What Miscarriage and the year 2020 has taught me!!!
I have thought a lot about this post. I’ve sat down multiple times and tried to write the words and somehow piece together the events of this year, most notably the last few weeks, but I’ve been paralysed, unable to describe the immense loss and heartbreak we have endured.
It’s been just over 10 weeks now, since what should have been one of the happiest days of our lives. The day of my 1st ever pregnancy ultrasound. The day we would get our first glimpse of our precious little one and hear that tiny little heartbeat.
Craig and I had been counting down the days, the number of sleeps until this day. We were like two little kids, waiting for Christmas. It was all we had talked about, yet unfortunately, like most of 2020 thus far, things didn't quite go as planned.
We, like many others, have experienced turmoil and uncertainty in 2020 and it has been a year that has truly shaken us more than once. A year we have been stripped of so many dreams and been taught that not everything in life is in our control. It has been a rollercoaster ride, that’s taken us hurtling at full speed to the bottom. However, despite all we have been through, we remain positive and trust that 2020 will perhaps be one of the most important years of all. After all, it's been a year that has already pulled us closer than we could have possibly known, shown us the importance of reaching out to others and that to suffer in silence or alone is simply not an option. This is a year we have learned to be truly grateful for all that we do have, to be more present than ever and most importantly it's taught us to surrender time and time again.
If you are here today and reading my story, thank-you. It's a long one, so grab a cuppa and settle in and enjoy. This is an honest, vulnerable, raw, and real read. (TRIGGER WARNING)
Has it been easy?? NO!!!
The loss and the pain I felt on the day I lost my baby, was unfathomable to the former me, add to that the stress of COVID, canceling our wedding, and then losing most of our financial investments and we could have easily slipped into a victim state mentally and felt as though the world was conspiring against us. But we haven't, because deep down we know that these challenges are simply lessons, handed to us to help us grow and overcome adversity that life hands us.
Have we been angry? Yes, Have we cried? More times than I can count, Have we felt lost? Most certainly. These are all valid responses and I am not immune. The loss I have felt from this miscarriage has been like nothing I have ever experienced before and for the 2 weeks following I barely got off the couch as I surrendered to the myriad of grieving emotions that presented, both physical and emotional. Pain, anger, confusion, numbness, emptiness, and deep sadness to name a few. I have laid my hands on my belly so many times, wishing things were different, knowing I should be feeling sweet little kicks right now. I continue to live though, going through the motion, but every now and then I am struck with the brutal reality. A new Mumma with her baby strapped to her chest, a pregnant woman doing the groceries, tiny baby clothes in a shop, the pram we were going to buy. These are all moments, I am thrown back into my grief and reminded of my loss, and for now that this isn't our story. I share this story with you today, not because I am looking for sympathy, but rather because I hope in sharing it, I can help other women or men who may be going through something similar. I want to let you know, you are not alone and that you don’t need to suffer in silence. I want to remind you to be gentle, be kind and patient with your heart. The pain and loss felt from miscarriage, is very real, no matter what the gestation age, so allow yourself the honour of grieving. Loss is loss and grief is complex. A spark of life extinguished was still a LIFE once. Miscarriage hurts, it is a loss and deserves to be recognised as such.
From the moment you find out you are pregnant, it changes you, because at that moment a wistful dream, becomes a sturdy reality. Miscarriage is the cruel traitor, that plucks us from that joyful path and abandons us back to our old journey, the excitement and joy, replaced with a shattered reality. My goal today is, therefore, to shed some light on the taboo that follows the word "miscarriage," lifting the fog of silence, by sharing my story and what it has taught me. Unfortunately, as a society, pregnancy loss is not spoken about as openly and honestly as it should be and as a result, it can feel particularly isolating and hushed. Losing your baby before you have announced it to the world, or before a visible bump, is an experience that leaves many feeling abandoned and very alone. A mother without her baby, regardless of the circumstances, whether that baby is 4 days old in the womb, or 4 earth days old, is devastating, no baby is no baby.
