pregnancy

'Infertility and pregnancy loss change you. There are 6 lessons I've learnt about coping.'

This post deals with infertility and pregnancy loss, and might be triggering for some readers.

Imagine a mirror that once hung so strong and steadily on your wall falls to the ground and smashes into pieces.  

You stare at it on the floor, not quite sure what to make of all the glass scattered around you.  

Gathering the pieces up, you start joining them back together one by one, piece by piece, and hang the mirror back on the wall. 

Watch: A tribute to the babies we've lost. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

But, from that moment on when you look at your reflection, it has changed. 

Of course, you know it is still you when you stare into it, but the mirror will never be the same, will never be whole as it once was, and the cracks will never disappear.  

That is infertility. That is pregnancy loss. It changes us. We break into pieces and put ourselves back together and break some more. The way we see ourselves and the way we view the world becomes different. 

Some days it is dark and hopeless and other days it is light and full of hope and obstacles overcome. Then other days you don’t feel anything at all, completely detached from reality.  

My story has been filled with a number of chapters over the course of the last four years. Chapters detailing the immense highs of the two lines on the pregnancy test stick and seeing the joy on my husband’s face, to the lows, on more than one occasion, of the “sorry, there's no heartbeat” at the scan.   

From the strength in knowing you can try again, to the fear of wondering how you possibly can. 

And the absolute shock within the span of 24 hours going from thinking at the 13 week mark, “this is it”, to being told that really the only option is to terminate your pregnancy because no matter what you do, your baby won’t survive. 

And waking up from that “simple” surgery seven hours later informed you almost died from blood loss and had to undergo an emergency hysterectomy. 

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No more pregnancy. Surrogacy being the only option.  

That is a very short version of the last four years. I know and appreciate that four years is not as long a time as so many women have endured, but it is through sharing our stories that we can start to heal and learn from one another.   

Listen to Mamamia's fertility podcast, Get Me Pregnant, where we talk about coping with loss. Post continues below.

Triggered just the other day, I went for a run, because in that moment I honestly didn’t know what else to do. I ran with salt stinging my eyes, unsure of whether it was from the sweat or my tears. 

The feeling of hopelessness was so overwhelming it covered my chest like a cocoon closing in tighter and tighter. And for the first time I asked God or the Universe or whatever this higher being I pray to, “why me?” I had never asked that before. Never played the victim. Just looked forward to what I needed to do next. But for some reason, at that point in time, I was overcome with anger. 

So as the pages of my story continue to be turned. Having found a selfless angel who is our surrogate, yet still battling with fertility issues, I find myself reflecting on the years of struggle and what I have endured. Certainly not to relive the immense pain, but to understand why I feel the way I (still) do, and to give it a voice so other women understand they are not alone.

We do have a voice, a loud one at that, which will only get louder by sharing and coming together.

Here are the lightbulb moments along the way which have given me comfort in an otherwise long, wounding, and ongoing process.

Don’t try and be that person you were PT (Pre-Trauma). Trauma changes you.

I look back on the time before my first miscarriage to the present and I am a different person. I have often questioned who I am over the last four years and have tried incredibly hard to find her. I can’t, and it's exhausting to try. 

What I have experienced has led to pain, sadness, grief and anger, ripping out my heart time and time again. 

But it has also made me stronger, more patient and more spiritual. To question who we are is simply a part of the process of self-discovery and healing, but to put too much energy into being that person you were, only exacerbates the pain.

Being vulnerable IS being strong.

I thought being strong was mostly about getting back up each time you get knocked down. It is to a large extent, but there is just as much strength in being vulnerable.

I hid my emotions and feelings for a long time, not telling people where I was in my journey for fear of being seen to fail. It wasn’t until a dear friend said to me, “it’s ok to not be ok”, that I realised to have the courage to put yourself out there, particularly when you don’t have control over a situation, is strength without question. 

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The vulnerability I showed ultimately led me to my surrogate.

