pregnancy

'I've lost 6 babies. It almost destroyed my relationship with my husband and son.'

This post deals with miscarriage and might be triggering for some readers. 

As a girl I learnt about tsunamis - giant, crashing waves towering over a beach and then swallowing all in their way. I'd watch waves rolling in and wonder if I'd have enough breath to swim down and hold on to the sand whilst the wave passed over me.  

In truth, tsunamis don’t happen in one enormous crash… they slowly creep towards the edge of the water and then push with slow, insidious horror.

As does miscarriage

Watch: Tina Arena talks to Mia Freedman about her miscarriage. Post continues after video.


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While I applaud those who are finally speaking about what happens to women who miscarry (one in four pregnancies), social media posts mostly depict a giant crashing wave. Lost angels. Fallen spirits. Soaring hearts and shocked feelings. Tears and grief. All true. But for those who haven’t experienced miscarriage, and even those who have, it's also a complex tale of stealthy torture that's hard to put into words. 

I barely recognise myself in a mirror. My drawn eyes and withered features are hiding in all the extra kilos gained from recurring pregnancies. I’ve had five miscarriages, the first before my two-year-old son's birth, and in the last two years, another four, resulting in the loss of six babies. Not ‘products’…‘foetus’…'embryos' … six babies

I’ve had one natural miscarriage, used medication, had hospital procedures, complications, a twin pregnancy and even caught a baby in my hand in the toilet. I’ve exploded in blood at the hairdresser's and secretly shoved tissues in my undies at a work conference. I’ve pretended I'm fine while writhing with cramps and sweating profusely. What I’ve been through is not uncommon. And yet I’ve felt so alone. 

Physically, I’m withering. I've been in the first trimester of pregnancy for 12 months, longer than any normal pregnancy, and spent the other year recovering and grieving.  Yo-yoing hormones played havoc with my moods and my body became unrecognisable compared to the woman who once completed a mini-triathlon. I feel like one of those poor donkeys who haul people up and down the Grand Canyon – bone weary but relentlessly taking careful steps up an almighty hill. 

Around my weary puddle of a face is home. Brimming with dust, clutter, chaos and clothes that don’t fit. Truth is, the human toll of miscarriage extinguishes the mundane so chores get bumped down the list, again and again, until one day you walk into your sanctuary to be crippled by the realisation it's like your body – weary, bloated and in desperate need of tenderness. 

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These issues are merely beach umbrellas in this hideous tsunami. 

The real toll is taken on human casualties. The grief, beautifully explained by many women publicly, is complex and lonely. You're grieving an ideal, an idea, a possibility, whom you can't denote by the normal grieving process of remembering their laugh, or their hug. You have no memory to hang onto. These little beings are swallowed into the ether. 

Friends and family feel for you, but once again the normal grieving procedure cannot be adhered to. They can’t ask ‘how did they die?’ or ‘What do you remember most?’  As a mother, you're the only person in the world who has some kind of connection to this little being. To what might have been them.

So you are left with a grief hangover. Without the ability to express the grief beyond the initial feeling of loss. 

As time moved on, my sadness became harder to explain. I had no fun anecdotes or warm memories to relate. I didn’t have stories about how my life was slowly starting to evolve without the deceased person in it. I only had the sadness. And when I couldn’t explain it, it became wrapped in shame.  Shame, because I should be moving on, like everyone else. Shame, because I’m grieving over something that went down the toilet. Shame, because in all the trauma I’ve experienced, nothing seemed to physically hurt my heart with sadness like this. Shame, because ultimately I felt my body had let me down and now I had to suffer this alone. 

And so I withdrew, socially and emotionally, down a rabbit hole of untold miscarriage stories. I found many accounts of 'the big wave', but it was difficult to find stories of women whose lives blew up around them, as I felt mine was doing… to find tales of women who had miscarriages and couldn’t cope months later… to find stories of women openly sitting in their shame. I desperately wanted those stories, which has propelled me to write mine. 

With all of this, like a true tsunami, the real damage takes place as the debris grows. 

A debris that can use force to destroy what matters most: my relationship to my son and partner. 

Not many people talk of the tsunami miscarriage debris that is a relationship. The creaking of anger, resentment and intimacy slowly being leached into the water. For us, it started with inequality. Between bouts of needing to rest to make my pregnancy work, and then to recover, my partner has been doing the lion’s share of daily household needs for the entire two years. No medal-winning achievement, but it does render him with the exhaustion that comes from co-parenting, full time work, emotional support and household hero… a tiredness he can’t dare mention because it pales in comparison to what I’m going through. 

So he became resentful. And angry. Angry that he'd lost the spark that was his partner and was living with someone withered and emotionally volatile. Hurt by the incessant need to watch me putting myself through the baby-making process when he didn’t have the same strong desire. Frustrated by the fact he couldn’t fully connect with the grief. 

I became angry too. I wanted him to join me in my grief. And he didn’t. In my head, he was carrying on with life ‘as normal’. He didn’t wither. He didn’t hurt. He didn’t bloat. And I found myself throwing my blame at him in fits of anger about the smallest details. 

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So we nipped at each other. And we nipped. And then we bit.

Couple this with the complexity of intimacy. Baby-making sex is the most un-romantic copulation. When two exhausted people ‘HAVE TO' it can make for some pretty beige interaction. Sex was no longer for fun because it became embroiled in baby-making - fear of not getting pregnant, fear of getting pregnant, memories of getting pregnant, resentment simmering away… 

And still the tsunami gathers strength as it wraps all the shrapnel and heaves it towards your most sacred possession.

My son. 

LISTEN: Grief, Shame & Guilt: Let's Talk About Miscarriage. Post continues after audio...

The other night, my son, not yet three, heard me crying in the hallway at 1am. He called to me. I put on my Mumma face and hoped he just wanted something trivial. He put his tiny hands around my face. ‘Mumma..you’re crying'. I reassured him I was fine and just feeling a 'little bit sad'. He pulled me forcefully into his bed. ‘You just need a hug’ he said, before tightly wrapping his jelly arms around my neck and holding me till the sun rose. 

The guilt I felt that night for having to be comforted by my two-year-old is one I’ll never forget. What two-year-old needs to be the bearer of comfort for his mother's broken heart?

With the sun came a realisation. This boy had spent two-thirds of his life with a sad Mumma. He'd never seen my vivaciousness. My joy. He'd been witnessing a Mumma crying on the couch and resting, torn up by the siblings he’d never know and speaking of brothers and sisters before erasing them from our conversations. And he saw it all. I had to do something. This was the moment the tide turned. 

The tsunami is withdrawing and I’m taking stock of the damage. Determined to start the cleanup one step at a time.

A support team has arrived. I’ve got a great therapist. My partner and I are working solidly to piece back together our relationship and I’m dedicating precious time to my son. We go to the zoo. We laugh. Play. I’m focusing on healing myself and stepping bravely into the community to say, ‘I’ve had all these miscarriages and I am NOT okay.' I’m determined to feel no shame in taking the time I need to heal. 

Holding on to the sand at the bottom of a miscarriage tsunami just isn’t possible.  You have to stand strong and let the force go where it needs to… and just wait until it turns. I want other women to hear this. And I want people to realise the huge tsunami effect of miscarriage to help them understand why a female friend or relative might have seemed ‘off’ recently. 

I’m still a withered donkey. And I’m surrounded by a huge mess. But if I keep picking up one piece at a time… I’m hoping I’ll get there. I hope you do too. 

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. 

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