This time last year, my husband Scott and I went through a very sad experience, real quiet and privately, we found our way through our grief in our own way.
As this first anniversary approached, I wanted to create something in honour and memory of our loss, to share our story.
I created this film.
This time last year, my husband and I were about to have our 12 week scan, ready to make our Christmas announcement, we were married in August and this was a fairy tale, our dream was one which was too never come true.
As this anniversary of our loss came, I really needed to create something in memory of a dream that was so real to us, our baby only ever lived in our imagination and I needed for her to be known, I created this short film.
Miscarriage is incredibly common, 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, this is a fact not hidden to expectant mothers, it is discussed by their midwives and provided in supporting documents, it would seem it is a common known fact, a loss before 23 weeks is called a miscarriage, after this time a loss would be described as a stillbirth, I can’t help but feel this supports the taboo around miscarriage, it wasn’t really a baby yet, but that “not really baby” did live in the imagination of its expectant parents, or those who are close to them.
“Florence was their little girl, they one day imagined would come into their lives, Florence had a button nose and rosy cheeks, she had long dark tangled hair, because she didn’t like having her hair brushed, she would wear mismatched dresses over long sleeve tops and she always wore her favorite yellow welly boots, she would spend lots of time in the garden, digging up the worms, smelling the flowers, chasing cats and admiring the birds, she would run into the house to share the exciting things she had discovered with her Mummy and Daddy, her Mummy would try and wipe her face with a bit of spit on a tissue and Florence would run disgustedly to her Daddy who, would scoop her up and together they would say “ewwww Mummy!” and Florence would hide her little face in her Daddys shoulder so Mummy couldn’t get to it! She was a proper little Daddy’s girl and would always tell him “Daddy you are soooo silly!” and he would chase her to blow raspberrys on her belly, the house would fill with the sound of her laughter. She was mesmerized by her big sister Alysia, she would follow her around, asking her what she was doing and can she “play too”, Alysia would pretend it was really annoying, because Alysia is a teenager, but Florence would never be put off by this , she thought Alysia was amazing and although Alysia would never admit it, secretly she would love the way Florence doted on her.”
75% of miscarriages happen in the first trimester, so the common advice is to wait until your 12 week scan, if all is well, there are good odds you will go on to have a successful, healthy pregnancy.
“You shouldn’t share your news before the 12 weeks scan”, I can’t help but feel that this “shouldn’t” adds to the taboo of the subject of miscarriage, I know I have been guilty of this, you hear the sad news that someone has lost their pregnancy (note the use of the word pregnancy – because it’s “not yet a baby”!?) and your first thought is “they really shouldn’t have told anyone?”, because this is what we are led to believe.
We shared our news with only our closest family and friends, before our 12 week scan, frankly I don’t know how you would keep it a secret, I was so ill throughout this pregnancy, I had the craziest food aversions, we were so excited, our parents were going to be grandparents, I couldn’t drink alcohol, I was slim when I fell pregnant and the pregnancy started showing very early, this was a massive thing we were going through, with visible effects, “we shouldn’t tell anyone!?”
The very hardest thing I had to do, was to let those who knew about the pregnancy, know that I had miscarried, I really beat myself up about the fact I had told anyone at all “I shouldn’t have told anyone”, I felt so stupid, on our way home from the hospital that day, it was a Monday, the busiest day for us at work, as a mail order company we had lots of parcels due to go to the post office, it was our business and we had to keep going, I took the parcels into the post office and my husband decided he had to call his parents and tell them, there and then, sat in the car waiting for me whilst I was in the post office, he needed to do this. I walked out of the post office and saw my husband, sat their in the car, break down on the phone as he shared our heartbreaking news, in the middle of our village, I had a mix of sympathy and of shame, I didn’t want the whole village to know what was going on, why was he doing this here and now? I had never seen my husband cry before, yet I couldn’t comfort him, I couldn’t bare to get into that car and hear him say those words to his parents, I felt like I had let them down, I had failed as a wife, a mother and a daughter in law and I just stood there and watched my husband sob and there was nothing I could do to comfort him, because the words he was saying were like knives to me, to painful to hear, of all the moments through the experience, this was the hardest for me and that vision haunts my memory, I stood there keeping lookout to see if anyone else had noticed him there and would somehow know, holding back my own tears, because I couldn’t cope with anyone seeing my grief, “nobody should have known”and I promised myself that when we fell pregnant again, no-one would know until we had our 12 week scan, that was at the time when we thought we would try again, before we knew that the risk of this happening again, was even greater for us.