Happiness, sadness and anger aren’t mutually exclusive. I labelled my days and my energy based on one emotion: I would have either a happy day, a sad day or an angry day. 

If I felt one, I honestly thought I couldn’t feel another. Then if it were a sad day, I would feel guilty for having a moment of happiness. Through talking with my therapist, I have come to realise that all the emotions we feel because of what we go through are yin and yang.  

They exist as inseparable and contradictory opposites.  

Try to not let fear of judgement get in the way of talking to people.

Whether it's one person or a group of people, friends, family, or a professional therapist, find at least one person you can talk to. 

Whoever you choose, you have made that decision for a reason, so trust them. They may not fully understand or empathise if they have not been through it themselves but trust them, trust why you chose them, and trust they won’t judge.

Practising gratitude helps (but it’s ok to tell gratitude to f**k off).

I have listened to almost every podcast there is about practising gratitude. I focus on the little things, I soak it in, and when I feel like it, I write in my gratitude journal. 

It is therapeutic, but there are certainly some days where I want to tell gratitude to go to hell. Of course, I am grateful for everything I do have, of which there is a lot, but I also feel like what the universe has served up for me is completely unfair. There is no need to feel guilty about feeling less grateful.  

Meditation and boxing are equally therapeutic.  

Meditation helps me feel grounded and calm. 'Insight Timer' is a brilliant app that has loads of free meditations including those by Sarah Blondon. She has really saved me (you'll understand once you listen to her). 

I also have a boxing bag and gloves, and let it all out that way when I need to.

Finding something to help release whatever is building up is a must. 

The need for communication with your partner is never greater.

I was not a big communicator and I very rarely shared my feelings, because it was not something that I was brought up to do. 

For me it was a learned skill, and it has led to my relationship with my husband only getting stronger through all the obstacles we have faced. 

If you have a partner, remember they're not a mind reader, and it's extremely difficult for them to see the one they love go through something so traumatic both physically and emotionally. 

By letting them into your feelings, it helps them become part of the process of healing.  

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It also allows you to sit comfortably in your emotion, whether that be absolute heartbreak where you want to lie in bed or sit in the shower and cry, or anger where even the smallest of things is too much.

You won’t know what your triggers are until you are triggered. What is a trigger one day will not be the next. What makes sense as a trigger suddenly will not make sense. When you have just experienced a setback, you will notice every female walking past you is pregnant. 

When you read a post which starts with ‘trigger warning’ and you don’t read past that, you are triggered.  

This is when self-care is so important. Do whatever you need to do under the umbrella of ‘self-care’ to regain your balance and reduce the vertigo that a trigger causes.

So, am I healed? Definitely not. That mirror well and truly remains cracked. Do I have my happily ever after? Not yet, in the context of a baby. I am a work in progress, dealing with the heaviness of infertility every day.   

There are days where it eats away at me inside slowly or it explodes when I least expect it to. 

The process is long and complex, but I tell you what - the amount I have learnt and grown along the way is incomprehensible. 

Through the darkest of moments, I stop and say to myself, "look where you are and look how far you have come."

Just saying that to yourself turns the chaos on its head, just for a moment. And for those experiencing pregnancy loss and infertility, just like me, you survived this.  

The mirror may remain shattered, and your reflection broken, but just as the sun rises every day, you will rise.

If this has 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. 

You can download Never Forgotten: Stories of love, loss and healing after miscarriage, stillbirth, and neonatal death for free here.

Join the community of women, men and families who have lost a child in our private Facebook group.

Anita is the Head of Marketing & Communications for a global law firm and has a career spanning marketing and HR within professional services in both Sydney and London. She is also an Ambassador for the Australian Indigenous Education Fund (AIEF). After years of infertility and following an emergency hysterectomy in 2019, Anita and her husband are continuing their journey with their surrogate in the hope of bringing their baby into world. Anita is just about to undergo another round of IVF with the aim of creating a healthy embryo.

Feature Image: Supplied.