I am not one for wearing my heart on my sleeve.
Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to share my feelings. But, I think it comes from wanting to be strong for those around me and not wanting to dwell, at least not for too long, on the negative experiences or feelings in my life. I have always been logical with my reaction to any bad life experiences and live by my motto of “take only what you can learn from and leave the rest”.
But my recent experience has shown me that dealing with my emotions in my own way, often privately, has made me miss something very important. That sharing my experiences afterwards could help others. So that’s why, after experiencing our second miscarriage in six months, Jess and I have decided to share our relative experiences, in hope that they might help others through what we have been through. Something I don’t think anyone should suffer alone. Something I could not have weathered alone.
And I think this is why I have decided to write down my experiences, alongside Jess. Because I feel like miscarriage is a part of life that is still shrouded in mystery and is treated with negativity, to the point that those going through it feel they must hide away, as if it is shameful. And no one should be made to feel that way. The loss of a child you will never get to meet is hard enough, without having to hunker down for weeks or months, as you work through the grief alone, or with just your partner, who is as equally raw. Hiding joy, or in this case sadness, from others because you’re not at the 12 week mark seems absurd to me now, and yet it’s what we still tell one another. Granted, that rule makes sense for work, colleagues and distant friends and relatives. But after our loss, Jess and I were only told of people we knew having suffered miscarriages. There was no community to discuss the issue with. No one seemed willing to talk about it. Instead it was like some weird underground network of information. It was known, but not spoken of. And I know not everyone wants to share. Nor do I expect them too. But what of the people who do want to reach out? To talk of what they have been through. Isn’t that what Jess and I wanted? So I am going to share my experience, in hope that anyone who has been through what we have, or may possible go through in the future, doesn’t feel alone.
In November 2017, after several months of trying for a baby, Jess broke the news to me with a message on the side of the fridge that read “Good Morning Daddy”. Granted, I would have missed it had Jess not drawn my attention to it, but when I knew I was equal parts terrified and equal parts excited. Being a father is something I’ve always wanted. To share my knowledge and experience with my child. Nurture them, comfort them and be a role model to them, as my parents were to me.
As the weeks drew on, Jess and I talked of all the things expecting parents talk of; Will it be a boy or a girl? What names did we like? Did we need a bigger house? Where should we move? What would our lives be like? In truth, my general optimism for life left me thinking of only one possibility. A healthy baby in nine months time. As the weeks drew on and we saw the new year in, we told our closest friend and family our good news. It felt good to share. Good to have something to celebrate and look forward to. It was this life changing event we both wanted so much.
Jess had mentioned a few times that she hadn’t experienced any typical symptoms, but I, like the medical experts we saw, dismissed it as nothing to worry about. I didn’t want to entertain the thought that something could be or might be wrong. Because I didn’t realise how common miscarriage was.
As the weeks drew on, Jess grew more sure that something wasn’t right. And then she started experiencing bleeding. A lot of that time leading up to the miscarriage is a bit of a blur to me. I remember multiple night time visits to A&E. What I do remember is knowing I needed to be strong in the face of whatever this was. To give hope to Jess and myself that everything was OK. To make her feel happy and safe, despite all the worry we were going through. I like to think I did a pretty good job. Jess tells me I did and I’m strongly inclined to believe her.
Finally, we were given an early pregnancy scan. I remember sitting with Jess, holding her hand and watching the ultrasound screen, as the Sonographer looked for the baby. I knew as I saw the blanks space on the screen it was bad news. I am in no way medical professional, but I’ve seen enough baby ultrasounds and TV to know what “good” looked like. Jess told me afterwards that she could tell from my face it was bad news. And then came the dreaded words of “I’m sorry”. If “I love You” are the three most magical words in the English language, “I’m Sorry” has to be the three worst. I didn’t cry. Not at first. I’ve always had a delay on my emotions. I knew they would arrive later and they did. Instead I just held Jess as she cried and tried to comfort her. Tried to make her smile. The staff at Furness General were great. They comforted, joked and advised on queue, never missing a beat. In what was probably the most emotionally difficult situation of my life to date, they made everything feel a little bit better. They gave us a sense of order in what seemed like chaos.
The next few days dragged out. They were numbing and consisted of lots of staring at one another, as we embraced the loss and grief that come with miscarriage. But these were also some of the most strengthening experiences Jess and I have shared. No matter how close I think we are, life always seems to find a way to bring us even closer. I think, for everything, this was the “silver lining” of the first miscarriage. It drove us to rally for one another, support one another, share our anger and frustrations. And most importantly, not to let each other linger in the dark places for too long.
A few days later Jess went through the actual miscarriage. This was the hardest mental experience of my life. Watching your partner, suffer in pain and in need of assistance from medical professionals, knowing you are completely incapable of helping, was immobilising and left me feeling less than helpless. But Jess braved it, suffered it and came through to the other side. To this day I am immensely proud. Afterwards, she said she “would do it all again, if it meant we could have a baby”. I’ve always known Jess is strong. But in that moment, I was the proudest I’ve ever been of her. And, as much as it pains me to say it, she has come though it once more, with all the resilience she had the first time.
After the miscarriage itself was finally over, both Jess and I were left with time to think. And the thing that gave me pause was that through everything, there was no one to talk to who had shared a similar experience. We were told that 1 in 4 pregnancies ended this way. But I wondered where all these people were. Sure, not everyone would be willing to share their experience, but surely someone would. Last year I read a book called Tribe by Sebastian Junger. In it he talks of various instances where people suffering through natural disasters or war talk of how they have come together into these tribes, to help them come together and survive the adversity. And here I was left wondering where my “tribe” was. There was no one to share their experience of the same event. No one to learn from or share thoughts with. And yet, every time Jess and I told a member of our family, or a friend about the miscarriage, I felt like a little sliver of this crushing weight I was carrying was chipped away. It was in a way cathartic. Even now I wonder if any opportunity to share with those who have experienced the same might have aided in our recovery. And the most worrying part was that maybe there were others like us, but they didn’t feel it was OK to share.
So, I guess what I’m getting to is, there is a tribe. I know, because me and Jess are part of it. And I know there are those in the shadows, who have had similar experience, but don’t know if it’s safe to share. But it is. You are not alone. And it might seem like a tough subject to share, but I think it could help to treat it much the same as mental health. Something we’re now realising cannot sit in the shadows. Only by acknowledging and normalising it through shared experience, can we help one another. And that is what I hope I can achieve by sharing this. Even if only one person finds comfort in what Jess or I have written, then this has been worth while.
Please don’t berate yourself for how you feel. Share with those who you trust and know that you are not alone in what you are going through.