The power of positivity

For much of my adult life, I always recall being a relatively optimistic person. When disaster strikes, my mind goes into what I term my “Ultra Logic Mode”. My emotion levels are set to low, and my problem solving set to maximum. Because, by my very nature, I like to solve problems. 

I am lucky that most of the disasters in my life have been minor. Damage that could be repaired. Social situations that eventually had successful outcomes. However, our first miscarriage in 2019 changed that. This wasn’t a problem that logic could solve. 

Unbeknownst to Jess and I, we had what is medically referred to as a Missed Miscarriage. This is where the fetus has not continued to develop, but the body has not commenced the miscariage. The first miscarriage was a shock to both of us, but before we knew and through the early days, as Jess started to bleed and we went back and forth to the Hospital at all hours, I remained optimistic. 

“Don’t worry yet.”, “It’s going to be okay.”, “We know other people who have bled and gone on to have healthy babies.” are some of the statements I recall uttering to Jess, as we held one another in hospital waiting rooms, Consultation rooms and at home in the dead of night. I so badly wanted to believe it would all be okay. And at the time there was no reason to believe otherwise. I was unaware of the statistics of miscarriage at the time (as many as 1 in 4). But had I known, I would have clung onto the odds. “We will be one of the 3 in 4.” I can almost hear myself uttering to Jess, in a bid to stave off the worry for a little while longer. Had I uttered those words, I would have been wrong. 

For a time, I lost my sense of positivity. I went through the motions of grief, wondering “why us?”. I won’t dwell on that too much here (as these thoughts deserve time and attention of their own), but I will say that it left me cautious of the future. As if trying to protect myself from hurt, I refused to accept that pregnancy meant having children nine months later. Much of this pessimism, I fear, also stemmed from a sense of guilt I placed upon myself for feeling as if I had misled Jess. I know with hindsight and clarity that I shouldn’t feel guilty and that I shouldn’t have carried such ideas. But at the time, I knew Jess had been right in her worry, through the weeks we wondered if everything was alright, not knowing we were already in the midst of a miscarriage. So I vowed to her and myself that next time we tried, I would listen to her and her body. That if she was worried something was wrong, I would not go into my “Ultra Logic Mode” and reason why she was mistaken. Instead, I would accept it at face value. 

At the time, this seemed like the right decision. What I didn’t realise was it would go so hard against the grain of who I am, that it would lead me to the darkest place I have ever been in my life. 

On Saturday 25th May 2019, I was in Spondon, Derby, at a LARP event, having arrived the day before. Jess was pregnant for the second time and, as all seemed to be well, I left to spend the weekend with friends halfway across the country. Just before midday, Jess called me and told me she had started bleeding again and that everything felt like it had last time. My heart sank, my mind went blank and I entered a weird trance-like state of inertia I have never experienced before and only once since. My logic system failed, as I accepted without question that Jess was correct and we were about to go through our second misscarriage. It’s worth stating here, that Jess was indeed correct. But the issue was not a matter of fact, but of how I chose to deal with it. After wandering to get some lunch with my friend Emily, I sat in the shade and ate. Once I had finished, a feeling of overwhelming loss and emptiness replaced the crippling inertia and I began to cry. Emily sat with me and then took me to see our friend Shoey, who put the wheels into motion to get me out of Derby and back home. Within the hour, my wonderful friends had me packed up and ready to drive home. 

I don’t recall much about the drive home. I entered my state of mind-numbing inertia once more, broken up with bouts of crying. What I do recall, quite vividly, is considering driving the car into the central reservation of the M6 motorway. This was a thought that reared its head several times on the journey. I don’t think I was ever at any real risk of doing it. Everytime, it popped into my head, I simply thought of Jess and the need to get home to her; to comfort and be comforted. 

In hindsight, and after much contemplation on what is likely the hardest experience of my life to date, I regret my decision to so blindly abandon my optimism. This isn’t to say I regret my commitment to accept what Jess was feeling regarding future pregnancies as a given. This was a vital change in my outlook that has helped me reconcile my own feelings and support Jess through her own trials. What I regret was not understanding at the time that I could both listen to Jess when she felt something with the pregnancy was not right, and also remain optimistic. The two were not mutually exclusive, but I failed to understand that. It was only after the second miscarriage and before the third that I came to this realisation, driven out of a need to never go back to that place. To never feel the crippling, mind-numbinng inertia and intrusive thoughts of suicide (no matter the degree of thier potency). 

