Mike, one of our trustees, writes about his and his wife’s experiences of loss for Baby Loss Awareness Week.
Over the past three years, my wife and I have suffered three miscarriages. Our experience is by no means unique. The slogan of Baby Loss Awareness Week is ‘Break the silence’. Over 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss; it is very likely that you, a member of your team or wider family have been affected by these issues, and for that you have my heartfelt condolences. This blog has been written by both my wife and I as our story, with her full approval, to share as part of Baby Loss Awareness Week 2021, to encourage people to learn more about this often-hidden trauma.
My wife has a rare genetic condition which results in a higher risk of miscarriage and early labour. Our daughter was born healthy at 31 weeks back in 2015, spending seven weeks in Neonatal Intensive Care. However, since then, we have suffered three miscarriages; one ‘chemical pregnancy’, one late-stage loss at 18 weeks named Daniel, and one termination on medical advice at 10 weeks.
In the case of Daniel, my wife suffered a huge hemorrhage, at work, in an open plan office. She called me, very casually, and said she had to nip to the hospital for a checkup, and could I pick her up. I later discovered she did that on purpose as she didn’t want me to have an accident on the way to the hospital. Upon arrival, the nurse thought I knew and rushed me into a room, which I later learned was called the bereavement suite. Without any preparation what-so-ever, the shock was traumatising; something the hospital later apologised for. We spent the night in the bereavement suite, with Daniel in a cold cot and my wife comatose from exhaustion. At this point, the midwives withdrew to give us some time alone; that night was the loneliest, darkest, saddest of my life.
Over the following weeks we were supported by a dedicated Bereavement Midwife and the funeral director who made all the arrangements for a private service and cremation.
What helped us move forward
The following may see somewhat cliché, but this is what we would say to a friend:
- Moving forward
As a good friend educated me, be careful of the word recovery. The word has different meanings for different people. Many families don’t really ‘recover’ to what they were; they absorb the impact and learn to move forward. Baby loss is the loss of hopes and dreams; a future that never was. Your experiences make you, you; they will always be with you, but you learn to live with the loss and move forward.
- Give yourself time
A lesson I learned the hard way; in October 2020 we were advised to terminate a pregnancy at 10 weeks, the baby had a heartbeat but hadn’t developed sufficiently. This was days before lockdown 2. I took a few days, but then threw myself back into work dealing with Lockdown 2, then Tier 5, then lockdown 3. Deferring the grief and the constant pressures of work took their toll, resulting in a mental breakdown in February 2021. You have to deal with it, process it, in your own way at some point. You can’t run from it forever. Give yourself time, everyone moves through the grief process at their own pace.
- Whatever works for you
There are many ways of coping and dealing with your loss, you do whatever works for you. Your mood may wildly oscillate, one minute angry, one minute emotional, one minute numb. I found physical exhaustion liberating, taking out my anger on a punchbag or weight training at home. Music can be therapeutic; loud and angry or soft and slow. Reading about other lived experiences, mindfulness (one day at a time), helpline support (see below websites) and group support. Professional counselling is an option, but its important to seek professional assessment; there is a big difference between natural grief and complex trauma.
A happy end to our four year journey
Not everyone gets their happily ever after; and through my work with Footsteps, I truly know and respect that. However, for us, I am very pleased to announce that our son, Noah, was safely born on 20th September; I am currently on Paternity Leave as I write this. It has been a long seven months of anxiety, hope and fear, with no guarantees. But thankfully, Noah was born week 34 by planned c-section weighing 5.5lb and after a spell in the neonatal unit, we have been able to bring him home.
There are many, many great organisations out there providing advice, care and support to those affected by the various types and impacts of baby loss. I list a few below, but a large directory has been compiled here on the Footsteps website which may be of interest.