“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – Bilbo Baggins
Who am I? I am a regular average 36 year old woman currently in the thick of one of the biggest adventures I will ever take – the journey to pregnancy, through pregnancy…and back again.
Why do this blog?
There is so much information available to us online these days, most of which is medical confusion (I am in the medical field so in no way am I saying ignore your docs!!). But my emotional journey has been helped by seeking out REAL storied by REAL women and couples so that you can align yourself with someone else for even just a second.
These journeys are not walked on paths paved in gold with Skyrim style clairvoyance to show you the way. There is a real part of pregnancy conceiving and loss that is kept quiet and swept under the rug. And it shouldn’t be.
I am 1 in 4. I am the 25% who has lost a baby to miscarriage…Twice. 25%!!! There are a lot of us out there who know this path. This is NORMAL this is a story that needs to be told and not hidden away in shame.
It is not easy to talk about loss. It is not easy to admit that you lost something – that’s what miscarriage is. You lost something. You. But YOU didn’t really – there are so many factors, so many reasons and so much more involved than you can fathom.
This blog is my unique journey (which is FAR from over). It’s a way for me to help to break the stigma surrounding miscarriage and pregnancy loss. It’s a way for others to connect their experiences to mine so that we have others who have trod this path with us. So we can feel understood, listened to and that someone else gets it.
I have gone through two miscarriages so far and I write this on the morning of my first D&C experience (my first miscarriage was natural but we shall talk about that later). I have experiences every colour of emotion along with my husband who walks this path with me. You are never alone in this. I hope that this can bring you some reassurance and some real experience.
I encourage you to tell your story – even if it is only to your partner, your Mum or your close friend. Talking really does help and there are so many who can be inspired and soothed by your words.
“I wonder,” said Frodo, “But I don’t know. And that’s the way of a real tale. Take any one that you’re fond of. You may know, or guess, what kind of a tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending, but the people in it don’t know. And you don’t want them to.”
Frodo Baggins. The Lord of the Rings.
Wow…. so it’s been a HOT MINUTE since I have written anything on this blog. Dear readers, I am deeply sorry. It’s been quite the journey since I last posted in May 2020 when I announced the presence of little ‘Yumble’ who, at that time, was only 6 months along in my pregnancy. Let’s quickly cut to the chase and report that she is here, in the flesh, our rainbow girl arrived during Stage 4 Lockdown in Melbourne, Australia on the 31st of August 2020 via elective C-section. I am pleased to report that she is a happy and healthy 9.5 month old and is sleeping (thank goodness!) as I write. I feel like it’s best just to pop that out there before I begin the mammoth task of trying to figure out how to tackle my lack of writing. Originally I started this blog to assist with my anxiety and mental state after 3 miscarriages in a row in 2019… now I stand here, with our much longed for little girl, and face a different path and a new journey. This journey is still fraught with all sorts of dark caverns, treacherous terrain and difficult mountains to climb. All paths in life are.
She is here though. So there is always a smile, a laugh, a new skill or a moment of wonder to cut the dark times with light.
I feel like my journey is still ongoing. Anxiety is still a strong feature in this story, as is stress. To this tale we add in self worth, trust, faith (not in the religious sense), hope, heartbreak and growth. So I guess lets kick this off with Pandemic Birth Story number 1,098,365 (or however many other women in the world have their own tales to tell…).
After all we had been through, COVID-19 just seemed like a bit of a cruel joke really. A bit like “Here’s your rainbow child….OH…. but you can’t see your family overseas, you have to give birth in lockdown with curfews and no visitors AND you have to isolate for the first 2 -3 months of your daughters life so no ‘village’ for you!”
See….. cruel joke right?
My pregnancy was fairly straight forward. Morning sickness (mainly nausea but no vomiting) until 13 weeks, wicked acid reflux for 38 weeks, tiredness with spurts of energy, occasional plantar fasciitis, mild SPD (Symphysis pubis dysfunction), moderate back pain. I originally planned to work until 34-35 weeks (being a Physio, our job is a lot tougher when you have a GIANT belly!). Covid, however, had other plans and I was forced to take leave from work when Melbourne went into their second wave lockdown (the big one!) and it was too risky for me to continue. At that point, I had also been diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes (just like Mum!) and was testing my bloods 4 x per day and on a strict diet regime. I was lucky in the sense that my fasting levels (the first blood in early morning) was my issue and, with the diet, all my meals were completely fine! It became impossible with the PPD required to be COVID-safe for me to work, attend to my Diabetes diet of snacking and meals every 2 – 3 hours as well as testing bloods and drinking water every 5 seconds with back to back patients and a risky 1:1 work environment.
So I spent the final 6 weeks of my pregnancy at home alone with my husband working online and quietly binge watching Netflix until Yumble was here. My husband was no longer able to accompany me to my OBGYN appointments which was hard but at least with private ultrasounds he was able to be with me for our scans. At 36 weeks, our precious girl had a head circumference measuring full term and it was advised that I have a c-section at 38 weeks on the dot to deliver her safely (more on that later!).
I felt a bit cheated. With the diabetes I mean. You get this image of being able to eat icecream at 2am in your final stages of pregnancy but I wasn’t allowed ANY sugar or anything considered bad food from 28 weeks until Yumble arrived at 38.
Again with the woe is me. But I digress.
So here’s the deal.
You will find that the internet and social media is actually one of the WORST things to happen to new mothers (well any mother for that matter). It seems like anything you do or say can be supported or fiercely challenged and critiqued. Mum shaming is a thing and it starts when you are pregnant (hell in my case it started even BEFORE I was pregnant!). Having a c-section isn’t a real birth apparantley to some women out there. I am inferior to their struggles because I didnt push a watermelon out of a hole the size of a lemon. I did not labour therefore I did not ‘give birth’, therefore I can’t complain about anything.
Lets just get one thing straight here. A C-section is MAJOR abdominal surgery. My daughter was cut out of me. I don’t think anyone gets to tell you that you had the ‘easy route’. Birth is birth. In my mind, if both myself and my baby are safe then that’s the best option for me.
So, at 38 weeks on the dot we were booked into Hospital (under stage 4 restrictions!) to welcome Yumble into the world. I was injecting insulin every night by this point and my legs looked like they’d been pelted with bb gun bullets (throwback to childhood ‘fun’ times with my brother and his collection of bb guns and slingshots).
Here’s the great part – to cut a long story short. This was the best (and so far the easiest) process to date. Our little girl was born with no complications, a happy and healthy 3670g and, like now, she came out screaming and asserting her dominance! Mum and Bub did extremely well and were blessed with 5 days of family bonding time as there were no visitors allowed to hospitals. We were lucky enough to be able to have my husband stay the whole time! Other friends of mine who also had pandemic babies were not so lucky with their partners and visitations. It’s a cruel time in the world at the moment.
It dawned on me on the last day in hospital that I had done this whole pregnancy essentially alone (apart from hubby). No family, no baby showers, no leaving work celebrations. My family didn’t ever see me pregnant and who knows when they will meet my baby (they are in NZ). At that point, it had been a year almost since I had seen them… and I thought (naively) that that was a long time. Pfffft what an idiot (currently 2 years and counting thanks COVID). After such a horrible journey to become pregnant and have a baby it seemed like a cruel joke that a global pandemic should appear and further squash any chance I had at a normal, happy and supportive pregnancy experience. I will say though that it was nice not having to have the awkward “please don’t visit us as we are too tired” conversation. Introverts dream!
I’m angry to be honest. Angry that I didn’t get the journey that I hoped for and angry that things became even more complicated than I could have imagined. I mean … no one expects a global pandemic!
I don’t know why, but I thought that this was the culmination of my troubles.
Me: “Surely this is it… it’s all come down to this moment, she is here and this is the end of my years of woe and heartbreak and troubles”
Universe: “F*** YOU LADY!” *middle finger*
I would love to tell you that I am happy, healthy, adjusted to motherhood and just, well, plain old joyful.
But that would be lying.
I feel like this post will be WAY too long if I start down that path tonight so I shall leave it where it lies for the time being.
However, dear reader, please note that you are submerged deep in the ocean of a Mother who has endured more than a new mother should have. A mother who suffered with pre-natal anxiety and now suffers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Post Natal Anxiety and … the newcomer to the mix… Post Natal Depression.
I am grateful for the happy, healthy little girl that is in my life. I love her deeply and with a connection I have never known before. She is our rainbow girl and always will be.
I feel a lot of feelings and then I don’t feel much at all. It’s a cruel thing… life. It gives wonderful gifts but it also takes a lot and it’s hard for me to see whether there is much more of me left for it to take.
I feel like this blog used to offer me some therapeutic assistance during the dark times of trying to conceive. So I call on it now to help guide me down this new path.
I say this all before posting further because I want the world to know that I am grateful for her. That I am grateful for a lot. But things aren’t always easy to see when you’re surrounded by storms. I feel like Frodo when he had been captured by Shelob…. numb…..
You have to understand, if you haven’t been there yourself, that you begin to exist in a parallel universe to the one in which you actually live. It’s a horrible place between sanity and complete destruction.
I shall try and explain in coming posts as best as I can, but for now this will have to do. My brain doesn’t compute as well as it did when I started this blog (and I thought I was brain dead then!) so apologies if my writing is not unlike the state of my life… chaotic.
There’s a scene when Frodo and Sam and Gollum are on the Stairs of Cirith Ungol. Frodo has, at this time, become nearly completely consumed by the darkness of The Ring and it has left him susceptible to any manner of whisperings and manipulations. Gollum frames Sam for the loss of the precious Elven Lembas bread and Sam stumbles into the trap of offering to ‘bear the burden’ of the ring himself.
“Go home Sam”
(*cue heartbreak in every lounge room and theatre!)
Frodo suddenly becomes a ‘dick’ and his likeability immediately starts on a downward spiral. Sam, knows he is innocent but, in his meekness, goes along with Frodo even if it means breaking his promise. I should add that this doesn’t exist in the books… only in the movies (purely I think to highlight Sam’s triumphant return!) but it’s relevant nonetheless. Sometimes the power of the ring that we bear makes us do terrible things to ourselves and the people we love. It’s a trap and a burden to carry such things alone, but we feel that that is the way it must be done.
I feel unlikeable like Frodo most days of my life. I feel like my Samwise has become meeker in my dark shadow. I feel whispers in my ear telling me that I’m not good enough and that I’m making wrong decisions. It’s hard to admit and a dark place to be. I have already shot myself in the foot by being public with my miscarriage journey so I may as well be public with this too…. I don’t have any more to lose at this point.
You don’t have to understand. But I urge you to listen.
‘The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.’ – Haldir
Lord of the Rings, J.R.R Tolkein
So it’s been a hot minute since I wrote anything! I am so sorry dear readers! Time to remedy the situation and give you all an update on what has been going on.
As you all may know, we have been thrust violently into a New World with so many changes and uncertainties in these (dare I say it) unprecedented times. We are part of history, a huge part of which is happening right now, all over the world.
