Kate’s story – The aftermath
Kate talks about how recovery from pregnancy loss is different for everyone.
You’re grieving over a life that never was, a lost future... Bracing yourself for a range of responses, from the well-meaning but unthinkingly cruel, to the deeply kind and empathetic. May you be showered in the latter.
Punch-drunk. That might be how you feel in the weeks and months afterwards. Reeling. Scrubbed raw. Lonely — oh, so lonely, a whole new texture of loneliness you didn’t know existed. You avoid mirrors, avoid catching sight of yourself. Your body a deserted battleground: breasts draining of the fullness and bloom of pregnancy, stomach deflating, bleeding into a massive raft of a sanitary towel that’s bulky and awkward and hard to disguise under your clothes.
Thinking about where your baby is now, and how you said goodbye. The choices you were asked to make. Intensely personal thoughts, perhaps never voiced to anyone other than your partner.
There might also be the constant effort of trying not to think about the loss as an event, the how and when and where of it. Maybe yours was a solitary labour alone in the bathroom — and yes, labour is the word. Maybe your loss came with such speed and graphic violence, you ended up in A&E. Maybe your loss lasted for days, and all you could do was grimly wait it out. Maybe there was surgery.
That first period, the bleed you weren’t expecting for months, back when you were still pregnant — that can be brutal.
You’re grieving over a life that never was, a lost future, but amid that, there’s the mechanical real-world dismantling of that future. The obtuse, impersonal, office-admin side of it all. I’m talking about the cancelling of scans and midwife appointments (the NHS doesn’t always do this for you). Deleting that app that tracked your pregnancy week by week. Negotiating the eternal bombardment of ads for baby paraphernalia that spring up, now, spitefully, whenever you’re online. The algorithm delivering that extra kick in the teeth, opening up fresh wounds with every scroll.
Telling the people who need to be told, or not telling them (your call, yours alone). Decision fatigue. Bracing yourself for a range of responses, from the well-meaning but unthinkingly cruel, to the deeply kind and empathetic. May you be showered in the latter.
And babies. Babies everywhere. Ditto ripe, bulging bellies. Social media — in fact, the media in general — a flood of images, a minefield to pick your way through day after day. Those constant reminders of all you couldn’t have. Walking into a café, a leisure centre, a park, mid-morning, gaze averted: here be monsters.
And pregnancy, when or if it happens again, is never the same. An innocence has been lost. You might feel as if you’re walking a sort of parallel, shadow path, existing in a different dimension to all those people gleefully sending their scan pictures whizzing around group chats. The ones confidently planning baby showers. God, the hubris of it all! All that’s poisoned for you.
Time passes. Things change, imperceptibly. You might think you’re come out the other side, and then out of nowhere, you dissolve. Could be the middle of the office, the supermarket, at a petrol station. Stung again by a pain so strong and razor-sharp that it takes your breath away, sends all that hard-won composure spiralling down the sink.
Recovery looks different for everyone. But one day, hopefully, there’ll be a glimmer of something, a very slight keychange. It’ll probably come through something totally mundane — let’s say you reach up to wipe the shower screen. And this movement tugs at something in you, a muscle memory of sorts. Stretching and exerting and inhabiting your body, like you used to. Before. You look in the mirror. You greet your body; you’re forgiving it. You’re forgiving yourself. You know there’s nothing to forgive, but you do it anyway. Welcome back, you say, shyly. I think we’re ready.