I felt such a sense of sadness, but an even greater feeling of shame and guilt, I had one job, and that was to keep this baby safe, I couldn’t do that and I had let everyone down, if only this and if only that.
And so came the awkward conversations, the uncomfortable offers of sympathy, I didn’t want to be pitied, that was the worst for me, I felt responsible for these uncomfortable moments, “they shouldn’t have known”, “at least you know you know you can get pregnant”, “your baby was to good for this world”, “at least you got pregnant quickly, you haven’t lost much time”, I know these types of comments can be hurtful to some who have lost a pregnancy, I never felt like that, for me I just felt terrible that I had put them in a situation where they had to say something, the most helpful comment came from my closest friend, I told her I couldn’t bare people feeling sorry for me, “I don’t feel sorry for you” she said, “if you had given birth to a baby with a birth defect and was dealing with a sick child, who you would have to care for, for the rest of your life, then I would feel sorry for you”, she worked at a special needs school, they say miscarriage can be natures way of eliminating babies who are not compatible with life, I took some comfort in this for a while, although I will never know for sure, I couldn’t help but feel this was not the case for me, I could see our Florence, in my imagination, so clearly. It took weeks and months to get information from our doctors, the reasons behind miscarriage are only explored after you have lost three pregnancies, three!? I had been diagnosed with an under-active thyroid a couple of years before the pregnancy and this was being controlled with a hormone replacement drug, I had tests through my pregnancy to check my levels were acceptable and they were satisfied with the results, I wasn’t satisfied and I managed to convince them to give me a referral to an Endocrinologist, when I finally met with him, he told me about a known cause of underachieve thyroid, something called Hashimotos disease,woman who suffer with this, it is known increased the risk of miscarriage by 290%, they carried an antibody, which was stupid, it would attack things in the body it thought were foreign invaders, your thyroid to name one, a Foetus to name another, he ordered the test for me and it came back positive, I had those stupid antibodies. I had gone to the doctor before I conceived and had asked for advice, as I had an under active thyroid and wanted to ensure this didn’t affect my pregnancy, they never suggested this test for hashimotos, I don’t know if it would have stopped me trying, but it might have prevented me from telling anyone and experiencing that feeling of guilt and shame. We decided after that diagnosis, that we couldn’t try again, we will never know if it was the cause, but it was a fact I had an increased risk, we couldn’t go through this again, we had been SO strong, there was no more strong left and so we found our way into the discovery of the great outdoors, of adventure and of life, loss taught us that life is to be valued, and with the discovery of this, with how we have honoured the memory of the dream we once had, it becomes less acceptable to believe, that a life you were carrying inside of you, a child that lived so vividly in your imagination, should be kept a secret, that your loss should make you feel ashamed. It was those feelings of shame that made the experience so unbearable, we want to celebrate the life of our Florence and we do so in our own unique way, we have grown as people through this experience and find ourselves living a dream we never even knew we had, had it not been for Florence, we never came out of this experience with a child in our arms, but we did come out with love, hope, new dreams and a lot of happiness.
We never want to forget Florence, our little girl and we should be able to talk about her, without feeling shame.
As you start to look into the stories of other woman, who have experienced miscarriage, those who find the courage to talk about it, will often express these same feelings of shame and guilt around the subject, of the taboo that has been formed, people only want to hear about healthy, chubby newborn babies, people do not want to hear the stories of those who did not make it, some use the term “angel baby”, this is one I struggle with personally, but I understand that different people find comfort in different ways and that is ok.
