I have joined the club no-one wants to join. I had a miscarriage.
I feel like I’m sleepily adjusting to the light after a nightmare at dawn, still on high alert but realising with every passing second that I am ok. I’ll be ok.
Just over a week ago, my miscarriage began. Nine days later I’ve emerged from the depths of intense physical and emotional pain, now leaving me wading in the murky, fragile waters of a strange kind of grief.
I’ve decided to share my story of love and loss openly for three reasons. The first being that writing for me is therapeutic. As the words pour out, it is as if this messy, complex ordeal is being organised by a kind of internal filing system in my brain, helping me to make sense of the trauma and integrate it into my current life story.
Of course, I could just write it in my journal and keep it tucked away, the pain transferred from heart to notebook and relegated to a dark corner of a dusty packing box. Instead, and my second reason for sharing, is that most people don’t. As I searched frantically for honest, conscious accounts of the complex grief of pregnancy loss and the process of a natural miscarriage; other than forums where women spoke of minimal compassion and what they were “told” to do by their medical care provider, or panicked in caps lock because “NOBODY CAN TELL ME WHAT IS HAPPENING TO MY BODY”, there was not much to bring me comfort or guidance.
The third reason is because in the throes of one of the most traumatic and painful experiences I have endured, I witnessed pure beauty and felt incredible love from people and experiences I could never have imagined.
If you have had one or more miscarriages before and want to punch me in the face after reading that sentence, that is ok. In fact I kind of want to punch myself in the face as part of me still can’t wholly accept reason #3. However, in the depths of my soul, the other part knows that this chapter in my life was written intentionally for me, is integral to my story and will allow my work with women to be even more meaningful. Nonetheless, to go through it totally sucks.
It all kicked off a couple of months ago. After feeling super hormonal, experiencing what I *thought* to be the return of my period after 17 months of breastfeeding, I took a pregnancy test on a whim. In the spirit of eliminating a niggling “what if?” and fully expecting a big ol’ negative, I lost my breath for a good minute as a strong positive glared back at me.
I burst into tears. This was not in my “plan”. You know, those plans you have that the universe takes one look at and then proceeds to re-write in bold red marker without your consent?
I have two glorious daughters, aged 4 and 18 months. My husband Andrew and I had had discussions around the possibility of a third, but I was unsure. I wasn’t convinced I was necessarily done, but I also wasn’t in the space to consider it quite yet. I have been taking some serious deep dives into my own stuff in recent times and was consumed with passion and purpose in the shape of my work and the creation of The Diamond Women Project.
So this bonus baby? Holy shitballs, it threw me. My husband was thrilled from the outset. His immediate acceptance and excitement was the life-raft I needed to surrender to this magical blessing we had been given.
Despite being days away from launching my new personal brand and website and preparing to host a weekend retreat for mums the following fortnight, I put everything on hold to commit to just being with this new situation and coming to terms with what it meant for me and my family. I’m so glad I trusted my instinct as things turned pear-shaped pretty quickly.
I experienced a small bleed not long after the pregnancy was confirmed. It was dismissed as pretty normal, so I was not concerned. A week later, I was hit with intense cramping, bleeding and passed a large clot. As my previous pregnancies had been pretty smooth sailing apart from shitty morning sickness, this was scary and unsettling for me. On consultation with my midwife that evening, we felt it likely that I had miscarried.
It was a full moon that night. I sat under its glow and spoke a tearful pledge to my wee babe. I swore I was completely on board. I professed my love and dedication to being this sweet soul’s mama with every ounce of my being. I felt intuitively that my pregnancy was still viable, but was overwhelmed with confusion at this strange turn of events.
My HCG levels weren’t looking promising, but a few days later my husband and I saw a heartbeat. I was surprised, yet not. I felt sure we had a fighter on our hands.
As things unfolded we became aware of a peri-gestational haematoma/haemorrhage which were potential issues for the pregnancy. As a woman who has had two natural home-births, preceded by pregnancies which were void of most scans and no medical intervention (I stepped into a hospital ONCE in my first pregnancy to pass on the file from my midwife and to see where the birthing suites were in case I needed to transfer), I was well entrenched in a system I did not want to be in by 6 weeks.
