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!