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An unspoken grief and terrible pain of miscarriages

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Both women and men can be badly affected by the pain of miscarriage

Both women and men can be badly affected by the pain of miscarriage

Both women and men can be badly affected by the pain of miscarriage

Before I went through miscarriage myself, I did not really understand it. I vaguely remembered my mam speak about losing a baby before I was born - but it was discussed seldom and always in hushed tones.

My parents lost their baby at a time when 'Things like this' were not openly discussed.

My father, while trying to support mam through her sadness, never openly talked about it either.

They did not grieve for their baby because it was not the 'done thing'. I never thought it could - or would - be something my parents would still privately reflect on until this day.

I guess for someone who has not been directly affected by the loss of a baby, they could almost be forgiven for thinking that miscarriage, while sad, is not a death.

Rather, it is something that 'happens' to people and, while they may feel sad at the time, perhaps after a few weeks or so, they can move on and put it behind them.

After all, they did not really know this baby, so why should they feel the loss acutely? How could they, when they had never met the baby?

But for the parents who have lost a baby, or in some cases, babies, to miscarriage, the reality is much different.

As soon as those two blue lines appeared on that pregnancy test, their lives had immediately changed forever.

Their baby had started to feel real to them and became part of their lives. This baby became a person they were excited to meet; an extra person at the dinner table; a person for whom to put presents under the Christmas tree; a little person to push around in a buggy during next year's holiday.

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No matter how early in the pregnancy their baby was lost, not only had they lost their baby but also, their vision of what they thought their future was going to be.

I remember our first miscarriage as vividly as if it had just happened, even though it was 10 years ago.

We had a seven-month-old son already, when we found out we were expecting again. We were initially stunned but once the shock wore off, we were thrilled.

We had always planned on having more children anyway and this little surprise just meant we were getting there ahead of schedule.

The day I saw the first speck of blood still remains one of the worst days of my life.

I was just over 12 weeks pregnant and we had recently told our family and friends.

When I saw that speck of blood - tiny as it was at first - I felt in my heart that we were losing our baby.

My husband and mam were so supportive, saying that lots of women bleed and go on to have perfectly healthy pregnancies, but for me, I just felt in my gut that something was very wrong.

A scan the next day showed a heartbeat - a beautiful little heartbeat, flickering away - and for a moment I thought that maybe things would be ok.

Maybe I was being overly dramatic and paranoid and just possibly, the bleeding had nothing to do with our baby's wellbeing.

Sadly, the doctor told us the baby was not big enough and then uttered the words, 'It is probably a miscarriage that hasn't happened yet'.

And on that bombshell, he walked out of the room, leaving us horrified, speechless and confused.

There was no cup of tea offered, no hand holding or apologies, we were simply sent home and told to wait it out and if the bleeding got worse, to come back.

A few days later, the inevitable happened and after four hours of labour-like cramps, and more tears than I could count, our baby was gone.

It was a packed emergency room and my husband was forced to wait outside, while I bled heavily and cried alone. It was horrendous.

Griefstricken

We were devastated afterwards. It was so confusing. We had imagined our son having a little brother or sister for Christmas but this would no longer be happening.

Our vision of the future had changed when we discovered the pregnancy and we did not know how to switch it back. We were in limbo. And we had no answers to explain why this happened.

There was no closure like what you get when a loved one passes away. This was a kind of grief we did not know how to deal with. We went looking for answers but the books we found were cold and clinical.

Remembering

Then thankfully, someone suggested we contact The Miscarriage Association of Ireland.

The hospital had not even told us it existed - I heard about it from another mum on parenting website, mumstown.ie who had also lost a baby through miscarriage.

The Miscarriage Association was hugely helpful and supportive.

They had a support number we could call for advice, free support meetings grieving parents could attend and also, once a year, a remembrance service where parents could come together and spend some time remembering their babies.

Going to the remembrance service for the first time was very emotional but it was also comforting to be surrounded by other parents who were remembering their babies too.

It felt like a safe place to grieve without judgement.

Somewhere to remember these little lives, who only came to us for a short while but nonetheless, made a lasting impression.

As time went on and we learned to deal with and talk about our loss, we wrote a book about our experience of miscarriage called We Lost Our Baby, in the hope it would help other grieving couples to communicate with each other.

Then, four years ago, when we thought we were finished having babies, the unthinkable happened and we had a second miscarriage.

This time, there was no heartbeat, instead the scan showed the beginnings of a new life which never properly grew.

At eight weeks, it was confirmed this baby was not to be and I was scheduled for a D and C. In some ways, it was kinder than the first time when I laboured but it was still very traumatic.

Afterwards, we were confused and saddened. We had not planned another baby but as soon as we found out about it, we were delighted.

I could not shake the feeling of failure, I felt that my body had let this baby down and although I know it's not logical, I blamed myself.

I felt like less of a woman and was devastated that the joy of this baby had been robbed from us.

I tentatively suggested to my husband that we 'go with the flow' and see if another baby was in the pipeline for us.

Four months later I was pregnant. I enjoyed a wonderful pregnancy and birth and now, this little ray of sunshine is three years old and brings us so much happiness every day.

Fulfilled as I am being mum to four wonderful, clever, beautiful children, I still sometimes wonder, what would have happened if those two little babies had made it?

Would they have been boys or girls? What would they be like now? And even though we never met them, I feel as if I knew them somehow.

Life has moved on, but we still remember them on their due dates by lighting a candle at dinnertime.

We also planted a tree and bush in the garden in each of their memories and I have two pieces of remembrance jewellery from www.thejewellerytree.ie that I wear close to my heart.

Each November, we attend the Miscarriage Association service of remembrance.

The next one takes place on Sunday November 9 at 3pm, in St Theresa's Church, Donore Avenue, Dublin 8 and is a free, non-denominational service, where all are welcome.

For more information on this or to seek advice or support, see: www.miscarriage.ie. To chat with other mums about miscarriage or log onto the Bereavement/Pregnancy loss section on Mumstown.ie


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