Welcome to Geeks Vs Loneliness, our weekly spot where we talk about things that may be affecting you, or people around you. We never claim to have a magic wand, or a perfect answer. But hopefully, we can offer a tip or two that may be of use somewhere along the line.
This week, we’re handing this column over to the brilliant Louisa Booth (she’s @louisabooth on Twitter). Louisa’s story has since taken a happier turn, but her first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. She’s written a few words about how she and her husband got through such a brutally difficult time…
There are certain times when I wake up, and I feel sad. It’s almost always in the middle of the night. I feel an aching sense of loss. Then I turn a look at the baby monitor illuminated in the darkness, and see my infant daughter sprawled across her cot, and hear her soft breaths coming from the next room. I exhale. My heart stops thudding. I snuggle in closer to my husband, and after a while I sleep.
But the next day always has a shadow.
I have been pregnant twice in my life and now I’m a mother to a wonderful daughter. But before I had her, I was pregnant, and I had a miscarriage. I won’t say I ‘lost’ my baby. That to me implies I left my pregnancy in Costa Coffee, or on a Tube train. But at 11 weeks, my husband and I had a miscarriage.
You may wonder why I write that my husband also had a miscarriage. But he did. We’d both been making plans. Both walked around shops looking at cots and baby buggies. At the time all I could process was my own pain. The physical gut wrenching pain. Doubled up on the sofa dosing up with paracetamol and Nurofen at the same time, and having to dash to the loo as my body did what it could to eject what I had so dearly wanted.
I looked at what I lost. I think it helped me to process what had happened. The emotional pain. Grief, loss, rage, anger, rage. I mourned. But in a way you expect this. But what was worse for me, and what nobody told me about was the hormonal come down. Pregnancy hormones leaving your body. Rollercoasters of crying, and sobbing. I remember sobbing in the loo at work after a colleague brought in his daughter to visit where Daddy worked. Getting, angry. So angry.
I had two hospital visits. The Early Pregnancy Unit at my local hospital is a bleak place. The hospital staff are good, they give you the info you need in a calm, clinical way. It cuts through the numb wall you surround yourself with. But the bleakness is still there. Couples sit hand in hand as they wait to be told the worst. But sadder still are the women there alone. I still remember the panicked voice of a women who was there alone and didn’t know what to do, and then had to dash to the toilet. I think of her often.
But the person I think about more and more is my husband. I was, and am so lucky to have an amazing, wonderful kind supportive partner by my side. But during this time he had to be the strong one. He had to let people know what had happened. He had to hold me whilst I raged and cried and screamed. All the while quietly he was there, quietly supporting me. He had to go to work after a few days (he was given some days of leave to look after me), and felt incredibly guilty. More and more people are talking about miscarriage amongst women, and that’s an amazingly helpful thing to do. But I still think that there is lack of openness and support for the men out there who are affected by pregnancy loss. All too often they are the silent shadow, all the while supporting partners whilst not getting support themselves.
I know that my husband found that his friends, a few who had experienced miscarriage themselves, were a vital support for him. His sister and brother in law were also there for him. But I often worry that at the time I was focused on my loss, my grief, and didn’t consider his pain.
What I want to write now, whether you are a woman who has experienced or is experiencing a miscarriage or pregnancy loss, or a partner who is supporting someone going through one or the repercussions is offer some thoughts from someone who has, to use a phrase I hate, ‘been there’. What worked for me may not be something that you want to do. But if even one point helps then that’s something good that’s come out of a bad situation.
Talk, and tell: I told my employer that I had a miscarriage, and I’m so glad that I did. They were so supportive. I got sent flowers, and emails and time off until I felt ready to return to work. Other staff told me of their miscarriages, and I experienced so much kindness. This shouldn’t just go for women. Men too if you feel it would help, tell your employer. You need support just as much. I also found it helpful that my husband told our close friends and family, and more and more as the months and years have gone on I tell and mention it more and more. Miscarriage isn’t taboo, and it should never be treated as such.
Fight for the support you need: I found to a certain extent I had to seek support myself. I left the hospital with information and leaflets, but I had to seek out the support myself. In the end it was my work’s occupational health line that helped me. It was a neutral person telling me it was okay to be feeling what I was feeling, and suggest other methods to help me cope. But you may have to arrange other help yourself.
It sucks. I know. I wish in an ideal world that the hospital had contacted my GP and let them know, and that I’d had an appointment with them to check I was okay. But that didn’t happen. I got phone calls asking why I was missing pregnancy check ups. Having to explain to that I was no longer pregnant was devastating. But there are organisations that are out there to help. Sands, and Tommy’s to name two. I found parenting sites like Mumsnet a great source of support, especially when I was pregnant again and scared. The virtual support network can be a marvellous thing.
It’s okay to be afraid: My husband and I were and are still scared. We walked into my first pregnancy blithely. I didn’t even think about miscarriage. I didn’t shout my pregnancy from the rooftops but I did tell people before my twelve-week scan. Besides anyone who knew me will have noticed my lack of wine consumption and guessed something was up.
I’m glad I told people, as when we did have our miscarriage we were then able to tell people, and it put our moods and feelings into context. But god I’m scared. If we decide to try and have another child, then I know it’s more likely I’ll have another miscarriage. That scares me to the depth of my soul. But it’s okay for me to feel like that. I can’t change or control what will, or won’t happen. But I can prepare for it.
Mourn: It’s important to mourn and go through a grieving process if you want to. You may not feel too sad and that’s okay, but if you do that’s okay too. One day when my husband left for work, and I was still on compassionate leave I put on ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ from Les Miserables and screamed and sobbed my way through the lyrics. It was the first time I’d cried since my miscarriage and it really helped. It helped me to begin the grieving.
Give yourself a break: After miscarriage you need a rest. You need to take some time. I went on a week’s holiday with my husband. I had a chance to reconnect with my husband as a couple. I also ate my body weight in unpasteurised soft cheese and drank a lot of wine and cider. But some time to give yourself a physical or mental break, is important.
Write: Sometimes when I need to process some emotions, or thoughts and ideas I write them down. In the weeks after my miscarriage I wrote a poem. I didn’t share it with anyone apart from my husband. To some that may sound a bit silly or self-indulgent. But putting my thoughts and emotions into words helped me to make sense of them. Three years on from my miscarriage what I have written above has helped me again.
To everyone out there: please know you aren’t alone. The world may seem like a darker, sadder place at the moment. But it will get better. It may take time, but one day, you’ll be walking though the park, or standing on the beach and you’ll feel something you didn’t think you could feel again. Joy.
Thank you, as always, for reading.