Among the sorrow, the anxieties and the grief comes hope and light. In many forms.
I think of our other angel babies often, the ones we called Ponyo, Bumble bee and Bug. These precious little ones have not, and will not ever disappear into darkness, rather, I think they will always be with us. Especially when all is uncertain and dark. They are beautiful, emotional reminders of our journey so far.
I am conscious of how long this post could be so I will keep it to the point for now and hopefully elaborate on some further topics in months to come – now that I feel like I have a small grip back on reality. My husband and I booked tattoos for our Christmas present to each other on January 6th of this year. We decided to get silhouettes of Frodo and Sam. Mine has the words “Don’t go where I can’t follow” written so beautifully in Elvish below. Thank you to the team at Rock’n’Ink for the amazing work!
For those who have followed our journey, you will know how important and apt these tattoos are for my husband and I. They remind us of our journey, of our importance to each other and to always remember that our love and support comes first. In the end, that’s what a foundation of a relationship is right? Loving each other at our worst and our best and never giving up hope.
Well, we arrived home from getting the tattoos done and a wave of curiosity suddenly took hold of me and for some reason (6 days before my period was due!) I felt compelled to test. As you remember, we decided to take a break for a couple of cycles and rest our brains and bodies. December came and as the days passed we finally decided we were ready to try again. Cycle one turned out to be a success straight away! Here we were thinking we would be a couple of months before we got anything positive! I ovulate early in my cycle (hence the positive test happening so early for those wondering!).
So, off to our GP and Obstetrician we went for more wonderful bloods to confirm. And there it was. We were pregnant again.
For the 4th time.
It’s a funny feeling now. Anxiety. I find it seems to be the first emotion attached to pregnancy these days, which is only fair enough given our track record. So I spent most days pacing in my head through halls of doubt, rooms of uncertainty and emotion after emotion as I tried to process this all to familiar place again. My Samwise, being Samwise and holding my hand and my heart through every up and down and every anxious thought was always beside me.
With every other pregnancy I had very mild to non existent symptoms. They seemed to fluctuate day to day (which I am told is normal of course). This one was different. I had the works…nausea every day, heart burn, tiredness, headaches, emotional craziness, sleep disturbances and all other manner of things! But I was so happy to have them. It’s strange. The symptoms were such a reassurance, the worse I felt – the less anxiety plagued me.
More blood tests came and went – all showing good news – even after a little scare of spotting. We stayed apprehensive. Not telling family or friends until we had any idea whether this one would be different. It came time for our 10 week NIPT test. I must admit, I was dreading this the most. For those who don’t know what a NIPT test is – basically it’s a simple blood test that assesses your risk factor for common chromosomal abnormalities such as Down Syndrome, Turners Syndrome and others. It doesn’t tell you for sure that your baby has a specific problem, merely highlights your risk factor. If your risk factor is high – you will likely then go on to have CVS (if early on in your pregnancy) or Amniocentesis to confirm.
As most of you know. Our second miscarriage (which ended in me having to have a D&C procedure) was tested for chromosomal issues and unfortunately that was the reason our little one didn’t survive. So you can imagine the nerves getting this far and awaiting test results.
Part of me was CERTAIN that there would be an issue. If nothing else, I think it was my brain trying to cushion the fall should something go wrong. Prepare for the worst right? Well, you have your blood test and then wait 5 – 7 days for the results. 6 days passed and I got a text message saying my results had been processed and sent to my Obstetrician. I bit my nails and sweated bullets waiting for the call and when it finally came my heart jumped into my throat.
Normal? What is that…..
“Would you like to know what you are having?”, said our amazing receptionist on the other end of the phone.
“Yes!” I replied…. my husband and I had decided we would find out the sex then and there as surprises just aren’t our thing these days!
“It’s a little girl, congratulations!”
My heart jumped and my head sighed. I frantically rung my husband to give the good news as he was working away that day. Our little rainbow girl. The first for our family as my brother has 3 boys and my husbands brother has 2 boys! What a special little one she is.
We call her Yumble for short. It’s a combination of all our previous nicknames. And I think it’s fitting as we remember our lost ones and celebrate what they have lead us to – hopefully we will be able to tell her the story of her nickname too.
I am 22 weeks as I write this today.
I would love to tell you that the ring has been tossed into Mount Doom and all is well in Middle Earth. However. That is not the case. The journey has taken an unexpected but relieving turn and we are walking in a lot more light.
It has to be said that there are always doubts, fears, anxieties, uncertainties and the worry of something coming along at any moment to throw us into chaos. After all, previous experience has paved the way for this pregnancy to be fraught with emotional hurdles and fears. But we are quietly confident with each week that passes and our little girl fighting… kicking…. moving her way towards the day when we finally get to meet her and hold her in our arms.
She won’t know how special she is.
I have a lot more to say on the journey we have had. On what it’s like to be pregnant after 3 initial miscarriages. On what it’s like to walk this path during a worldwide pandemic.
But those shall be tales for the coming weeks and months.
I thank you all in the real world for all your messages, comments and support you have provided us over the past few months. We couldn’t have kept going without you all lifting us up. I thank you all who read from all over the world – who have learned from our struggles and have walked with us at any point. For those who are struggling – there is hope.
For now, I will sign off with this little picture to remind us all that “there is some good in this world…and it’s worth fighting for”
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo. ‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
-Frodo Baggins and Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring
Today was a bad day.
I have had a few precious souls tell me that I should ‘move on’ from what has happened. (These are the same people who tell you “don’t stress” like it’s some fucking light switch you can just turn off! Ok Karen, I’ll just not stress shall I?) .
I am frequently plagued by two things these days:
“Why me ?” refers to the fact that I am in the lucky 1% of women who has had recurrent miscarriages. Yay! What’s my prize?…. PTSD, anxiety, self loathing and permanent damage you say? HELL YEAH! I’m sure there are so many out there who have read my journey and thought… “Phew…. at least that’s not me”
Well. I am so stoked to take one for the team. Don’t worry guys… I got your 1% covered right here.
I’m sorry. Sarcasm and general bitterness is part of this journey. For those who share it… you get me. For those who don’t … this is the monster that I have become. As previously said in one of my last blog posts…. I constantly worry about being pessimistic and ‘negative’ and worry that people hate me for it. Well…. I said I was going to be open and honest and truthful about this journey and I am sorry to say that days like this and emotions and feelings like this are part of it. In fact they are a huge chunk.
I read an article today that stated that miscarriage takes longer for people to recover from than previously thought. Maybe it’s just because we are being more open and honest about how shit this all is instead of being pushed to ‘move on’ and smile and pretend that we aren’t all broken and empty of self worth.
It makes me feel funny to hear people say “you are so brave” and “you are so strong” and “you’re coping so well”. Maybe posting something like this will make people realise that I am not. I am human and for every strong day I have a day like today.
A day where I look in the mirror and nearly cry at the overweight, unfit and disgusting version of myself I see.
A day where all my clothing feels useless because none of it looks good and no amount of makeup is going to hide 2019’s 15+ kilos I put on and the shame that is attached to who I am physically.
A day where I struggled at work to even get through the day because I was plagued by anxiety, thoughts of things getting worse than they are (if that’s even possible to imagine!) and where I had so much brain fog that I felt completely useless at my job.
A day where I couldn’t decide what to eat because I’d just rather not and save another kilo.
A day where I came home, lay on the couch and just watched TV and felt horrible for it.
A day where I couldn’t bring myself to exercise because it was too hot and I simply felt like wallowing in my own misery.
I feel angry.
Angry that the ONE opportunity for pregnancy and having a child being a magical, happy experience has been cruelly ripped away from me. You see, once you have experienced loss after loss after loss and you have no more trust for your body, any subsequent pregnancy is minefield of anxiety and triggers and post traumatic stress disorder.
I will NEVER have that experience that people who get pregnant and have a viable and healthy pregnancy first time have.
Even if you’re not pregnant, you just expect to go to the bathroom and see bleeding. Multiple times a day.
I can’t focus. I can’t concentrate on days like today. My brain is at war with itself constantly and there is nothing me, or anyone else can do to stop it.
I wish this never happened in my time.
I wish it never happened to me.
I wish it was just me suffering, but my husband is to…. that’s what you get for marrying me! #boobyprize
I constantly think about how if it was someone else, he would have a family by now instead of a broken, shaky chihuahua (in a bull dogs body) for a wife.
I lost a whole year and I am angry. I feel like things can’t get worse… but then again… I tried to tell myself that last year and things didn’t really give me hope.
I wish I had more hope. Some days, it is there.. flickering moments. Other days, it is far away in the fires of Mount Doom where I will never find it.
I feel like the next cruel joke will be that I carry a pregnancy and find out that there is huge chromosomal issues at Week 10 when you have the optional NIPT blood test and be faced with terminating the one viable pregnancy we get. Or, one of the many other “it will never happen to me because the odds are so low” issues with pregnancy and birth.
I don’t consider myself special and refuse to think that this whole process has been bestowed on us because we are somehow special people and need to show people just how well you can cope with suffering that ONE PERCENT of people actually have to deal with.
Maybe my story (and the stories of the rest of us 1 percenters) just provides relief to those who never have to walk these roads.
I am sorry for this being so negative. But I can’t paint a rainbow where there isn’t any light and I refuse to lie about days like today when they do happen.
As Gandalf says:
I am trying.
But some times, some days…. even when you win… you lose.
Happy 2020 to all my readers around the world. Things have been busy over the last couple of months for us but we are glad to have some time resting from the ‘pregnancy journey’ to enjoy some time to ourselves and spending Christmas holidays with friends and family.
This is a very short post to kick off the new year, but I am pleased to say that (despite the journey so far) healing has been happening and we have been loving the time to reset, start our routine and have some much needed time away from work to clear our minds. The journey begins again in 2020 but I am looking forward to the year, regardless of it’s challenges. We have been through so much already that it’s definitely a case of drawing power and strength from dark times.
One of the best things to come out of 2019 was the realisation that everyone needs a Samwise in their life. Whether it be your partner, your Mum, your Dad, a grandparent, a friend, a child…. a dog or a dragon! It’s so hard forcing yourself to walk these roads alone. This doesn’t just include the ones of us who have been through miscarriages, but to those facing any hardship, any big journey or any troubled times.
I can’t really put into words the love and the gratefulness I have for my Samwise. Tests of strength come in many forms and we have faced a few in the past couple of years that’s for sure! However, we have come out, hand in hand and ready to tackle whatever else this road has to throw at us and I am so pleased to be here… with you.
In honor of last year and our journey, we gave ourselves a little Christmas present: PLEASE DO NOT JUDGE MY HAIRY LEG…. it’s a mood….. (plus it’s impossible to shave around healing tattoos!
The one on the right (yeah the bloody hairy one… it’s the holidays… meh) is mine with the elvish script underneath reading “Don’t go where I can’t follow”.
For the non-LOTR nerd out there… this is the phrase that Samwise says to Frodo thinking he has died after his encounter with Shelob:
“Don’t leave me here alone! It’s your Sam calling. Don’t go where I can’t follow! Wake up, Mr. Frodo!”