From life at sea to a new life on land:
In April 2019, together with the love of my life, we left a life at sea. We’d both spent the last 8 years traveling the world working on luxurious super-yachts and now was our time, to move ashore and start the next chapter. We spent the first month in South Africa, then had a month in Aus visiting family, before making our way to Bali for 4 months and on October 5th, in the middle of a rice field, Craig got down on one knee and asked me to spend the rest of my life with him.
We headed back to South Africa in November, for a friend's wedding, and in time for Christmas with Craig's family. This is the place where we would be settling and making our home for the next few years, and even though it was a little daunting (for an Aussie girl like me), I embraced it and was excited to be embarking on this life with my new fiancee.
2020 arrived and this was to be our year, we would be getting married, moving into our own home, and potentially starting our family. However, 3 weeks in and 1 week before our engagement party, I tore my left Achilles and strained my right calf muscle quite bad playing tennis and I wound up on crutches. Our engagement party was spent, with me sporting a very fashionable "Moon Boot."
Not a great start, but I made the most of it and despite the fact, my own family and friends from Australia couldn’t be there, it was an incredible evening and I was too excited by what the rest of the year held for us, to let that get me down.
Little did I know, this was just the beginning and from this point, everything just snowballed.
In March, we made the move from Joburg to Durban and finally had a place to call our own. We were both beyond excited to settle in and start our “normal” life together. Having a place of our own meant we could now finally have guests come and stay, have dinner parties, watch NetFlix and chill in a comfy couch, and dance in the kitchen together, whenever we liked. This house was everything we could have dreamed of. It had views of the ocean from every room, an incredible big deck for entertaining, and a great office space for us both to work from.
However, 2 weeks after we moved in, SA went into level 5 lockdown due to Covid-19, no house guests or visitors allowed and what was meant to only be for 3 weeks, turned into months. 6 weeks after going into lockdown, we realised that this was not going away anytime soon, and with that, we made the dreaded decision to cancel our 2020 wedding, that we’d been planning since November. In fact, we would have been saying our "I do's" this coming weekend.
That itself bought so many mixed emotions, we had so many plans already scheduled and booked with family and friends. Our venue was booked, I’d bought my dress and Craig, his suit. We’d booked our photographer and videographer and my family had all paid and booked for their flights and accommodation to come to SA. This was supposed to be the first time our families were to meet, and I couldn't wait. Unfortunately, like so many other disappointed couples in 2020, it wasn’t meant to be, and after some initial sadness, we let go and leaned back, trusting that for whatever reason it wasn't our time.
Decision to start a Family
Canceling the wedding was one thing, but aside from that, we'd planned to start a family as soon as we were married and now with no new date in sight, we were faced with a second dilemma. To start a family now, or put it off longer? The latter did not seem like a great option, after all, I’m no spring chicken, and having a baby was something both of us were ready and excited for.
However, Craig and I are also both traditional, and as such, we felt it was important to be married first before starting a family. So now what?? Our wedding was off, and we didn't want to wait. So with our parent's blessing, we decided to do a small registry wedding at home with just the two of us, and later when the world re-opened we would do a big celebration with everyone.
Unfortunately, this was not so easy to arrange, strict lockdown laws, meant the department of home affairs and immigration wasn't open until July and with me being Australian, we were unable to get the necessary paperwork to allow us to legally marry until just 2 weeks ago. It truly was a much bigger dilemma than anticipated. So after a few very long discussions, between us and our families, we made a decision, that having a baby was more important to us, and with that, we commenced trying.
This decision both excited and scared the hell out of us, but we trusted the universe that if we were meant to conceive now, we would. Two months later, on the morning of Father's Day, June 21st, I took my first ever pregnancy test. It was the clear blue digital test, which for those that have no idea, it takes 3 long agonising minutes for the reading to come up (non-digital tests take about 30 seconds).
We both sat eagerly waiting on the bed, staring at the test, filled with so much anticipation and excitement, chatting about how cool it would be if we were pregnant and what a perfect day to find out.
