Late miscarriage, giving birth to a baby you don't get to take home and grieving during a pandemic

Sabrina is 33, lives in Birmingham with her partner and works as a therapist with young people. After falling pregnant a year ago, they waited until the 12 week scan to announce their news, believing they were in the ‘safe zone’ once they reached this mark. Sadly, they soon realised that with pregnancy there is no such thing as a safe zone.

This was my first pregnancy and our long-awaited child. The joy that we both felt was very quickly overshadowed by fear, at 8 and 17 weeks in to the pregnancy, when I noticed spotting and was immediately rushed to the hospital. Both times, I had an ultrasound and was told that the baby was fine, and his heartbeat was strong. We really felt that we were given a second and third chance with our baby.  

At our 12 week scan, the sonographer noticed a small pool of blood in the womb, but put it down to the fact that I may have conceived just as my period was about to start. This was something I began to believe was an explanation for the intermittent bleeding that I had experienced during pregnancy. Although this explanation didn’t drive the fear away, it did give a cause for the bleeding.

Giving birth to a baby you don't get to take home

I was 19 weeks pregnant, just 4 days shy from our 5 month scan, when it happened again: I woke up to spotting. The bleeding gradually got heavier and so, again, I rushed to A&E - only this time I was given the heart-breaking news that I was 4cm dilated.

Our son Israel was born sleeping. There is nothing more painful than giving birth and knowing your baby isn’t going to make it. You don’t get to hear their cry; your ideation of what the perfect delivery would be is shattered with silence. Going through the excruciating pain of labour, only to receive further pain and heartbreak, just doesn’t make sense. We left the hospital after spending 2 days with our son.

The trauma of leaving the hospital without him, is something that I will never get over. I left my heart in the hospital that day.

I blamed myself and searched for answers

Once I returned home, I soon realised that all the professional support had gone. I continued to blame myself, as I had never really heard a lot about second trimester loss. I began to unpick everything I did leading up to the day. Was it stress from work? If I had got to the hospital sooner? If I was seen earlier? Were there signs that I ignored? Google became my friend; I felt like that was the only way I could get answers.

Luckily, I found out about Tommy’s Bereavement Midwives, who I cannot thank enough for the support they gave me.

I felt that they really had time to listen to how I was feeling - they were so attentive and caring, and gave me the reassurance that I desperately needed. Just having them listen to me, and respond with advice and knowledge around miscarriage, made such a difference to me.

It took 4 months for us to get an answer as to what caused the miscarriage. After investigations, we were told that it was due to a placental abruption - which would have been the cause of the bleeding throughout the pregnancy, and explained the pool of blood in my womb. After waiting so long, it felt like a weight had been lifted. I finally had something to prove I wasn’t to blame and there was nothing that I could have done to prevent it.

Grief in the pandemic 

Grieving during the pandemic, for me, felt like the world had stopped and allowed me to grieve. In a selfish way, I was grateful. No-one can prepare you for what life entails after losing a baby. You are thrown into a world that you are forced to just accept - a world that you have not chosen to live in, and if you were given the option to choose it, you would run a mile from it.

You are a different person, living a life without your child, and it takes a while to accept this. You can no longer walk down the baby aisles in shops; you are fearful of bumping in to people who knew you were having a baby, or are having a baby themselves; it even bothers you just to be around people who are living their normal day to day life, because you aren’t.

So, when we were in isolation, I felt a relief that I didn’t have to face the world. My partner and I were safe in our own bubble. We didn’t have to pretend to be who we were before losing our son. We were left to feel what we needed to, with no rush in having to feel ‘better’.

The world around us was in a panic about the unknown, not being able to see people, a fear of losing and change. I was able to face it without fear and with some resilience because I had already experienced it, the world as I knew it had already ended.

People are frustrated at the disruption that the pandemic has caused; they want normality back again, knowing that it will come - maybe not straight away, but it will return. For those grieving, our normality will never return.

Breaking the silence

I started connecting with other bereaved parents on forums who also felt that aftercare was quite limited, which is something that had a real impact on me. My aim is to break the silence around infant loss. There needs to be more awareness and support in relation to the lasting impact on parents and their families.

This led me and my cousin to create a self-care kit, to help bereaved parents and families who have experienced infant loss through stillbirth, neonatal death and miscarriage. The kit is based on psychology research and aims to provide follow-up therapeutic support that is very much needed.

I’m still very much in the early stages of my loss but if I was to offer any advice to someone going through this ordeal, it would be to try and connect with others who have experienced it.

Be kind to yourself and remember you are still a parent to your baby. 

You can follow Sabrina’s journey on Instagram.