Losing a baby - coming out the other side

We need to speak out to stop people suffering in silence, living in shame and thinking it is just happening to them. It isn’t.

Heartbreaking stories. Devastating stories. The miscarriage story needs to change. That's why we've created Tommy's book of #misCOURAGE. Read this story now and help spread the word that miscarriage can no longer be ignored. Help us change the story to save babies' lives.

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#misCOURAGE story, 17/05/2017, by Katy

I am sharing my story because I want to raise awareness about the impact of baby loss, but most importantly so that others going through it can feel less alone. 

I actually wrote this piece months ago, but I was not brave enough to share my story until now.

If I’m honest, it has taken me a whole year to tell many of my friends. Some friends and even family members still don’t know to this day.

I believe the main reason for this is because of the silence surrounding miscarriage, which makes it shameful and a totally isolating experience.

Although research suggests 1 in 4 babies are lost in this way, this is very hard to believe because nobody talks about it. Society doesn’t let us. Miscarriage is therefore shrouded in mystery and stigma.

I want to help break this stigma by speaking out. I don’t know why I feel now is the right time as I am still coming to terms with it a year and four months on, but I want to help other people going through this and I want to help friends, family and society as a whole to know how to help others going through this too. 

My story...

Last February I lost my much wanted first baby. Even writing it makes my heart sink and race at the same time when I force myself to consciously think that it actually happened to me.

Before it happened I was blissfully unaware of how devastating it could be. When I heard of others going through it I used to think it was very sad, but had no idea of the turmoil and trauma endured. 

The past year has been the worst time of my life. There is something quite unique in suffering the loss of a baby. I have suffered physically and mentally. 

The physical side

Physically, I was so weak I had to sleep on the sofa for almost a whole week, I barely had the energy to shower. When I held the shower hose my arm ached as though I were lifting heavy weights.

The bleeding was really quite horrific, I had never bled so much in my life.

I was grey in the face and could barely walk to the toilet. I had to go to A&E and was in and out of the GP surgery as well. I had a UTI on top of it all and the antibiotics took ages to kick in.

I was cramping and in physical and mental pain. One night after about a week, I was shivering and had cold sweats. I think I had an infection looking back now, but maybe the antibiotics for the UTI helped to clear it.

I was so ill I thought I was going to die. The most awful thing was, I didn’t even care. 

The psychological side

I experienced severe depression to the point where I wanted to give up, anxiety which resulted in constant irrational thoughts, and also PTSD, which included intrusive flashbacks of finding the blood.

My mental health suffered so much I became basically reclusive, I was also at the brink of quitting my work and I had serious suicidal thoughts to the point where I sat next to a packet of pills twice last year crying and shaking uncontrollably.

I felt like an absolute failure. 

A distinctive type of grief

I've experienced significant loss before as I lost a parent in my 20s. Losing the baby was similar, yet also quite different. For me it involved the horrendous bereavement emotions in unpredictable patterns - the tears that won't stop, deep depression, anger, sadness and even resentment.

On top of this the miscarriage presented other feelings like guilt (did I do something wrong? Did I work too hard? Did I have too much stress on? Did I try at the wrong time? Should I have waited until we moved house?).

The list is endless and the problem is – we will never have an answer. 

When I grieved the loss of my Dad, it was life-changing, but there was some sense of positivity in that I could think at least he was no longer in pain, at least he was no longer suffering and he had lived an interesting life.

With miscarriage, especially as I lost my first baby, I could not apply the same logic. What I am most scared of now is having another loss and the thought of it makes me full of anxiety and distress.

Could I go through it all again?

I cannot even imagine feeling joyful at seeing a positive pregnancy test. I am consumed with the thoughts of it happening again.

When I imagine going through the panic, shock, depression and of course the physical symptoms again and I get physically stressed with palpitations and severe anxiety. 

Miscarriage made me feel a deep emptiness, one which could not be filled with anything else. Nothing else made me happy at all. I no longer enjoyed things I used to do, including my work which is a big part of my life.

I lost my confidence. I felt like a failure. I thought if I can’t carry a baby – then what is the point? That is what we are biologically programmed to do. I had failed as a woman.

I was absorbed with guilty thoughts that I may stop my partner from being a dad. These thoughts became so intrusive I didn’t even recognise myself. I turned down work opportunities, and stopped meeting anybody.

I have experienced and displayed emotions completely out of character, including bitterness and jealousy.

I also felt as though I was losing the plot. I would constantly say the wrong word, or take ages to find the right word. I’d go out to the shop and have to check I had put my shoes on. I forgot to do important things and would get times and dates wrong, which was nothing like the old me.