Our third miscarriage was hard. Once again, Jess told me she was worried, even before she started bleeding, that something wasn’t right. Her body told her what she needed to know. And I listened. And I remained positive. And, we managed to both come through the hurt and pain and grief, a little easier than we did the first time and a whole lot better than the second time. I’m not saying that a positive attitude is going to see you through a miscarriage unscathed. Nothing, save time and the unyielding support and love of your partner, gets you through a miscarriage. But taking back up my mantel of positivity through the third miscarriage helped give me a sense of future, which I had lost in the second. An understanding that whilst it was going to be hard, there remained something good in our future. A dream of a family. 

So, please don’t lose that positive part of yourself. Don’t abandon it for anything or anyone, no matter how hard it becomes. Because it will take you through those darker moments of miscarriage and allow the little light of hope to keep burning on.

Dealing with anger after miscarriage

I recently came across the Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle in work, when trying to help a colleague with something going on in their life. In finding it, I found it spoke volumes to my own and continuing experiences with grief. 

Of all the five stages, during every miscarriage, Anger is the phase I have struggled with most, and continue to struggle with. And whilst I haven’t found a solution, I have found things that help.

I watched an excellent Ted Talk last year, in which Ryan Martin talks about why we get angry and why it’s healthy. My take away from listening to the talk was that we get angry when we feel injustice. When something happens that upsets our values or beliefs. In the talk, Ryan identifies that the five triggers for anger are things that we experience as being unpleasant, unfair, that block our goals, that are avoidable or leave us feeling powerless.

My experience of miscarriage is that it ticks four of these five boxes. The experience was extremely unpleasant, it felt unfair and like a milestone (or goal), was unobtainable and I was left feeling powerless. I don’t think for a second any aspect of it was unavoidable and this is something I think is important to mention. As one of the nurses said to Jess after our first misscarriage, “Unless you’ve been smoking a hundred cigarettes a day and drinking heavily, this isn’t your fault”. Self blame is a path that leads only to darkness and is better off avoided. 

But hitting four of the five boxes, it exemplifies why miscarraige, at whatever stage, generates so much anger. And it does. After moving through denial and fear of the misscarraige, I found Anger had built up in me to the point I wanted to do great harm to the world around me. I felt like I could violently lash out at any moment and a part of me wanted to. Because it would be a release. And that made me scared and upset. I didn’t want to become that person and was left feeling frustration, as I tried to control my anger. 

I think the thing I struggled with most was that I had no person or object to be angry at. Nothing with which to funnel my rage and anger. And I would not let loved ones become a target, so my anger festered. 

Even now, I have days where I want to scream into the void. I want to point the finger of blame. But I can’t. Because I have tried it and it doesn’t work. There’s no justice to be found in my anger, because there is no person or object to be held accountable. The situation just is. It is one of life’s great injustices. And as much as I hate that fact, I won’t give myself to it. 

In Ryan Martin’s Ted Talk, he finished by explaining that Anger is what benefited our ancestors, as it is part of our fight or flight instinct. And just as we cannot (should not) physically fight someone in civilised society, so it is the case for miscarraige (although I would welcome the opportunity to kick conceptual miscarriages arse). But we can use anger as a tool to identify injustice and find a positive way to fight it.

I’m not sure I have identified the ideal way to use my anger at miscarraige in a positive way yet. Writing for our blog, in hope it will help others, goes some way to helping, I think. I certainly feel it’s a positive outlet. Donating to charities that support those suffering misscarriage helps too. And I think one day campaigning for positive social and legal changes around misscarraige will fill me with a sense of justice too. Some small balancing of the scales. But if I do myself a kindness, I think this is enough. I hate to admit it to myself, but I think actually having a child is the only thing that will ever truly dispel my anger. Perhaps this isn’t true. I truly hope it isn’t. But if it is; that’s okay. Because there are many ways to have a child and no one of them is less worthy than the other. 

