pregnancy

"In a split second, our lives crumbled." The unique pain of miscarriage.

This post deals with pregnancy loss and may be triggering for some readers.

Shock flooded me as I stared down at that plastic stick.

In a split second, my whole being changed from me to us. Me as the daughter, sister, girlfriend, friend, colleague. To us - mother and child. I wasn’t yet a 'mother', but you featured in every thought, every movement, every decision.

Looking back, I think I knew. Why else would I have dug out my list of names at a random hour one working afternoon, just to mindlessly scroll through and select my three favourites for a boy and three favourites for a girl? Why else did I constantly say to James "I think I need to do a pregnancy test" with an err of giddy-ness and expectation, knowing that my period was always late but somehow this time felt different? 

And then why did I prolong doing that test, as though I wasn’t ready for any outcome - the sadness if it was negative and the excited nervousness for the reality of a positive line.

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


Video via Mamamia.

But when I ran to get James, speechless and pointing to the bathroom, I was all the emotions at once. I was scared. I was excited. I was proud. And as the days went on, I experienced the rollercoaster of the first trimester of my first pregnancy.

The full acknowledgement that my body was shared now - mourning the body that I would never have again while in awe at the sophistication of the female form, changing shapes and function to grow life.

The morning sickness that became all-day-every-gruelling-second sickness - so bad that I would have to pause meetings to secretly throw up and I didn’t brush my teeth for days on end because having anything foreign in my mouth set off my gag reflex. This brought tears of frustration - for every person I mentioned it to told me 'this is great sign, your baby is strong' while I selfishly thought 'I don’t give a sh*t about this thing in my belly, I want to feel better' then immediately feeling the immense guilt that I was already a bad mother for not putting my child first.

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The mourning of a life that had been lost - thanks to lockdown and now to becoming this new version of myself. The realisation that my days of whimsically getting on a plane to travel the grimy streets of some far off country were being put on hold for, what, 18 years?! That, even if I could find a babysitter and the energy to go out, the likelihood of me getting high and dancing into the wee hours of the morning were behind me, because I knew that spending the morning with you - not hungover - would outweigh the freedom I felt in that moment.

I even bought an apartment with you in mind. Did I like the view enough to be looking at it during labour or during days that melt together as I sit on the lounge and breastfeed? Did it feel safe and quiet enough to raise a happy, healthy, child? Was it close enough to family so that I would be supported through some of the most beautiful and difficult years of my life?

Image: Supplied.

I desperately wanted to tell people the news of you, but was constantly overwhelmed with their excitement while I still came to terms with my changing body, the life I once had and the mortgage I was now committed to - all thanks to you.

The rollercoaster of you.

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But then, weeks after you formed in my body - 10 weeks and 4 days to be exact - things changed again.

In a split second, our lives crumbled as we heard the words: 'I’m so sorry, I can’t hear a heartbeat'. Things went blurry and silent as the nurse told us when she thought you left us, what happened next, and how sorry she was. I kept choking out the words "it’s okay" through tears that streamed my face, as though I needed her to feel better about the pain she felt for us.

Crying, yet numb, I walked out of the clinic and got driven home, taking care of formalities to inform the hundreds of people who were cheering alongside us about your existence.

And then the guessing started. Was it because I was slack with my supplements because every time I tried to swallow them I would throw up? Was it because of that yoga class I did where I got so swept up in how good it felt to move that I forgot to be careful of you? Was it because I wasn’t ready to be a mum, and this is the universe's way of telling me so? Or was it simply because my body is not up to the challenge? Because my body failed us - even though no one would ever speak those words out loud.

James and Justine. Image: Supplied.

There’s a small part of me that thinks I knew. Why else would I have been rehearsing those devastating words in the shower that morning? Was it fear or intuition? Why else would my nausea have eased at nine weeks, instead of the standard 12? But there were no real signs - no pain and no bleeding - the 'sure things' that would have saved me from continuing to plan for our lives for two weeks while you sat dead and dormant in my body.

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Later that same day, as James and I peeled ourselves off the couch in a dazed stupor, hoping fresh air and a glimpse of the ocean would shift our state, we wandered down to the beach. Shock, pain, guilt, sadness, longing - all of these feelings would flood me as young couples walked past with their little ones. But most of all, a sense of wonder. What would you have been like? How did you look? Where had your soul been before it tried to enter our world?

They say time heals all wounds, and from other experiences I know this to be true. But there’s something different when it’s your body that’s in the driver's seat. The blame, the shame, the questioning, the anger. The immense sadness that comes in waves. And then the frustration that I know better than to listen to these nasty words in my head. That, if I do, I will spiral into the depression of miscarriage even though every person rightly reassures me that there is nothing, nothing, I could have done differently to keep you ours.

And now I’m in limbo. Not yet a mother, but definitely not who I was before. Desperately wanting to try again, to meet your sibling, but simultaneously terrified that I’ll go through weeks of excitement and sickness just to feel this lost again.

I know it will take me months, years even, to accept your departure. But, as I start on this journey I know that you will also be my greatest teacher. For showing me that I am ready to become a mother and for encouraging me to trust my body. I’m not yet there, but I know that’s what’s in store for me the next few months as I rebuild my strength to carry on without you.

This post was originally published on Medium, and has been republished with full permission.

Justine works as a health coach, yoga teacher and social impact strategist. When she’s not devouring a self-growth book, you can find her exploring nature. You can follow her on Instagram here or for her wellness musings here.

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.

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Feature Image: Supplied.