It was impossible not to be moved by the pictures of raw grief that Chrissy Tiegen shared on social media two weeks ago following the devastating loss of her baby boy. Or at least that's what I thought until I saw some of the comments and judgments that followed. Accusations of attention seeking and inappropriateness flooded social media as the trolls came out in force, showing little compassion for the bereaved parents.
October is pregnancy and baby loss awareness month. On the 15th of October, as happens every year, a global wave of light will be created through the lighting of candles by parents who have lost a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth or in infancy.
It’s estimated that one in four pregnancies ends this way and yet the silence that continues to surround pregnancy and baby loss is oftentimes deafening.
I am one in four.
Over the course of my motherhood journey I have lost four babies to miscarriage. The years have passed. The pain is not as raw. But the memories are as clear as the days they happened.
Although I've spoken about my miscarriages in the past I have perhaps adjusted my conversations to make them more palatable for the listener. Less upsetting for the reader. Easier to handle for the company I was keeping. Because somehow along the way, the message has subconsciously been received that pregnancy and baby loss is taboo. It's time to consciously change it.
Perhaps it came from the expectation that pregnancy news “shouldn’t” be shared before 12 weeks. It’s always seemed a somewhat senseless rationale to me. Telling someone before 12 weeks won’t cause a miscarriage to happen. Not doing so won’t prevent one from happening either.
We were to become a family of four and we were over
The very fact that the early weeks of pregnancy are often filled with morning sickness, exhaustion, a degree of anxiety and a never ending need to wee would surely suggest it’s the very time pregnant women could do with the support of those around them. But still the expectation remains that we wait until 12 weeks have passed – just in case.
The 12 weeks had passed when I had my first miscarriage. Beforehand only those extremely close to us had known and I had battled to keep my morning sickness and tiredness, my contrasting compulsion to eat all around me, and my quickly expanding waistline hidden. When the magic 12 weeks arrived we announced it to all and sundry. We were to become a family of four and we were over the moon.
A week later I started to bleed. I panicked and called an ambulance. I was a distance from the hospital and my husband was in work in another county.
I’ll never forget the kindness of the ambulance men who comforted me on the journey to hospital as I willed all to be well, scared but hopeful there was something that could be done. I’ll never forget the clinical manner of the doctor I met at the ultrasound department who informed me that there was no one to perform an ultrasound and that anyway they “could find a heartbeat now and the fetus could have died by morning.”
Inconsolable, I left the hospital without having a scan and was told to return the following day. A scan the next morning confirmed my worst fears.
The days and weeks that followed were a blur. It was Christmas and I had a toddler. I went through the motions for her but my grief overwhelmed me. I didn’t know anyone who had been through a miscarriage.
“You’re lucky that you already have a child,” I was told repeatedly. “At least it wasn’t a proper baby,” another told me.
There was less sympathy this time. I already had three children
Some years later, it happened again.
This time I was a mother of three. I’d already had an early scan and all was as it should be. The unexpected news at a checkup weeks later that the heartbeat had stopped saw the return of the searing pain I’d felt before.
There was less sympathy this time. I already had three children. This appeared to make my loss less in the eyes of others, so I grieved just as hard, but more privately.
Miscarriage robs the innocence from pregnancy. When twice more it happened my heart broke but I was steeled by the new expectations. Two lines on a pregnancy test just meant perhaps there’d be a baby.
As a mother of seven I know I’ve won the lottery of life. I never, ever take it for granted. But just like my children aren’t interchangeable, my losses weren’t less because of my numbers.
And so, like others around the world, I’ll light four candles for the global wave of light and I’ll think and speak of the ones who were never born.
There will be no silence here.
Read: We must share our stories of this trauma