This only eased a couple of months ago. I started walking for an hour and a half each day and forced myself to get back into my work, but I still have episodes of this now. Like today, I just totally forgot my phone number and couldn't recollect it at all.

I think it spiralled for me because of the sheer number of close friends who announced their pregnancies whilst I was going through my loss. 

Other people getting pregnant

After the loss and going through the grief, I barely went out at all. I felt safe in my own bubble at home. I would go out just to go to the shop if I felt up to it. I avoided meeting anyone and ended up having to tell people that we had received some bad news.

After a month or so we convinced ourselves to get out and meet another couple, and I intended to tell them what had happened to us. 

I will never forget that day. It was like slo-mo, I was so aware of my reactions, desperately trying to act normal - talk, talk, talk, say something, don’t act weird, don’t break down and cry, don’t act out of character.

We managed to congratulate them and went home in silence. These friends were now off the list of people to confide in because how could we ruin their happiness/make them worry about loss/make them feel guilty.

I felt more of a failure and knew meeting her with my other friends would be a no, no with the baby talk. I couldn’t do it. I had moved a thousand steps backwards. 

I would have been exactly a month behind her. The knock back from this was indescribable, I became reclusive, angry, bitter, a sobbing wreck.

I did not see her for five months, but what killed me was I actually really cared and wanted to know how she and the baby were doing everyday, but at the same time I couldn’t bear hearing about the pregnancy, the scans, the cot, that it was a boy, the names, anything.

When I received messages from her I had to pluck up courage to read them and sometimes this took days. 

I was convinced she was going to lose her baby as well. I became irrational about loss and started worrying about my partner driving at work, certain he would be involved in a fatal car crash.

I also had visions of my sister being attacked. Miscarriage is very complex in my experience, it is not as simple as just feeling sad about the baby and then moving on.

The PTSD was absolute hell I cannot even describe it in words. I read some research conducted recently which suggests 50 per cent of women who have experienced a miscarriage suffer PTSD. I cannot believe we are all suffering in silence. 

Just as I got my head around this news, there was another announcement from the same friendship group. Even though I had predicted this one was coming, it still hit me like a tonne of bricks. Another couple who hadn’t lost, another couple who hadn’t struggled, another couple to avoid.

Even more pregnancy news…

I actually counted all the people who were either pregnant or had just had a baby at the time when we went through our loss.

30 people (friends, colleagues, family and Facebook acquaintances in total). Even Bridget Jones was pregnant in that time. I cracked a smile writing that. But seriously, it has been horrific in that it has surrounded us, holding us back, making us feel more and more isolated. 

The third friend’s announcement I took particularly badly and I think it's because it was so unexpected. She announced it two months after my loss, after I found out about the other two. It was so out of the blue.

She told me she never wanted children or to get married and so in my head this friend was someone who I would confide in soon. I could tell her how hard it had been and how this had been even harder finding out about the other two.

But now all three of them were pregnant and it was me who had lost, it was me who was alone. Why did it happen to me? Why, why, why? But there are no answers.

I plucked up the courage to return to work after some time out. I work in London which is 4 hours from where I live, but getting on the train I was full of anxiety and I just wanted to cry and return home.

I felt spaced out the entire time. My work didn’t matter to me anymore. I didn’t care for it. I lost motivation and convinced myself my career-driven nature was the reason for my loss. My other friends were pregnant easily without losses and they had all settled down working in the same jobs they had been doing for years. 

When I got to London the lights were dimmer, the station was grubbier, the trendy people were pathetic. I had lost my aspirations.

I decided to meet my friends in London – I could maybe even tell them what had happened. None of them had children, I could be my old self again. I could be real. But when I got to the pub in Belham, one of my friends announced her news at the table as we ordered.

I choked back tears, I had a lump in my throat whilst sitting through the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’. I couldn’t bear the questions, I wanted to run out of the door. I don’t know how I sat through it. Everywhere I turned I was surrounded by other peoples' happy news. 

Whilst I am glad my friends did not experience what I went through, I feel as though I couldn't quite relate to them anymore.

I’ve spent time imagining them all meeting for tea with their bumps, then with their gorgeous babies in their cute prams, moaning about the tiredness and their weight. I so wanted to be there with them, it killed me.

I am also so guilty to admit that I wished one of them would go through it, I wished someone could fully understand, I wished it to not just be me. 

Watching other people enjoying their healthy pregnancies without an apparent care in the world was, and still is so difficult. The grief still catches me unpredictably and with brutal force. Babies crying makes my heart race, seeing scan photos and anything pregnancy-related makes my heart sink, hands sweat and sometimes leaves me with uncontrollable tears. 

