Monday 24 July 2017

Yvonne Hogan: One year ago today, I learnt that the baby I was carrying at 19 weeks had died

Michelle Connor and husband Steve McDonald were left devastated at the loss of their son at 23 weeks in an emotive storyline on ‘Coronation Street’ in January
Michelle Connor and husband Steve McDonald were left devastated at the loss of their son at 23 weeks in an emotive storyline on ‘Coronation Street’ in January

Yvonne Hogan

Exactly one year ago today, 19 weeks into a much-longed-for second pregnancy, I learned that the baby that I was carrying had died. Pretty much the first thing I did as soon as I found out was google 'late miscarriage'.

In the days between the scan that proved my worst fears had been realised and the delivery of the baby six days later, I devoured every first person account that I could find, desperate to find information, to contextualise what was happening to me, to find somebody or something I could relate to, some kind of road map for the horrors that I imagined lay ahead.

I found huge comfort in reading the stories of other women who had lost babies. I took great solace in the fact that, despite undergoing this traumatic experience, they had survived to tell the tale. And there were so many of them, all over the world. It really did make me feel better.

Last month, I wrote a piece in our sister paper the 'Sunday Independent' about my experience.

The TV soap 'Coronation Street' had featured a storyline that mirrored my story somewhat and it had triggered a tsunami of women talking to each other on social media.

Initially, when I was asked to write the piece, I balked. I would have to revisit the time, the trauma, the heartbreak, the embarrassment and the guilt.

I worried that it would catapult me back to the horrible, debilitating grief, the suffocating fog of exhaustion and anxiety that I had just managed to squeeze into a hard little pit that sat in the middle of my stomach. It was there, but I was getting on with things. I was immersed in my family, my work, my friends.

But I took the risk because in all the accounts I read of other women who had lost babies, not one expressed the horror and the fear that I felt facing the experience of delivering their deceased child.

It made me feel so guilty that these were my overwhelming emotions and if I had even read one other similar account I would have felt so much better. I was privileged to have been asked to tell my story, to have the opportunity to speak out. I did it because I felt it was the right thing to do.

And writing the piece did throw me back into that fog of grief for a while. For a couple of weeks after the piece I woke in the morning with that familiar throb of anxiety in my stomach, that tight chest, but it passed. And afterwards I felt a lot better.

I feel so lucky that I have the opportunity to speak out and be heard. Individuals have never had more power to communicate than they have now. People talk about the golden days of the media being behind us, but I don't think they could be more wrong. In the past, everything was mediated through a narrow group of men in suits and soutanes, who decided what society should read, see and hear.

Today, we have newspapers and magazines that publish first person accounts of issues that affect us all. We have ordinary people telling us about their lives on chat shows. We have social media and websites where we can communicate directly with people all over the world. We can cry out for help and we will be answered.

I am overwhelmed by the support that I received after writing about my experience. I have been contacted by so many men and women and it is helping me to heal.

I feel particularly privileged to have been contacted by women who lost babies 20, 30 or more years ago.

They were not cared for as I was by a bereavement midwife, they were not helped to meet their baby by a hospital chaplain, they were not offered the option of burying their baby themselves. They were not supported by the community or by their church. They were just sent home to resume looking after everyone else's needs as if nothing had happened.

I cannot imagine what it must have been like for these women. The world must have felt so cold, so callous, so heartless.

How could you heal when everyone not only ignored your pain, but wanted you to pretend it never happened?

If any of you are reading this article and would like to share your story, we would consider it a great privilege to publish it.

INM is putting together a dedicated section on independent.ie where women and men of all ages can share their stories of miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death. The section will serve as a testament to the women and men who share their stories, a memorial for the babies lost and as a resource for other people who have gone through or are going through the experience. Your stories can be anonymous or on the record and nothing will be published in any format without prior consultation with you. If you would like to be part of this and tell your story, email Yvonne Hogan at yhogan@independent.ie

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