May you all have a Samwise to walk into 2020 with.
“Memory is not what the heart desires. That is only a mirror.
Gimli, The Dwarf. Lord of the Rings, J.R.R Tolkein
It’s difficult now to decide whether to write and, if so, what to write about. The ‘journey’, as it were, is still continuing, however, we find ourselves in limbo. Neither there… nor where we started…. nor where we thought we would be at this time.
My last post made mention of our decision to break from our path of trying for a couple of months to recharge, relieve some anxiety and pressure and hopefully remember what a routine is and gain some grip on the reality that has been so tumultuous. In this time, I have tried to remember what life was like…. before all this… and my vision is blurred with memories of myself before the anxiety and before the grief, memories of times when I was struggling with what seems like mediocre challenges, memories of times I felt strong, memories of looking in the mirror and smiling at what I saw. Memories (as Gimli the Dwarf says to Legolas) are not what the heart desires. But sometimes it feels like they are.
I have found a new psychologist, one who specializes in working with women, men, couples and families who are dealing with pregnancy loss, fertility issues, post natal depression, anxiety associated with having a baby and many other ‘baby’ related issues. We have only had one session but she seems helpful. I guess I am continuing to be honest about this stuff as I don’t see any difference between seeing a doctor for a chest infection and seeing a psychologist when your brain is a little sick. I like that the stigma that I once had towards psychologists and asking for help as a teenager has been torn away. I am hoping she will help me to organize my thoughts and help us to feel stronger for the journey as it continues.
But that will take some time as initial sessions usually only paint the outline of the pictures – we haven’t started colouring in yet…..
I sit and write this with strange motivation. I had ummed and ahhed about how to continue, and had the sudden urge to write as some of my murky thoughts clung together to form something I could try and make sense of. Or at least something that was substantial.
A loss of self worth is a dangerous place. Hearing someone say that they cease to ‘feel worthy’ or feel ‘useless’ is like someone handing you a 40kg weight and saying “Here, hold this for me”. It’s weighty and makes you sad that they had been carrying it around for so long. I did this to my husband the other day. Not meaning for him to carry this weight for me of course, but letting him feel it for a moment. Which is hard – you don’t want to hear that someone you love is suffering from feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness.
You see, I have spent a large part of my life feeling that I don’t really belong. I have rarely had the type of ‘best friend’ that people see in the movies, or that so many of my friends have. I guess I have never felt like I was worthy of that title with most people I meet and I feel like I am generally forgettable enough that I fade into the background of peoples minds. Never a first though, always a 12th or 15th… or 30th. A lot of my friends live in other countries and other states.
PSA: to my wonderful close friends, I LOVE YOU ALL to pieces and certainly don’t mean this to ignore your messages, hang outs and general love in abundance. This is purely an ongoing insecurity.
Then, I met my husband. He is my best friend and I am beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to meet my best friend and get to marry them. For those who understand that – it’s just wonderful isn’t it? Mum used to have this cross stitch she created that hung in the kitchen above the phone (yeah… the landline… back in the days…) and it said “Happiness is being married to your best friend”. She was definitely right on that one. I wonder where that cross stitch is now? Maybe doesn’t go so well in the new kitchen….
Anyway, I digress.
I have always struggled with appreciating myself physically. Being teased in middle school by a group of girls who told me that my “thighs looked fat and everyone thought so” when I was in a gymnastics display. This was to the size 8 girl who won Sportswoman of the Year for representing the school in nearly 30 different sports. Maybe they were big… maybe it was just muscle that I should have used to kick their asses? Being yelled at by a car full of men when I was 19 to “Get a tan”….. kind of weird for a wee gothic loving teen. Being too athletic to be slim or have a waist and too flat chested to feel like a real hourglass woman. Society is a cruel beast, people are jerks and the media isn’t much better. We have all felt those pings of feeling physically bleh.
I look back and realise that for all those times I looked in the mirror and wished for new parts that I had never really let it affect my self worth. At the end of the day, I could accept myself for who I was and that was just fine. Maybe a cup of tea and couch time and a few tears helped that realisation – but it was still reached.
Now things are different.
I would give anything to go back to that person. The person who thought she was overweight 10kg ago. It’s hard to look in a mirror and really loathe what you see as a reminder of what you have endured this year. At least if I was pregnant and that had resulted in a baby I wouldn’t mind the weight gain – that would be worth it. But this… this is a reminder of loss, of grief and of feeling inadequate and less than a woman.
I know, I know. It’s not my fault bla bla bla. But unfortunately, it’s hard to be body positive when your body can’t do what it is supposed to be able to do.
I find myself looking at so many things differently now. Where I have always been used to being number 13 and 40 in peoples priority lists of friends and it has never bothered me, my brain now tells me “It’s because they don’t want to be around you because you are *insert bad vibe / self deprecating insult here*”. When I can’t fit a shirt I ordered in a M when I used to be a small my brain says “Well yeah, look at you, of course that was never going to fit”. This is why the psych has become a priority.
There was a recent article that stated that losing a baby and recurrent miscarriages can create PTSD. I am starting to believe that is true.
I often have this uncomfortable thing that happens to me.
You see – I used to be an elite athlete. I don’t say that lightly, I was drafted into a NZ triathlon development squad at 13 years old and spent the better part of my teenage years aiming for the Olympics. I was struck down with a biomechanical knee injury at 17…. I never got there. The one thing I was really GOOD at slipped from my hands and I tumbled into a horrible place where I lost who I was for a long time. It’s partially why I became a Physio.
That is a quick summary of the whole shebang but the important thing is what it led to. It led to me trying the rest of the years up until now to find something I could excel at. Something I could be an expert in and something I felt like I was really top of my field in. I needed that feeling of belonging and worth again. So, I continue my search to this very day. I try anything and everything.
I constantly refer to myself as a ‘Jack of all trades and master of none’.
The uncomfortable thing (see, I hadn’t forgotten my train of thought) that often occurs is that when people find out I can do a lot of things they often remark (with some bite and often hints of jealousy/mild annoyance – I can’t tell these days) “Is there anything you can’t do?” or “Wow, you can do that too?” or something similar. Usually with hints of “Oh of course she can” and “Ugh, her and another thing…”
If there is one thing that this year has taught me, it’s that you NEVER, EVER know where someone is on their journey. What they have been through.
All those questions about “When are you having a baby?” or ” Why don’t you start trying for kids?” or “Oh, don’t you want children?” or “Why don’t you get your *insert various issue* checked?” or anything of that nature. Those questions, albeit coming often from a very good place, can really hurt.
How does this tie into the ‘Jack of all trades’ conversation? Well, you see, having a baby (at this moment in time) is another thing I have tried and… in my mind… failed at and realised I am just not very good at it (REGARDLESS of reasoning which I am well aware of – this is that horrible devil voice on my shoulder speaking those things). In my search to find something I can excel at…. being pregnant and having a family/baby is currently yet another Lotto ticket that scans as “Sorry, better luck next time”.
So, those little jabs at my apparent ‘do-it-all’ personality are hurting more than they should. I am generally hurting more than I should. Every little knock becomes a knock out by the time my brain analyses it.
Since the first pregnancy and miscarriage my singing voice has been hormonally unstable and also lacking as much use as it once has. I have struggled to sing for months now. Every sound that comes out feels strained, tired, horrible and weighty. I feel like my voice has changed so much and not for the better. I struggle to have range, I can’t sing songs I used to sing so easily and my upper register, mix and head voice is a shadow of it’s former self.
Nothing feels right and I am so angry and frustrated and disconnected. I just want to be me again.
I have tried getting back into exercise and am frustrated at how weak and tired I am. I wish more than anything else to just snap my fingers and lose this emotional and physical weight that is dragging me down. But, as a lot of my patients experience, that is easier said than done. It is hard work to get yourself out of a hole (even if it is one that you haven’t dug on your own). I become anxious every time I see a camera and hope I don’t have to see photos of myself at the moment. Makes me angry at who I have become.
I feel old. I feel tired. I feel frumpy and generally not myself.
Its’d hard to ‘move on’ and ‘reset’ when you look in the mirror and at photos and see a constant reminder of the struggle that 3 miscarriages in a row… in 7 months… I see overweight, I see exhaustion… I see tired and run down. I see old. I see failure and I see sadness. It’s hard. The worst part is, that the weight won’t disappear without a war and a fight and months…. so I feel trapped again… in this shell and this body that doesn’t feel like mine.
Feeling good. Feeling sexy. Feeling like a woman….. it’s all gone for the time being and I am fighting to get it back.
This has been a weird post. But, maybe there are others on this path or who know this journey from their own experiences who will tell me that they went through this too? This loss of who we are and what we thought were faults – that turn out to be insignificant compared to where we find ourselves. Even now I sit here deleting and adding, trying to not unintentionally piss people off, especially my friends. Nothing is certain and everything is questioned at least 10 times before (or after) they happen. It’s like my brain just can’t let things go. What is true? What is not? I have no idea.
It’s lonely. I feel like the one kid in the class who can’t catch a ball.
I am sick of feeling like everyone else just finds this so easy and we are trying and failing every time. I don’t understand what I did or we did to deserve this path. I am tired of being brave, tired of being strong and tired of shrugging off comments, posts and being around so many people who don’t even need to try and have no issues with having a family. This is just a shitty situation. I am trying. WE are trying. So hard. But no matter what I think or do…. it is what it is…. a year of loss.
All the messages from people who have been there certainly help and hopefully this blog is helping someone else.
For now, I am trying to walk a little more in the sun. The month break so far has been a huge help in resetting things for us. I am beyond humbled by the messages and all the support we have had on our journey. Most of which has occurred only because we choose to share our story and be open about it. I know many of you continue to walk this path alone or in silence.
I have to make a HUGE shout out again to my partner in crime, my Samwise, my best friend. For continuing to walk this path with me. For wiping my tears… for the hugs… for the cups of tea… for the frustrating and emotional talks we have.
For the love he still gives me.
Even when I can’t love myself.
I know this is both our journey, and I know he is hurting too. So I am even more grateful for the days when he helps me out. (Which is everyday).
The grief is so heavy.
If you need someone to share your thoughts with, no matter how stupid they may seem (see above!) then I am happy to hear them and sit with you or walk with you a little while. Those extra kilo’s aren’t so heavy to carry when you have someone else to help – even for a moment.
“Deep down here by the dark water lived old Gollum, a small slimy creature. I don’t know where he came from, nor who or what he was. He was Gollum — as dark as darkness, except for two big round pale eyes in his thin face.”
J.R.R.Tolkein Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring.
Today was supposed to be Ponyo’s due date.
Sometimes, there are days on this journey when you just feel… well… shit. To put it mildly. These days can have no rhyme or reason, no trigger or causative factor, but they hit hard emotionally. These days usually involve me forcing myself to be ok with sitting on the couch, playing video games or something quiet and letting myself accept that this is part of grief and time to myself to allow it to happen is all part of healing.
