Desperately seeking sense, with no sense to be had
Dan shares his reflections on how he and his wife attempted to make sense of their experience of miscarriage.
Over the coming weeks, we disclosed to family, friends and colleagues what had happened. It amazed me to learn just how many people had experienced the pain of miscarriage. Saying it out loud was hard at first, but the more I spoke about it, the more I was able to accept it as a very natural and human experience.
It was the day we were due to announce it, and I was full of anticipation. It had felt like an extremely long 5 weeks from learning my wife was pregnant, to the ultrasound scan which we had marked as the date we would tell the world we were to have a second child. My wife had had a spot of bleeding the week before, and though she was concerned, I was sure everything would be fine. “It could be anything causing that”, I told myself.
As my wife lay on the table next to me, I eagerly awaited seeing what was to be my son or daughter. I eagerly awaited hearing a heartbeat, yet the silence that followed was deafening. As the midwife moved the camera around, we saw twins, at rest before they had even began to wake. Two babies, not one heartbeat. Such a sweet sorrow of realising we had two children, whom had sadly been taken away. It is a challenge to describe the emotions that followed, as I immediately suppressed any of my own feelings and focused on my wife. I felt my pain was secondary.
The weight of this news was made all the more heavy, in that this wasn’t the end. We couldn’t accept this, draw a line under it, and go home and begin to deal with it. We had two babies which had passed away, but they were still inside my wife. We had to get them out. This process took thirty-six hours, as two attempts were made to stimulate a natural passing, before a surgical procedure was necessary. As we spent a lot of time together in the hospital, we spoke about it, and desperately tried to make sense of it, knowing there was no sense to be had.
The philosophical questions raised were ultimately unanswerable, but did allow us to explore our feelings, and begin the healing process as we waited for the moment in which we could say goodbye. We wondered if they were ever aware of their own existence. Were they conscious? Did they have a soul? (immediately followed by the questions “do any of us have a soul?”, and “what is the soul?”). Was this fate, or just a random occurrence? If it was fate, and meant to be, what purpose did this event serve in the grand scheme? If it was just a random occurrence, why had it occurred? Was it something we had done which had meant our babies wouldn’t survive? My wife tried not to blame herself, but kept coming back to her diet, her lifestyle, her stress levels, had she made this happen? I wondered what I could have done… Could I have supported my wife better? We had argued two weeks before, was that the moment they died? Was it my fault? Did I kill them? Desperately seeking sense, and knowing there was no sense to be had… We left hospital after two days, and began to process this experience.
Over the coming weeks, we disclosed to family, friends and colleagues what had happened. It amazed me to learn just how many people had experienced the pain of miscarriage. Saying it out loud was hard at first, but the more I spoke about it, the more I was able to accept it as a very natural and human experience. The confusing aspect of miscarriage is the sense of loss, in losing something you have essentially never had. Without the child being born, what you lose is your idea of what they would have been. You lose the potential. We lost the idea of our daughter having a younger sibling, and at the same time lost not the potential of one life, but two.
Throughout the process, the nurses and midwives that cared for us were fantastic, and they truly did care for ‘us’. Although I felt my pain was secondary, the staff showed equal concern for me. Whilst my wife was the obvious focus of the physical dimension of the job, the emotional dimension was shared.
If this process has taught us anything, it’s that we shouldn’t neglect each-other as husband and wife. Having children means that your whole world can revolve around sustaining and entertaining a young life, yet we should never see youth as a characteristic which increases the value of life. All life is as important, and we grieve for the loss of our potential twins, it’s important we don’t lose ourselves.