Then, the magical word we had been waiting for appeared.
We both screamed with excitement, followed by tears of happiness and joy. We were over the moon, especially finding out on Father's Day. We immediately called our closest family to share the news, and whilst some would say this is taboo, it was news we simply couldn’t contain.
From that moment, our lives as we knew it instantly changed.
Over the following weeks, we started imagining our future with this new being, wondering if it would be a boy or girl? Who would he/she look like?
Craig, being a musician, even made me a beautiful harmony necklace with musical charms to connect the baby with the outside world. We had started going into baby shops, looking at prams, cribs, and discussing possible names.
I had joined online pregnancy groups, downloaded baby apps and we were eagerly following along week to week at the growth and progress of our sweet baby. We truly could not have been happier.
At this point what we looked forward to most was our first ultrasound, to get that first glimpse on-screen of our little Noo and to hear the precious heartbeat. Our appointment had initially been booked for Monday the 20th of July, but due to new COVID restrictions at the hospital, we rescheduled last minute, to Friday 24th, so that Craig could be there. Waiting these extra 4 days, felt like forever, and as the day neared we got more and more excited.
Waking up the morning of July 24th, I had a spring in my step for the first time in weeks, and low and behold, the usual morning nausea I’d been feeling had somehow miraculously disappeared. I put this down to excitement rather than the truth of what we were about to find out. We laughed and smiled all morning, wondering if it was one baby or two (twins are in the family, so it was possible).
The day was finally here. This was meant to be the day we would get see our little one dance and jiggle on screen and hear his/her heartbeat.
Arriving at Doctor Candice Roberts room, we patiently waited our turn. We had spent our time researching and finding the best OB/GYN we could, one that would suit our holistic and natural ways and who we thought, would support us best on our journey. We were not disappointed. Having suffered two of her own miscarriages, Candice was both extremely empathetic and understanding in our time of need. Prior to the ultrasound, she had taken her time getting to know us both first, patiently answering my million questions, before proceeding to the moment we had been waiting for.
Craig commenced filming as soon as she started the ultrasound. All seemed to be going well, and we gave each other a look of joy, as we got that first glimpse of our little one on the screen. This little bean was our new baby, it was all suddenly so real.
Moments later, this joy was taken away, as Doctor Roberts calmly told us that our baby's heart was no longer beating. Time stood still, as my heart sunk to the pit of my stomach and I felt completely broken. In a split second a million questions and thoughts coursed through my brain. Could this be real? How? Why? Did I do something wrong? Was she sure? and just like that, the sound we had so desperately been waiting to hear, never came, our baby was gone.
I also immediately understood that this was the reason I had suddenly been feeling "so good" and deep down I knew that this had likely only occurred in the last 12-18 hours. I remembered reading that losing your pregnancy symptoms isn't a good sign. Within a few moments, of my thoughts, the Doctor further confirmed that yes our little one's heart, had in fact stopped beating in the last 24 hours. According to her measurements, the baby was 8 weeks and 5 days and according to my date of conception, I should have been 8 weeks 6 days on the day of this scan. The craziest part was that, had we kept our original appointment, we would have heard the heartbeat, seen our little one squirm and who knows how long it would have been until I found out. Would I have miscarried in the following weeks on my own or would we have found out at our 12-week scan. I didn't know whether to be grateful or sad about this. All I knew was that my heart was broken and I felt so confused at how this could have happened. I wanted to know why and if I'd done something wrong? Was it something I ate or did?
It turned out, finding out, was not all that easy. She told us that everything looked perfect, the baby had been growing well, and her only explanation was that in some cases this just happened. She said it was likely due to a chromosomal problem, but that we would never really know. She also reassured me that, there was nothing I did wrong and so not to go down the path of blaming myself, questioning everything, or thinking something was wrong with me. She then went on to explain that miscarriage was far more common than most people know, with 1 in 4 women experiencing one. When she said this, I almost fell off my chair. 1 in 4.... That's insane!!! I couldn't believe it, I had no idea that it was this common. Why do we not know this? I was angry and mad for not knowing this statistic, how many of my friends and people I know had been through this, and I hadn't been there for them.
