Tuesday, 17 September 2013


This is another one not to read if you're a family member or a professional contact who's clicked through from twitter expecting content about accounting. It's here because I've been all over the internet in recent weeks looking for company on this, and I think those of us in a position to write about it should do. Bits of it have been coming into my head for a few days, but I've not edited it, instead giving in to the urge just to get it down, and out there. Perhaps more thoughtful posts will follow, or perhaps I'll get something up soon about the Booker shortlist so this isn't lingering on the front page being miserable.

So, loss.
A little while ago I found out I was pregnant.
A couple of weeks ago the pregnancy ended, I miscarried, I lost the baby. That's a range of ways of putting it, with a variety of baggage attached.
1 in 4 is the statistic you see quoted, but we've all read it, and we all know it doesn't mean us. I reasoned it away because "loads" of those are pregnancies that are never even detected, just few-days-late periods. And the others, well, they're for others.
Then suddenly it was for me. I'll be talking about me in this, not us, because it's my story, and I'm telling it how I want to. I don't think it would be my place to attribute words or thoughts to H, so I won't.

Mainly at the moment, still, it is a bigness. It's something in the corner of your eye, you can only observe it sideways, but it glowers and menaces. Most of the days, most of the time, I'm pottering along, working, doing toddler-things, keeping stuff going, but occasionally, maybe a couple of times a day, it's just walloping me from nowhere.

I was going to be a mother again. Now I'm not.
I was going to spare Isaac from being an only child. Now I'm not.
I was a healthy, fertile woman doing what women are built to do. Now I'm not.
I was going to have a wonderful birth, even better than last time. Now I'm not.
I was going to be able to use all the lessons I'd learned first time round. Now I'm not. 
I was going to be a matriarch, presiding over a chaotic but love-filled household. Now I'm not.

I'm not packed full of glorious life and promise. I'm a flawed vessel, I didn't look after the goods I was entrusted with, my body failed me, I failed my baby.

My baby, that's key, the fact I was only 7 weeks along is irrelevant. I don't care about where it was on the embryo-foetus-baby scale, the whole future and all my hope was packed in there and came out over the course of one painful, sad weekend. This was supposed to be my baby. He or she would have been nearly 3 years after Isaac, a completion to our family, a fruition. For the three and a bit weeks that I was pregnant, I kept having these moments of melancholy about not yet being pregnant, not having the family the shape I wanted, then realising oh yes! I am pregnant! I no longer have to be sad!

And now, once more, I'm not pregnant, and I'm struggling to see colours in the world. I just can't imagine recreating that kind of optimism. My boy is so precious and dear, and I am holding on to him particularly tightly, but I'm miserable about the idea of his growing up alone, and miserable that it will be my fault: a mother is meant to make a family, a whole family, not one attempt and then a flunk.

This was meant to be an elegant, well-crafted and moving piece, and it turns out I can't write that yet: perhaps I'm not yet ready yet, and perhaps I won't be. It just turns out there isn't elegant melancholy to be had here, there's jarring pain and grief.

Perhaps I'll search-engine optimise by including some of my own recent popular phrases:
"miscarriage emotional wreck"
"miscarriage caffeine"
"miscarriage pineapple"
"miscarriage breastfeeding"
"miscarriage maternal age"
"miscarriage likelihood of recurrence"
"miscarriage overwhelming sadness"
"miscarriage can't concentrate"
"miscarriage feel desperately alone"
"miscarriage coping with toddler"
"miscarriage dental work"
"miscarriage paracetamol"
and no, none of them gave me a neat, parcelled, thing to pin it on.
I know people move on, go on to have children after miscarriage. I know this intellectually. But, what if I don't, and anyway, I wanted this one. This was my baby. I was already spinning dreams for it. This is probably the biggest thing for me, and the reason I think these ugly clumsy kind of posts need to be out there on the internet for sobbing midnight googlers to find: until it happens to you, you don't get this. You don't actually know it's the loss of a baby. It's happening all over the place, and no one speaks about it until someone else mentions it - I've hardly told anyone, and yet of those I have, have heard several "when I had my miscarriage" stories. They hurt to hear, but they're also such a comfort.

