Baby Loss Awareness Week | Pregnancy After Loss
Pregnancy after loss: Despite everything that has happened, there’s still a part of me that thinks of pregnancy as a special and exciting time.
Pregnancy is seen as an optimistic, hopeful time; waiting to welcome a precious bundle of joy into your lives.
I really hope from the bottom of my heart not to upset anyone. If you are pregnant and reading this know that my experience of miscarriage has absolutely no bearing on your pregnancy. You may prefer NOT to read this if you are pregnant (or, indeed, for any other reason) – that’s your decision and I respect that entirely.
Sadly, most of my experience of pregnancy has been strongly associated with grief and loss. I have experienced three pregnancies and yet I only have one daughter who I can physically cherish. For me, pregnancy has become a worrying, anxious time with excitement constantly tainted with fear.
We lost our first baby at twelve and a half weeks. It was the most soul destroying experience. It was physically degrading, emotionally crippling and socially isolating. It changed who I am as a person.
Thankfully, we have always conceived easily. And about seven months later I was pregnant again.
For me, one of the hardest things was dealing with questions and comments from other people, particularly those who hadn’t experienced the crushing sadness of the miscarriage. Innocent, well meant, run of the mill enquiries of “how’s the bump?” sometimes felt like the most awkward, painful investigations into my soul. I didn’t know how ‘the bump’ was and I was petrified of losing another much loved baby… but that’s not a socially acceptable answer.
I didn’t necessarily want to talk about exactly how I really was feeling with with every Tom, Dick and Harry – but it took a huge amount of emotional energy to not fall apart each time that question was asked.
My pregnancy with Lily was further complicated by an anterior placenta. This is a normal, common condition but means it’s harder to feel the baby’s movements and so it took me much, much longer to feel her kicking (I’m sure this wasn’t made any better by the excess weight I carry – another topic that doesn’t make me feel great – but a tale for another day). I couldn’t feel her kick at the stage when lots of other pregnant women could feel their babies kick. That definitely added to my anxiety.
I felt a commonly held assumption amongst ‘other people’ was that I must be alright now that I was pregnant again. Like that should surely cancel out the grief of the miscarriage.
How I felt myself was much more complicated. Of course I was glad to be pregnant. Of course I was. But I hadn’t stopped grieving for the baby we had lost. That baby is still gone. And I will grieve for that child until I die myself. In many ways, I have come to terms with that first miscarriage, but I will always remember and deeply love our first baby who was too precious for this world.
It’s a complicated situation I guess and on a theoretical level I kind of understand. I’m pro-choice myself and I fully support women who, for whatever reason, choose to terminate a pregnancy. So by that rationale, I ‘get’ that for some people it’s just a collection of cells rather than a life.
But our miscarriage was very much OUR baby. Yes it was hopes and dreams and the excitement of future plans. But it was also a living organism, growing inside me. I’d nurtured it, started to bond with it and I had started to love it. (I hate calling it but I will never know if my first child was a boy or a girl).
Prior to having direct experience of baby loss I’d probably have scoffed at the notion of a ‘rainbow baby’. Much like I couldn’t bare the term ‘soul mate’ until I found my own… but now I find it comforting.
Our Rainbow Babies
Giving birth is truly miraculous in itself. But going on to give birth after you’ve experienced loss felt like a whole other level of wonder. I for one needed a word for it. For me, that term ‘rainbow baby’ helped me discover a community of women who understood.
Lily is my precious rainbow baby. I’ve felt maternal for as long as I can remember, certainly long before the miscarriage. I imagine that I would have revelled in motherhood anyway… but to have personally experienced the deep chasms of misery of losing a much loved child, I know I appreciate her so much more. That deep sense of appreciation has served me well through motherhood. It has steeled my patience. It has comforted me and softened the blow of broken nights’ sleep. I don’t mind getting up to soothe her in the night because I’m so bloody grateful I have her.
Sadly, we recently experienced our second miscarriage. I naively thought that my body was somehow ‘fixed’ because I’d carried a healthy baby to term.
I’d made an active decision to not let the anxiety engulf me this time. I really wanted to be able to enjoy a pregnancy. I had been so proud of how calm I’d been, even though the turmoil was lingering not far below. I felt physically wretched. I had every pregnancy symptom going and that reassured me that things must be progressing well. Despite that, I was still anxious before the scan. When you know the pain that can be unleashed in those dark, quiet rooms you don’t forget. People told me “it’d be fine”. I found that insensitive but tried to rationalise their good intentions.
It wasn’t fine. We were told at our routine 12 week scan that there was no heartbeat. The sac had developed (hence all my symptoms of feeling and looking pregnant) but the baby had stopped developing weeks before. It’s known as a missed miscarriage – a term I can’t bear because to me it sounds like you’re oblivious to the most heart breaking thing I can imagine.
Another much loved baby gone. Another baby who I would never hold in my arms or see grow into a little person with their own spirit and character. Another world of grief.
This time around I was constantly told how lucky I was to have Lily. As if I didn’t already know. I KNOW how lucky I am with every fibre of my being – but I’m allowed to grieve the babies we lost.
I have no idea what will happen in the future. If we do fall pregnant again I will try to not let my previous experiences overshadow the pregnancy. I also know that will be hard. I’m not sure I have the strength to try again. It’s become such a hard, painful subject that again, I find those all-too-common questions of “Will you have any more?” really draining to navigate.
I want to try and finish this piece positively. I don’t necessarily feel positive. I don’t know if I will ever hold another baby of ours in my arms and that makes me feel so, so sad.
What I do know is that I have my beautiful rainbow baby and my amazing husband who has been my rock through all of this. I truly know how blessed I am to have them both. You don’t get rainbows without any rain and I wouldn’t have this level of gratitude had the miscarriages not all happened. But please don’t tell me this happened ‘for a reason’. I don’t believe that and I don’t find it helpful.
If there’s one thing I would like to do it is just raise a bit of awareness on the topic. Miscarriage and infant loss is still brushed under the carpet too much. Once I started opening up I realised that so many other women had experienced the same pain. It truly helped to know I wasn’t alone.
Most of all, I wish people that haven’t experienced this directly themselves have a tiny window into what it’s like so that if it happens to someone you love, you maybe have some idea about how to support them. If you are unsure please look up the Miscarriage Association’s #SimplySay campaign.
If you’ve been affected by miscarriage, molar pregnancy or ectopic pregnancy, we hope this website will provide the information that may be of some comfort and help: https://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/
Helen is a mummy to three beautiful children. Her eldest – Evie Rose – would have turned 10 next month. Tragically Evie Rose passed away peacefully in Helen’s arms at just 2 days old – here’s Helen’s story: https://girlabout.co.uk/baby-loss-awareness-marking-the-life-of-evie/
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I’m a primary school teacher and I’m a mum to a beautiful, bright and bubbly six-year-old. I witness the ups and downs of wellbeing in children every day. Every parent faces the same dilemma – how to ensure the wellbeing of our children – particularly from a mental health perspective in a world that is more pressured than ever in more ways than one.
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