Due date 

As my due date approached, I went a few steps backwards. A lot of steps backwards actually. The day before my baby was due we received a message from my partner’s Mum (who knew about our loss) to tell us that my partner’s cousin had just had her baby.

I was so hurt and angry with her. I was seething. This is the hardest thing to cope with – people will upset you just by not thinking. 

Then on my actual due date I was invited to the second friend’s baby shower by her sister. I felt the walls tumbling down on me. I was so alone, it was just me in my own head with my thoughts. 

Telling people

I am at the stage now where those four friends have had their babies and I eventually told them what had happened to me after the last friend gave birth.

I wrote a letter to them which explained why I hadn’t been meeting them and what I had been through. They all wrote back lovely messages and I honestly felt a huge weight off my shoulders. Two of them I honestly think had zero clue what the bad news was. 

I still don’t meet these two, I think they feel guilty and they don’t know what to say to me. I also feel we wouldn’t have much to talk about so I don't push to meet them either.

Luckily two of the friends are very understanding and only speak about their baby if I ask anything. I still feel bad for not seeing their babies, but I just can’t.

I did go to visit the first friend in the hospital when she had her baby, I was having a brave moment. But if I’m honest it was all too much. I passed him to my partner to hold, but he really suffered after that day. 

It’s still so raw even now. I can just about cope with seeing prams in the street, but sometimes it catches me off guard and I go back to square one.

I will move carriages on the train if a baby gets on sometimes, I could not look at baby adverts or baby posts on Facebook without suffering severe anxiety. It has improved a bit. Sometimes I can face it, but other times I can't. 

After I told my friends, they avoided sharing much on social media anymore, which I thought was very considerate of them. But saying that, when they do post the odd picture it is so out of the blue that it can set me off and push me back. 

Unpredictable reactions

The hardest thing in telling someone what has happened is the unpredictability of the person’s reaction. The first person I told was a friend who assumed I was pregnant as I wasn’t drinking.

I nearly broke down in the toilet and had to tell her about what had happened. She was sympathetic, but she said ‘Oh, I thought you were really into your career’. She also didn’t write to me after this to see how I was.

I wrote to her and told her I had been low because of the loss a few months later and she replied trying to cheer me up saying something along the lines of - well pregnant women cannot drink so... She is not a horrible person, but I think a big problem in keeping loss silent is that people do not know what to say. 

We are not educating people about how harrowing it is. 

Other people have been incredible and have almost cried with me, I confided in two friends who have also suffered miscarriages. They were the best people to turn to because they know exactly what it is like. 

Another friend acted in a way which was particularly devastating to me. I confided in her - she was the fifth friend to announce her pregnancy news.

I wanted to tell her so I didn’t have to face the ordeal of avoiding another person. But she posted (no joke) daily pregnancy photos and statuses. I couldn’t believe it. She even posted a picture of the pregnancy test, which was the exact one as mine.

She used hashtags like #bestthingthatseverhappenedtome #mumlife #cantwaittomeetyou #itsgoingtobethebestyearofmylife She also commented on my friends’ baby photos. Friends who she knows only through me, friends who I told her I was struggling to be around.

I messaged her to explain that I was very hurt and that I had to unfollow her as I couldn’t cope with seeing the baby posts in hope she would realise what an idiot she’d been. She replied saying ‘Have a good year. x’ and took two weeks to apologise with a ‘sorry but’ message.

She claimed that she basically knew how I felt because she suffered anxiety about the thought of loss. I couldn’t even respond and she has since unfriended me. Her posts and actions have left me in mental agony. 

But, what I have realised is, you have to still talk. There will be idiots, there will be ignorant self-centred people, but it is important to keep those who get it close.

The only way I managed to get away from rock bottom was by confiding in a person who has since become a very close friend.

He never knew what happened until recently, but he noticed I wasn’t myself and messaged me to say he’d noticed I wasn’t right. This is the best thing you can do for someone. He just listened to my daily thoughts, and also shared his own struggles to support me.

Him and my partner truly helped me through the darkest point. They convinced me to seek help and I went to see a specialist bereavement counsellor. I would recommend this, even though facing it is hard. It is another outlet who is not your partner, or your friend or colleague - so you can be open and honest with them.

Partners

My partner has been my absolute rock. But he, and our relationship, was tested beyond words.

He started drinking to cope with the loss and he also suffered with poor mental health. He was paranoid that he was the reason why I lost the baby because he was unhealthy and that I would leave him. We nearly broke up last year.