I wonder if some anxiety may have been reduced if I had rejected recommended scans, but at the end of the day, after I decided to do away with the weekly blood tests at 8 weeks, I felt like I was trusting in a process that was actually helpful for situations like mine. Pregnancies that were on rocky ground from the outset, as opposed to blanket recommendations and routine procedures that are generally accepted as “just what you do”. Sadly, women can feel tremendous pressure that they are endangering their baby if they don’t comply with the medical norms.
Anyhow, this time around, I relied on the technological resources at my disposal. To gain more accuracy on dates and a better picture of the situation, I went for another scan at 8 weeks and 3 days. Lo and behold, there was my jellybean, jumping around with a healthy heartbeat. We were thrilled.
Despite my inconsistent hormone levels and prior instances of bleeding, it seemed our bonus baby had impressive resolve.
With relief and optimism after this last appointment, Andrew and I began to plan out our next year with more confidence, visualising our life as a family of five. It was overwhelming, but so exciting to imagine another little blonde darling as part of our tribe, at the mercy of two over-zealous older sisters with a billion cuddles at the ready.
We announced to our 4 year old that she was to be a big sister again. As a deeply sensitive, intuitive little girl she was not going to stay ignorant to the impending new addition for much longer. She was beyond excited and began to express her anticipation with never-ending art works depicting her little sister and their new sibling. Tummy kisses and loving whispers to the baby ensued, which brought me so much happiness. This was all coming together.
I continued to meditate numerous times daily, connecting deeply with my babe and visualising internal healing. However, it felt incredibly foreign to me that I felt so good in the first trimester. The familiar nausea and vomiting of my last two pregnancies hadn’t reared its nasty head and although I felt sensitive to smells and like my face had re-visited my teenage acne years with a vengeance, I was… well, fine.
It was disconcerting, but hey – we’d just seen our baby’s heartbeat! It was growing beautifully, right?
Without veering off into a rant about the potential head-fuckery that is the ultrasound process (particularly the passing of the baton from an inexperienced sonographer who conducts the scan to the off-site radiologist who then completes the actual report and THEN submits it to GP), let’s just say as the relay entered it’s final lap around the oval, we felt a tad mislead.
I had some light spotting on Sunday afternoon, which continued the following day, so we decided to check things out with yet another scan.
Last Tuesday, at 10 and a half weeks of pregnancy, we saw our wee one measuring the same as when we had left him/her a fortnight ago, but this time still and lifeless.
Our baby had died.
The tumultuous little life of our sweet number 3 had ended. Floods of tears followed as we learned the pregnancy had ended just after our previous scan, the one we had felt so positive about. Thankfully this time we had a sonographer with experience who managed our shock and grief with compassion. Quite simply, the hoo-ha made over the haemorrhages was not the defining factor in the loss of our baby, but it seemed that there were a number of markers from the outset which were not well explained to us.
Of course, our rational minds knew that this pregnancy was not meant to be, but our hearts struggled to accept it.
Telling our 4 year old about the loss was so surreal. I knew to keep things very simple in explanation, so not to confuse her beyond the already distressing news. Young children may not understand death yet, but they do understand sadness and seeing their parents this way can be very confronting. For anyone looking for support in this area, please read this article by SANDS Australia for practical advice and suggestions.
After speaking to my GP, I decided I wanted to complete the miscarriage naturally. As I had been spotting for a few days, it seemed the process had begun, but I find it fascinating that the body can retain a non-viable pregnancy for weeks if the baby is thought to be alive, and even once realised the body can still be unwilling to let go.
There was no possibility of sleep that night. I felt a depth of sadness that I hadn’t experienced in a very long time. Regardless, it was different to other grief and loss I had endured. It was an emptiness, a sense of distrust in my body and a panicked feeling that I was stuck in a nightmare.