I was talking to someone the other day who was telling their story of their miscarriage. She said that she didn’t have a ‘trigger’ for what had happened to her until 2 years after the fact whilst watching a TV show where the character was going through a miscarriage themselves. It’s honestly the strangest of things that can ‘set you off’ or trigger an emotional response. Often, I find that it’s usually things I would never expect to cause me grief. Such as a close friend announcing a pregnancy on Facebook – I should be happy right? And when you realise you aren’t happy because you wish that was you, it makes you feel awful and like you’re a bad person. It’s a bit of a double edged sword really… you either put on a face and feel exhausted for doing so and internalize all your emotions so you don’t project your feelings onto another innocent person, or you be honest and feel like a bad person for being a wet blanket and for making the person feel bad for announcing their happy news.
Even lunches out with friends where they talk about their kids can be a random trigger, but sometimes they aren’t. I have been on many a lunch date or social occasion where friends of mine have their kids there and the topic is usually about that and I have been fine. So is it a build up? Or is it just where your mind is on that particular day.
Makes me feel a bit like Gollum and Smeagol to be honest sometimes. This crazy little creature hiding in the darkness with a split personality. One part telling me how worthless I am and the other trying to ignore it.
Gollum kind of works for so many of the emotional aspects of our journey. For example:
I feel like I have two personalities, one Smeagol who is kind, introverted, anxious and who tries to do the right thing, and one Gollum who talks so horribly to Smeagol and is dark, grouchy and generally a pest.
Gollum follows Frodo and Sam like a shadow and tries to stray them from their path to get what he wants. I feel like there is a little dark creature following me around telling me bad things about myself and my path as well as generally just being an ominous cloud in the background.
Gollum also reminds me of pregnancy forums which can sometimes be helpful and sometimes feel obsessive and very anxiety causing. I say this with love, but for me, these forums are easy to fall into as you frantically google things to try and find something to cling to. The problem is, a lot of the discussion involves counting… counting everything from days before ovulation, days past ovulation, to cycles, to body temperatures, pregnancy hormones, blood test results… I could go on. They even have a their own online language for things (DH, SO, DPO, BFP, BFN, CM, EWCM, HPT, POAS…. the list goes on). Now, bear in mind that most people accessing forums are anxious and concerned and looking for reassurance, so there is a lot of emotions and anxiety in reading responses. For some people, this is super helpful – that is completely understandable and fine. For me… it felt a little like “my precioussssssssss..” and made me feel more anxious, more desperate and generally not great. Each to their own, but this is just my journey.
Gollum also becomes who he is through repeated trauma, ignorance and loss of will power to be able to take an alternative pathway, removal from his ability to be social and in social situations and generally a shell of himself through this never-ending quest to obtain his ‘precious’ or the ring. Sometimes, I feel like if I let it.. I would be like him. Desperate and consumed by the emotion and the pull of having a baby. So much so that it destroys who I am and creates this monster that no one wants to be around. You see glimpses of this in Frodo when the ring takes over… signs of the potential for him to turn just as Smeagol did. I refuse to let that be me.
The last sentence there:
“I refuse to let that be me”
Is why my Samwise and I have decided to take a much needed (and deserved) break from our journey. Time to ourselves to be able to heal emotionally, and physically and prepare for the journey again in time. Our specialist has confirmed that this would be a good idea and has also taken me off my thyroid medication (YES!) as things look normal now that I am not in hormonal chaos! Even after a week or so, we are already feeling the weight lifted and enjoying our space and time together without pressure or anxiety.
The reality is, the emotions are still there.
Because I knew that today was the due date, I was a little more prepared to have a bit of an emotional day. So that does help a little.
I thought I would put that quote in above because it links in with my previous posts where I have discussed negative and positive emotions. I think it allows you to realise that grief comes from a place of love and is certainly nothing to push aside or try and ignore. It is what it is, healing takes time and we are all completely different.
I read this amazing article (which I did share on Facebook and will link below) which spoke to me so well. It talks about miscarriages and infertility as being ‘trauma’ and the depression and emotional aftershocks are similar to those with cancer or terminal illnesses. This is huge. I think that because miscarriages and infertility are not life threatening, we feel bad for feeling such strong emotions. After all, we are still here … right?
Please give it a read. One of the quotes that really hit home was this one:
“Somewhere along the journey, many of us stop feeling as though it is something that is happening to us, but instead begin to believe that it is a part of who we are. You become used to living in a constant state of fluctuating despair and hope. And this doesn’t turn off when and if you get pregnant. It doesn’t turn off when you hear or see the heartbeat. “
I initially thought something was wrong with me when I just couldn’t shake this feeling of impending doom and anxiety with every positive test after my first miscarriage. But it turns out that this is super common. I think your body and brain just go into default protection mode and prepare you for the worst all the time. In that case, maybe even though infertility is not fatal to the person – it has a lifelong effect on that person.
So, for today. I will remember what little time I had with our Ponyo, I will acknowledge the hurt, the anger, the frustration, the sadness and the grief that came from losing this pregnancy… our first one. I think memories are there so we are reminded that something existed and was real, even for such a small amount of time and that is SO important.
My sadness and my sorrow today comes from a place of love. I wish that I had become a Mummy and that our little family was just a little bigger. But my heart has grown. I am thankful for so much but I am giving myself the right to feel all these emotions I feel.
For now, Samwise and Frodo (and Gollum) are resting. We are taking some time for us and to let things calm. Continuing to fight and continuing to forge ahead in desperation will only create more anxiety and difficulties, especially if it were to happen again so quickly and end with another miscarriage.
After seeing our Specialist, we were reassured that we have continued to have been dealt a bad hand with these pregnancies. No test has revealed any issue with the two of us – chance is a horrible thing. I am trying SO hard to not blame myself and find reasons for me being the problem… so when I was asked the other day:
“Do they know what is wrong with you?”
I must say, even though it came from a place of concern. That hurt. It doesn’t help. Close to 50% of infertility and recurrent miscarriages HAVE NO REASON.
It has been nearly a week, and my brain is still recovering from that comment.
This road doesn’t get any easier. I broke down the other day because of that comment and said to my Samwise:
“What do I do? I can’t tell them that their comment offended or upset me as everyone is coming from a place of love, concern and caring. So I continually internalize, laugh awkwardly and move on in the conversation rather than addressing it. I don’t want my emotions and reactions to make someone who is trying to genuinely help or think that they are helping from wanting to talk to me at all.”
This is so hard. I am NOT a fixer by any stretch. Someone like me rarely is seeking a solution, and more wanting someone to say “I’m sorry, I don’t know what to say or do but I am here for you if you need.” I acknowledge that this is hard for those people who hear and watch someone in trouble and just want to help fix it, offer solutions and be the one to help them out. Again, we are all different.
So I am still at a loss with how to handle emotions, triggers and things as they arise. Nothing in my life has prepared me for this and it is therefore why I find this Blog to be so important to write. I saw a perfect one of those inspirational memes the other day that said:
“One day you will tell your story of how you’ve overcome what you’re going through now, and it will become part of someone else’s survival guide.”
If that happens, just ONCE from this blog. If it helps someone to understand the place their partner, friend or family member is in. If it helps another couple to understand that what they are experiencing is normal and the emotions are so hard but they are necessary and to not be afraid to feel things and be honest. If someone else shares their story too.
“I will not give you counsel, saying do this, or do that. For not in doing or contriving, nor in choosing between this course and another, can I avail; but only in knowing what was and is, and in part also what shall be.”
Gladriel, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Frodo and the rest of the remaining Fellowship finally make it to Lórien. Laden heavy with sorrow and despair after the loss of Gandalf to the Balrog and feeling hopeless in the almost near impossible path that is laid before them. Here they meet Gladriel, an elven Lady of the Woods. When all the Fellowship is sleeping, Gladriel leads Frodo to look within her mirror. He sees visions of what would happen if his mission should fail.
Orcs invade the shire. His friends… imprisoned. One by one, others seek the ring and come after it. The Fellowship is broken.
“You are a ring-bearer, Frodo. To bear a ring of power is to be alone. This task was appointed to you. And if you do not find a way, no one will.”
Gladriel The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Burdened by the weight of the ring on his shoulders and the task that rests on his shoulders. Frodo, in the belief that he alone must complete the quest, tries to give the ring to Gladriel. She refuses. When Frodo says he cannot accomplish his task on his own, Galadriel responds with the quote. She means to encourage him but also to let him know that his journey has just begun. The fellowship has given him a start, but the task ahead is his and his alone. He no longer needs the others, and, indeed, he separates from them at the end of the film. These words also serve as a warning for Frodo, alerting him to the solitude he’ll struggle with as long as he has the ring. Frodo will wrestle with solitude even after he’s destroyed the ring and returned to the Shire. When Galadriel tells Frodo, “To bear a ring of power is to be alone,” she demonstrates her understanding of exactly how enormous Frodo’s task is, and how separate he is from the rest of the fellowship. His task is completely solitary, and it will consume his life.
If you have seen Lord of the Rings, you will understand that Frodo does NOT in fact hold this burden alone. Samwise travels the entire journey by his side and the Fellowship also support him from afar. However, my point is that he feels alone because he feels that this journey rests on his shoulders alone. That there is a blame to lay on himself and he wishes not to drag others into his plight.
If you have also walked this path, or are walking it now. You will already identify with what I have said. Sometimes your brain thinks completely outside of what is realistic and what is fact and stares into the mirror to see the horrible consequences of your actions and choices. Fear and responsibility are heavy burdens to bear. I think because I am 37, the media, older generations and the medical world has already placed heavy responsibility on my shoulders for not having children before I was 35, or even before I was 30. I didn’t start dating my husband until I was nearly 32. So women are often backed into a corner with the decision of when to have children.
Do you wait until you have found love, stability (financially and in a relationship and in general) and are prepared to dedicate your time and life to a child? Or do you jump in the deep end and face possible relationship breakdown, lack of financial support and poor stability surrounding your living circumstances? Do you have a career? Are children your career and can you support that?
Each one of us has an opinion based on our own experiences. So I am not here to share mine. However, sometimes life doesn’t have the timeline you hope. That is at least a fact we can all identify with.
So, you can appreciate the burden that an over 35 year old female faces when they begin to try for children.
The internet will tell you that you are old. That you are a high risk. That you have basically failed some imaginary timeline test of when you were supposed to graduate from marriage and have kids. Your older generation will remind you of the fact by repeatedly reminding you of how old you are. That will occur BEFORE you are ready to have kids (you know, forgetting that you actually NEED another person to help with that part) and will get worse after you are married. I actually became so burdened with the fact that I was apparently so old that I was put off for a while there. I felt that I had missed my opportunity and was sick of everyone asking when I was going to have children and why I didn’t have them.
Note to everyone: DON’T ask a woman/couple/man WHY they don’t have kids and WHEN they are going to have them.
You never know the journey or the path that couple or person is on. So please PLEASE don’t ask.