People just imagine baby loss as sad and partners cuddling up supporting one another – but the reality is very different. We argued.

I’d changed, I wasn’t fun anymore, I wasn’t myself anymore. I didn’t want to go out. I didn’t see the point in anything. It is important to remember that men suffer too, in my partner’s case - equally. 

I really hope my story has helped anyone going through this. You are not alone, and speaking about what you’ve been through can be very helpful – you just have to work out who understands and who doesn’t, and take the golden few who get it and run with it.

I also want to help to educate anyone who hasn’t experienced it. You may know someone going through this - a friend/colleague/loved one. But, I can tell you one thing I know for sure, there are more people than you think who have been through/are going through this right now.

Everyone can be mindful and helpful by thinking about their actions. Every word/experience written below I have encountered, and I wanted to share this to help people to know the best/least helpful things to say and do. 

Parents on social media

  • Facebook was horrendous for me, I think the demographic of users doesn’t help, as it is a constant stream of babies and children on mine. Please be mindful of what you say on here. The worst post I have ever seen: 'Before I became a Mum I may have had a nice figure, but I didn't know love'. These posts are hurtful and very ignorant. Please be mindful of what you write and consider people on your social media who may be experiencing grief from loss, or even repeated losses.
  • Avoid posting pictures of your pregnancy bump/scan/pregnancy test etc. on social media. Of course you want to celebrate and maybe make an announcement, but could you do this privately? Especially if you know somebody who has suffered a loss, but remember most people suffer in silence, so you don’t know who will hurt from seeing that. My advice is to avoid at all costs. If I am lucky enough to conceive and have a healthy pregnancy, I for one will not be sharing this as I know how soul-destroying it is for those who have lost.
  • Do not like/share posts saying things which degrade people who do not have children e.g., ‘When my friends without children complain they’re tired’ with eye rolling emojis. Remember some people are mothers, but do not have their child by their side.
  • Avoid moaning about how hard it is having children, how naughty your kids are etc. Watching people being ungrateful about their children is hard to stomach.
  • Also avoid complaining about pregnancy symptoms (e.g., swollen ankles, weight gain) because there are women who would dream to go through any of them (and worse) everyday just to be pregnant. 

When someone takes the courage to confide in you, be mindful about your response. Things to avoid saying:

  • At least you know you can get pregnant. As nice as you may mean this, people who have experienced loss would rather not have got pregnant until they had a successful pregnancy.
  • Miscarriage is just like a heavy period. Please do not confuse losing a child for period-like bleeding, if you haven’t been through it, this is how some websites may describe it, but it was not like this for me.
  • It wasn’t the right time for you/it wasn’t meant to be. This can sound as though you are saying there was something positive about it. There wasn’t.
  • You can try again though. Whilst yes this may be true, the thought of trying again for me was too much to bear in case it happened again, plus I wanted that baby.
  • You were doing too much. Pregnancy loss is not caused by stress or workload even though this is a common belief portrayed – this denotes blame onto the woman.
  • At least it was early days/you hadn’t become attached yet/anything along those lines. I became attached from moment one, and the fact that there is nothing physical to mourn makes it even harder. Whether a person is 5 weeks or 15 weeks, the pain and grief is heart-wrenching.
  • Oh well at least you can drink. No, just no.
  • It’s nearly Christmas! Yes, seriously someone said this to me when I told them how down I was during the lead up to Christmas (the same friend who posted all about her pregnancy on social media for me to see not too long after). Christmas was unbearable for me. I was meant to have my baby in October and had envisioned having our three month old with us. 

Whilst it is hard and different for different people, here’s my advice on things which are good to say/do:

  •  ‘I am so sorry, I cannot imagine the pain you are going through’ (if you haven’t been through it don’t try to say you know what it’s like).
  • If you have been through a loss let the person speak and then tell them about yours and empathise. Tell them they can text or ring you anytime, and if they don’t – check up on them and share feelings. It is so helpful to have someone who understands. It is a good idea to tell them what helped you so they feel less alone.
  • ‘I am so sorry for your loss, let me know what I can do’. But don’t leave it there – offer and ask again. For me, I just wanted someone to tidy my house when it happened because I had no energy and was on the sofa all day for a week.
  • Send flowers/chocolate/meal vouchers/presents – one of my friends did this and it made me feel less alone and that she really cared and understood. Miscarriage isn’t acknowledged to the same extent as a loss of someone people knew, but it is just as heart-breaking. Acknowledge the loss – book your friend/loved one and their partner to go away for a weekend or for dinner. I wish someone had forced me to do this.
  • Send messages to see how they are doing regularly.
  • ‘I am here for you, you don’t have to talk about the loss, we can do anything you are up to doing/talk about anything you want’. They might say no, but try again.
  • ‘How are you feeling/coping at the moment?’ Instead of ‘how are you?’. When someone writes that it felt so generic and like I have to say ‘not bad thanks – how are you?’. Make messages personal – ask them how they are coping/how have your thoughts been this week? Etc.
  • ‘Do you have someone else to talk to about it?’ This develops the conversation and helps you to see if they are isolated. Don’t let anyone feel isolated – message them often or better still – ring them.
  • ‘How’s your partner doing/coping?’ It is important to address the partner equally.
  • ‘You don’t deserve this, life is cruel and so unfair’. It is good to empathise and make the person know they are right to be angry/sad because it was unfair. Don't tell people not to cry, not to be angry etc. Let them express their grief.
  • ‘You must take some time out to grieve, take some time off work and make sure you go away when you are up to it’. I wish someone had made me see this, but instead I carried on working at first and avoided facing up to the grief because it was too raw.
  • ‘My friend/sister/cousin experienced baby loss, would you be comfortable if I told her and perhaps you could text each other for support?’ My colleague did this for me and this was so helpful for both of us.
  • Phone them – don’t just text them. The world is an isolating place and I truly believe if my miscarriage happened when phone calls weren’t a thing of the past, my PTSD would not have become so bad. Texts are impersonal and too brief for the person to fully explain.
  • Turn up to their house when they say they are in a bad way. If they don’t answer the door, that’s OK – try again.

To society in general:

Please do not ask people when they will have children. If they talk about it to you first then that is fine, but please be mindful of people who may have experienced baby loss. My friend recently got pregnant after 5 years of miscarriages and IVF, someone actually wrote ‘Congrats, I wondered why you guys didn’t have any kids’ on her Facebook wall.

Society makes it OK for people to ask others when they’re having babies. People make jokes about ‘when will it be your turn?’ ‘Ooh, you’d better hurry up - clock’s ticking’.

I got so worried about being asked and breaking down that this also added to me avoiding going out and seeing people.

Society normalises parenthood as the default status for women, and the media and everyday conversation seems to make people think it’s OK to assume as soon as you want a baby, you just get pregnant and have one.

Miscarriage is rarely, if ever addressed in film or TV. I think there should be posters and adverts on TV to raise awareness. 

Final note

I never intended to share my story until I gave birth to a healthy baby, but in doing so I hope this can reach out and help others to know that they are not alone. I hope this can give people the courage to speak out about their baby loss and this in turn will help them and to shatter the stigma for others in the future.

We need to speak out to stop people suffering in silence, living in shame and thinking it is just happening to them. It isn’t. 

I am nowhere near the end of my battle, but I hope that in sharing this people can see that miscarriage is not a minor ‘women’s issue’, it impacts deeply on both women and men, and by talking it really can help. 

If you know somebody who has suffered a loss – be mindful of what you say/do as this can have a huge impact on their recovery journey. And if you think you don’t know anyone, think again because it is likely that you do know someone - they are just carrying the grief around with them. 

People going through this - take time to grieve. It is OK to take time for yourself and to do whatever it takes to make the pain a bit more bearable.

Talk, talk and talk some more and keep the good people by your side because they are a rarity.

Seek help from bereavement counselling and then general counselling if you need it. Speak to your GP. Don’t carry the grief and sorrow around with you by yourself. You do not have to cope with this alone. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my story. 

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Disclaimer

Please note that the opinions expressed by users in Tommy’s Book of #misCOURAGE are solely those of the user, who is unlikely to have had medical training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of Tommy’s and are not advice from Tommy's. Reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment from a qualified health care provider. We strongly advise readers not to take drugs that are not prescribed by your qualified healthcare provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor, midwife or hospital immediately. Read full disclaimer

Comments

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 26 Sep 2017 - 18:35

    Hi there, I am so thank ful I read this post. What you have been through - I have literally experienced the exact same thing. Over a year ago now... and the thoughts you describe I could not have written it better. A big sincere thank you - I wish I could get in touch with you privately x

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 27 Sep 2017 - 11:43

    Hi, Thank you for your comment, we are so pleased that you have found some comfort in reading other women's experiences. This was the aim of the miscourage campaign, that women can have the confidence to talk about their experiences and in turn this will help others. If you need any help or support then please contact the Tommy's midwives either by email on [email protected] or call us Monday to Friday 9-5pm on 0800 0147 800. Take Care, Tommy's Midwives xx

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