Miscarriage is a lonely business
Amy reflects on the loneliness that she felt during her miscarriages and the pain of seeing the happy milestones and announcements of family and friends.
There is no other kind of loss that we are expected to bear like this, in silence and alone.
Miscarriage is a lonely business.
It is physically lonely. My husband and I share everything but it was me who had to go through the physical process of pregnancy and miscarriage.
It is also lonely emotionally. The road I was on – the one where pregnancy leads to a bump and then a baby – was suddenly closed off and I found myself forced to watch from the sidelines as pregnant friends and family continued on their way without me.
Between my daughter and son I experienced three miscarriages over two years. One of the hardest, loneliest aspects was watching the thing I most wanted played out in front of me again and again, amongst family and friends. I wanted so much to be pleased for them but their happy milestones – pregnancy announcements, baby showers, birth announcements, new babies, first birthday parties – became such painful triggers for me. I found myself avoiding social events and pregnant friends which made me feel even lonelier. Even dropping off my daughter at nursery hurt – there were many times when I cried at the sight of a double buggy or a new baby sibling in a sling.
On top of the envy was guilt – why couldn’t I just be happy for them? – a sense of unfairness and anger that my life had taken this turn and a feeling of distance and isolation. I knew how Kai must have felt in the Snow Queen, with a tiny splinter of glass lodged in his eye; how lonely it must have felt for him to look the same as he always did but to be experiencing the world so differently to everybody else.
I have spent years looking for a word that encapsulates this feeling and have finally found one whilst writing this: gluckschmerz (gluck is German for happiness, schmerz for pain), literally “pain at others’ happiness”. It is such a lonely feeling and it feels utterly taboo to admit to it
One of my favourite films is Pixar’s Inside Out. I am always moved by the ending. The main character, Riley, cannot move forwards or grow until she learns to acknowledge and experience sadness alongside joy. The adult world is complicated and messy – we no longer get to experience the pure, childlike joy that my daughter does on her birthday or my son when he gets a new toy.
When my mum died last year I was met with an outpouring of sympathy and solidarity. Nobody would have expected me to show up at a birthday party or social event soon after such a huge loss and smile and laugh like I was ok. Instead I felt cared for and included. But when I lost my babies I felt so ashamed of making excuses not to see people and hiding away. We hide our pain so that we don’t bring other people down or spoil their happy time. There is no other kind of loss that we are expected to bear like this, in silence and alone.
It would make such a difference if we could acknowledge that sadness is part of adult life. Of course you can feel happy for someone else and sad for yourself at the same time. And of course when good things happen you can still spare a thought for others going through difficult times without your own happiness being diminished.
By finding room for others’ grief in the middle of our own joy, those of us who are fortunate enough to have children can help make the experience of pregnancy loss that bit less lonely for the people we care about. If you know someone who is experiencing pregnancy loss, be sensitive when you announce a pregnancy; make sure your children are not the only topic of conversation and, even if you will be sorry not to see them, try to be understanding when a friend doesn’t feel able to come to your baby shower or meet your new baby.
And if you are experiencing this pain, this gluckschmerz, be kind to yourself. You are not a bad person, you are a person to whom bad things have happened. And you are not alone.