This is what got me thinking, why is this not talked about??
Once it happened to me, it seemed as though every second person I spoke to either knew someone or had been through a similar fate themselves. As I began to share my personal story, I not only realised how many women had personally been affected by it themselves, but those that had not, had no idea how common it was nor the intensity of physical and emotional pain that comes with it. Unfortunately miscarriage still largely remains taboo. Quite often it occurs before the opportunity to share the happy news has arrived and without this opportunity, we are denied the chance to share our sadness and deep loneliness descends, not only from the invisibility of the loss but also the misunderstanding of how deep that loss runs. There is an expectation for it to be private and hushed.
Before experiencing miscarriage, I never knew how hard it would be, both physically and emotionally until it happened to me. No one talks about it, no one tells you about the emptiness you feel, the frustration with the weight you’ve gained, the confusion created by all the hormones still surging through your body weeks after you’ve miscarried nor the emotional toll it takes on your brain. Just because something is common, doesn't mean it doesn't hurt, it is still a loss and deserves to be grieved, felt, and spoken about. I was told it would be "just like having a heavy period" Except it wasn't. A period is part of your body's natural cycle, even if it's painful. But a miscarriage, no matter how early in pregnancy, is not only physically much more than a period, it is emotionally much deeper than that. It is the letting go of a life your body can no longer hold onto.
No one can prepare you for the emotional and physical loss you experience when you miscarry. I share my story because it is one of millions, I share because so many women suffer in silence and I want them to know they are not alone. I share because I know the pain of not knowing why and never having the answers.
For nine weeks I carried, cared for, and loved this sweet little baby and although I never got to hold him/her in my arms, I held them in my body. The moment I found out I was pregnant, was the moment, I became a mother. I never thought this would be our story. But it is. I trust that God has a far bigger and better plan for us, one we are yet to fully understand and although it doesn’t take away the pain, it does soften the blow somehow and gives me hope.
So many other things we go through in life are talked about, but not this. I get that it’s an uncomfortable conversation to have and yes, it can be straight-up awkward, but you don’t have to know what to say to a person experiencing miscarriage, just love us through it and if you are reading this and have gone through a miscarriage or someday do, then I hope you feel comfortable, supported and loved enough to talk about it and if you need to, please feel free to reach out to me at any time for support. Most importantly, I want you to know that your baby mattered and the loss and pain you feel is real.
No heartbeat! What Next??
The rest of our time in the doctor's office that day was a blur, we felt so many of our dreams and plans once again shattered. This was a day I had been dreaming of for so long and I had never expected it to turn out this way. After a moment alone together, to give each other a hug and to cry, we both walked back into the Doctor's office, tears still streaming down our faces. Once again we sat down, but this time it was to talk about the options we had, on how to proceed.
In conclusion, she gave us 3 choices. We could wait it out and allow my body to miscarry naturally, which she said could take up to 4 weeks to occur. I could take a hormonal medication to induce labor and contract the uterus to expel the baby. Or I could have a surgery known as a "D and C" where they would go inside and clear the contents surgically.
I was still in shock at this stage and therefore asked her what she recommended. She told us that her last choice would be a D and C because as with any surgery there comes risk, plus it can leave scarring in the uterus, and with COVID, it really was not the best option by a long shot.
She then explained that waiting to miscarry naturally had its own implications. Most significantly, the emotional wait. She therefore personally recommended the Hormonal Induction.
I knew one thing for sure, I wasn’t keen on the surgery option, so I took the script from her for the medication and decided to think about it before making a final decision.
For the remainder of the day, Craig and I held each other closer than ever before, we cried (so many tears) and we grieved for the loss of our little one. That afternoon I decided that waiting it out to happen naturally would simply be too hard. Not only would it prolong the letting go process, but it would most certainly cause us both more heartache and pain in the long run. So, with that, I decided that I would have one last night with our little one inside me, and the next day, we would say goodbye.
