NOTE: This post deals with pregnancy loss and may be confronting for some readers.
I’m Sam, mum to my sunshine girl Georgie who’s nearly four-years old and our latest addition Johnny who’s six months. I fell pregnant easily with Georgie and had an easy pregnancy and two years of fun with her.
Then we started to talk about baby number two and I fell pregnant straight away again, immediately telling Georgie she was going to be a big sister! At eight weeks (with my daughter by my side), I heard those awful words at the scan, ‘I’m sorry there is no heartbeat.’
Our baby had stopped growing at seven weeks and four days. A D&C followed as did a whole realm of emotions I’d never felt before. I was blindsided by how much this loss affected me, and I’m pretty sure I’m forever changed because of it.
Three months later I fell pregnant again. I was understandably nervous and didn’t connect to the pregnancy in the same way. At eight weeks while on holiday with friends, I started to bleed but kept it to myself for two days, praying all would be OK. I didn’t even tell my husband, because I didn’t want to ruin his or anyone else’s holiday.
When we arrived home, I went for a scan only to hear for a second time that there was no heartbeat. I couldn’t get in for a D&C for several days and ended up miscarrying at home, passing the ‘tissue’, alone and terrified. I have never felt so isolated… or so devastated.
Following that second loss, I had to fight with my healthcare team for testing. There was no way I wanted to go through a third miscarriage, just to tick a box so they’d agree to test me. As it turned out, I was ‘lucky’ and I was given a diagnosis - MTHFR, basically faulty genes.
I saw a naturopath, got really healthy, had weekly acupuncture and started yoga. My naturopath Belinda Kirkpatrick at The Seed Concept recommended me to take B vitamins along with other vitamins tailored to my specific needs. I did anything and everything anyone suggested to me. For me that was our magic potion and six months ago we welcomed our baby boy Johnny in to the world.
Pregnancy after loss
Being pregnant again after a loss is far from easy. It’s a complete and utter emotional rollercoaster. Those first blue lines on a pregnancy test don't offer the same level of excitement they may have once done. Whilst you are truly grateful to be pregnant again the overwhelming feeling is fear.
I set mini milestones to pass, HCG doubling every 36 hours – tick; six-week scan heartbeat – tick; 10 week NIPT all clear – tick; 12-week scan all normal - tick. Again, where a scan may once have been a cause for excitement, now they were an overwhelming, nerve wracking experience, fraught with the fear of hearing those awful words again.
I couldn't look at the screen, tears would roll down my cheeks, as I clutched my husband’s hand, looking at the ceiling until I heard that beautiful heartbeat.
The fear didn't end at 12 weeks when the risk of miscarriage is greatly reduced. It remained, ever so slightly below the surface, ready to bubble and send me into a whirl of panic at any off feeling or strange sensation. Trips to the toilet were an ordeal as I tentatively checked the paper for blood each time.
LISTEN: Mamamia Out Loud's Monique Bowley shares her story about miscarriage (post continues after audio...)
My husband and I definitely didn't connect with this pregnancy the same way we did with our daughter. There was no finding out the gender, no discussing names, no buying baby things before 24 weeks, no talking to my growing tummy. There was no way I was tempting fate by believing...
In fact, I have recently been diagnosed with Post Partum Anxiety and I have no doubt at all that my losses and highly anxious pregnancy have lead me to this point. I’m doing OK with counselling and medication but it is it yet another example as to how profoundly and deeply pregnancy loss can affect us. Another reason I am determined to support other women who are experiencing this pain and grief of early pregnancy loss.
The Pink Elephants Support Network
After my second loss, I was desperate to speak to someone who understood what I was going through, but I didn’t know anyone in my immediate friendship group who’d been through miscarriage. Then one day a post came up about miscarriage in a Facebook Mum’s type group and I saw that Gabbi, who turned out to be a mutual friend, had responded about her experience. So, I messaged her and we met for coffee.
It was comforting for me to be able to open up about how I was feeling to someone who’d been there before. Gabbi had suffered through six miscarriages and had also done two years of IVF, and her support meant so much to me.
We agreed that there was an unmet need in the community around the support of women experiencing (early) miscarriage. From the initial miscarriage diagnosis, to the ensuing loss/procedure and knowing what to expect, right down to the support that partners, family and friends can give - women needed and deserved more. Conversations needed to be had. Validation needed to be given. Connections needed to be made. Information needed to be offered. And so the concept for Pink Elephants was created.
We have come a long way since that first coffee. We have a third co-founder who has helped us bring our amazing copy to life though our website and resources. So far, together we have created the following to support, nurture and empower our community along their journeys:
- Website - A central point of relevant and trusted information for our community to support their emotional and physical wellbeing, through every step of the miscarriage journey and beyond.
- Miscarriage Care Kits - Our Miscarriage Care Kits will ensure that no woman leaves from a miscarriage diagnosis unclear of what to expect or where to go for support. They include a letter from us written with love, care and understanding. An infographic of what to expect after diagnosis from a clinical perspective. A Partner Resource brochure on how best to support their loved one during this difficult time. An Emotional Wellbeing brochure for the woman about what to expect from an emotional perspective and how to care for themselves. Our aim is to have these distributed across all hospitals, clinics and surgeries in the country.
- Resources on our website – These include Partner, Emotional Wellbeing, Telling the Children, A Friend in Need and Use your Words. The aim of these is to support the woman experiencing the loss and to educate their immediate support networks as to how best support them. All our resources are free and can be downloaded from our website.
- Rainbow Stickers - These are small stickers to be placed on a woman’s antenatal card as a symbol of previous loss prior to this current pregnancy. This indicates to her carers that this woman may be more anxious and require a higher level of care and attention at things like scans.
Next year we will be rolling out our Pink Elephants Peer Support program where we will connect women who have gone through loss with women who are currently going through it.
At Pink Elephants Support Network, we believe that whilst miscarriage is an individual journey, no woman should have to walk it alone.