On personal grief – a messy post

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It feels only appropriate to preface this post by saying that it was difficult to write, then difficult to decide whether to share, and that it may therefore be difficult for some people to read. But as this blog is a place for me to record my life, and as this is an issue that I think should be talked about, I hope some people will find comfort in it, and that someday I will be able to read it from a different perspective, too.

Today, R & I were supposed to visit the hospital for the happiest of reasons – the 12 week scan for our little one. But instead, we were there last month for an early scan after a brief episode of bleeding, and the latter half of July was pretty much occupied with the frankly horrendous business of a miscarriage, which has undoubtedly been the worst experience of my life (bouts of clinical depression included). I had planned to share the full story in this post, but after writing it down I realised that I’m not ready for that yet, though I may eventually.

But the short version is that I had what’s sometimes termed a silent miscarriage, or a missed miscarriage, or a delayed miscarriage. I found out a month ago at that scan that our baby had no heartbeat. It had stopped developing at 7 weeks, a week before the scan. You may not be surprised to learn this was the week I couldn’t think of 5 happy things. But even worse, my body carried on producing pregnancy hormones for 2 further weeks, i.e. for 3 weeks after the fetus had stopped developing. Most women who go through this kind of miscarriage need surgery. Often they don’t find out the baby has stopped developing until they go for the 12 week scan. I am grateful I didn’t have to go through that experience, and that when my miscarriage finally happened I knew what was going on and that the baby had already died. My miscarriage finished naturally, at home, 2 weeks ago with a 5 hour burst of bleeding, vomiting, and cramping. I had no hemorrhaging and didn’t need any further medical attention. I know some women have to have surgery, or choose to have it, but I was dreading the prospect of surgery. I imagine the whole experience was less scary for me than it is for many women, though still traumatic in its own way. The next day I had a scan which confirmed everything had passed. Over the past two weeks my pregnancy symptoms have slowly gone away, and yesterday I took the followup test recommended by the hospital to confirm the pregnancy has completely finished. It was one of the worst parts of the whole experience.

All of this has been so much harder than I could ever have imagined. I started grieving as soon as we found out there was no heartbeat. Given the size/age of the fetus, I knew there was no hope that they’d made a mistake. I spent the two weeks between the scan and the end of the miscarriage feeling empty and hopeless and nauseous from the anxiety of trying to describe what I was experiencing — was I pregnant? Was I not pregnant? Had I miscarried? I desperately wanted to label what was going on. It also felt unreal, like air was water and I was sort of swimming or floating instead of walking. I thought it wouldn’t change when the miscarriage finished, but I was wrong. After the initial relief that I finally had some resolution, everything else sank in & the last two weeks have just been on-off crying.

And maybe the worst part is that I have to get through all this on my own. My family are thousands of miles away, as are my closest friends. The friends I have in the UK are fantastically supportive, though. But at the end of the day, I think I’m coming to realise that one of the reasons miscarriage isn’t talked about much is that it is so intensely personal. I mean, literally. Even though it’s all so raw & recent, I am theoretically okay with talking about what’s happening. But I worry about oversharing and making other people uncomfortable, because it involves some pretty unpleasant bodily details by default. And there are the other obvious ways it’s so personal – no one else knew this baby yet. We had actually gotten so excited that we’d told a few very important people, and I could write another post entirely about how hard it was to tell them we’d miscarried, but I am grateful someone else knew about it and that it felt a tiny little bit less like it was only our grief. Still, we couldn’t exchange stories about our loved one, like is so often the case when grieving. It was only R & me who had talked about names, or talked to my belly. So it is our grief in a way nothing else can be. It is only me who had bought a notebook to record the pregnancy and is now using it to help process my grief, and wanted to buy a necklace to commemorate this little piece of my heart. And somehow the miscarriage now feels tied to my identity in a way I can’t quite define.

At the end of the day, that is why I’m writing this post, though. I am worried about the possibility of another bout of depression, and the best way to ward it off is to be open and honest about my emotions. And I hope it will encourage others to start sharing their stories, and together, to help everyone who’s had a miscarriage feel a little less isolated or weird or abnormal (all things I have been feeling). I will probably write more about this as well. For now I am trying to take comfort in writing and reading poetry and various other distractions, including drinking tea from the teacup that I gave each of my bridesmaids because it makes me feel a little less alone.

Dumbelton wedding May 24, 2014, in Mountain Grove, Mo.
Dumbelton wedding May 24, 2014, in Mountain Grove, Mo.

In the meantime, if you are looking for more information or support about miscarriage, whether you’re experiencing one yourself or are supporting someone and want to learn more, I particularly recommend Tommy’s or the Miscarriage Association, or Sands if it is a late miscarriage or stillbirth.