Following this decision, we felt we needed to honour our little one, whilst he/she was still a part of me. We decided that we would light some candles, put on some nice music and take some time to both write a letter to our baby. This small ritual was incredibly powerful and allowed us some time to honour and commence the letting go process in the most beautiful way.
Once we were done, we both read each other our letters before burning them one by one.
My Miscarriage Experience
I awoke with a pit in my stomach and a pain in my heart, I was angry and deeply saddened, about what I was about to go through, this wasn’t how it was supposed to be. Yet, here I was about to say goodbye to the precious baby we would never meet, the one I had carried and already loved so much. A part of me even wondered if maybe she got it wrong and maybe my baby was still alive, but deep down I knew she was right, and I knew I had to let go. My heart sank as I inserted the first round of tablets into my cervix and with that, I commenced the process.
Afterward, Craig hugged me tight and squeezed my hands reassuringly, he didn't need to say anything, we were in this together and although it would be my body going through the physical process, I knew he was right there with me and he too was going through his own process.
Even though I was slightly nervous about leaving the house, we decided to take a walk to the beach, It was exactly what we both needed, strolling hand in hand, fresh air, and sand between our toes.
A few hours later, in the comfort of our home, the cramping and bleeding started.
I still had to take 4 more pills (2 each orally at 4-hour intervals) to continue the process.
The pain itself was intense and was accompanied by on-and-off mild to moderate contractions, but with a couple of hot water bottles, and the pain relief I was provided, it was manageable. After all, I have endometriosis, so I was used to painful periods and this was just slightly more painful than that, with a lot more bleeding.
I awoke Sunday morning and strangely the bleeding had drastically slowed and I immediately sensed that something wasn't quite right, the Doctor had said I would have bleeding for 7-10 days following, and now it had almost stopped. I called the doctor straight away and checked in. She requested I come in the following day for her to check everything out and unfortunately, my suspicions were right, the miscarriage hadn’t completed and I would need to repeat the process all over.
My heart sank, knowing that my baby was still there and that I would need to go through this again.
I really just wanted it to be over!
This time she offered to insert the pills into my cervix herself and Woah! I was not prepared for how far up she would put them in. OUCH! As she did so, she explained that this may have actually been a reason that the miscarriage was incomplete.
I left the office with my remaining 4 pills and headed home with Craig and settled into the couch with my two hot water bottles for the afternoon. I thought I knew what to expect, but boy, was I wrong, and no one could have ever prepared me for what the rest of the day had in store for me. It was the most painful, yet empowering experience of my life. Whoever said it would be just like a very heavy and painful period, was very very VERY wrong.
My Wild Woman Ride
About 4 hours after I left the doctors, the 7/10 pain that I had been managing with breathing and hot-water bottles, suddenly turned into intense and crippling 10/10 contractions that completely floored me.
The couch was no longer an option and I found myself on the floor on all fours, swaying side to side, screaming out in pain, and trying to find any position I could get comfortable in. No such luck.
Craig had been upstairs working, when all this started and hearing me scream out, he came running down immediately to see if I was ok. I had seen my sister give birth to both her children and the pain and intensity of the contractions I was experiencing at this point, could only be described as the end stage of labour I'd witnessed her in. I was quite literally having one minute long intense uterine contractions one minute apart and was completely crippled. The doctor had said it would be intense, but I certainly didn’t think this was normal. I carried on for another 15 minutes writhing in pain before we decided to phone the hospital to check if what I was experiencing was normal.
By this point, I had started to think something may be seriously wrong and that I would need to get to the hospital, but Candice reassured me, that all was ok and in some miscarriages women do in fact experience the same pain and contractions of normal labour. This is because the medication administered to bring on the miscarriage, causes the uterus to contract just as it does in childbirth. She went on to reassure me that I could do this, and given the COVID situation, she strongly encouraged me to remain at home and stick it out for as long as possible. She also let me know that I would get relief once the contents of my uterus started to pass.
