being able to talk about it with the people I care about most and receive their love, support and encouragement.

I’ve known people (many people) who, in announcing their pregnancy have said “I/We didn’t want to say anything until after 12 weeks in case of a miscarriage.”

At the time(s), this struck me as odd. Now it strikes me as faintly ridiculous and hugely damaging. And apologies if you buy into the mindset, but here comes the opinionated part.

For some reason, 12 weeks seems to be the ‘magic number’ for pregnancy, as if, after this time, everything will be fine. Everyone knows this is not the case. Things can still go horribly wrong, right up to (and, indeed after) delivery. Agreed, most miscarriages will occur prior to the 12 week mark, but so what? The pregnancy doesn’t suddenly become more ‘real’ at this point – pregnancy happens from the moment of conception to whatever point (and in whatever manner) it ends. It’s just more likely to be continued to full term from 12 weeks.

And what if it isn’t? What if (at any point in the pregnancy, 12 weeks be hanged) you lose your child?

It’s a loss, pure and simple, whether you’re a week along or 39 weeks.

Parents who lose a child need support, care, love, encouragement. They need time to grieve, understanding from those around them, and time to heal. Expectations of their capacity to continue in a ‘normal’ manner may need to alter. They need to be treated compassionately. And I’m sorry if your view is different, but this is especially the case for the Mum. The Father may well be devastated too, but the Mother has to go through the physicality of the matter. And that’s much worse, leaving a much deeper hurt.

If you have a miscarriage and haven’t told anyone about being pregnant (if you even knew yourself), you have two options – you can surprise them with the terrible news and receive their sympathy along with their reaction to the unexpected pregnancy news (usually quite an overwhelming combination, resulting in an outpouring that’s quite tough to handle) or you can keep schtum and suffer in silence, trying to ‘carry on as normal’ and pretend nothing happened, possibly even convince yourself that it was no big deal.

How the women who choose the latter option still function in the face of the impact of this loss is beyond me. Props to them for keeping it together, but surely that can’t be doing them any good. If you’re grieving the loss of your child, surely that’s the time you MOST need people around you? The time when you most need the acceptance from others that it’s OK; that they understand; that you need to be cut a little slack? Every parent who suffers a loss (at whatever stage) will need some support, which their nearest and dearest cannot offer if they don’t know about it.

 
There’s a horrible attitude perpetrating from *somewhere* that prior to 12 weeks, a pregnancy somehow doesn’t really count, because there’s still the not-inconsiderable risk of miscarriage. This demeans the feelings surrounding the loss, diminishes the importance and impact of the pregnancy and (to an extent) dehumanises the child. Repugnant on every level.

In my small corner of the internet, I’d like to make a stand, to make a start, to change this attitude.

Every pregnancy counts and should be acknowledging and sharing to whatever stage it reaches.

Every loss is worth acknowledging, grieving and hopefully (eventually) accepting.

Every feeling associated with that loss is fully explainable and should be allowed to be*.

 

I don’t know how to carry this forward, or if it’s even possible, but I’d love it if every woman who went through a miscarriage felt able to share her pregnancy and subsequent grief with, and felt supported, accepted and cared for by, those closest to her. It’s a really, really important thing.

Please let me know if you feel likewise/differently – I’d be keen to hear your feedback.

*I’ll clarify that although each feeling associated with the loss is explainable, in the case of certain feelings, such as the feeling of wanting to harm yourself/others, they should definitely stay as feelings and if you think you might struggle with that, phone a friend…quickly!

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17 thoughts on “The problem with non-acknowledgement

  1. I came across this blog post about a month ago, shortly after discovering that I was pregnant with my second child. I was so moved by your words that I held my tummy and prayed that I would never have to endure such suffering.

    Two weeks ago our 12 week old baby died. We were just at the point of announcing our news to friends, (our family knew) and all to soon that little life was taken to heaven.
    There never is a safe time to announce pregnancy and though it was incredibly hard to tell our family and a few close friends our unhappy news, we strongly felt that we were honouring the life of our little child. Inspite of the pain, we will always speak about, miss and love the little child who we were blessed with for those short weeks. Our baby's short life had purpose and value and always will.
    I will always consider myself the mother of two, one living and one in heaven.

    Thank you for your words, they touched me in pregnancy and they touch me now following the burial of my baby. I can't help but feel that God sent me your blog in preparation for my loss.

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  2. Thanks Stephanie – your article is beautiful and says what I wanted to in a much less aggressive and more eloquent way. Thanks for sharing your story, too. I love hearing about the successes – it really helps, even though the sadness of loss doesn't leave.

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  3. I have been pregnant five times. I have two kids. Pregnancy loss is awful. All my losses were really early, and you are so right- they are STILL losses. I have been where you are, and more people need to talk openly about it. I just wrote a piece for Role/Reboot about this. Would it be tacky for me to
    post the link here for you to read? If you feel like venting to someone, I am definitely experienced in this area. You expressed yourself beautifully, and I'm truly sorry for what you are experiencing.

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  4. Thank you Sophia for your kind words, and for sharing your experiences. It so helps to hear that others have gone through this and still been able to have wonderful children afterwards (though, as you say, I suspect that the grieving will continue for a long time).

    I love your post and your poem – so touching. And I love your beautiful name for your children. Thank you for sharing your story with me.

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  5. What a beautfiul, moving and candid post!
    I stumbled across it on Facebook this evening, thanks to our mutual friend Mhari.