I needed to release this potent pain and in turn, release my baby. I sat alone in my dark house on the floor of the lounge-room, a single candle lit in front of me. I held a clear quartz crystal that had been a gift from my midwife on my youngest daughter’s first birthday and I spoke to my babe through gallons of tears.
“We tried so hard, you and me. We gave it our all. Know that you were loved, so deeply, for the brief time we were together. Know that your presence was a gift and you have taught me so much”.
I surrendered my baby’s body to the divine mother and as I blew out the candle, it was with a “see you again soon” – not a definitive good-bye.
The next day, the physical release began.
I worked through the build up and the surges like a normal labour. I have never identified my two completely drug-free births as painful. Intense, demanding, the hardest work in the world… but not pain. This however, was sheer agony.
Depending on each individual woman and the stage of pregnancy the miscarriage occurs, I understand the level of pain and discomfort will vary. I trusted in my intuition and any legitimate information I could find to guide me. Using all my hypno-birthing and meditation skills, plus regular roaring of “THIS IS SO FUCKED UP!” and a whisky on the rocks alongside my husband, I got through an excruciating 24 hours with no reprieve and most certainly no happy ending.
Amongst all the horrendous trauma, there was indeed beauty. There were times I felt an incomprehensible amount of gratitude for my life, sandwiched between utter devastation and a foggy, surreal numbness.
Like the gentle nurturing and sincere love I felt from my husband and my mum as they nursed me over those three most intense days.
Like the time my 4 year old climbed up on my bed, held my hand and with no prompt declared “Mummy, you are such a strong woman”.
Like the streams of flowers and heartfelt messages that poured through my front door from my sisterhood, and the care package so divinely put together and delivered by one of my oldest friends.
Like the exquisitely perfect ceremony my little family performed under the frangipani trees in our garden; conducted with notes of love, crystals of strength and flowers of beauty, as our way to say a unified goodbye to the precious soul who left us too early. The very trees providing our backdrop wonderfully sustained by the placentas of our girls in the soil beneath them, bringing us solace that my body can and has produced joyful, beautiful life.
Bitter sweet, but beauty all the less.
It is still early days. I don’t anticipate being out of this fog of strange grief for a while. This place of reconciling an unplanned pregnancy, accepting my blessing with fierce commitment and love, and then riding the rollercoaster of uncertainty to its tragic end.
I am driven to support women to lead their best life, in dedication to a full feminine experience. Pregnancy, birth, mothering, loss, trauma – enormous milestone’s in a woman’s life which often times our society encourages us to medicate, numb and dismiss.
I honoured a commitment to myself, allowing complete surrender to this heinous experience, one I wouldn’t wish on another soul. I accepted that if I needed intervention, I would take it in gratitude, but I knew that my passage of grief would be assisted by my body’s miraculous natural processes, alongside purposeful and deeply connected rituals which provided meaning and closure.
During my miscarriage, I knew that the collective feminine was mourning with me. If you too have had a miscarriage, please know that the burden of sorrow that you feel is being held by all of those women who have gone through it too, as well as all those who have not but can imagine the pain and want to lessen your load.
I urge you to connect with your sisters during this time, sisters known and sisters new. Reach out, be mothered and be heard. Let your story be part of a consciousness of love that acknowledges the loss of a baby at whatever stage is real and life-altering for all those involved. Refuse to contribute to a clinical, dismissive culture which encourages us to suffer in silence and isolate our pain for the comfort of others. Reject the notions of shame, blame and guilt inflicted on mothers through the myriad of “should’s” and “should not’s” received from the moment pregnancy is even considered.
If you know someone who needs to hear this, then please pass this on to a sister in need. She is loved. She is important. Her baby was important and always will be. I am blessed to feel this in my bones and vow to work harder so more women can know this too.
If you resonate with my story and want to connect with me, please touch base at Kate Leiper or The Diamond Women Project. I will have some new offerings in the new year and look forward to growing the sisterhood in the name of rising to our greatest potential and stepping into our feminine power in the most significant periods of our lives.
If you suspect you may be miscarrying or at risk, please read Belly Belly’s informative article here.
Wishing you love and the strength of the sisterhood.