Hearing this, somewhat calmed us down and empowered me that I could do this. I went on to endure 3, possibly 4, intense rounds of 1-1.5 hours of excruciating 10/10 one minute on, one minute off intense contractions. Each round getting momentary relief of about 10-15 minutes before the next round would commence again. It was exhausting and at times, I really struggled. At one point it was so intense I started vomiting and had diarrhoea due to pain, and on a few occasions, I even found myself pleading and begging with God to let it stop. Somehow, as if by magic every time I got to this point, I would be granted some short relief and respite before it would start all over again. It was a truly wild woman experience and some primal instinct inside kicked in that gave me the strength and courage I needed to endure this. Initially, I was scared, but as time passed and I breathed through each contraction, a little voice inside my head said "you can do this," "you've got this," "you can do difficult things," "I've got you."
And with that, I was able to embrace it, to lean in, and surrender. As I breathed through each contraction, I closed my eyes and went within, gritting my teeth at times and at other times, allowing myself to scream out in pain when necessary. It was through this that I found peace and an inner strength I didn’t know I had.
Craig sat beside me the entire time and was the most incredible support, I honestly don’t know what I would have done without him. He held my hand, stroked my back, filled hot water bottles, and even put on the most incredible meditation and mantra music that at times, allowed me to transcend to another place. Synchronistically, about halfway through, one song “In dreams” by Jai Jagdeesh came on. I had never heard this song before and Craig had chosen a Spotify playlist at random, but the moment this song came on I knew it was meant for us to hear, and as I listened to the words so much emotion stirred inside and at that moment I was able to fully let go and trust the process.
The whole experience in essence can only be described as a wild woman experience, that bought me to my knees, humbled me, forced me to face many of my fears, and ultimately saw me overcome so much.
As I said, the pain itself was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before in my life. Enduring those contractions as I passed all the contents of my uterus including our tiny little baby, was the hardest thing I have ever done. But, it was also one of the most empowering and liberating experiences of my life. Without it, I never would have known the deep inner strength and courage inside of me that existed and for that I am grateful.
As a result, on the most painful night of my life, something inside of me changed forever and despite the pain and heartache I’ve felt, deep down I understand that this loss was a very important part of my journey and my story. This loss was necessary to not only help make me stronger, but it was something I could learn from and share with others. Having gone through this, I now know that I can do and overcome so much. I also know that someday, I will be a mum and Craig a dad to a beautiful rainbow baby, and when my time comes to deliver this baby, I will do so without fear.
As I mentioned earlier, no one can prepare you for the emotional and physical loss you experience when you miscarry. The grief is very real and something you should not just have to get over or pretend never happened. It is ok to grieve and honour the loss of the little one you lost, the one you had already started imagining a life with, the one you never got to hold, yet loved so dearly all the same. I would be 5 months pregnant now, but instead, I face a myriad of emotions and confusion, not knowing what's next and when will be our time.
The truth is sometimes life straight up just kicks us in the guts. I wish so much that this wasn’t our story this year, losing a baby we so desperately wanted, not being able to get married, and then losing most of our financial investments(a story for another time). But, it's a reality, and although I'm uncertain of what our future looks like, I have faith, I trust and I have hope. I never imagined our journey would be this, but I am thankful to be alive, I am thankful for the ride and I trust in something bigger for us.
2020 has retaught me the true art of surrender and the need to let go of all the things we cannot control. I realise that God has a plan for us and no matter how badly we try to fight it or control it, we will always be steered in the right direction. Even if that direction doesn't make any sense at all and we feel like we are completely taken off course, we must trust, lean back and surrender.
Now more than ever I am in a state of relinquishing control. I’ve been fully taken to my knees more times than once this year, humbled in so many ways, and although I don’t know what is next for us, for the first time in a really long time, I'm absolutely ok with that.
If you've made it to the end of this story, then thank you. And if you are reading this and have gone through miscarriage yourself or perhaps 2020 has also been a year that's bought you to your knees, please know you are not alone, and please feel free to reach out to me.