Miscarriage – 10 years on

Had things taken a different turn, today I would have been celebrating the tenth birthday of a different daughter, instead of preparing for the second birthday of another. And having had a good long phone chat with a friend who has just lost her baby through a late miscarriage, I got to thinking about the long term effects of miscarriage.

My friend is past the hibernating, days-taking-weeks-to-pass stage and has started to think about what happens next. In general, I mean, not about thinking about trying again. Did I remember this? she asked. I do. I remember days feeling numb, of sitting at the table staring into space, unable to move and not being sure what to do. I remember not coping with anything other than the slow funereal dirge played on Radio 3. I remember my friend being there to help me – of doing incredibly kind things like offering to scrub my mattress which was still stained with amniotic fluid and blood, of making me lunch, of being there. And then I remember that feeling being gone, and in its place was a restless twitchy feeling. I wanted more.

At the time I was working at Waterstone’s selling books. A low paid, low respected job but I made some lovely friends there and of course met S there. It was, in retrospect, quite a poor choice for a couple expecting a child – low wages, few prospects. And so I used the post-miscarriage time to look for new opportunities. I started a writing course and applied for a secondment at work which got me into the marketing and events side of bookselling. I loved this and it helped my career, such as it is.

There are things I’ve done now, places I’ve been, people I’ve met, that I would never have experienced had I had the baby. And I can’t bring myself to regret these. Yet it’s obvious that I would want the circumstances of these experiences to be different. Should I have had to sacrifice her to achieve more? No. And yet I have had greater flexibility and freedom than I would have done if I’d become a mother at 28.

I did remember picking myself up; I went home for Christmas just after the loss and was able to spend time with my family and my best friend, the equivalent of being hugged for days. And I returned to work, and moved on. But I thought about her every day, consistently for at least six or seven years. And then most days. And we mark the week we lost her with a short trip to the cemetery where her ashes are scattered each year – I leave chocolate for her in the babies’ garden.

The thing that I think about now, having learnt so much about children in the last two years is that there’s a good chance that, had she lived, we wouldn’t have had E. And I wouldn’t have experienced E and her personality. We would have a ten year old now instead, and be thinking about secondary schools and the onset of teenager-dom. I don’t think I’m ready for that. Having had two years of E, I know now that I would have missed out on so much without her. And yet I’d have different memories instead, of a different baby, of the same milestones with a different personality. The hardest thing to deal with is the gaping hole you feel of missing a baby and a person that you never knew.

S spoke to my friend a few weeks ago and asked how she was. She told me he passed on this advice: ‘You never get over it but you learn how to live with it.’ He’s right and yet we don’t discuss this together. It’s an opinion he’s not shared with me. He’s not needed to. It’s our shared experience and somehow we deal with it separately which suits both of us.

My friend and I sat and talked about how it’s easy to become bitter. To sit and think about how unfair it is, to wonder how we have both joined that statistic about late miscarriages, the post-12 weeks losses. And yet the loss altered me as a person and made me better able to empathise with people than I did before. I’m not saying this came overnight, you understand. But since the miscarriage I’ve had more moments kicking myself for saying something wrong, more moments genuinely trying to be a better person, than I did before that I really feel somewhere I was shaken up into looking outwards more.

I think I’m better prepared now to be a mother than I was then. I feel more confident with myself and less frustrated. I hope I’ve have made the most of the eight years between pregnancies and I don’t regret seizing the chance to do so. And yet I hope my lost girl knows how much I miss her, how much I am still so angry that she lost her chance to live and to make me laugh and be proud. When E is bigger and more able to understand I will tell her about her big sister, and explain why the teddy that sits in the corner of her room has 2004 embroidered on his foot. And hopefully she’ll then understand why I have days when I just have to cuddle her and feel her strong bones and smell her hair and feel like I cannot let her go.


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7 Responses to Miscarriage – 10 years on

  1. Mum says:

    You were right about the effect that had on me! You should know that I still think about Ellen on a regular basis & still miss her too.

  2. Steve Padget says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts today. Your post made me weep for those known and unknown to me who have shared the same experience. When the tears had subsided I reflected on our two, now 17 and 23, and the good fortune that has blessed their lives. Now the strings are longer; and although the knots are firm and the anchors tight that profound joy of parenthood is always tainted with anxiety as these new voyagers sail forth, seek and find. Nothing can be taken for granted and I was glad to be reminded and to think on those whose voyages didn’t begin and the people that love them still.

  3. Bee Pahnke says:

    My mum had a miscarriage before me. And she was open with me and my brothers about it. She explained how big the little girl would have been when my mum miscarried. And she told me that if that baby had lived, I probably wouldn’t be here, because they were planning on stopping at three.

    If I’m honest, when she said that I felt a bit weird. I was only a child at the time, probably 10 or so, but I remember thinking ‘Am I supposed to be pleased and grateful about my sister dying, and you being so sad? Are *you* pleased that the other baby died, because it meant you got me? Or are you sad that I made it and she didn’t? Do you wish you’d had her instead of me? Does you being this sad about her not being here, but knowing if you’d had her you wouldn’t have had me, mean you wish you’d had her and not me?’

    I’m not at all saying I wish she hadn’t talked to me about it – I’m so glad she did. It gave me a greater appreciation of how precious life is. And that not everything is guaranteed, sometimes grownups can’t have babies. And just because someone’s pregnant doesn’t mean they’ll definitely have a baby. I wouldn’t change the fact that she told me, it was one of the first times I properly understood my mother as a person, not just *my* mum.

    But I would say, I suppose as a word of wisdom from the younger sister of a lost baby, do think carefully about how you talk about it to E. As an adult, I know of course that my mum didn’t mean for me to feel any of those confused feelings. And chances are, she was probably confused about her own feelings too. But it did leave me feeling a little, well, sad I suppose.

    E is going to be so proud to have a mother as strong and kind as you, Sue.


    • basfordianthoughts says:

      Thank you so much Bee, that’s really useful to remember. It is all very confusing and conflicting feelings exactly like those you describe don’t help. I know that I would be bereft if E had not come into my life and I’m sure that’s how your mum feels too. But it’s one to word carefully so I don’t upset her.
      S xx

  4. Pingback: A World Without Downs – a different POV | You can lead a body to motherhood…

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