Holly Peacock-Goodwin was my Editor at Grazia.co.uk years ago, asking me to write a weekly online column at a time when print was still taking priority on the editorial agenda. She was not only a trend-setter but also a warm, nurturing and sisterly gal and we immediately clicked years later when we met when Holly had moved into PR for the award winning O Communications and asked if I’d speak about my career at an event.
Now a mum and freelance writer, it is an honour to share Holly’s moving words on miscarriage and the lasting grief which comes with loss, here on my blog.
I cried twice reading it.
Deepest thanks to Holly for writing this piece which I know will offer strength and support to those going through a similar experience.
Mothering After Miscarriage-Why Does Lasting Grief Feel So Taboo by Holly Peacock-Goodwin.
My son is eight months old. He is my absolute world. A joyous, happy, angel.
But I still think about the two miscarriages I had before him, every day. Is that normal?
Sometimes it’s fleeting, as I catch my husband tending to the rose bushes we planted in their memory (is that weird?), but sometimes it ploughs through me like a train and takes my breath away.
The other day when tidying up in the kitchen, I moved a used coffee pod which left a brown stain on the bright, white bench. The shock of seeing an unexpected, dark stain made me gasp out loud – a sharp intake of breath at the sight of something that reminded me of seeing the beginning of my miscarriages and I realise, perhaps, I’m not over it.
OK, so I’ll never be over it. But come on brain, can’t we just chalk it up to a bad experience and think of it now and again? Your son is RIGHT THERE, covered in yoghurt and beaming like sunshine, proof that it’s over!
It’s the strangest feeling.
It’s not grief, how can it be when there was nothing really there to mourn? But it’s something like it. A longing I still feel every day that swells uncontrollably. God, it’s exhausting.
To empathise with women like me who can’t quite put it into words, women who have felt something like death deep inside their bodies, something like the loss of hope, something like failure, is a lot to ask.
This year, I felt guilty. I couldn’t bring myself to share pictures of candles during Baby Loss Awareness Week or to slip in the hashtag #RainbowBaby underneath the very first pictures of my beautiful baby.
I wanted to. I wanted to add to the noise in some small way, to nod to women who, still in the mist of miscarriage, might see a picture of my bloated, gleeful face holding my baby and know that I’m still struggling too rather than just adding to their heavy heart as they see yet another ‘new baby’ announcement balancing at the top of their news feed.
I’m sorry about that. This is me making up for it.
I couldn’t bring myself to acknowledge it, in case I jinxed it. In case I came across all worthy and knowing and then God struck me down with a ‘DON’T GET TOO BIG FOR YOUR BOOTS’ lightning bolt of doom and took him from me.
I’m aware I sound ridiculous. But I wasn’t taking any risks.
In my experience, miscarriage is full of contradictions, confusion and pain. I had two miscarriages. Both very different.
No one holds their hands up and tells you that they’re not quite sure what’s going to happen next once the miscarriage has begun. That would be a helpful thing to say I think.
Towards the end of miscarriage number one, I stared with faux cheeriness into the eyes of a nurse who slid a leaflet across the table said ‘it’ll be just like a heavy period’
Maybe I’m a lucky woman but no period has ever been remotely comparable to six hours of (what I now know to be) painful contractions as I lay mooing on the bathroom floor, covered in blood and having to physically push until my waters broke finally allowing the pain to subside.
They don’t tell you that some strange part of you might try to endure the pain and avoid painkillers because, on reflection, the pain you’re feeling you think your ‘baby’ is also feeling. So, if they’re in pain, you can be brave and show them that you’re in this together – at the very least. You can surely endure this if they don’t get to grow inside you, right?
I wanted you this much.
The second miscarriage…was like a heavy period. Go figure.
After a week of light spotting, I sat silently at my desk at work. I felt the unmistakable cramps start. I drove to the doctors alone with a quick stop off at a lay-by to do a bit of controlled sobbing in an attempt to ‘get it all out’ and ready myself for a fight.