I hope, as you read these words, you find some comfort in them. I certainly, having started typing this whilst in a dark place, feel a little lighter. I hope that you will cut yourself some slack for feeling angry and try to find a way to channel it into positivity. But if you can’t, don’t berate yourself for it. It’s just not time yet; but it will come. 

Dealing with other people’s pregnancies after loss

As a couple who have just entered our thirties, we’re at the prime age where a lot of our friends are starting their own families. It’s inevitable that after loss, you notice more, and are super sensitive to, other pregnancies; in the same way that when you are pregnant, you notice ten times as many baby related adverts as you did before. They seem to be EVERYWHERE.

After our first miscarriage, I went back to work after around 3 weeks. The day after I returned to work was due to be my first scan at 14 weeks. On the day I remember sitting at my desk and not 10 minutes into the day, hearing someone in the office behind me happily announce “I’m pregnant!” whilst the delighted squeals of colleagues bustled around her in congratulations. 

For a moment, I was fine…. And then cue an overwhelming sense of “oh wait, no I’m not… shit”. And a swift run to the bathroom to cry my eyes out. 

I wanted so much to be happy for this lovely person who was having a baby, but I was too new in my own grief to feel that for her at the time. Instead I felt intense jealousy – this was her SECOND baby, and I don’t get to have one?

Cue feeling like the worst person in the world.

In hindsight, that was a totally normal feeling and I shouldn’t have beaten myself up so much for it. But I’ll get more into explaining the emotional rollercoaster stuff later (bet you can’t wait!)

Fast forward to our third loss. In many ways this one has been the easiest – we feel like seasoned pro’s now – but in others, it has presented new and hella difficult challenges. 

In the weeks following leaving hospital, I felt like I heard nothing but pregnancy announcements. My family. My friends. Friends of friends. Colleagues. That lady that works in little Tesco. The milkman’s wife. (Okay, I’m exaggerating – but you get the point). It felt like everyone was having lovely, easy pregnancies except us. 

But this is the fundamental thing. We celebrate the new pregnancies, the life that will soon come into the world – as we should! Gosh, if I’m lucky enough to carry a pregnancy to full term, you better believe that I will be that person milking every moment for all its worth; demanding chocolate and foot massages and posing for bump-photoshoots dressed in flowing fabrics and garlands of flowers depicting me as a glowing baby-growing goddess. 

But we very rarely talk about the grief that comes with loss, despite how common it is. So not only do we not know how to talk about it generally, we ESPECIALLY didn’t know how to talk about what we were going through when faced with other pregnancies. And on the flip side, people going through pregnancy whilst knowing people who have experienced loss don’t know how to broach it, either.

So when we were suddenly presented with two of my best friends and Mike’s sister all becoming pregnant at the same time – due dates in the same week – all due the month after our third baby would have been due? 

Well, shit. I’m not going to lie, we didn’t really know what to do with that. 

I think I can break this down into a handful of emotions; as follows, and not necessarily in order:  

  1. Jealousy – you better believe that green eyed monster is real
  2. Anger – why don’t WE get to have our turn?
  3. Guilt – we’re the worst people in the world omg
  4. Confusion – is there something wrong with us? Are we being punished?
  5. Sadness – we lost our babies
  6. Joy – our friends are pregnant and we’re going to have new babies in our lives, isn’t that amazing??
  7. Excitement – think of how much fun we’re going to have with them! There are 17 new baby things in my Amazon basket 
  8. Anxiety – what if we never have a baby?
  9. Depression – this feels absolutely awful and we can’t see how this will ever get better
  10. Insatiable desire for chocolate – Mike please bring me chocolate

It stands to reason if you wonder how one person could possibly feel all that. Now I know how Hermione Grainger felt when she told Ron Weasley he had the emotional range of a teaspoon. (Harry Potter joke). 

For the first few months, dealing with this was difficult. There was a sort of numbness that came with it; our own grief was so fresh that we couldn’t put into words how we were feeling about these happy announcements that were coming from a handful of the people that we love the most in the whole world.

