real life

"A wall of grief is haunting me." What no one tells you about missed miscarriage.

This post deals with miscarriage. For 24-hour support after pregnancy loss, stillbirth or newborn death, please call Sands Australia on 1300 072 637.

There was a rhythm to my steps. I couldn’t help myself, it was like a terrible ear worm, the worst kind. Every step tapped out the words, “Dead baby, dead baby, dead baby”.

I was supposed to be seven weeks pregnant, but had just found out the child didn’t make it much past six.

And this is where I feel like I was let down by life. That somewhere in my education, in my research, in everything, I had let myself down, my husband down, my family down. That I was a failure who couldn’t science my way out of a black hole.

Mia Freedman talks about feeling lost after miscarriage.

Video by Mamamia

One in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, and the highest risk is during the first six to twelve weeks. I knew this going in. I thought I was aware. I read the blogs of women who had lost their children, I had watched shows that feature death as a storyline. Having fertility trouble as well, I read everything and thought I knew what was to come.


I didn’t know that you stayed pregnant for sometime even when you stopped carrying life.

I didn’t know that it doesn’t always end up with some pain and heartbreak in a bathroom. I didn’t know that a child could be dead a week and you have no physical idea until the ultrasound.

That they’ll hand you a specimen jar, some saline fluid – likely not enough, so you’ll need to go buy some more. They’ll give you another week to see if nature will take its course, otherwise they’ll book you in for some surgery.

When you have little personal leave, you are left holding this jar and wondering just how would it look to miscarry in a work bathroom? Will I get any warning signs, or will it just slide out one day? How am I to discreetly walk about my office with a specimen jar when women’s clothing is not blessed with such things as pockets, and you can’t exactly keep going to the bathroom with a bag every time you think something may be happening.

All the while this overwhelming wall of grief is haunting me and insisting that I am nothing but a failure. And then the rhythm starts.

Olympic swimmer Libby Trickett speaks about her miscarriage. (Post continues below.)

“How was your weekend?” they ask at work. “Dead baby,” I think, not sure where to put my hands, on my belly or on the specimen jar.

“Have you got that report finished?” my supervisor asks. “Dead baby, dead baby,” the keys clack at me as I try to finish. The specimen jar with its little yellow lid sits in the bottom of my bag.


“How about I meet you for lunch,” my husband tells me. “Dead baby, dead baby, dead baby,” in the steps I take to meet him. I wonder if they’re seared onto the bottom of my shoes.

“How much saline do you need?” the pharmacist asks. “How much space does a dead baby take up in a specimen jar?” Is this was the tracking app about baby size should be used for now? When do I delete that app? What do I do with all the Bonds Wondersuits I bought cheaply at the Aldi sale? Should I stop carrying the bassinet mattress around in my car, as I don’t need to get a new one made.

They don’t tell you that your pregnancy hormones can continue. That the morning sickness, the aversion to food, the weight of tiredness can continue. All without life. If the mental pain wasn’t enough, the physical reminder of sacrifice for nothing was ever-present.

I am one of the lucky ones who doesn’t know what it’s like to miscarry in a work bathroom, or on the floor of my shower. My body, while it could not save this little boy, it apparently likes staying pregnant. The only way this body was giving up a baby was with minor surgery. I never had to work out what to do with the specimen jar, and if I had bought enough saline.

I woke up with less pressure, the pregnancy symptoms disappearing. The rhythm of the dead baby went away, but the sense of failure has taken longer to leave. I’m not sure it ever will.

Sands Australia: 1300 072 637