Jaqueline chats with Clare about her family and friends' approach to her loss and subsequent pregnancy. You can listen to a recording of the chat and read the transcript here.
My name is Jacqueline. I experienced a loss in 2019, quite early on and that was obviously my first loss. I already have a son, who I think was three at the time. So, all the challenges that brings anyway and then after the loss, I actually got pregnant quite quickly. I suppose it brought up a whole host of other issues. I was at a point of waiting for my body and everything to heal, and get back to normal.
Obviously, it did not, because I got pregnant so quickly. With my subsequent pregnancy then, it took a while for it to sink in and it actually took a while for even the medical side of things, for them to even confirm a due date. Because they had nothing to work off.
Yes. I think I was- Was I about 16 weeks until they actually agreed, “Yes, you are 16 weeks,”? So, I had gone back to the GP a couple of times, saying, “Things are not back to normal yet. When should I expect…?” and they just kept on fobbing me off. Then the final time that I had gone, they had said- I was like, “Look, my cycle is not back. I am not feeling myself. I am feeling this and that,” and they put it down to depression, to be honest.
So, it was literally- I do not know what in my head had then told me- Before I started on antidepressant medication, I was like, “I will just do a test, just to put my mind at ease, just in case before I start this medication.” That is how it started, that I had started to realise that I was pregnant.
I think that was about 10 weeks I would have been at that point and then I did not even have the normal process after that, where I would have gone for the first scan. I then had to go for an early pregnancy scan and then everything triggered from that. So, everything was just a little bit up in the air. It was a bit skewwhiff for the first couple of weeks. As I say, I think I was 16 or 17 weeks. So, that was 6 weeks of not knowing where I stood, before they were able to then-
Because I had gone and got one scan, and they said I was this far. Then the next scan could not agree. So, just a lot of unease before I could settle in my own mind that this is happening. Then I suppose on top of that, you have all of those worries anyway with a pregnancy after miscarriage, that you are expecting the worst.
So, every scan I had gone to, in the back of my head, I was like, “I am going to go here and there is going to be nothing on the screen. They are not going to find anything.” So, it was just a very turbulent start. Which was tough.
A lot of additional uncertainty, which is the last thing you really want in a pregnancy after a miscarriage. There is enough there already really, isn’t there?
With family and friends, I guess it was probably a difficult time for them in knowing what you needed, because it was not very clear-cut in terms of what was going on. Who was around you at this time and what was the best support that you got?
It is not that my family were non-supportive, but it is just something that I do not think is spoken about in my family.
I think in our situation, we did not have a whole lot of support. I think even from my miscarriage. It is not that my family were non-supportive, but it is just something that I do not think is spoken about in my family. I think I never had the feeling that I had someone there that I could go to and I could just let everything go with. So, we actually did not tell- Well, I did not tell anybody that I had miscarried in the first place, because it was so early on.
From things that maybe family or friends had said about maybe other people who have experienced loss, it was kind of like, “Oh, but it was early. Just get on with it.” I very much internalised all of those comments that had been made maybe in passing, maybe about someone that was external to them.
I know that because they were my family, they probably would have been supportive, but I could not help but internalise all of those fly-away comments that it just did not matter as much.
My mum actually experienced a stillbirth, so you are always putting it back to that. “Well, that was harder. That was worse.”
Well, that is also very difficult, isn’t it? That kind of comparison of loss. Because it is not really a thing, but it is easy to fall into that way of thinking.
Exactly. It is hard to explain to anybody, no one specifically said to me, “You do not have a right to mourn that loss,”
That feel of it not being a spoken about thing, made me just not talk about it.
I think I was aware that losses did happen. I probably was not aware of how common it was, but I was just like, “Well, obviously other people have this and they just get on with it, so that is just what I am going to have to do. Just live my life and just never mention it again.”
Do you think it would have helped in retrospect, or do you think that was what was right for you at the time?
I think probably that reaction was probably the right one for me at that time. If I was going to have a wish list and dream of anything, I wish that people just talked about it more.
If five years before it happened to me, I’d had more positive experiences of people talking about it, I think then that would have really opened the doors for me to feel comfortable in talking to other people or reaching out for help.
There are so many different channels that I am now aware of that I was not at the time and that were not communicated to me at the time. I just think that if people just spoke about it as less of a taboo, if it does then happen to you then you are already paving the way for them to then feel more comfortable to talk about it.
If I am being quite honest, I probably would not have been open to any emotional support, because I would have just shot it down. But I think if the groundwork had been there, then I maybe would have been more open to it at the time.
With friends and family, taking on their discomfort if you talk about something like this. Because you are aware that they do not really know how to deal with it or how to help you. Because, as you say, there is very little talk about it.
If you did not really talk much to people about your loss, how were people about your subsequent pregnancy? Were they aware at that point that there were these additional anxieties?
Yes, so I think at that point probably my husband had told the closest people to us. So, they knew. Again, it is just an unsaid attitude in maybe my family, maybe a broader range of people, that it is nearly like a life to replace. Do you know? It was like, “Oh, that is good. At least that has happened. Get back on it, have another baby and that will somehow take away that loss and that hurt.”
