A year ago today, we heard the words no couple ever wants to hear, “I’m really sorry guys, but there’s no heart beat”.
I’m a veterinary surgeon, I see nature run its course every single day. I know not to get my hopes up. But how do you process finding out you’re pregnant without considering what it might truly mean. To really imagine what it would be like to grow fat, give birth, become a parent and somehow guide this tiny baby all the way through to adulthood. The second those two blue lines appeared I had to picture every single moment, because I couldn’t make the biggest decision of my life without believing it was going to happen. I’m a rational person – a scientist – but my miscarriage hit me like a ton of bricks.
I only had 8 weeks to get my head around what being pregnant meant. And now, I’ve had exactly a year to come to terms what it has meant to lose that pregnancy. The biggest thing is that it has affected me so much more that I would ever have predicted. In fact, it has changed me entirely.
I never imagined I would be the woman at a party that struggles to be around other people’s babies. I understood why some people end up like that – I just never thought in a million years it would be me. For a start I feel too young to be that woman, I’m only 27! It has complicated my relationship with the children we have in our lives. Watching my partner playing with them makes me feel sad instead of happy, and worst of all: he knows it. I hate that when my friends announce their pregnancies I still cry (in secret), even a year on. I don’t want to be this person. I didn’t give permission for my entire personality to be altered overnight, and to be frank I’m still pretty pissed off about it. I didn’t do anything to deserve this except become pregnant, and other people get beautiful babies at the end.
But it hasn’t all been bad. In fact, on a good day I’d go as far to say it’s probably been more positive than negative. The miscarriage was one of the worst things I’ve ever gone through, so it feels a more than a little confusing to admit quite how much good has come out of it.
When we found out I was pregnant it was a shock. We were delighted, but I had to suddenly let go of a lot of things that were important to me. A career in veterinary medicine, running marathons and riding temperamental horses don’t fit so well with pregnancy! I’d also always wanted to be married first. I came to terms with letting it all go. Then we lost the baby and I got it all back again – like a consolation prize I didn’t want.
I’m sure this is a very common experience, but I felt like (in comparison to having a baby) nothing in my life was very important any more. A lot of people talk about how suffering a loss or a trauma can help you re-focus on what matters, and this has definitely been true for me although it has taken time. I had to rebuild my passion and excitement for life again, and the reality is that the life I built is one that I love more and I’m prouder of.
I started this blog – anonymously at first – and rediscovered my love of writing. I developed a passion for sharing my experiences of exercise and well-being, as well as spreading awareness and understanding of pregnancy loss. Through this I was given the chance to speak in public, a totally new skill which I’ve loved. When I opened up, others did too, and I formed stronger and deeper friendships for it. I think there are people out there I’ve genuinely made a little difference to, and that’s an incredible feeling. I found it really hard going back to work, so I changed jobs to something that I find much more exciting but also gives me the free time to explore these new areas of my life.
It has, as you can imagine, had a huge effect on our relationship too. I always imagined our life would play out in the usual way: get engaged, have an awesome wedding, try for a baby that you have no doubt will come, find out your pregnant and feel nothing but excitement. Initially I mourned the loss of naivety of that imaginary version of ourselves. I felt like I’d been robbed of enjoying those milestones without the anxiety of it going horribly wrong. But now when I imagine all of those wonderful things I see two people who really know what they mean, and are prepared for the reality, not just a fantasy. Our relationship has a depth it simply couldn’t have had before, and I wouldn’t choose to undo that.
I will never know if I was ready to a parent this time last year. Maybe it would have been the most wonderful thing ever. Maybe it simply wasn’t the right time. I try not to convince myself of either version. But I truly believe that if we are lucky enough to have a baby in the future, we will be better parents having been changed in the way we have.
If you’re reading this having recently suffered a miscarriage, I’m definitely not saying “don’t worry, give it a year and you’ll be glad this happened”. I’m not glad it happened. It is the most painful and confusing thing I’ve ever been through. It isn’t something to simply chalk down to life experience and there’s certainly no pressure to “come out the other side stronger”. I’m not stronger for it, I’m much, much more fragile.
I think what I feel is that my happiness is built on stronger, more real foundations. I truly notice and appreciate the good things in my life, because I had to find them again. There is happiness after pregnancy loss, and there is meaning. You just have to get used to feeling more than one thing at the same time, and realise that that is ok. Sitting here today, one year later, I feel very sad and very happy all at once. I wouldn’t want to change any of the good things that have happened, even though I could do without the crap things. So I don’t really know where that leave me in terms of how I feel about the miscarriage, but I do know it isn’t all bad. It isn’t all bad at all.