This morning, for the first time, in I think years, I noticed my reflection in the bathroom mirror and I stopped and really looked. For such a long time now I’ve been a passing figure. I’ve not really looked at myself. I’ve not had much love for the person looking back at me, she let me down. To top it off she ate a whole lot of chocolate to cheer herself up, so gained a fair bit of weight!
I think the way I dealt with my grief was to push it to the back as much as possible. This made going into work easier, it made social interactions easier. When I lost my pregnancies, my whole world shattered every time, the only way to keep living normal life was to push that back as much as possible. I banished the broken me and replaced her with a more personable, palatable and acceptable version.
I have felt so much shame on my journey to motherhood, because of my inability to find a partner in order to have a family, then my inability to maintain a pregnancy once this was achieved and finally my inability to get over the loss of my babies. The miscarriages all happened at home, painfully. The memory of them filled me with resentment that I hadn’t stopped them, I hadn’t held on well enough. I felt like a failure and blamed myself for everything which happened during the hardest few years of my life.
My babies were all lost within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and therefore not recognised as a life and yet I felt like I had lost a fully formed baby. I mourned the baby they were to be. I had waited so long to have my children and loved them from the moment I knew they were there, which was usually before taking a positive test. I had lost my future, my family and my motherhood. Can you be a mum if the baby is not recognised? The two didn’t coexist well and I convinced myself that my grief must be invalid and I must somehow be extremely weak to not be able to just move on.
The anger I felt at the unfairness of losing all my babies was internalised. I stopped liking me. I also assumed others would too. At the time I didn’t reach out to any organisations to get any support. Part of me felt that the worst had already happened anyway, my baby had died, nothing could make that ok, no one could help. Part of me also felt that I didn’t deserve any help on this, I should have done better. I should be stronger than this. Worse, I felt that no one else would think I had lost a real baby. Just a pregnancy. A dream.
I also found being around new mums, or pregnant mums very difficult and again internalised that as me being an awful person. How could I feel jealousy over something so beautiful, so natural. I felt it must mean I resented others’ happiness. Now I see that I had miss-read this feeling. I had made no allowances for my grief. Anger is a huge part of grief. The anger I felt at losing all my babies, the anger of each new piece of bad news about my fertility, the anger at the unfairness of it all had nowhere to go. So I internalised a lot of it. Seeing pregnancy and new-borns was just a huge trigger to my grief. The feelings of sadness and dread were not jealousy but pain at my own loss. I wish I had understood that then, instead I felt shame about being bitter. Now when I think on it, I realise this was part of my grief. I was struggling to accept a really difficult situation.
I felt my hurt was unwarranted, since I’d not actually lost anything real. My heart screamed at me that I was wrong. I had lost so much. I ignored my heart and did my best to ignore me. I tolerated me, but gave myself very little empathy. My confidence and trust in myself were destroyed. I couldn’t be trusted to do what everyone else manages, what I was born to do as a woman, carry a baby. I felt like a failure as a woman and a mum.
I saw a counsellor who really helped, he accepted my sadness and by doing so, showed me I could accept it also. I finally felt my pain may be valid, this was a real loss. I started writing what I was going through, which helped me process it. I could see it through a different perspective and finally offer some empathy to myself.
Grief took over my world for years, and was compounded by each new loss. I was overwhelmed by it. I couldn’t see through the fog of loss and yet my internal dialogue was truly hurtful. I would never have spoken to someone else how I spoke to myself.
It has been a very slow and gradual shift but I have become kinder to myself. I recognise the losses I went through and the life-changing situation I found myself in. Although this shift happened internally, I still didn’t notice me, the physical me, the part of me I still blamed for my miscarriages. No cause was ever found in the tests which were undertaken, but in my view, the evidence seems to lean towards an overactive immune system. I didn’t know how to go about forgiving myself for killing my babies.
This morning felt different. As I looked into my reflection, I recognised her. Her kind blue eyes looking back at me. I always loved their colour. More grey than blue really. A warm grey, if there is such a thing. Their edges crinkled up in a smile, for me. Those eyes who have always been there with me. In my darkest moments. She has stood by me. In my loneliest moments she was there. Looking out at me. Living it all with me. Loving me. I remembered I liked her.
I hope this is a sign that I am on the way to forgiving myself for what was not my fault. Even just writing this I feel a bit of weight come off my shoulders. There it is in black and white. It wasn’t my fault.