For me, this period of time was the worst of it. I couldn’t talk to my friends about how I was feeling because I didn’t want to hurt them. I didn’t want them carrying any of my sadness through their pregnancies. I didn’t want to give them any reason to not celebrate those little miracles at every moment because I knew that they wouldn’t want to hurt me, either. 

It should also be mentioned here that all of this happened right at the beginning of the global Coronavirus pandemic. So there was that absolute beast to deal with, too. (We’ve written a bit about dealing with miscarriage throughout the pandemic; you can find it here.)

So for the first part, there was the avoidance of the issue. Lets just not talk about this overwhelming thing between us and carry on as best we can, because f**k knows how we’re going to go about this without hurting each other. 

But then there came guilt. Guilt that I couldn’t put aside my grief to support my friends and my sister-in-law. It wasn’t that I wasn’t happy for them – I was, and am, over the moon for all of them – but I couldn’t escape the fact that their pregnancies reminded me of my own loss. 

After a few months, this really, really started getting me down. I wasn’t speaking to my friends, the people that I confided in for absolutely everything. My confidantes, my rocks. I was relying on Mike for all my emotional support which in turn made me feel guilty too.

So one day, I plucked up the courage to talk to my closest friend about it. 

I weighed up how to broach this with her weeks beforehand. What would I say? This person has been by my side for all 3 losses and is my closest friend. I should be completely happy for her WITH NO OTHER FEELINGS BECAUSE THEY ARE WRONG, I should be able to put my grief aside, I should be able to be the best friend I can be to her as she is to me.

I knew that she would have had her own struggles, too. I reflected on her experience and I felt so deeply for her.  For many people who want to be parents, the day of announcing your pregnancy is one that you dream about. Not only was my friend dealing with her first pregnancy during a pandemic, but she was also dealing with being pregnant after watching us lose 3 babies. I wanted desperately to talk to her about how we were both feeling, but didn’t want to undermine her experience either.

“I don’t know how to do or say this, but I’m really struggling with this” was what I said, I think; or something along those lines. That was all it took to start the splurge of everything that I was going through, and for her to reciprocate and to admit her own struggles, too. I was equally relieved and gutted. Relieved that I had finally been honest. And gutted that she had been through so much herself and couldn’t come to me to help her through it like she normally would, especially after she has done so much for me and Mike. I felt in some ways like I had betrayed her. But after talking through it, it all made sense and we realised a bunch of stuff. 

Mostly, that we were doing our best. It was funny in a way – we were trying so damn hard not to hurt each other, that we ended up hurting each other anyway. Not being our true and normal selves was what was hurting us. 

That conversation took place on a very windy and rainy beach in the late afternoon; the kind where the rain pelts your face and you can’t keep your hood up because the wind keeps knocking it off your head. There were tears and we found ourselves shouting “I’M SO SORRY, I LOVE YOU SO MUCH” at each other over the wind and rain –  it was all very dramatic. We almost expected the clouds to part and the sun to shine down on us once we had chatted through everything.

The strange part was that there was no resolution. We came to a conclusion that we didn’t really know what to do. But that was enough. 

Because now, we could move forward, with everything out in the open.

5 months on from our loss, and after a lot of work to get there, I started to really celebrate the pregnancies of our friends and families with a full heart. They say that time heals, and it’s true. That’s not to say that I mean that we’re “over” the miscarriages; as we’ve come to learn, that’s not how grief works. Some days, particularly on days of any significance (baby milestones or what would have been our due dates) are harder. But as we continue to heal, we can feel more of the joy and love that was always there for our friends and family who are having their own babies, and really start to celebrate with them.

That healing comes down to being honest with ourselves and those around us, spending time with those we love, and with time. We’ve learned to treat ourselves with more of a gentleness and not to judge those scary emotions too harshly. We’re only human, after all. The most important thing to remember is that those thoughts and feelings do not define us; rather, what we choose to do with them does. 