Anyway, I digress.
I have lost count of the times I have said to my husband that it is my fault. That the blame for our losses lies with me and that he should leave me and I should go on alone. Like the failure of a woman I am.
“I made a promise, Mr. Frodo. A promise. Don’t you leave him, Samwise Gamgee. And I don’t mean to. I don’t mean to.” —The Fellowship of the Ring
I understand how Frodo felt.
I have played out many scenarios in my head and often the burden rests with me. Regardless of whether it ACTUALLY does. As you know, Samwise doesn’t leave Frodo and mine has made that abundantly clear (although some days I wonder why he stays around!).
Gollum is hanging over me like a shadow. He’s always there. In the shadows. Making me feel anxious. Like I’m the focus and the world is looking at me. Which, for any other introverts out there reading this, is literally the WORST place you could be. My Nana is unwell after the loss of my Grandfather and Parkinsons has taken her body from her. She was moved into a Nursing home a little over a week ago. She is my last remaining grandparent and a huge part of my life. I am thousands of kilometers away. It hurts. My beautiful dog, my rock, who loves me unconditionally and has stood by me for 13.5 years through tears, times of joy and times of despair… has final stage heart failure. I am not coping at work – I am tired, mentally and emotionally exhausted and hold little energy for others. I struggle to put on my ‘smile mask’ every day and continue to treat Paediatric patients and others with the same gusto and strength I have for the last 15 years. I feel out of steam. I feel empty. I feel trapped on multiple fronts and the next person who says “Are you stressed? Because that can affect the baby” is treading a fine line. Yes, I am stressed. Yes I am tired. Yes I am miserable.
And I have EVERY right to be. These emotions are how I SHOULD feel with all that is going on.
Life is cruel and hard right now. My Samwise and I really need a break but the only holiday time I have is over Christmas where everything is triple the price and, with a very unwell dog, we don’t want to travel right now.
I feel like I am falling.
Just last week, a mere 5 weeks since my D&C surgery and only the first cycle back…. I was pregnant again.
I thought nothing of being a few days overdue, as this is a normal occurance after a miscarriage. But 6 days was a stretch. So we decided to test.
At this point, testing and being pregnant loses a lot of it’s excitement. Instead, it brings a mixed bag of relief, dread, anxiousness, despair and worry. I don’t mean to sound like an Eeyore here but this is what happens after two losses. At least a couple with children already have some more hope than I…childless and with two failed pregnancies under my belt. So testing becomes the start of a familiar pathway and your emotions just take over.
We told my parents, who were here from New Zealand and reminded ourselves not to count our chickens before they hatch.
The next day I contacted our specialist and booked an appointment for the following week. Congratulations all round. But I was feeling a little emotionally numb. I couldn’t bear to be excited only to be disappointed again. So I remained, balancing on the edge….
As an aside, we actually found out we were pregnant again on International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day, October 15th. Our third little “bug” would be due June 18th, 2020.
The very next day, the cramps came. I was 5 weeks exactly.
I tried to stay calm and shrug my shoulders and not panic.
The next morning, I was bleeding.
“It could be normal”…. that old chestnut……
I spoke with my specialist’s nurse who fired me through two blood test forms for HCG to be done today and again on Saturday. I lost my break at work to run down the road for another blood test. It bruised badly as I worked the rest of my shift.
When I got home, the bleeding got worse still and I knew it was happening again. There is no way this little one would survive. I couldn’t feel any more worthless and broken. I tried to be strong, I wished we hadn’t tested. My brain went straight to “Now you are one of the small percentage of women who have recurrent miscarriages… you’re broken”
For those who don’t know, medically, a recurrent miscarriage is 3 or more. So here we are.
The second blood test, out of the same vein, made me look like a drug addict (especially with all the bruising) and, with the blood loss, I felt faint and tired. We decided to keep this time to ourselves as we had a wedding and a number of social occasions to attend that weekend and the thought of the focus being on me/us was just too much to bear. I didn’t want people approaching us at a wedding to offer sympathy or to say those things I mentioned in a previous post because they don’t know what else to say. I didn’t want to hear “Wow, that was quick, at least you can get pregnant easily”.
Reality is. I wish I wasn’t able to get pregnant. My body is so exhausted and wrecked from three miscarriages in a row. The hope and then the fall into despair with each loss. Grief laid upon grief. I don’t know what would be worse. Getting pregnant and losing every baby, or struggling to get pregnant at all? I only understand my situation and you’ll always prefer what is on the other side of the fence.
I attended a show and sat through as my body went about it’s business. We attended the wedding and other social functions this weekend past.
I am exhausted.
I am glad we told people about our other losses as it means you don’t have to put on your mask for social occasions and I realise how important it is to talk about these things. It’s hard to be energetic, social and happy when your body is getting rid of a pregnancy.
I sit here as I write this post at the tail end of miscarriage number three.
My beautiful dog is resting after his belly was drained of fluid this morning.
I went food shopping and burst into tears on the way home because I was so overwhelmed by everything all at once.
Frodo’s burden is becoming too much to bear and the road ahead looks dim.
The Phial of Galadriel, also known as the star-glass, is a gift that Galadriel gives to Frodo as he leaves Lothlórien in The Fellowship of the Ring. It is a crystal that glows with the light of the elves’ favorite star, Eärendil (the Morning and Evening star).
“May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out “
Gladriel The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Hope is something that I am trying to cling to. But right now, a lot of my world is dark. That is ok. Darkness is necessary sometimes. If we didn’t have it, we wouldn’t appreciate the light – or even know it exists at all.
I carry hope. Like the phial. Maybe it will light the darkness for me and Samwise as we go on our journey alone.
For now, I am working through my burden and trying to learn to share the load with Samwise as we walk on. My steps are feeling heavy and my heart is torn between many different things. My brain is aching and my disdain for my body continues as I try and find some source of comfort in each day. I don’t know what will happen at our next appointment but I know we are in good hands.
“… Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass.’ The Balrog made no answer. The fire in it seemed to die, but the darkness grew. “
J.R.R. Tolkein, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
** note: this post contains my experience of a D&Csurgical procedure for missed miscarriage.
The Fellowship questions whether they have made the right decision in deciding to take the mines as a passage through the Misty Mountains. The dwarves who once inhabited the mines have been slain long ago and, to make matters worse, they are attacked by orcs as well as a cave troll! How will this journey end for the Fellowship? Frodo was now aware of Gollum following him around like a cold little shadow and the recent battle had left everyone shaken.
For more than five thousand years the Balrog, named Durin’s Bane, had taken refuge in Moria only to be woken from it’s slumber by the Fellowship as they attempted to cross the bridge near the end of their journey through the mines.
Balrog’s, in the Lord of the Rings, are described as ” generally taking the form of tall, menacing beings roughly in the shape of a Man, though seeming to consist or be surrounded by shadow. Constantly burning.” To someone who had never had surgery before, never had a general anaesthetic (let alone being admitted to hospital for any reason!) I guess I did see this procedure as being wrapped in shadow with the accompanying fear ‘constantly burning’ away in the back of my brain.
When given the option, we felt that having the Dilation and Cutterage (D&C) surgery was the best option because: 1. The worst would be over quickly rather than a build up and recovery like the natural miscarriage 2. I wouldn’t have to wait around for my body to realise what had happened which was better for me mentally AND physically 3. I would be able to have genetic testing done on our bumble to determine whether the cause of the miscarriage was genetics or something to do with my ability to carry the pregnancy – reassurance moving forward. 4. I could return to getting on with life quicker this way
It’s not hard to see why, after my last experience, that this pathway was a lot more appealing. The cons? 1. Surgery 2. A general anaesthetic 3. Cost (which was basically the excess on my private health insurance – thank goodness for that!) 4. Possible risks and complications (as with any procedure, but these were minimal and not all that different from a natural miscarriage).
So the surgery was scheduled for the Thursday, this was two days after our initial appointment with the specialist. Two days felt like a lifetime. I filled out the hospital admission form online and read through the material I had been given. I should be ok to return to work the following Tuesday given everything goes as planned. I spoke with the Anesthetist prior to the surgery to ensure that I would not be intubated during the GA. Because this procedure is so quick (approximately 20 minutes) I will not be under for long enough to intubate unless they have to. He did give me the option of a spinal epidural instead but the thought of being awake and conscious for the procedure made that a hard no. Some of you may be wondering why I made this call, I was scheduled to be on stage for a performance in approximately 5 weeks after the procedure and needed to ensure that my vocal cords would not be at risk of a Julie Andrews moment. Having a LMP mask is much less risky so I am glad I made the call to check for my own reassurance.
The procedure in itself is fairly simple. Dilation is dilation. I don’t need to explain that – pretty much like the dreaded pap smears we all have to experience as being a woman. Cutterage refers to the use of a curette which is a tool designed to scrape away the uterine lining. I was early enough in my pregnancy to have a suction D&C which I am sure I do not need to go into much detail for you to imagine what that entails. Anyway, knocked out and all over in 20 mins.
That’s so quick. Compared to a natural miscarriage of course which took over 10 days from start to finish. It all seems a bit clinical and cold when you think about it. So I tried not to dwell on that too much.
The lead up to the surgery was a bit of an emotional mess for me. I was torn between the thought of experiencing my first hospital admission, my first general anaesthetic and the fear surrounding the procedure itself. I think all the waiting between finding out we were going through another miscarriage and now this small two day wait for the surgery was starting to take it’s toll on my sanity. Knowing that you are carrying your lifeless baby and having to sit around and wait is really a curse in itself and certainly doesn’t do much for your mental state.
The day finally came for my surgery and I had been given strict instructions to fast from 8am. No food and no drink or water until my surgery which was scheduled for 4:30pm. My Samwise had taken the day off work to be with me which I was eternally grateful for and a clung to him emotionally and physically like a limpet the whole day.
** Here is a picture of a limpet for those who don’t know what they are… well, many limpets. FYI – the collective noun for a group of limpets is a bungalow and I feel that is an excellent fact to share. They are bastards to try and pull off a rock as they have mega suction. This was an accurate description of me at the time.
Preparing to go to the hospital was a mixture of relief, nervousness and fear. Relief because I had waited so long to feel closure, and the rest because I had never had surgery or a GA before. My husband reassured me that it would be ‘the best sleep I ever had’. I went with that as it sounded pretty good after weeks of disrupted sleep and bad dreams.
Pre-admission was fairly quick and the hospital staff and nursing staff were amazing. They took my blood pressure in a small room and asked me how much I weighed… I had no idea… and didn’t want to know. So I stood on the scale and felt even more awful when I realised the effect of no exercise, hormones and emotions all over the place. I had put on nearly 12 kg in the past 6 months alone. Apparently this is common, but I just felt like it was another nail in the coffin of my self esteem. I felt ugly, tired and hormonal. I felt angry that I had let myself get to this.
