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We stand together – a letter of support for you from Hannah

After experiencing pregnancy loss, Hannah writes to other women who may be going through something similar.

If it is true that no one really talks about miscarriage when you’re in the eye of the storm itself, then certainly no one talks about it to you years later, or the everlasting echo of grief it can have on a life.

Dear friend,

If it is true that no one really talks about miscarriage when you’re in the eye of the storm itself, then certainly no one talks about it to you years later, or the everlasting echo of grief it can have on a life.

It’s been four years. Four long and short years, since I had two back-to-back miscarriages. Then I fell pregnant with our daughter Arden, our ‘rainbow child’, and resting place.

I know you want to read that bit first. The happy ending. Otherwise you would have been searching for it towards the end.

How do I know that? I was you, four years ago. Searching for answers on the internet. Hoping like a fortune teller’s ball it might reveal our future, and what shape we might take as a family.

And this is the first thing I know, looking back. That losing a pregnancy connects you indeterminably to all the women who went before, and all those who come after.

That’s the silver lining: an invisible bond of unfathomable nature. With women I encounter everywhere, when we somehow find out it happened to both of us — who grip my hands tightly at parties, weddings, or in the park, and look at me silently with wide fierce eyes. They know. The earth shifts a little, and I see them standing behind and in front of me in the long line of grief for our wanted children. A thread of loss ties us altogether. I have become closer to friends who reached out to me when they sadly suffered, just as I reached out to others and the women at the end of the Miscarriage Association helpline. Like them, I was able to share experiences, resources, support. This, I know, will continue.

What we feel? A keener appreciation for the air we breathe, perhaps. An ability to stop and hold a blue cornflower in your fingertips and know how fragile and beautiful its brief life is. A votive of longing whispered to the sea on calm September evenings.

After four years, and after my own full-of-life daughter fills every second with her rich fizz of laughter, it can still take me, that whispering sea wind. It speaks of the void. A reminder of the emptiness.

I had a dream just a few weeks ago, the kind you wake up from and can’t shake the sadness for the entire morning. I had been carrying a heavy granite core in a tote bag. The stone was a gift from my husband and then somehow was taken. I wept for a weightless thin cotton bag. In the morning I dropped my daughter off at preschool so I could go to work and wept on the way home. It affects you like that too; the tight cord wrapped around your living child. The fear of going through it all again to have another.

Stones can have a place in this too. The lack of memorial options in this country. You read about the mizuko shrines in Japan and your husband asks his ceramicist friend to make two little statues for our yard. They catch your eye while your daughter plays in the paddling pool or you are hanging out washing. You nod in their direction, the ones who came before but couldn’t stay.

It appears in other ways. Some more practical, most not. You can’t watch or listen to anything which includes infant mortality. You are stunned to silence by the news, radio, books. You are diagnosed with a generalised anxiety disorder which ranges between mild to severe. It started with the miscarriages, endured throughout all three pregnancies… continued from the first, to second to even the third trimester and beyond.

Anxiety sucks the energy out of you, daily. You sift through counsellors until you find one who nails it. How it affects your parenting. (You try not to let it, but it does.) You hover, fuss, lie awake. It’s better now, she’s older and more robust. You are learning to trust her own strength and resilience. You don’t understand how other mothers can seem so relaxed and calm. Every day is an exercise in relearning what you know. What happened then isn’t happening now. A psychiatrist specialising in post-traumatic stress disorder taught you to say that. Just because the worst thing happened once, it doesn’t follow that the worst thing will always happen. You watch The Favourite and zoom in on one horrific fact: Queen Anne had 17 miscarriages and still births. She was heartbroken. She was broken.

You learn too to memorise your Response Handbook for Other People’s Well-Intentioned Remarks. For example, a poorly-worded offer of condolence is appreciated with a “thank you.” But follow-up questions about how far along the pregnancy was, aren’t withstood. Whether counsellor or colleague, I kindly tell them I personally don’t think it’s an appropriate question, since the sense of loss is still the same. In fact, while the first miscarriage might be considered at face value more awful because we were further along, the second — where a perfect egg sac materialised mysteriously vacant of any foetus inside it — felt brutal, and left me more emotionally scarred.

I realise too that underlying this question is something deeper miscarrying women can internalise: feelings of imposter syndrome when it comes to motherhood. Especially for those who don’t already have children, simply “being a bit pregnant once,” we are told, doesn’t count.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. I went round to a friend’s house who had just lost a pregnancy she wanted through difficult circumstances. She was defaulting to the clinical language of medicine — a comforting armour — as I once had. When doctors say they need to “evacuate products of conception”, you have to. She was vacant, removed, in a way I remember I had been. She told me how strange it felt to hurt so much, while also putting the needs of the baby before herself. I said that sounded just like what being a mother is, and her eyes welled up. No one used the word mother before. But that’s what she was, and could never be removed from her.

To you, dear friend, if you need to hear it, you are mother. And always will be. We stand in a long line together, and lean on each other, when needed.

With love, Hannah x

Credit: Robin Studios

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