I remember that Mike told me (the wise old owl that he is) to give support to my pregnant friends, even when I felt like I couldn’t. Bit by bit, little by little. Because he knew that was what I was craving; I wanted so much to be there for them. A big part of my problem is that I don’t just want to be a good friend; I want to be an AMAZING friend. But I had to let that go in order to heal – I had to do it slowly, and give as much as I could, when I could.

In time, and with patience and practice, it became easier. And now I can honestly say that I’ve gone from feeling that I would never be okay again, to being able to support my friends wholeheartedly – I can focus on them completely without feeling that sense of grief or guilt. It’s such a powerful feeling and one that I’ll remember in times when it’s harder.

There’s a gorgeous quote from Brene Brown; “We don’t have to do it all alone. We were never meant to”. It really highlights to me the importance of giving support to, and taking support from those you love. Being able to open up to our friends and family has been fundamental in that healing.

So when those darker days do come, we can be honest with our friends and family rather than hiding our inevitable twinge of sadness. Because what we’ve learned is that as much as we want to support others whilst dealing with our grief – our pregnant friends also want to support us whilst dealing with their pregnancies. We can be happy AND sad. We can be supportive AND dealing with grief. They can be understanding AND excited for their own journeys.

Who knew friendship was a two way street?! 

I’m incredibly proud of Mike and I for reaching this point and being able to feel it all at once, and to keep looking for the light in the darkness. 

Because one day, our time will come. We don’t know exactly when or how that will be, but there is no lesser way to become a parent. 

And you better believe that when it does, we’ll be equally ready to celebrate, and to support anyone around us that needs it. 

Third time around; A father’s thoughts on recurrent miscarriage

On the 22nd March 2020, at roughly 11am, my wife, Jess, and I were told, once again, that we’d had a miscarriage. This was our third, having had one in January 2019 and another in June 2019. As it had both times before, my mind went blank and focused on a singular purpose. Something that was largely outside of my control, but something I would try to do nonetheless. How did I protect Jess. From the grief, the hurting and the frustration of the loss. Looking back on it now, I’d been a fool to worry as much as I did. I think it’s a very human reaction to want to protect those you love from the things that hurt you and you fear is hurting them too. But this was Jess and she is one of the strongest people I know; even if she rarely gives herself credit for this fact.

After the usual follow up with the early pregnancy midwife, we left the hospital, in silence for a while, until we reached the car park. There, I asked if Jess was okay. It was then I knew we’d weather this storm better than we had the first and second time. Her response was only to lament that, because of COVID-19, that we wouldn’t be able to see our family and friends, the people we rely on most at our very highest, very lowest and at every level in between. She swiftly followed it up with that she’d like a drink, which in itself is something as Jess isn’t a big drinker. “There’s some Gingerbread Rum left over from Christmas. I think I’ll have some of that.”

I didn’t cry myself until later that morning, as I sat at the dining room table, work phone sat in front of me, waiting for a text message back from my boss. Emotions always seem to hit me after the fact. They take a few hours to sink in, sometimes days. I often attribute this to why I rarely get excited about my holidays until I wake up on the day we’re going to the airport. As I sat in my little air pocket, staring at the black mirror of my phone, Jess floated into the room, cup of tea in hand and open arms to embrace her soggy faced husband. She always seems to know when I need her most. I probably shouldn’t be surprised after almost 13 years together, but I am. It’s part of what keeps the magic going. As she held me, I spoke about how I was angry. Angry that I had nothing to direct my hatred towards. And that I was also very sad. And finally that interspersed amongst it all, I was having strange moments of clarity. Clarity that seemed to say, “This is okay. You knew this might happen again and you will try again sometime.”

If I have any prevailing mindset that has come out of the third miscariage, it’s that everything is okay, despite the loss. It’s deeply saddening, frustrating and fills me with anger occasionally. But then I find myself often sitting in a daydream, thinking about holding my first born child, playing with them as a toddler, or acting as the sagely father to a teenager. And those emotions are still there, but more like a subtle undertone. They are almost silenced by the prevailing feeling of my willingness to soldier on. To try again and for those daydreams to one day become a reality. I feel it like some sort of driving force in my chest, pushing forward and outward. A yearning. I attribute this to something Jess said the day we found out about the third miscarriage. “This one just wasn’t right for us, but it will be when the time is right.” And I think my body is trying to pull me to that day. When Jess and I can sit in the darkened sonographers room, Jess on the bed and I sat beside her, holding her hand, and being told that we’re having a healthy baby and that everything is progressing as it should. But until then, I will write down my experiences, for what they’re worth. In part, to help myself collate my thoughts and order my feelings, like the robot I can be sometimes. But more so that someone, other than myself, can feel a little less alone in the darkness that swallows all those who lose a baby, and so that they might find some nugget of wisdom from my experiences or thoughts. 