In this BBC article – ‘Why I filmed my miscarriage’ Charlie Jones talks to Ruth Bender Atik, national director of the Miscarriage Association, her thoughts around the reason why miscarriage is a subject woman feel they should keep a secret, really resonates with my own views above:
“Most miscarriages happen in the first three months. If you don’t tell people you are pregnant then sadly you are not going to get the support that you need when you are grieving. It doesn’t suit everyone to talk about their pregnancy before their scan, but it can help.
“We don’t tell people ‘in case something happens’, but that can reinforce the idea that you should keep it a secret if you miscarry,” Ms Bender Atik said.
From my personal experience, this is exactly how I felt, “I shouldn’t have told anybody”, therefore somehow this is my own fault.
I remember my shock at discovering that the causes of miscarriage are only investigated after three losses, what if it were something that could be prevented? Three potentially viable lives had to be lost before any medical intervention would take place, it would seem this is a funding issue, I couldn’t help but wonder how much did it cost for me to be admitted for my operation for the horrendously named ERPC – ‘Evacuation of retained products of conception’? I had a surgeon, an anaesthetist and a nurse present, I was attended to before and after by another three nurses, I did not stay over night, and I was under pressure to come round and go home as quickly as possible after the operation, they wanted to clear my bed, that was difficult when I needed to lie there and come to terms with what had just happened to me, that needed to be done at home. Ms Bender Atik talks about this
“The reason behind a miscarriage is often unclear – leaving women with no one to blame but themselves”
“Most women never find out why, so they think it must be their fault, and this is very a dangerous path to go down.”
The not knowing absolutely kills you when you are grieving, it took a lot for me to persuade my doctor to refer me to an endocrinologist, whilst I got a diagnosis of Hashimotos, which increases my risk of miscarriage by 290%, I still did not know for sure that this was the cause this time, I would never know, I had terrible food aversions, I could only eat beige coloured foods, the least healthy of all the food groups
“I didn’t give my baby enough nutrition”
I had slipped down the stairs on my bottom at around 7 weeks pregnant, I was shaken but not hurt
“I should have been more careful”
I was setting up a new business with my husband and was working really hard
“I should have taken it easy”
My hormones were all over the place and with the stress of work I was hell to be around, my husband found this very difficult and we had huge rows, the first time I discovered I was bleeding, was straight after a big argument
“was it the stress and the arguments?”
I felt really ill throughout the pregnancy
“did I have a virus, did it make the baby sick? Was it just the pregnancy making me feel ill? Was the illness the sign of a sick baby?”
My friend who worked at a special needs school told me, that mothers with special needs children, had told her they new from 6 weeks pregnant something wasn’t right, like me they were so ill and they gave birth to children with so many difficult care needs;
"Was my baby not compatible with this world?”
So many questions and absolutely no answers, it is very difficult not to go down the path of self blame. It is this uncertainty that prevented me from trying again, in a youtube documentary Hope & Strength: Life After Miscarriages: Nikki’s Story Nikki went through multiple miscarriages before they decided they felt like they were losing themselves, they couldn’t go through it again without being permanently damaged.
I felt like this after just one loss!
I have been fortunate enough that I do have a child and have experienced motherhood from a previous relationship, but my experience at that time was pretty traumatic, my daughters father had suffered a nervous breakdown due to work issues, I was 19 years old and felt very alone and afraid, I am certain that my Hashimotos was triggered during this pregnancy and I felt really unwell, the birth was traumatic, my daughter Alysia was born not breathing after an exhausting 3 day labour and spent some time in special care, my relationship with her father was strained, it was a very difficult time and she was the only ray of joy in my life at this time. My relationship with my new husband is a very strong and positive one, he is very supportive and solid, he has no children of his own, it wasn’t something he had ever wanted, until he met me, he would have been an amazing father.
I wanted to have the normal experience, to be a part of a normal happy family, with the risk of miscarriage any pregnancies could only ever be filled with dread and anxiety, I was never going to have a happy pregnancy, we could either lose ourselves, or we could choose to find ourselves, loss taught us that life is to be valued.
We kitted ourselves out with outdoor wild camping gear, put 12 kilo backpacks on, full of the gear we would need and went and climbed Pen’Y’Fan mountain in Wales, with no good level of fitness and so we found sanctuary and peace, in the great outdoors, it was an awakening.
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