Last Friday I had day surgery and woke in the recovery room to a young woman next to me sobbing into her pillow. The kind of sob normally reserved for funerals. That uncontrollable, heart-wrenching kind that signified absolute despair.
In my post-anaesthetic haze I overheard one nurse telling another that this lady had no children yet and it was her third miscarriage this year. As I said, heart wrenching.
I just wanted to rip off my drip and get onto her cold, metal trolley and cuddle her.
For me, I had been looking at my surgery as a “cleanse”. Weird I know, but after four children, three miscarriages and three C-sections, my uterus was ready for some loving.
Mine was pre-planned surgery to treat a form of endometriosis that was causing frequent and full on periods. I was done with that stuff. Done.
I had organised my day, my children’s logistics and my weekend ahead just focusing on the practical reality of what lay ahead of me post surgery. I did not expect the emotional avalanche that came with it. Lying there in my drug-induced state, my tears started flowing too. There were tears for her, thinking of her road ahead, as well as tears for me. For my three lost babies.
I started thinking of exactly when the miscarriages occurred and how old those beautiful lost babies would have been now. I could have had a nine-year-old daughter running around. Two more babies too. Would they have all been boys, like all of my others, or were all of my miscarriages potential daughters? I tried to not let my mind go there, but with each sob of hers I heard, another image flashed through my mind.
There was no way I could feel sorry for myself, after all, I now have four sons. I did work out however, that it was probably 10 years exactly since my first miscarriage.
Wow, what an anniversary.
I wish I could go back to myself on that day with a crystal ball forecasting my wonderful future. I wish I could have picked that heartbroken girl off the floor of the shower and promised her it was all going to be OK. Really it would so much better than OK.
That was the hardest thing for me, having to entertain the thought that perhaps I would never have children. I come from a large family and have always been very “clucky”, so to me, this was simply not an option. When you have a body that does everything you ask of it for decades and then it lets you down in the most devastating of ways, it shocks you to the core. When you have grown up as a girl who has continually been told that “you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it” it is a huge blow to the ego.
You are told that it is common. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s not your fault. It happens in one in three pregnancies. Blah Blah Blah.
I had made plans. We had made plans. Now the universe had simply ripped this beautiful potential from right beneath my swollen feet.
F You Universe.
To make matters worse, on the way into surgery that day, I had run into another friend who had just had a miscarriage. She was surrounded by her loved ones, yet she still looked so alone.
I don’t know her that well but thanks to Facebook I had followed her engagement story, ‘liked’ all of her gorgeous wedding photos and watched enviously at her and her new husband on their exotic honeymoon. I followed her journey and was delighted when I heard they were expecting a beautiful baby. So there she was, looking very different to that bright, glowing girl normally smiling back at me from Facebook.
She was crushed. Her husband was crushed. So too were the two potential grandmothers. The whole family had been bought crashing down with one distraught phone call. I felt their pain and much to my surprise, it was still raw.
When you’re a young girl you just presume that it will be YOUR choice when you will get pregnant, YOUR choice as to how many babies you will have and YOUR choice as to how much time you will space them all apart. In one way or another, most of us get taught another lesson, so often Mother Nature is in control, not you.
Unfortunately not you.
So now that my time creating babies is over, what can I do to help so many others still hurting?
I can talk about miscarriage.
Talk about it openly, talk about it without being ashamed that my body failed me on those three occasions. I now know that once I told my own friends what had happened to me, I received so many phone calls and emails from other appreciative women who had been through a similar experience.
As women we know how good it is to just to talk. To vent and to ramble on, without having a solution. It is hard to do this sometimes with our partners. Speaking of partners, when I looked at the helpless face of my friend’s husband last Friday, I remember how hard each miscarriage had also been for my partner. He too had lost a potential child. He too had been anticipating a daughter or son to love and to cherish. Making plans, imagining their little face and wondering what type of father he would be.
But he had not been getting so much of the initial attention and congratulations as I had. He had not felt the privilege of growing another human within him. His feelings had been almost pushed aside with the news of potential miscarriage, as he was expected to look after me. He was helpless in unexplored territory and it was, no doubt, a very daunting task. Throw in hormones, heartbreak and hospital visits and he really was out of his comfort zone.
Talking about miscarriage makes it feel a bit more normal.
Hearing of mums with many children who also endured many miscarriages, makes people feel optimistic. Knowing who those people are that have also been through a similar situation will make it easier for another woman to reach out.
Don’t hide your miscarriage. It is another scar on your armour making you the woman you are today. A woman ready to conquer the world. A woman ready to hold another’s hand if they need it.
So what have I learned throughout my journey to motherhood?
It is not straightforward. You are not always in control of what your body will do. If you are lucky enough to give birth to a child, treasure them in all their snotty, tantrum, night-waking glory. Hold them for longer than your schedule allows. Bask in their everyday triumphs. Never take them or what you have, for granted. For now I know, my miscarriages have made me a better mother.
So thank you universe.