I suppose as time passes I will find it easier to say "when I had my miscarriage", and I want to, because since I'm part of this lousy team, at least I want my badge.


  1. Oh, Helen, I'm so sorry. I, too, had a miscarriage last month, and so many of the stumbling words here could be mine, if not for the fact that I simply haven't been able to write about it yet. I know it is important, for all the reasons you say, but for me it is still too much a physical and emotional ache, and not yet living where the words are. My two also would have been just three years apart. But now I am back to one.

    So much of this experience has taken me by surprise. The fact of it at all, yes, but also how very long it takes to recover physically, and how very long it takes to feel safe again (not there yet) and how drained I felt, as if I was postpartum, but without the sweet baby in my arms. How the grief comes in waves. And how lonely it feels. Even as every time I mention it other women's stories come tumbling out. But in general this is a grief not spoken.

    That should change. It is unacceptable. Thank you for speaking of yours.

  2. Oh, Dona, you too? I'm sorry.
    I hope you don't feel got at by my talking about an obligation to write about it - I suppose it's more, for me, a sense that because I can, I should. And the parallel, which is that no one should feel that they *can't* talk about it, for fear of embarrassing people, seeming to be weak, dwelling in the past, or whatever.
    I so hear you about the length of time to feel safe again. I think when your own body breaks your trust like this, it's perhaps even worse than when other people do.
    I'll be thinking of you as we both move through this, back and forth, hopefully gradually forward.

  3. Oh, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.

    I thought we were getting better about miscarriage not being quite such a hidden thing. Yes, years ago (I had mine in 1999), there was that sense that you found out so many other women had been through the same, but only when you told about yours. But I thought it was a little more open now. No? I guess it takes a long time to change those kinds of things.

    If I can help, please email. If you want to write stuff, and want someone to read it but can't face putting it on the internet, then email me. Please don't feel alone.

    You WILL come out the other side, even though it may feel as if you can't.

  4. All I can do is send virtual hugs to you Helen. It's not a lot but I offer it to you anyway.

    With much, much love, T x

  5. Iota, thank you, and I might take you up on that.
    You know, your phrase "I had mine in 1999" really helps - it helps me to start thinking about this being something that is just going to weave into my life experience, undoubtedly change me, but will eventually be part of my past, yes, still part of me, but only somewhere in the patchwork.
    Perhaps now it's more open-feeling because you can google and find so many people sharing stories and feelings, but still it seems in real life to be "you show me yours and I'll show you mine" - people don't talk about it unless someone raises it first. Not that I'm planning to get a soapbox, but I do want it to be ok to say it, to be a thing I can mention when people ask how my summer was, and a thing I can admit is still hurting.

  6. Thank you, Teika. Actually, it is a lot, and you can't know how much I appreciate it.

  7. I'm so sorry I'm coming to this late. I'm so sorry this happened to you (and, please, it happened 'to' you, it wasn't something you did. It wasn't.). I don't know what made me click on my neglected blog today to see a comment left by you 6 months ago, asking after me, but it made me click straight through to yours so I could do the same to you. I know people stop asking after a while. So I'll ask: how are you? I hope the days are a little easier to bear, the more time passes. I suspect they may not be.

    Much love and many, many virtual hugs across the miles xxxx

  8. I know I am responding to this long after you've written it but I just wanted to say that I'm sorry for your loss and that this is a breathtakingly beautiful post. It's a wonderful thing you've done, putting it out there to for others who are hurting.

  9. I know exactly how you feel. I had two in a row last year and all of the things you've written are still raw with me. I've had a baby since, but those feelings, for the ones I've lost, never ever go away. One does not replace the other. I wish I could write something that would comfort you or help the pain, but there really isn't anything. I honestly believe that the pain changes you forever and shapes who you are, but I don't believe you ever recover from it. I'm just so, so sorry you had to go through it too.

  10. I can see this was a long time ago now, and that you have since had another baby - I hope that has restored your faith in your body a little, and like so many others I've been there too - I have three children, interspersed with six miscarriages. And with a child who beat all the odds I know how little the numbers mean when applied to 'chances of another miscarriage' or the like. As Lyn commented above, "one does not replace the other", but time can lessen the sharpness of the pain, and i hope you're doing okay now.
    Take care