Miscarriage and Coronavirus; what it’s like to have a miscarriage during a pandemic

I couldn’t tell you the first time I heard the word “coronavirus”. It must have been some time in early March, back when none of us could have had any sort inkling of the impact that COVID19 would have on the world. 

At the time, I was preoccupied with another health related worry; my third pregnancy. 

“Right”, I thought. “Let’s do this.” 

Getting pregnant again

After our second miscarriage, (first January 2019, second June 2019), we had needed space. Space to heal after our losses. When we lost our first we adopted a “get back on the horse” approach (if you’ll excuse the terrible innuendo) and tried again after three months, to get pregnant straight away. At the time it felt right, but when it came to being pregnant again, I was petrified. This time, after a six month wait, we felt mentally, emotionally and physically ready to try again. I was pregnant two months later. 

I remember us both having more of a sense of calm, this time. It’s amazing how resilient you become, despite the trauma of multiple losses; for us, it has made us feel stronger both independently and as a couple. We had a cuddle and a sense of calm washed over us both. Because the thing was, even if the worst was to happen for a third time, we were well prepared to deal with it – we knew the drill and felt prepared for anything. After being at my wits end during my second, I was determined to enjoy my third pregnancy. They tell you that every pregnancy is different, and so even the fact that we’d had two previous losses didn’t necessarily have any bearing on whether we would have another. We held onto this, not wanting to carry the sadness of our previous losses into this new, precious pregnancy. 

The other thing that contributed to this sense of calm was knowing that in Great Britain, you become eligible for testing via the NHS after three consecutive miscarriages (if you’re under the age of 35). So, in that event, we would be eligible for testing. And whilst it is an utter bummer that that’s the case, we at least had that to hold on to.

Now, it’s safe to say that this “sense of calm” was not something that I experienced throughout. It changed daily. Some days I felt calm and collected, other days I was on the verge of panic attacks, experiencing painful flashbacks and replaying the previous outcomes. At the time I was seeing a lovely therapist, who helped me to manage processing the previous losses and dealing with my new pregnancy (more on this later). 

Unfortunately, this pregnancy was not to be. I started bleeding early on in the pregnancy; which, while for many women is not a problem during pregnancy, for me this was an all too familiar early-onset sign of another miscarriage. 

Here we go again.

Back into hospital; mid-March 2020  

In the instance that a person has experienced a “missed miscarriage” (i.e. the pregnancy has stopped developing but the body hasn’t brought the miscarriage on yet), the patient is given options. The first, to wait for nature to take its course. The second, for “medical management”; where a pessary is inserted to soften the cervix and bring on the misscarriage. Or third, surgery; where the patient is taken into theatre (in my case, under general anaesthetic but I do believe in some cases this is done by local anaesthetic) and the pregnancy tissue is removed via the vagina.

I have gone full over-achiever on this and had all three. 

This time, I opted for the same as I had for my second miscarriage; medical. I’d had it before, I knew what to expect. I wanted to minimise any risk, and I wasn’t a fan of the thought of surgery.

At the time, this was mid-March and the word “Coronavirus” had become more than a scary word that only affected the larger cities. I think when you live somewhere like we do, in a little coastal town in the north west of England, it’s easier to believe that a pandemic will never make it to your little place in the world. But as the virus started to spread northwards, by the time we were in hospital, procedures were in place. No entry if you had a new cough or high temperature. We were advised that the guidance was changing by the hour and that there was a chance Mike would be asked to leave.