So, I am sure my family were almost relieved that had happened for me. It just was treated like a completely normal, everyday pregnancy. “Congratulations.”
Particularly I don’t think friends maybe understood, things like I did not want to make a big deal out of announcing it, you know I did not want the whole hoo-hah of it, because I was so acutely aware that anything could go wrong. Right up until maybe I was 36 weeks. I think that is when I was like, “Okay, this is in the safe zone now.” I never got that three months out of the danger zone kind of thing.
I did experience friends maybe not accepting that I maybe did not announce it in the right way to them.They were maybe a little bit upset that way, which I found really difficult. Because I did not know how to communicate to them that this was actually really difficult.
The pregnancy that ended in loss, I felt really prepared for that and I was really excited. Then the subsequent pregnancy just did not have that same height of emotion in the happy sense.
Yes, it was just riddled with anxieties and things. So, I did find that quite hard
There are so many expectations about how you should be feeling and behaving during pregnancy. That often does not really equate with how you might feel or behave during a pregnancy after a loss. That can be difficult for everyone, it feels like. You yourself could be saying, “I am not feeling the right way,” or, “I am sad that I am not having this wonderful pregnancy.”
You end up having to take that on as well, which I think can be quite difficult. Somebody being upset with you for not responding in the way that they think you should.
I know, and I do not think there is a right way. You just have to go with the week, because it changes from week to week and day to day.
What sort of support would you have found helpful from friends? If you had to say to other people who might be listening, friends or family, what is the best sort of support that they can offer to someone who is pregnant after a loss?
“At least this,” or, “At least you were not that far along,” or, “At least you were not as bad and such-and-such.” I understand, because I have said those things before. I have been the person receiving the news that someone has had a miscarriage and I have been like, “Oh, thank goodness this and blah, blah, blah.”
I know that they are trying to give assurance and be supportive, but I do not think you realise how unsupportive that is until you experience it.
I think just belittling anybody’s loss, or anybody’s pain, or anybody’s feelings over somebody else’s just is not healthy. So, I think just even making it normal to change that language would be really helpful.
I think whenever you hear of somebody’s loss, it is an automatic instinct to try to say something that is reassuring or that comes in to fix it.
I think it is just the acceptance that that is not going to happen. And to be honest, if I had support at that time, probably nothing anybody said would have been the right thing. I probably would have taken offence at everything, because it was such a heightened state of emotion and it was so, so hard.
I think just offering your time. Offering, “How can I help?” rather than being like, “You need to do this to make yourself better,”
I did not want advice on how I should handle it. I just wanted someone to listen or to be there if I needed to cry, and to not judge.
If in general, if society made it more open that we were able to talk to- Then people would know these things. People would understand how to talk about it and how to approach the situation. Not to try to take anything away, but just to offer your support. I think my husband would not be happy at me telling this story, but I know he obviously found it very challenging.
Because he was experiencing that loss as well, but maybe in a- He did not have the physical side of it and even in the subsequent pregnancy, he did not have all of that internal worry or that internal blame that it was somehow my fault. That physically because I carried the child that anything physically to happen would be my fault.
I remember sitting in the hospital when we were going for the scan to confirm that the loss had completed. There was a poster on the wall and it said, “One in four pregnancies end in a loss,” and he nudged me. He was like, “Oh, my goodness, do you see that? One in four.”
He was genuinely shocked. He was like, “God, that makes you feel a bit better, doesn’t it?” and I understand where he was coming from in that. I understand what he meant. But in that moment, that did not make me feel better. It does not make me feel better that millions of people this happens to, because in that moment, my little world had come apart.
That is a hard thing for people to do, I think, to just be with someone in their pain without this urge to..
…to make it all better. There’s lots of steps to be made in the medical side of things. I remember going to every appointment, every scan, and having to retell the story about what had happened. It was just horrible. Having to go to every appointment and going, “Well, what’s going on here?” or they would have asked me, “So, how far along are you?” and then I had to go into the whole story of why I did not know how far along I was. It was just like, “Look at my notes and find out.”
I am fine now talking about it as a whole, but having to rehash the actual event of it over and over again so soon, really so soon afterwards, it was just- It was horrible. I do not think it was ever taken into account really, all of the worries that I would be having. I just do not think there was anything in place to safeguard me from that and to take into account,
I know how stressful this is. I know all of the worries.” Again, making it very clear that it is not the case of a life for a life and that even though that space has been filled in one sense, there is still that little bit of a gap. So, it is honouring that and keeping a conversation open on that too.
My son is called Noah. When I was pregnant with him, it was just this overwhelming sense of joy, because I was pregnant and I was very excited. Even now, I think I have a super-special bond with him. It is like I appreciate how special he is and that he came at a time that I really needed… I think that is why he came when he did and in the circumstances that he did.
Because obviously I needed it at that time, but there is still that pining. Sometimes I feel guilty that he has not fully plugged that gap. There is still that little want in me for that baby that would have been there.