I was given a pill before they took me into the pre-surgery area. This pill is commonly given before a D&C and is called Misoprostrol. They gave me two and I had to place them in either side of my cheek and let them dissolve. Basically, this pill starts the miscarriage process by dilating the cervix which obviously makes surgery easier as your cervix during pregnany is basically Fort Knox… or that impossible door into the Dwarven Kingdom. It does also make you look like your cheeks are either super sunburned or on fire and also tastes like chalk. So that’s a bonus?
Anyway, it should start working in around 30 mins, so they got me tucked into a bed (with my little red hat on and red band as I am allergic to penicillin) and gave me a heads up about expecting some cramps but let them know if I am uncomfortable. More waiting, but having worked in a hospital for nearly 10 years, I at least understood the whole process from the other side. There was a couple of people in front of me. I briefly made eye contact with the lady who was before me as we passed each other in pre-admission. Her husband was there too.
The nurse came along to tell me things were going to be around 30 – 40 mins behind schedule and offered me this CRAZY bed heating thing where they basically blew hot air (gently) under my blanket. It was insane. I need it at home. The cramps had started but they were very mild, so they didn’t really bother me. The anxiety and waiting was honestly worse than anything physical.
My doctor came and spoke to me and asked me if I had any questions about 5 minutes before they took me around to surgery. He told me they would give me an anti-D shot in recovery too. This is generally a precaution with surgery as I am a negative blood type and my husband is positive. This basically means that if the baby has positive blood and our blood mixes that my immune system will develop antibodies towards positive blood. This won’t affect me with this pregnancy but can with subsequent as if that little antibody army exists they can attack the growing fetus if they are also positive.
I didn’t have any questions. Well, if I did they weren’t in the forefront of my mind… obviously in line behind all the emotions and nervousness. Suddenly the whole ‘clinical’ side of what was about to happen really hit home. I was beyond ready to get everything over with, especially with a missed miscarriage. I told myself that without this surgery I could be waiting weeks. I could get an infection. I wouldn’t be able to have the genetic testing to help determine what went wrong. The worst would be over soon (unlike the last time!). So the pros outweighed the cons.
But I was still sad. Our little bumble would be surgically ‘suctioned’ out. That sounds so awful no matter how I try and word it.
I said goodbye to my husband and put on my best brave face. Red cheeks and all.
I forgot just how many people there are in an operating theatre. It has been nearly 8 years since I have been in one myself (albeit scrubbed up and on the other side to observe Orthopaedic Surgery). There was my anaesthetist, his assistant, three other nurses, my surgeon and his assistant. That’s 8 people including me! The lights are bright and the whole thing made me feel a little confronted and embarrassed (even though I knew it was all part of it). My bed was moved to the side of the operating table and I slid myself over on the command of the nurses.
My anaethetist was lovely and him and his nurse took over from there. He gave me an anti nausea drug first through my IV and then the GA started. The last thing I remember is the nurse saying:
“Are those your natural eyelashes?!”
“Yes.” I replied
“That’s insane, I wish I had eyelashes like that…”
Next thing I remember is opening my eyes in recovery. Like waking from one of those dreams where you think you are falling and you almost startle yourself awake.
“You’re in recovery, it’s all over”
The lovely nurse said to me as she sat beside my bed and placed a hand on my shoulder.
“It all went perfectly, your husband is on his way. We are just going to monitor you and let you wake up properly. Then you can have a much needed cup of tea and something to eat”
She smiled gently and I felt relieved.
There was a little bit of cramping but otherwise I felt fine. A little ‘out of it’ but thankfully no major nausea. They gave me some paracetomol via my IV for the cramps.
“This stuff is a lot better than the tablets! Just you wait!” laughed the nurse.
After about 20 minutes she instructed me on how to get out of bed and get myself changed. I noticed they had already given me a sanitary pad but there was virtually no bleeding anyway until I stood up, thankfully it’s nothing more than the awful changes in posture you get with your period. Ladies, I know you understand that. Men, count yourselves lucky.
I slowly got myself changed as my head was a little woozy. I kind of don’t remember much really in the way of what I was feeling. Emotions were a little numb. I was happy things went well and that the worst was over. I just wanted to go home with my husband.
I can tell you, after fasting from food and water since 7am I was pretty happy to have a simple sandwich and a cup of tea. The cramps were extremely mild (if you are used to normal period pain) and, apart from being a little tired and slow I was feeling ok. I lay in the reclining chair and waited patiently for that familiar face to walk through the doors.
Soon enough he came and I felt relieved and less numb. My Samwise always brings lots of love and has the best cuddles for times like these.
“Let’s go home, baby” he said as he helped me up.
We were given some information and said goodbye to the lovely nursing team. I have to say a HUGE thank you to the team at the Waverly Private Hospital. They were all so caring and warm. No one made it feel any more clinical than it was and the kindness certainly helped to make a less than pleasant experience more tolerable. Thank you. What a hard area of the hospital to be a nurse in. So much sadness and emotions.
Recovery was fairly straight forward. I had a quiet 3 – 4 days at home with bleeding lasting a couple of days and very minimal. I did have a small freak out moment when bleeding returned 5 days after the surgery, but this is normal in some cases and my wonderful surgeon reassured me when I made a typical panicked phone call.
The one thing I have to say is prepare for the GA to muck with your bowels. Generally you end up constipated which, on top of everything else, is extremely uncomfortable. The downside? You can’t strain as it causes fabulous sharp pains in your tummy and cramping! Bowel and uterus are kind of close buddies and cramping in one generally upsets the other. If you have experienced this you totally get me – if not, and you are worried DON’T BE…. it’s normal and will pass after about a week or so. If in doubt, DON’T DR GOOGLE! Call your friendly nurse or surgeon.
My surgeons team called me to check up on me the next day and after two weeks. The hospital also called to check on me after a couple of days which was super lovely.
I don’t really know what I felt at this point to be honest.
Angry: that this had happened again, that I had to go through this, that WE had to go through this. Angry at my friend who were pregnant and managing this so easily and we just couldn’t.
Upset: at the fact that my body felt like it was failing me. I was upset at bleeding again. Upset that I couldn’t do what I was meant to be able to do as a woman. Upset for our future.
Relieved: that the worst was over with the surgery being done. Relieved that we had a good doctor and testing being done.
Numb: emotions were so much that I just shut down really. Overwhelmed and over-processing.
I felt crampy. moody, achy and just generally horrible. I had been told not to exercise and was comfort eating and had put on 10kg since the first pregnancy.
I hated myself and the way I looked. I shed tears trying to put on clothes, looking at my ‘useless’ body in the mirror and wondering what I did to deserve this.
I scrolled through pictures of myself on Facebook and beat myself up further for believing I was overweight or ugly back then. I can tell you it’s nothing to what I was feeling now.
You go through so much and so does your body, and at the end of it you look at yourself and that makes you feel even worse. My body was useless to me and I felt horrible. I didn’t understand why my husband still wanted me around. Why not just trade me in? Someone younger and sexier who can do this thing I couldn’t?
You beat yourself up so much. There is so much to be upset and angry for and although you tell yourself that it’s not the case – the feelings remain and are hard to shake off.
I remain tired with little self confidence these days. I have tried to get back on the horse of exercise and weight loss and feeling good about myself but it’s so hard. If I had the choice again I would certainly do the surgery – but my mind still wanders and wonders whether I have scar tissue and because of that surgery I will now struggle to get pregnant. Such a small chance of that happening. But there is such a small chance of being like me and having multiple miscarriages – so while the world is handing out the bad luck… what’s one more thing?
Recovery was quick in the end really. I was back to work the following Tuesday and struggling through my days. I performed in a show 4 weeks after my miscarriage, still battling a hormone ravaged body and voice. To top it off, I got my first period after the D&C 3.5 weeks after (as predicted) and just before opening night… cos you know… why not?
The Balrog was a fight. I feel like whatever wizard I had walking this path with me and hopefully going to use some magic to help me get through it all … was gone. Like Gandalf.
Now all I felt was sadness, me and Samwise… walking hand in hand, dirty, emotionally at a loss after the fight, tired, defeated and carrying a heavy burden between us.
Gollum followed us everywhere. Some days he is close and I feel lost, angry and emotional and like giving up is the best option. Some days he trails further behind and I get a sense of normalcy… for a second.
The road looms ahead and we trudge on. Numb, but clinging to some hope. There must be something to cling to, right?
” A deep uneasiness, growing to dread, crept over him [Frodo] again. Though he had been healed in Rivendell of the knife-stroke, that grim wound had not been without effect. His senses were sharper and more aware of things that could not be seen. One sign of change that he soon had noticed was that he could see more in the dark than any of his companions, save perhaps Gandalf. […] He felt the certainty of evil ahead and of evil following; but he said nothing…”
Frodo Baggins, The Mines of Moria. The Fellowship of the Ring. J.R.R.Tolkein
In only 3 short cycles after our first miscarriage. We were pregnant again.
But this time would be different?
But this time was different.
Frodo still carries the effects of his wound and, unbeknownst to the others in the Fellowship, he continues on the journey. Through the Misty Mountains.
We decided to go home. Home, for those who don’t know, is Middle Earth or New Zealand for me. A safe place and surrounded by family. We had become desperate for the break and I had not had recreational leave for over 15 months from work. It became apparent that after our last couple of months that we needed to make decisions for us and have space and time where we could heal. So home we went.
I guess I suspected something when I started spotting around 6 days before my period was due. However, as my cycle had yet to really settle into the regular pattern it once was, I kind of took it with a grain of salt. We arrived back home in Australia after a wonderful couple of weeks feeling refreshed and slightly more social. I went to put my toiletry items back in the bathroom cabinet and realised I still had one pregnancy test left. I don’t know why I did it, but I took the test. Leaving it on the vanity, I continued to unpack and almost forgot about it.
A faded second line.
Were we pregnant again? So quickly? I told my husband and we decided to retest again in the morning to confirm as the line was a little faint – but certainly there. Morning came… another test – digital this time. YES +
I can’t tell you in words exactly what I felt. But it was a combination of fear, excitement, relief and anxiety. You see, if you have had a miscarriage before, and certainly if you don’t already have a child, a positive pregnancy test now doesn’t just mean excitement. I felt awful for feeling fearful and anxious. I should be excited and happy right? Well I was, just underneath a cover of fear. Could we go through this again? I heard the doctors words in my ear “Having another miscarriage is extremely unlikely. There is a greater chance of your next pregnancy being fine”. So I squashed the fear and booked a GP appointment that afternoon.
What happened from here is a normal progression when you have had a previous pregnancy loss. Immediately I was taken for HCG (remember, this is the pregnancy hormone) tests 2 days apart. More needles. They came back good – doubling every 2 days like they should. I welcomed the arrival of pregnancy symptoms this time, nausea, appetite changes, aversion to foods and smells and bloating. To others, these symptoms are often a source of complaints and negativity during their pregnancy journey. To the ones of us who have suffered loss – they are magical. I felt sick – but so happy to be feeling something.