I had the medical procedure in the afternoon, and it was over later that evening. Miscarriage can be a painful, and sometimes frightening experience, so I was thankful that Mike had been allowed to be by my side. He held my hand, stroked my forehead, told me I was going to be okay. Brought me snacks. Called the nurse. Remembered details that I was too out of it to engage with when the doctors came in.

But later that evening, Mike was told he couldn’t stay. With my previous miscarriages, we have been extremely fortunate that the sensational nurses on the gynaecology ward set Mike up with a camp bed in the corner of the room so that I didn’t have to be alone. But this time, they gently explained that due to the changing guidance, Mike wouldn’t be able to stay overnight. 

I was so proud of myself that I didn’t stress, didn’t get upset; I just accepted that was the case and waited to see Mike the next day during visiting hours. It was already over, so I had nothing to do but rest, read and watch Netflix. Whilst it would have been a completely normal and acceptable reaction to be upset, I remember thinking to myself that this showed how much stronger and more resilient I had become.

The next day, I was experiencing pain and discomfort. I had an inkling that something wasn’t right; I didn’t feel that it was “over”. A scan later that morning revealed that I was right, and that this time, the pessary hadn’t successfully removed all of the pregnancy tissue. I was advised that to manage this, I would have to go into surgery. 

FOR F****S ACTUAL SAKE. 

Now, I did get upset. 

I was facing surgery, something I had never done before. I had thought that the pessary would do all of the work, that it would be over; it hadn’t and it wasn’t. I was alone, signing paperwork to state that I understood the risks and consented to being at the complete mercy of the surgeons. 

Now, it is absolutely true that the doctors and nurses were wonderful and the surgery was a complete success. This type of surgery is routine and extrememly common. But at that time, in a state of heightened upset and stress, I was frightened. I hated not having Mike with me. 

After the surgery the following day, Mike was allowed to sit with me whilst I recovered. 

We came home, ready to look after each other, and ready to surround ourselves with the support of our family and friends. 

Then, on the 26th March 2020, the country went into lockdown. This, undoubtedly, was the really hard bit.

Loss and lockdown 

Everyone copes with grief differently. Some people prefer to be alone, others surround themselves with friends and family. For Mike and I, our friends and family had been our place of refuge during our previous losses. 

But under the lockdown restrictions, I couldn’t see my mum and dad. I couldn’t hug my friends. I couldn’t go round to my sister’s for a brew

What we could do was sit in the house with our grief and not much else.

Now, this sounds like a lot of doom and gloom; and for a while, it was. 

Some days, we talked a lot. Others, we barely spoke to each other, going through the motions of waking up, eating, sleeping.

To be totally honest, we didn’t know what the hell to do with ourselves. When there’s nothing else you can do, you’re sort of forced to find things to distract yourself. There were a lot of jigsaws completed at the time (the perfect balance between needing to concentrate and not having to think too hard about it, would highly recommend.)

But after a while, we started to see silver linings. Because we had so much time to just be together, we talked more about our feelings. Whilst this had the potential to put enormous strain on our relationship, our previous losses had prepared us to understand what the other person needed. We’d had a lot of practise when it came to communication; I think that without that, being so on top of each other after something so heartbreaking would have been a lot harder. 

Not seeing our loved ones was hard. When we were allowed to start seeing people outside, it was a godsend. But I think for me, one of the hardest things has been no physical contact. Mike and I are both very physical people and we hug our loved ones constantly. Not being able to do so has felt totally unnatural, and has given us a new appreciation for what seems in the moment like a small gesture, but is a large part of our social dynamic and integral to our happiness.

Slowly, things started to change. Restrictions started to lift and social circles were allowed to widen. By this point our lifestyle had completely changed; we had gone from seeing our friends and family several times a week to barely seeing them at all. We were both working from home, and whilst we were incredibly grateful to be able to do so, it meant that we barely left the house either. The lack of normality has been a steep learning curve and has, in some ways, tied us more to our grief. 

To try or not to try? 

As I mentioned earlier, as I am under the age of 35 and have experienced 3 consecutive miscarriages, I am now eligible for testing under the NHS. However, after the pandemic struck, all non-essential services were stopped. This meant that we had no idea when we might be able to get any sort of testing done. 

