Relief during the pandemic - being given peace and isolation to grieve

Catherine opens up about her experience with recurrent miscarriage, isolating herself and becoming the ’quiet mum’. At the moment, the whole world has been put on pause - and for Catherine, it couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s given her the peace and isolation that she needed to grieve her babies.

Being a mother gives you a false sense of security that nobody truly has. It wasn’t even a possibility in my mind that we could lose a baby. I have a beautiful 6-year-old son whom  I carried and birthed, and whether it was my age, the mixed emotions, or sheer naivety, I didn’t once even think about miscarriage.

I haven’t lived in a fairy-tale, I’m  very realistic about life, but no one wants to be prepared for that, until they have no other choice.

Elation before the statistic

I was 23 and my son was 4, I had been with my partner for 2 years; a miraculous man who accepted me and my son as a package deal. We had been trying for a baby for over a year with no success, until success struck! We found out at 5 weeks that we were expecting a little addition to the family.

We wanted the world to know, but knew that we had to check “everything was okay” before telling family - although of course it would be, it’s just a formality. We had a private scan at 6+5 and everything was fine, little heart beating away, and sheer elation from us that our little bean was healthy.

This is the part when you can decide for yourselves whether we were naive, silly, or just hopeful, because we told our parents and we told our son. All of us were so excited for the future. Boy or girl? We will never know. By the next day “it” began.

Becoming 1 in 4

Breaking the news to our family and to our son was the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do. All whilst trying to grieve and console each other, in a way which we’d never had to do before.

Our son was at nursery, at a lovely little country school, and the other parents were lovely for the most part. I spoke to other mums and dads frequently, but there were 2 who I saw as friends – and, as such, I told them our news before we had the scan. Heading into the school gates for the first time after our loss took a fair amount of courage.

I had to approach mums with babies, be surrounded by children with their siblings, all the while thinking about our baby that could have been.

The love and support from my friends was a comfort but, like everything, it went away over time as normality returned for everyone else.

It was then just me, stood there thinking about what would have been, hoping that next time it would be okay – because, as we all know, lightning doesn’t strike the same spot twice.

Lightning seems to like us

A mere 4 months later and it was happening again. This time we hadn’t told anyone, apart from my big mouth telling those mum friends! I struggle to recall how I handled my first two miscarriages, but like most things with me I imagine it was “put your brave face on and no one will know”.

There is such a stigma about talking about pregnancy before 12 weeks because “you never know”.

We seem to encourage women to struggle in silence unless the pregnancy reached the socially accepted point of 12 weeks.

I was caught up in that expectation and felt that my two babies weren’t allowed to be spoken about, it could make someone else feel uncomfortable - and so I said nothing.

Very few people know that they even existed, which breaks my heart, but even fewer people know about my next 3 babies.

The jinx

I think so many women blame themselves, “it was that coffee I had with breakfast”, “I shouldn’t have lifted that box”. But when there is little to pin blame on, we all start considering whether maybe we jinxed it. Having no answers, I began thinking that way anyway.

Maybe, just maybe, I had jinxed it by telling people. I hate lying– I feel like not telling people is one thing, but if directly asked about something then I feel terrible lying - and so my answer was to avoid everyone. I didn’t have to lie if no one was talking to me.

No one knew we were trying again, and when the time came no one knew that I was pregnant. The plan was that once I had reached 12 weeks everyone would understand why I was acting like this. Surely, this had to work! I wasn’t jinxing anything this time around, third time lucky. Um, no, maybe fourth time? Nope. The world is playing tricks on me, the fifth time has to be okay - doesn’t it?

Becoming the quiet one

Inadvertently, I think after 4 miscarriages my plan had backfired. The mums that I would call my friends had all but moved on from our friendship. They didn’t understand what I was doing; we would say “hello” and have the odd conversation, but it wouldn’t go anywhere. I had isolated myself (yep, I did it first and the whole world then jumped on my bandwagon).

In a way, what I had done meant that I could miscarry in peace.

I was in pain standing there waiting for my son, but I didn’t have to face anyone, so I could breathe through it. But what a lot of people don’t understand is the courage it takes to just get out of bed in the morning during a miscarriage.

The strain on your emotions and your body is immense. Some days you don’t want to face anyone - but when you have a child, you have no other choice. I had no real opportunity to grieve or to rest my body because after each one I had a lively boy who wanted to play football and who I had to take to school every day.

My partner did what he could, but he couldn’t have days off work - and I didn’t want him to, I wanted him to feel normal and have his mind taken off of everything. But me, I had to face mums and babies and siblings every day.

More than a bad statistic 

I got to a point in my journey where I was reading so many women’s stories which made me feel like more than a bad statistic.

I felt normal, my babies’ stories are normal, and I wanted them to be known. I hate hiding them away in my memory.

But how? How do I bring up in idle chit-chat that I have lost 5 babies?

If I say it, does it just seem like I’m attention seeking? No one will know what to say and it’ll just make everyone feel awkward. Will this dark cloud suddenly appear over the conversation? I’ll be known as the poor woman suffering recurrent miscarriage, every “hello” and “how are you” will have that sympathetic head tilt attached to it (which doesn’t make anyone feel better).

I still don’t fully know how to handle this, and constantly dread the “so will you have any more children” question.

You know how there’s different types of mums: the quirky one, the one bellowing across the playground, the one that everyone loves… well, I think I’ve just become “the quiet mum” now.

Relief during the pandemic

It’s been about 2 months since my last miscarriage, this one being at 10 weeks. When it first happened it was the usual, for me at least. School runs in the midst of pain, feelings of failure, keeping myself to myself. Getting back to my car after the drop off either with a sigh of relief at the security of my own space, or a wash of emotion because I’ve had to hide another life that meant so much to me.

The strange thing is that not long after this happened, THIS happened. Coronavirus. Covid-19.

The whole world has been put on pause - and for me, it couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s given me the peace and isolation that I need, without feeling like it’s my fault that I’m alone.

I’m not worried that I’ll be put in an awkward situation, because how awkward can something be from 2 metres apart? I’ve had quality time with my family, which is giving me time to heal from not only this miscarriage but the 4 others as well.

I’ve had time to think about them all, give them the time in my thoughts that they deserve, and although very few people know about them now I feel like that’s okay. Maybe one day I’ll rip that plaster off and let the world know of them too, but right now I’ve accepted that I like keeping other people in their own comfort zones, and that’s okay too.