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Miscarriage and marking a loss

Process of natural miscarriage followed by private family burial in a woodland.

We go home to wait for the miscarriage.

Thursday 27th April 2006 – The hospital

It’s the afternoon. The 9 week ultrasound scan. The radiographer stares intently at his monitor. He is concentrating. “Is there more than one?” I say, wanting to break the silence. The probe is pressing painfully on my full bladder.

He says “I am not getting a very clear picture and I want to do a vaginal scan. It’s just routine.” He sends me off to the toilet so can at last empty my bladder and calls in a female colleague. We are treated with great respect by these people and they are very gentle and considerate. The vaginal scan is performed expertly. More measurements are taken and then we are shown the screen. “I am really sorry – there is no heartbeat” says the radiographer. “It looks like the baby died at 7 weeks.”

I clasp David’s hand. We are shocked. We are taken into another room for counselling. A kind nurse gives us time and information. We have the picture of the scan too. We go home to wait for the miscarriage.

I pray that it will start soon and complete without medical intervention.

Tuesday 2nd of May

I start bleeding in the morning. Just lightly at first, pink and mucousy and then red and clotty. No pain, just a full feeling. I am glad it has started quickly after we knew our baby was dead.

Ellie and I take it easy and stay at home. We paint pictures and watch telly, eat some chocolate. By 4 p.m. I want to be lying down. We watch ToyStory 2 and I start to feel a bit crampy. I ask David to pick up some ibuprofen on his way home, which is what I usually use for period pain. By the time he gets home it is hurting. I take the pain-killers and wait. It becomes the worst period pain ever. I try to remember my labour with Ellie -is this worse or not as bad pain, it comes in waves like contractions, but they are not so distinct – it is all a fog. It can’t have been worse, but it must have been… I pass clots. I sit on my bucket because I want something to bury – some way of remembering this lost child. We watch some comedy on the telly, it takes my mind off things a bit. This is not nice. And it’s going on a long time. I wonder if all is OK and think about calling the ward to check, but then the ibuprofen starts working and at 1 2-ish I drift off to sleep.

I sleep all the way through the night. In the morning I check my pad and the bed – not the big mess I had expected after all. My instinct is to go and sit on my bucket. I pass a sac, about the size of a tangerine, but made cigar-shaped by its passage through my cervix and its resting place for the night in my vagina. I am triumphant. My womb feels sore, but I feel so much better. We will have something to bury and I did not even have to fish it out of the toilet. Praise God.

Thursday 4th May 2006

I scoop up the sac from my miscarriage bucket and contain it in part of an egg box wrapped clumsily in string. My fingers are sticky with 2 day-old blood. I wash and dry them thinking this won’t do and then have an idea. I cocoon the little parcel in beautiful vivid red tissue paper. And then I put the whole thing in a box. There.

It’s 5.15 p.m. David, Ellie and I walk with picnic, trowel, pink teddy and parcel to Bishop Woods. It is the first day of summer, warm and humid, spring blossom blowing everywhere in the breeze like unseasonal snow, building little drifts in corners and crevices as we walk. In the woods my eye is drawn to a patch of dappled sunlight. There we find the ideal little spot, a level square, perfect in size for our picnic blanket, surrounded by a bank of bluebells on one side and a little stream on the other, a rich carpet of green broad-leaved foliage and a comfortable fallen tree to sit on.

I lay out the picnic while David and Ellie choose a spot for our ceremony. David takes the trowel and digs into the earth at the edge of the bank of bluebells. Ellie accepts the job of putting the parcel in the hole. She takes it from the box I hold out for her – and with complete ordinariness she plonks it neatly in the hole. We all take turns and the bright red dye of the tissue is covered with rich dark brown earth. Then I take the tea light and lighter we have brought. I carefully press the soil with my foot, then the candle is lit and placed on top of the firmed ground.

David reads hesitantly from a little piece of paper in his hand:

Like a candle flame
You shone in your dark place
And like a candle does
You flickered and went out.
But your little light did not shine
You were known
And are known
And will always be.
And we will remember you
Remember by name.

I plan to read it too – or sing it, but Ellie breaks my reverie:

“It’s too long, I’m bored now,” she says.
“What is her name, Ellie?” I ask.
“Amy – no – Minnie,” she says.

We leave the candle to be blown out by the breeze and turn to our picnic.

Ellie places pink teddy in a comfortable corner of the blanket and we eat, enjoying each others’ quiet company and the beautiful peaceful woods. Here we are in the inner city – no one is to be seen – we are alone – as if for now all the woods belong to us. I am struck by how lovely this is and wonder why we don’t make time to do such special things. Then I know that we will come here again – alone and together, to remember the little life that might have been.

We leave the tea light in place and rest a substantial log on top of our woodland grave.

As we go I decide to dig up a clump of bluebells to plant in the back yard. We have given the woods something, so we take something in return.

“Bye bye Minnie” says Ellie.

I love my alive daughter and my alive husband so much. Praise God for them and the privilege of being woman and mother. Bless all those who miscarry before they become a mother. And especially bless all those who miscarry instead of becoming a mother.