We decided to keep this to ourselves, and only tell who was necessary. I was involved in a musical and so told our production team and we also told my work so that they knew in case I needed to go to the doctor or something happened. We tried to protect ourselves by keeping things quieter. We didn’t even tell our families. We were still a bit in our bubble and wanted to be ‘safe’ before we involved anyone else. Frodo and Samwise went it alone.
What I didn’t expect was the anxiety that was to follow me round like a lost puppy each day. Let me explain something to you about pain and neuroscience – as a Physiotherapist, this is language I have learnt to speak over many years and analogies kind of bring me home (as you have probably realized!).
Pain is in the brain. We learn to protect ourselves by observation and experience. Watch a toddler when they have their first stubbed toe – the first thing they will do is look to an adult – there is a beat… a pause before the tears. In this moment, the body is processing what has happened and determining whether this is a situation to worry about, or whether it is ok. Now a toddler has little experience to draw on, so looking to an adult helps the brain to confirm whether this is a worry or not. If the adult reacts with “OH MY GOD ARE YOU OK YOU POOR THING WHAT HAS HAPPENED LOOK AT THE BLOOD QUICKLY COME HERE” then the child will almost immediately begin to scream like a mandrake and the brain is now imprinted with “this is dangerous”. If the adult reacts with a calm “It’s ok, you’ll be alright. How about we kiss it better and get you a band aid? Sound good?” then the child is more likely to remain calm.
The child that reacts with the scream will likely, in future, exhibit that same reaction straight away when they next stub their toe. The child that has a calm reaction will likely stick out their bottom lip the next time they stub their toe and ask for a band aid.
What does this have to do with the price of fish? Well, you never really forget trauma. You learn to accept it and understand it which makes it easier to cope but the memory is literally burned into your brain. My reaction to the first miscarriage was not an abnormal tale from what most people would experience. Neither is what I experienced finding out I was pregnant again.
You remember trauma.
Where my initial reaction to the spotting that occurred during the first pregnancy was one of “It could be normal, don’t panic yet.” now knowing that it wasn’t normal and signified the loss of our baby my brain is automatically now wired to be cautious of that symptom should I face this trauma again. It is wired to make me not feel complacent about things and be on alert. This is a protective response that is the magic of neuroscience. The brain is learning that certain things result in certain outcomes (based on previous experiences). Initially, I was happy to have the blood tests and was relieved at the thought of a ‘check up’ early ultrasound…. now I’m not so sure that was a good idea.
You see, most of us would regularly go to the bathroom 4 – 5 times a day? Maybe more? Maybe less? Anyway, usually you go and then get on with your day. Well, 3 – 4 times a day my brain started to panic and create anxiety every time I went to the bathroom just in case I saw blood. Sorry about the TMI, but each time I wiped my breath caught in my throat with my brain preparing itself if there was the slightest tinge of red or pink. It never happened, but it was a constant fear.
Fear and anxiety place you in a state of ‘fight or flight’ with a chemical release in the brain triggering the body to go into protective mode. This, in turn creates stress. Every day, I had people telling me “you need to not stress because that will harm the baby and the pregnancy” and “stress is a cause of miscarriages” and “make sure you are relaxed and calm”. I also had my GP saying “no heavy exercise” so I quit my beloved pole dancing and resolved to walk on the treadmill at the gym.
Most women who have successful pregnancies and have never experienced a miscarriage will enjoy their pregnancy time and the glow and joy it brings. I fear that I have potentially lost this ability having experienced 2 losses from 2 pregnancies with no children. Pregnancy was a mental struggle. If I had symptoms I felt sick and tired but I was relieved to be experiencing them. If I had no symptoms I was stressed and sick with worry that something was wrong. It was really tough and completely out of my control. To the outside, I was happy and content and ‘coping so well’ after our recent loss, but inside I was a bubbling pot of worry ready to overflow.
This may sound extreme but it’s so normal. I must say that I wasn’t a complete wreck and clincially losing the plot. I was just in a state of imbalance and self protection – to the detriment of maintaining daily sanity.
I became bitter towards people complaining about their pregnancy symptoms when I was feeling simply lucky just to have one or two. I certainly don’t hold any grudge or expect people to change their social media posts or not post at all or not talk about their journeys – but I feel it is important to mention. These feelings make you feel like a horrible person. How could I be angry at my friends when they were so happy and I should be happy and sympathetic and empathetic towards them too. What people don’t talk about is that miscarriage kind of warps your ability to empathise like you used to. Especially if that is your personality type like mine.
Week 6 came. Time for our first early scan. We went back to the place where the bomb had dropped. It felt a little surreal and those protective feelings started all over again. My hands shook a little in the wait room as we sat.
I felt a little sick walking into the room. Even though the ultrasound technician was lovely I was frought with worry. She sensed that and calmly talked us through everything she was seeing.
“I can see the yolk sac” she said as she pointed this out on the screen….”but no fetus….”
More searching around (which by the way, is uncomfortable beyond all hell if you haven’t experienced an internal ultrasound).
“Hmmm……oh! Wait! There it is”…. relief.
“And there is a little heart beat”……. thInank God.
We were able to see our little bumble’s heart beat on the screen – so small. The fetus was only 3mm in length but there it was. A little flutter. Relief and fascination.
It turns out our Bumble was only just 6 weeks instead of 6.5 as we had hoped and so the fetal pole (heart beat) was able to be seen but a measurement was unable to be taken which is common this early on. We were encouraged to come back for another ultrasound a week later to see if we could get a measure of the heart beat then.
In the mean time, my excitement and happiness continued to tentatively grow. My husband and I felt so happy for getting this far and seeing a heart beat this time. I continued to love my small amounts of symptoms as they came and didn’t even mind feeling bloated and tired all the time. I remember my husband saying after the ultrasound “Seeing the heart beat was so good. Are you ok?”, I was quiet.
“I just don’t want to get my hopes up, I am so excited and happy but I am still so nervous and anxious”
“I understand” he said.
A week passed, but on the Sunday I had the tiniest bit of spotting. Just the once and that was all. I also realised that what symptoms of pregnancy I was feeling had been fairly dormant over the last few days. I tried not to over think it, I mean, we still had a heart beat not 6 days ago right?
So I went back for another ultrasound.
“I’m sorry, I can’t find the heart beat”
The technician left the room to consult with the doctor as I had my ultrasounds in two different places. She returned and said:
“I don’t think this pregnancy is viable, but we would like you to come back in another week for a scan to be sure.”
My husband asked “What chance is there that we could see a heartbeat then?”
She replied “I am 99% sure that we will not.”
You don’t think you can go through it again. But here we were. I left the ultrasound and drove home in silence. Then I burst into tears – again, tearing myself down for everything I did wrong and blaming myself for what happened. Feeling so angry and frustrated with the world. Angry that there are drug addicts who eat nothing but Maccas who can get pregnant and stay pregnant. Frustrated that this had happened again and that I couldn’t do what I am supposed to be able to do. Upset that I now had to face another miscarriage and all this emotion again.
I asked my husband if he wanted to leave me for someone who could give him a child more easily. I said I would understand if that’s what he needed to do. I felt alone again, and had an overwhelming feeling that I should be alone because I was defective in some way.
I had a work trip to Sydney planned for that coming Thursday – Saturday and debated staying home or going. As this was another ‘missed miscarriage’ it could be weeks or days or hours before my body realised what was happening and decided to take action. As it was I took a few days off work (which I immediately felt guilty for) because the last thing I wanted to do was listen to other people complain about their injuries and pain and expect myself to be empathetic. I was miserable and didn’t need others to have to deal with that so I retreated into my bubble.
I did end up going to Sydney for the course. My brain wasn’t really there but I am glad I went rather than spending all that money and staying home and regretting it. At the worst, if something happened whilst I was there I could go to the hospital. Only issue was, I was alone. Alone at the airport. Alone at the hotel. Alone in my head. I tried to make sure I was texting and contacting my husband as much as possible. I wanted to be home but didn’t want to kick myself any more than I already was for missing the course too.
When I returned home we had been lucky enough to have a friend recommend a wonderful doctor for us to see that Tuesday after our final ultrasound on Monday. He specialized as an OBGYN as well as fertility and also Gynecological surgery. Monday came and I dreaded every second of it…another internal ultrasound to nail the coffin shut.
“I’m sorry, guys. There is no heartbeat”
At this point I felt numb. Spending a week just waiting for confirmation knowing that your baby is dead inside you is just awful. I’m sorry for putting it like that but that’s what it was like to me. Reality is it could have been weeks, days or hours before my body realised what had happened and decided to take action. So we opted for a D&C (suction) with the doctor that coming Thursday. For those who don’t know what this is its a dilation and cutterage or a surgical abortion/miscarriage. I will explain this more in my next post.
I think I was more scared because I had never been admitted to hospital or had a general anaesthetic before. I had worked in a hospital for over 8 years but never been in as a patient. So the whole experience was a little heightened I guess.
I think having a timeline of when it was all going to essentially be over this time was appealing (given the last natural experience). I was in good hands with a wonderful surgeon and doctor and the plan also being to carry out some genetic testing on the fetus after surgery to determine whether it was genetics that ended the pregnancy or whether something else may be involved. At this point, more answers are welcome so I am currently still awaiting these results.
I’d like to tell you all that it is all too familiar and therefore easier the second time around. Unfortunately I don’t come with that good news. It’s not.
The frustration was higher, the disappointment was higher and the self deprecation is so much higher. I guess you hope that when you roll the dice a second time that you will come up a winner. Gamblers fallacy means that with each pregnancy your odds are reset. Just because you experience it once, doesn’t mean you are exempt from it the second time around. We are living proof.
We said we were going to be open about miscarriage and try to break the stigma, but I must say, I really didn’t feel like telling people that “I had failed again”. I know. I know. I haven’t ‘failed’ but I certainly did feel that way at the time.
Frodo’s uneasiness was right. This journey was not going to be easy and the mines were certainly not the smooth path they had hoped for. If you remember, here is where we first meet Gollum… he had been following the Fellowship (and the ring) for three days.
Gandalf: “Sméagol’s life is a sad story. Yes, Sméagol he was once called. Before the Ring found him… before it drove him mad.”
Frodo: “It’s a pity Bilbo didn’t kill him when he had the chance!”
Gandalf: [glancing sharply at Frodo] “Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand. Many that live deserve death, and some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo?”
J.R.R Tolkein, The Lord of The Rings: Fellowship of the ring
I would like to introduce Gollum as the summation of emotions that started to follow me around – anxiety, depression, anger, frustration, misery, fear, defeat, self loathing amongst helplessness, excitement and a glimmer of hope. All this into one, spineless, unrelenting shell of a being. Gollum.
Hope is all I could cling to at this stage, and believe me… there was very little left in me at this point. One day at a time….
‘Alas! there are some wounds that cannot be wholly cured,’ said Gandalf.
‘I fear it may be so with mine,’ said Frodo. ‘There is no real going back. Though I may come to the Shire, it will not seem the same; for I shall not be the same. I am wounded with knife, sting, and tooth, and a long burden. Where shall I find rest?’