    I too have two little Angels (Angelitos I call them) waiting to meet me in Heaven and I only wish I could express how much sympathy I feel towards you. Life is very fragile but life, however small is infinitely precious.

    I have three 'surviving' sons. My eldest was diagnosed with probable Downs Synrome at the 20 week scan (I refused the nuchal scan). He does have Downs and he is FANTASTIC! Yet he would never have been conceived if I hadn't miscarried a few months earlier, just as my youngest would never have been conceived if his unknown sibling hadn't slipped away from us before we ever got to meet him/ her. Somehow, inexplicably, joy comes from pain and it is only with the passage of time than we can make some sense of our loss. I wish I could say that you will stop mourning but it is so personal that all I can offer is that, for me, time has proven a great healer. I hope the same for you.

    It's not terribly eloquent but I wrote about this too, after my second miscarriage yet I wasn't able to share it for another 3 years. Here is the link: http://sophiahc.wordpress.com/2011/12/12/angelitos/

    You are very much in my thoughts, Sophia

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  6. I'm sorry to hear about your choir friend. That must be really traumatic. I had a conversation elsewhere with a friend who's due her baby this week and is still terrified that something might happen before she gives birth. I guess it's never a done deal. Life is a gift and we enjoy what we can of it. Easy to forget though.

    Thanks for your support and care – it does help.

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  7. I have, thank you, and (bizarrely enough) I'm feeling fairly ok about this one at the moment. I do worry though, that because we only have a short window of time to conceive, that if/when I do, I'm going to be constantly worrying about it because of these experiences of early pregnancy.

    I can see what you mean there about wanting to protect yourself at that time. I'm glad it all worked out for you in the end – it's a real encouragement to hear it can happen. Thanks for your comments.

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  8. Firstly, I'm sorry to read of your loss. Sending hugs.

    With my miscarriage, I didn't know I was pregnant…and was so devastated I only shared it with a handful of people. I didn't want to repeat the news over and over, and those few people were support enough.
    When expecting my daughter, I struggled to come to terms with my pregnancy after years of infertility. I knew everyone would be thrilled for us, they would start buying things for the baby, they'd tell all their friends, but until I was more sure that I really was pregnant, I didn't want them all knowing. Didn't want the reminders around 'just in case'. I didn't enjoy my pregnancy because of the what-ifs, no-one else understood that, they just thought I should be grateful. So we kept it to ourselves until about 20 weeks.

    I agree that every pregnancy and loss should be accepted, but in my case, that could come later (and has)…in the raw stages I needed to protect myself whilst I was in an emotional fragile place.

    I hope you have good support around you right now xx

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  9. Having never experienced the loss of a child I have no thoughts. If I have a friend who confides/announces the loss I only offer my support and I listen. Sometimes its too raw of a subject like in the case of a fellow choir member whose son died in the third trimester. It was clear that it was too difficult for her to discuss so much so that she never named him.

    Prayers condolences love and hugs. And whatever support I can offer from across the pond.

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  10. Thank you.

    Yes, you've shared your sad experiences with me before. Am I just having a knee-jerk reaction to this, do you think? I know people deal with it differently. I can understand not wanting to call everyone to tell them, but did it help to keep it to yourselves? I only ask because I would struggle so much to do that. Again, it might well be that different ways work for different people (something I need to learn more about). I can't imagine your husband was anything but supportive of you but I can't begin to think that I would've coped without people around me who knew, who could offer support.

    I guess I can understand your viewpoint about the other kids and again, that may be 'horses for courses'. I told Niece and Neff, gently, in language they understood, and they seemed fine with that. I also may be knee-jerking having just found out last night that I have an older Neverborn sibling (either I was never told, or I was told and *somehow* didn't register at the time), which was a surprise and a sadness.

    Thank you for your input – it's really helpful.

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  11. First, I am so, so sorry, my friend. I'm praying for you.
    I think you know, I have had two miscarriages. My first and sixth pregnancies. We didn't tell anyone about my pregnancy either time. When I lost the first baby at 7 weeks, I was so glad that I didn't. Even my parents didn't know. My husband and I just wanted it to be between us. It was painful, it was horrible, and it was so sad, and we didn't want to relive it by calling everyone we knew to tell them.
    With the second, we had four little kids. We most certainly didn't want the kids to get attached to a baby early on, just in case I did miscarry. If we weren't telling the kids, we weren't telling other people, either. We didn't tell the kids until later, when they were older, about either miscarriage.
    We always wait until at least 10 weeks, after we've heard the heartbeat, before we tell anyone, just in case.

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  12. True, and I wouldn't necessarily advocate telling people unless you were comfortable, but I've heard of people who won't even tell their parents, who they're otherwise close to. It seems like a bizarre way of cutting off support systems.

    I can understand the 'not wanting awkward conversations' bit, but for me, not at the expense of potentially having to 'go it alone'. And definitely not with the people who count. I think it's this which I find difficult to understand rather than a healthy level of discretion.

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  13. I don't think the 12 week thing is about the pregnancy not counting or the loss being any less and more to do with how many people know. Once you start telling people you are pregnant, very quickly everyone around you knows. Often people who deal with loss (and all sort of other bad things, not related to pregnancy) don't want extended family, more distant friends, work colleagues etc to know. Every one that knows you are pregnant is going to know that you have had a miscarriage within 9 months. Not saying anything until the risks have decreased significantly reduces the number of difficult conversations the couple have to have.

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