What do you do in that scenario? Wait and hope the services will resume soon? Try again and hope for the best, risking another heartbreak? 

Being in this state of limbo has inevitably affected our recovery. We decided to wait, putting milestones in our minds for when we would give up waiting (“if we don’t hear by the end of X month, we’ll think about trying again” etc). Trouble is, when you’re on the road to parenthood, you can’t get off the road until you have a baby in your arms; whether naturally, via medical intervention, adoption or other means. Or, you make a decision that children won’t be a part of your life. This sense of perpetual waiting can be painful; even pregnancy itself is waiting, for 9 months in the hope that your baby will be born happy and healthy. So how do we navigate that waiting period without completely losing our minds? 

To be honest, I don’t think there’s any one answer to that. One thing that my therapist told me when I was stressing out about how to deal with pregnancy after loss, was to imagine the pregnancy that I wanted to have; how did the pregnancy look? How did I feel? What was I doing? How did I react to stressful scenarios? Whilst I won’t go into the detail here, this practice certainly helped me to deal with the severe anxiety that came with a pregnancy after two losses; as well as subsequently how to deal with the loss.

Anyone who has experienced baby loss will know the feelings; from guilt, i.e. “this is my fault” (it’s not) to questioning, i.e. “what have I done wrong?” (absolutely nothing unless you’re drinking, smoking and doing hard drugs on the daily) to despair, i.e. “this is never going to happen for me” (no one can predict the future and no two pregnancies are the same). 

And so this practice of imagining myself as a new person, stronger for her experiences, dealing calmly and rationally with anxiety and stress, did actually help me to create and become that person. It made the subsequent stress easier to deal with. (If you would like to see a separate post about this, let me know!) 

Thinking of others 

Relativity is a wonderful thing. Mike often says to me “it doesn’t matter if you’re drowning in 2 inches of water, or 2 metres; you’re still drowning”. He’s a wise old owl. 

So when I look at our experience, and then think of others, I have such empathy for those who have had it so much worse that we did. That’s not to say that our experience wasn’t difficult; but I can’t imagine the pain of having to go through baby loss, at any stage, without your partner or a loved one being able to be with you. 

A short while later, not one, but three of my close friends and family announced their pregnancies. (Separate, hopefully helpful post about dealing with other people’s pregnancies after loss on its way!) Whilst that ignited a whole host of emotions in Mike and I, one of them was huge empathy. I’d had a few weeks to start to worry about Coronavirus with my pregnancy; I cannot imagine what it must be like to carry a full pregnancy during a pandemic. It’s that waiting thing again; waiting for the moment when your baby is in your arms and hoping and praying that everything is going to be alright. 

And I’m sure that any parent will tell me that sense of worry doesn’t end when you have your baby – as my mum always tells me, she will always worry about my sister and I, because we’re her children. 

Remembering that we’re doing our best – and so are you

Now, we’re at what feels like a milestone in our journey; the one that comes after losses and before testing. The pandemic has meant that we don’t know exactly how long we’ll be here; for us, and others who are waiting for testing or others kinds of fertility treatment, it’s a hard slog. 

So while we’re here, we’re doing our best. If you’re here with us, know that you’re doing your best, too. There’s nothing that could have prepared any of us to deal with a pandemic; and experiencing any kind of life-changing event whether it be pregnancy, baby loss, financial struggles, bereavement, sickness, mental health issues or all of the above during this time is a challenge and a half. 

For now, I’m focusing on what’s in front of me. Keeping a milestone in my head (if we don’t hear by X time, we’ll start trying, etc.) helps me to let go of the worrying and wonder. So does letting go of the idea of a perfect pregnancy journey. This certainly wasn’t what I had in my head when I dreamt of Mike and I trying for kids, but it’s helped us to accept that things aren’t in our control. 

And when the time does come to either have our testing, or decide to try anyway, all we can do is remember that sense of acceptance and give in to the lack of control. Our journey to parenthood isn’t the beautiful, simple road we hoped it would be, but we’re stronger for it. And when we do have our baby, through whatever means that may be, it will be all the more precious.