Last week Coronation Street ran the heart breaking story of Steve and Michelle suffering a late miscarriage and losing their baby. It is a devastating experience that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. Unsurprisingly, with it coming into the fore emotions will be running high for anyone who has experienced any sort of miscarriage.
I have had two miscarriages, one at 11 weeks (Sam – I don’t know if Sam was a boy but it helps me to think of him as a boy as I am convinced he was) and one at 19 weeks (Nicky). It seemed strange, if not a little cruel, to run such a storyline. It is not something like domestic abuse that needs people to be aware of it for it to stop, so why run such an emotive story that I am sure many people will not be able to watch? After seeing and reading interviews with Kym Marsh, who plays Michelle and who has suffered a late miscarriage, she made it clear that she was doing this to raise awareness, to get rid of the silence. But is silence so wrong with such a personal matter? I am starting to agree with Kym in saying yes. As with every grief, losing a baby at any stage is a very personal thing. What helps one person will not necessarily help someone else. Personally, I have found a number of things have helped me cope with the pain.
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When I found out I was having a miscarriage for the first time it was lunch time at school (I am a teacher). After seeing blood, I went to my headteacher and broke down. I’m not sure if she had ever had a miscarriage but she had 3 children so I guess that was enough to empathise with my fear. She called the receptionist to come and sit with me and marched off to fetch my husband (who, luckily, was working at the same school at the time). And off we went to the doctors. With the second, I was on holiday when I started to bleed, again I was lucky as we were with my parents so they were able to take my daughter home with them so we could focus on us. Both times the moment it was confirmed was horrendous, to say I felt my heart break would not be an exaggeration.
I found coping with them hard, particularly Sam. Within my family and friends I didn’t know of anyone who had experienced a miscarriage, it was something that happened to other people and was certainly not something I had even considered. “Helpful” comments like, it was not meant to be, the baby was not developing right, it’s for the best, your body knew something wasn’t right, it was nothing but a bunch of cells, I’m sure it will be fine next time, you can always try again. Not one of these comments was helpful, both babies were meant to be! My babies, even by 11 weeks I had thought about names, what they would be like, what they would look like, by 19 weeks I had felt him move. The thought that my body killed them was too much – I was a bad mother before I had even started. How can it be for the best – my baby is dead! They were more than cells, they had a heartbeat, I had seen Nicky move at my first scan – he was perfect! Try again! Yes I’m sure we will (and we did and have my two beautiful girls) but at that moment nothing could replace my baby. Such comments bring a tear to my eye just typing them. These did not help me come to terms with the loss of either of my babies.
What could help? This is so personal, but for me a few things did help. Initially getting very drunk, not a long term solution I know and I am certainly not advocating it as the best way to come to terms with a miscarriage, but for those two nights when I found out it was enough. In the longer term I found music a huge help, songs like ‘Let Me Go’ by Gary Barlow and ‘White Flag’ by Dido really seemed to speak to me. Talking about what had happened to those close to me, and thankfully they listened, and let me speak about every part of what had happened without flinching or saying one of those fateful lines. We had no body for Sam as he was so young but we did with Nicky, so we had a memorial for Sam and a little funeral for Nicky. I do have a strong faith so although this might not help some, I found it really comforting knowing that one day I will hold my babies.
The worst part, after my first miscarriage, was as the weeks and months went by I found there were times when I didn’t think of Sam, especially when I was at work. I felt awful, how could I not think of him? I needed something tangible to pour all my feeling into, that I could have with me always so that I could hold Sam with me every second without having to think about him. The most incredible thing about having a miscarriage is the number of people you speak to who have had one who have never spoken about it before. One such person told me they had had a tattoo done so that their baby was always with them. I’m too much of a whimp to have a tattoo but I could wear a ring. And that ring has only come off twice, both times when I was pregnant with my rainbow babies.
Why does the silence need breaking? Personally I think it needs breaking for two reasons. Firstly, so that women know they are not alone. Their pain is real and they need to grieve and allow themselves time to grieve. There is a fine line between scaring pregnant women with horror stories of losing babies and making sure that they are aware of the help out there should the worst happen (sands, the miscarriage association) particularly if it is an early miscarriage (pre 12 weeks). Secondly, I think that the lucky women and men who have never had to experience such a loss need to recognise what those who are experiencing, or who have experienced it, are going through. It is a very real pain. If someone has lost a child no one would dream of saying, it is for the best!
My darling boys –
I didn’t have to look into your eyes
To fall in love with you.
I didn’t have to hear you cry
To know you loved me too.
I didn’t need to hold your hand
To cherish you in my heart.
Within my womb we shared our life
You touched me every part.
You gave me memories I’ll hold dear
Although you never took a breath.
My heart it aches since God called you home
But a mother’s love does not end with death.
For you are my darling child
and my love is for evermore.
And one day not so far from now
We’ll be together on a distant shore.
And I will be able to hold you close
And tell you how much I love you
Eleanor Blachford (2015)