I was scared that, rightly or wrongly, my hysteria might lead to medical professionals patting my knee and dismissing me. I wanted to have my shit together so that if I had to fight for a scan to see if I could possibly, hopefully, be one of those women who spot in early pregnancy, I could do so with astute clarity and a face that said ‘I will end you if you don’t give me what I need’.
By the time I got a scan, they had already disappeared (my ‘I will end you all’ face didn’t get me a scan until the next day)
This time the absence of the physical pain was swapped with the wave of sickness you feel knowing that this wasn’t an emergency to them. This was, unfortunately, the likely outcome of what was happening, but it still made me feel lost – WHY IS NOBODY ELSE PANICKING??
Once all hope was lost, I decided that this time around I wanted to take matters into my own hands. I can’t go into the dark place again.
This time, my sister wasn’t allowed to come running to my house and throw her arms around me. She was banned.
This time, I wasn’t going to think about the date they would have been born. I can’t even remember it now and I’ve never looked back at my period tracking app to work it out.
I’m simply going to armour up and go again. I’m going to fight, research and throw everything I have at my next try. I’m going to get into that hospital so they can check everything’s OK (note: until you’ve had three in a row this is unlikely unless you beg and plead and hit them relentlessly with research about progesterone until finally a midwife calls them on your behalf because she can no longer answer your questions)
Maybe they’ll find something, or maybe they won’t but finally after early scans, three months of hormones and not even so much as a spot of blood, you feel either like you were right to fight for everything or you’re simply, as the statistics imply, unlikely to have three miscarriages in a row.
I’ll never know either way. All I know is there is one gorgeous boy covered in yoghurt kicking off in his high chair because he wants to be close to me and he’s worth it all.
So, why can’t I just shudder at the memory and move on? I guess it’s only been a couple of years and I’m still in the throes of hormonal, early motherhood. Maybe, the intensity will fade but the many women who’ve gone before me still choke on the emotion of it decades later, so maybe not.
Once you’ve got your head around miscarriage, what happens when you have the baby you hoped for? Well, for me what happens next is almost as confusing. And no one talks about it.
Staring at my son. I worry that if I take my eyes off him for a second, he’ll disappear. If I’m not soaking up every second of his heavenly smell, memorising his features, and enjoying the feeling of butterflies as he reaches to stroke my face – I’ll regret it.
I’ll never know if that’s just what being a Mum is like.
At night, I can’t sleep properly until he’s lying peacefully next to me, my husband on the other side both breathing intakes of breaths in unison before I can finally relax but not fully, of course. They’ll be no deep sleep here – I’ll be on watch, you sleep, I’ll wake up and protect you the second you feel lonely/scared/we are under attack from…something.
Fully aware, I sound pretty insane. Blissfully happy. Perpetually terrified. I’ll take it if that means we’re together forever.
That’s how my brain works for now. And I’m just going with it. Maybe it’s amplified because of the miscarriages or maybe (as my husband likes to remind me) it’s just because I’m intensely overprotective and I was that way well before babies were ever on the agenda.
It is getting easier, and I’m getting into the swing of it. I have to admit; I’m looking forward to the day an old coffee pod doesn’t make me internally freak out. That would be good.
There’s light and love in the darkness of the bad days too, of course. I’ll never forget the vulnerability of this time and how gently my husband oversees us both. Allowing me to gradually, at a snail’s pace, force myself to put our son in the cot…in his own room just meters away… but still with the video monitor glaring brightly at my face until he wakes up or I give in to some resemblance of sleep.
I know he gets that I don’t want an intervention. I know that there’s an 80% chance this is exactly who I already was or maybe it’s because this is the happiest I’ve ever been and I need to feel I’m eliminating any chance of the rug being pulled beneath our feet.
It’s OK to feel lost in a whirlwind of emotions and confusion. I don’t really have any answers and I’m sure that if you’re reading this mid or post-miscarriage you’ve likely already Googled every statistic so I’ll spare you the repetitive info and just say this…
I’m so sorry you’re part of a club you never wanted to be in, but a warm welcome to you anyway.