There are a lot of things I’ve failed at. Relationships. Cooking. Being a TV executive. Decorating. The list is long.
Some of these failures have been short-lived while others have been life-long. The feeling is always unpleasant, sometimes intensely so. The most challenging type of failure I’ve ever experienced though, is the failure I felt around pregnancy loss and the infertility that followed it.
Halfway through my second pregnancy, my baby daughter died. And I didn’t even know. My husband and I found out unexpectedly at the 19 week scan. She was there on the monitor and yet she was gone.
Among the tsunami of emotions that knocked me off my feet over the ensuing days and months and years, the feeling of failure was pervasive, punching its way up through my grief. I couldn’t wash it off. It clung to my most fundamental identity as a woman in a way that shocked me, making me feel hopeless and helpless and deeply, overwhelmingly ashamed.
I felt like my most primal function as a woman – to conceive a child, carry it to term and deliver it safely into the world – was something I’d failed at. No matter that I already had one healthy child. The baby I’d lost … I’d failed her. The babies I couldn’t conceive, month after agonising month, I’d failed them too. I’d failed my husband. I’d failed myself. My body had failed me. It had failed my babies both real and imagined.
This week is Never Forgotten: Mamamia’s Pregnancy Loss Awareness Week. Post continues below.
This acute and ongoing feeling of failure is the biggest challenge of miscarriage, pregnancy loss and infertility. As women, we turn against ourselves so often. The guilt about everything. The directing our pain inwards. The blaming ourselves. It’s a downward spiral of negativity that exacerbates every physical symptom and amplifies every hormonal wave, making us feel like shit in a way it’s really hard to explain.
Research released by Bump fertility clinic reveals 85 per cent of Australian women aged 25-44 believe there is a social stigma associated with seeking IVF treatment and 48 per cent believe it is due to a perception that seeking IVF treatment means you have ‘failed’.
I hear you. I have countless friends who have been through IVF, feeling like they’d failed before even seeking the treatment in the first place.
Friends felt they’d failed even before they started fertility treatment.
Trying to conceive my daughter took a long time and involved another miscarriage as well as fertility treatment using Clomid, an ovulation drug. I vividly remember sitting with my husband in my obstetrician’s office, my growing medical file on the desk between us, tears running down my face as I begged him to let me start IVF because I just couldn’t take it anymore; the crushing disappointment, the crushing sense of failure, the crushing cruelty of wanting something so desperately and not being able to pull it off. No matter how hard I tried.
He listened to me with great kindness and patience, promising that we would give it just one more month and then proceed to IVF. It turns out I was already a week or so pregnant so we didn’t have to go there. I was lucky.
About a year ago, I had another miscarriage and while the feeling of failure wasn’t nearly as intense – I have three beautiful healthy children – it still washed over me, albeit more lightly that it has in the past.
You know that expression “failure is not an option”? Well that’s bullshit. Sometimes it is an option. A very real, very frightening option that is always with you, hanging over your head. Sometimes it’s a reality. Sometimes you don’t get to choose whether you become a mother or not. Your failure is just handed to you and there’s nothing you can do to change it.
I have no way to wrap all this into an inspirational quote tied up with a bow. When you’re desperately trying to get pregnant those around you are always trying to cheer you up, point out the bright side and the silver lining. They mean well but it can be hard to hear.
You don’t feel lucky. There is no bright side. You’re in a dark and lonely place.
So all I wanted to say to all the women who are in that place right now is that I know. I know how you feel. I’ve felt it too and so have thousands and thousands of other women.
Rebecca Sparrow and Mia Freeman.
My treasured friend Bec Sparrow and I met in this dark place. Our friendship was forged in grief around the loss of our daughters. We have both been helped enormously by the love and support and generosity of other women in the years since and we wanted to repay some of that love and support by reaching out further with a book of heartfelt stories shared by others who have also been there.
Never Forgotten is for every woman who has ever felt like she's a failure at motherhood, at pregnancy, at fulfilling her dreams of having a baby and taking it home, wrapped snugly in her arms.
Those who know Bec and I and what we've experienced often reach out to us when someone they know has experienced something similar. We saw the need there and we called for other women to share their stories through Mamamia. The response was overwhelming and incredibly moving and the result is this book, which will help parents - mothers and fathers - out of the darkness.
This type of grief is very unique. And we want you to know that we understand.
If this has post raised any issues for you or if you would like to speak with someone, please contact the Sands Australia 24 hour support line on 1300 072 637.