Gandalf did not answer.”
Lord of the Rings. J.R.R Tolkein
For those who can’t remember what happens to Frodo after he meets the Nazgul, he is wounded by the Witch King (the leader of the Nazgul) when attempting to escape the Morgul Blade by putting on the ring and escaping to the ‘wraith world’ (not knowing that the Witch King can still see him in the wraith world). He is stabbed in the shoulder and the Nazgul are fought off by Aragorn who arrives just in time to help the Hobbits.
But Frodo is poisoned by the blade and Aragorn must take him to be seen by the Elves at Rivendell.
It’s strange how we can draw parallels from the most bizarre of things. I am not sure whether it is a gift that I generally can turn most life situations into something nerdy – or whether it just shows my nerdy, pop culture side off more. Nevertheless, I feel the parallels help me to word things better and for others to understand.
Life after loss. Regardless of whether it is a pregnancy loss, or the loss of a family member or beloved pet. It’s all the same to me in a way. Grief comes with so many emotions – sadness, anger, resentment, melancholy, shock, disbelief, guilt, shame, loneliness… I could go on. It occurs to me that most of us have experienced this in some way or another. So I guess we can all take comfort in the fact that grief is something that so many identify with – regardless of the cause.
I have, in the last few years, changed the way that I look at emotions. I grew up believing in ‘negative emotions’ (such as sadness, anger, frustration, guilt, shame etc.) and ‘positive emotions’ (such as happiness, joy, kindness, enthusiasm, empathy). I believe that positive emotions were good – and I should always show these to people and strive to live in this state. I told myself that negative emotions were bad, I shouldn’t show them to others because that makes me a bad person and will cause them to think ill of me. I spent my life trying to ‘be positive’ and constantly striving to tip my emotional see-saw into positive. I thought happiness was the natural state for human beings and that in order to live a full life I NEEDED to be happy. Not wanted, but NEEDED.
This is ridiculous.
In order to live, we must accept that we, as humans have a FULL array of emotions we will experience in our times. Happiness is one emotion, but there are so many others.
Emotions can be positive OR negative depending on the context. Think about it…. fear can protect us from danger, anger can help us to fight against problems, love can cause us to hurt. If you a grieving it is GOOD to be sad and all those other emotions – that’s what grieving is. I read a book that my husband recommended to me a year or so ago called The Happiness Trap by Dr Russ Harris. This book talks a lot about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) which basically means “learning how to open up and make room for difficult thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations, urges and memories… learning how to open up and let them flow through you without getting swept away by them and without getting into a battle with them. And ‘stay present’ means learning how to engage fully in what you’re doing and focus your attention on where it needs to go”. **
**If this sounds cool to you – check out this page for more information.
I could go on talking about this for ages, but that’s not why we are here. I just needed to provide you a little insight into my crazy brain and how I view the world so that you can better understand what happens next in our story.
I had resolved to accept my emotions for what they are, knowing that they will come and go like the seasons and I will not be ‘stuck’ in this situation forever. I thanked my brain for allowing me to grieve and allowing me to be sad and angry and I took that time to do so. I didn’t pretend that I wasn’t, putting on a face (especially an emotional one) is exhausting and I think being allowed to be emotional is fine. As long as you acknowledge and connect with WHY they are there and accept them without trying to escape them. It’s learning to respond to emotions in a healthy way.
Now, don’t for one second think that I sailed through this whole thing like Chuck Norris riding his mindfulness T-Rex and tearing those ‘negative emotions’ a new asshole with his powerful positivity roundhouse kicks…. although that sounds amazing. I didn’t … but I understand why I had to go through these emotions, why they were there and why I needed a good fellowship around me to help me heal.
That Morgul Blade wound was poison. It cut deep. I could feel the emotions pulsing through my blood stream, trying to take over every part of me until I become a wraith like Frodo was becoming. Fueled by hatred and consumed by grief.
The choice to announce our miscarriage on Social Media was not something I ever thought I would do. But I did. And I am kind of glad. Now, you are entitled to think and do anything you like to help you cope with your own grief, but here’s how it happened for us.
After the post we received countless messages of support, love from people I haven’t spoken to in years, messages saying ‘me too’ and ‘ I understand. As my husband so rightly put it, this was over 400 conversations we didn’t have to have. Only a week after my miscarriage we were back at rehearsals preparing for a huge concert for which we were a part of both in organisation and performance. Everyone knew what had happened but no one made a point of it, people just gave us hugs, said ‘Welcome back’ and let us carry on with our lives. This was SO helpful for me.
I think a lot of people don’t know what to do when someone is going through grief. My advice? Send them a message, let them know you are thinking of them and that you are there. That is enough. It is so much more than you think.
I didn’t want anyone around me apart from my Samwise. I wanted our bubble and so did he. But that bubble was reinforced by the love and support of our fellowship. It’s what kept us strong.
You will feel helpless, useless and lost for words if you know someone going through loss of any kind. But I think you need not do much more than simply letting them know they are loved and that you are there for them when they are ready. We eventually came out of our bubble when we were happy to and we are so grateful for those who gave us time to do that on our own terms.
Things that weren’t helpful for me (personally) were: – “At least you can get pregnant” – “There is always IVF” -“You need to take [insert natural therapy here]. Here is a link to all of them” -“At least you weren’t very far along” -“It just wasn’t meant to be” -“My friend had two miscarriages and now they have two kids. You’ll be fine” – “Have you been checked for bla bla bla?” -“Your body is just doing its job” -“You know 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage?”
I think Jenna Kutcher put it so well in her blog post HERE as to why these phrases just weren’t helpful at the time. Even if you mean well. Don’t forget, we are poisoned with our own emotions and acting and thinking about things rationally is really a huge ask at this point. If you’re not sure why some of these phrases really got to me – please message me or comment or reach out and I will explain (I just don’t want this post to be an extension of War and Peace!).
When in doubt. Keep it simple.
It’s not that I don’t want to understand the good place you are coming from when you say these things. It’s just that I can’t be completely rational right now and the emotions (being as raw as they are) are not allowing me to react calmly. Worst thing is, I said to most of these people “thanks so much” and just internalized the fact that they had really hurt me and struck a nerve. But I think that’s a gut reaction for me at the best of times.
One of the other sad reactions from this journey was making the decision to unfollow a lot of my friends on social media and actively try and avoid certain people and conversations. It will hurt to see your pregnant friends on Facebook and even more so when you see pregnancy announcement after pregnancy announcement. It will hurt to see your friends sharing pictures of their families and pictures of their newborns. It will hurt bad.
In no way do I want to discourage my beautiful friends and family from sharing their journeys!!!!!! Remember, we have a temporary solution on social media called an unfollow button which I can use to filter my feed so it helps with my coping. When I am ready, I will be able to enjoy your pictures and pages more. But right now, seeing someone complain about their pregnancy aches and pains really hits a nerve when all you want is to still BE pregnant. I am sure you can all understand this. It’s one of the most horrible outcomes of a miscarriage and it smacks you like a freight train out of no where when you least expect it. I actually feel kind of horrible writing this part, but anyone who has gone through this will likely be able to sympathize with me.
I have said “no” to baby showers. I am sorry.
I have said “no” to visits with my friends who have newborns. I am sorry.
I have said “no” to social situations that may involve friends who are pregnant discussing their upcoming due dates or symptoms. Or even situations where all my friends have kids and discuss how tired they are and what pests their little ones are being today. I am sorry.
I am so sorry.
I truly am. Being super blunt, I actually feel like a total dick saying this and admitting to it. I feel like an even bigger dick by clicking “unfollow” or saying “no”.
But right now I need this poison to leave my body and that will take rest, time, love and my bubble.
But it will heal. I will never be quite the same. But I will be ok. And (spoiler alert!) I was ok.
I actually started writing this post 6 days ago and it has been quite difficult to finish and post. I guess the emotional aftermath of these things is so different for everyone. I feel like I am treading a fine line between my own emotions and feelings and being conscious of offending those around me in terms of what was said. I never took any personal offence to anything that was said but there were things that were helpful and not helpful. At the end of the day, everyone finds it hard to know what to say and do around someone who is going through a tough time or grieving so it’s never easy.
I also realized that there is a lot of feelings of negative focus as a woman during times when you are getting fertility tests or going through a miscarriage in the sense that there is more tests/reasons for things to be something wrong with your system than the males. However, interestingly enough, after a miscarriage there is a lot of positive attention directed at the woman with the man being often (and not intentionally!) neglected of how he is coping and feeling. We were lucky as our friends and family almost always asked how the both of us were doing. But I think it is still an interesting point to make.
Although I was off work, my husband went back almost immediately. Running your own business means you don’t have the luxury of carers/sick leave unless you want to forfeit your income. I did ask my husband how he felt during this time. He said he was glad that he worked from home and knew that he was able to check on me or help at any time. He said he couldn’t imagine how much harder it would have been had he needed to leave home to work each day. Which I think is a fair point to make as our situation is obviously different in that way. He said that he could “handle the grief” as I think grief is something we have all felt at some point in our lives. But he said watching me go through the physical and mental pain was the worst part of all – especially when he was feeling so helpless.
So, if you are going through this too – tell people if they are being helpful as chances are they most likely think they’re not.
It’s hard to eloquently and systematically put into words what the emotional journey is like after a miscarriage. I was so upset, angry then frustrated, then lonely, then overwhelmed, then relieved, then anxious…. Needless to say that it wasn’t dissimilar to Rivendell where we went through some healing with the help of friends and family. A Fellowship was formed and we felt protected, supported and loved and ready to tackle the next phase of our journey.
For those wondering, it took 3 weeks after my natural miscarriage for my cycle to return. You often need to get blood tests every few days to ensure that your HcG is dropping as it should. Your cycle can be a little different afterwards – think of it like your body flicking a switch off and on again. I actually lost all my usual PMS symptoms and my years of 1 – 3 days of horrible period pain. So I guess that is a definite silver lining!
I kind of stopped counting, following cycles and apps after this miscarriage. Mainly because I was tired and also because my cycle had become a little unreliable – such is the case after miscarriage. I went from every 28 days to between 26 and 31 days so it became a little anxiety causing to try and predict things.
On our 3rd cycle after the miscarriage our adventure became a little exciting again… but that’s a tale for the next post….
To all those who have read or are reading this journey. I thank you.
Thank you to our Fellowship (you all know who you are) for walking with us and supporting our journey.
Thank you for all the messages, love, support and cards/gifts during our tough times. Even if you didn’t know what to say you all helped so much. Sometimes keeping it simple is the best way to go.
I feel so humbled and privileged to have such an amazing lot of people surrounding us. To all those who sent us messages and told me of their losses and their journeys… THANK YOU. THANK YOU SO MUCH. You made me feel like I wasn’t alone and that is so precious.
“You can trust us to stick to you, through thick and thin – to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours – closer than you keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo.”
Merry to Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring.
I hope this journey can do the same for others.
Onwards…… to the Misty Mountains and the Mines of Moria…