Recently I’ve been struggling with the grief of my babies. I feel almost like I should apologise about this since they were all pre-12-week miscarriages, surely that doesn’t warrant grief, certainly not for years? However, I always felt as if I had lost a fully formed, living, breathing baby. This may sound odd, but at what stage of pregnancy does a baby become a baby to its mum? Is there ever a stage when a woman is ok about losing her baby? I remember my mum telling me she had had a miscarriage between my sister and I and that she thought it was for the best, there was obviously a reason the baby had not lived. I always thought I would feel that way too and I did initially, for my first miscarriage. I actually felt hopeful that next time would be it, my body would know what to do.
However, I was then told by a consultant that I would never carry my own child. Suddenly that lost baby a few months earlier became my only baby. Suddenly the loss of an immediate hope became the loss of a life-long expectation, the loss of my future and the loss of my motherhood and identity. Suddenly the grief overwhelmed me.
I went on to lose another 6 babies before switching my path to motherhood from carrying to just having and loving. The grief has at times felt insurmountable. I, like every other griever, felt like my grief was the worst, there could be no pain worse than this, because it was my world which had collapsed around me, my world where the lights felt forever dimmed. But there is no hierarchy of loss. Where there was love, there will be grief. End of. Everyone may feel it differently, or deal with it differently. There is no right or wrong way, only your way. Whatever it takes.
I didn’t just grieve my babies, I grieved any future pregnancy; I grieved my motherhood and my place in society. Childlessness in a world of families is endless grief. Not only women my age, but slowly women 5; 10 and 15 years younger were becoming mums. I saw the life I had anticipated slip away. Even once we agreed to look into adoption, I grieved being a ‘real’ mum (inverted commas since a real mum is nothing to do with biology but one who provides love and care), and being her from day one. I grieved going through the rights of passage of a new mum, the birth or c-section, the hospital experience, breast feeding struggles, all the firsts. I grieved my genetic link. The family bond. The family characteristics. I have even grieved being able to pick my child’s name.
At the time, saw triggers everywhere, I came off social media for a few years, I learnt to deal with it as I could. I could sense pregnancy announcements before they came and would stop texting to ask how a friend was, so I could avoid receiving the “we have news” message. I slowly came out of the dark fog of loss and now feel fine most of the time, but there are still times when my grief gets triggered and the emotions are as intense as they ever were. Thankfully I never stay there so long now. I never know when it’ll hit. I can see expected triggers like pictures of new born babies, scans, pregnancy announcements and not bat an eyelid (sometimes). But then I'll see a picture of something seemingly innocuous, a wedding day, a couple full of promise and hope, not a baby in sight, but I feel winded. Maybe because grief at its deepest feels like a lack of hope. A lack of colour.
Grief is such a horrid emotion and yet nothing reawakens your senses so much and, as healing happens, nothing makes you appreciate life more. It will touch everyone at some point in their life. Grief is not always due to a bereavement. You can grieve after any loss, be that a relationship, a redundancy, a friendship.
I didn’t know whether to post anything on grief. It makes people very uncomfortable, even though everyone will feel it. As if it’s a feeling to be ashamed of. Just as baby loss is still not discussed openly, nor is loss of any sort. You get an initial amount of sympathy and understanding and then there’s an expectation that you move on; that you cheer up; that you no longer mention it. Anyone who has experienced a deep loss will know that although there is initial shock, the hardest thing is that life moves on. So yes, you go back to work, you start doing ‘normal’ things again, but that doesn’t mean you are ok, exactly the opposite, you have a mirror life where you do everything you did and yet you are constantly aware a huge part of your heart is not coming with you.
I unfortunately don’t have any secrets to share about grief or how to bounce back. It’s a journey you have to go through, there are no shortcuts. All I can say is that for me, it has become easier. For a long time I didn’t want it to. My pain was my only link to my babies, to my motherhood. But like it or not, healing has happened. The grief still surfaces but I am much better at coping. I have learnt self-care. If I need a break from social media I take it. If I need to pick what I watch on telly carefully, I do. I try not to deny my feelings anymore, since that only ever seemed to keep them simmering for longer. I look them squarely in the eye and say “lets do this” in the confidence, now, that I will feel joy again.