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'I told my daughters about my miscarriage. It was one of the best things I've ever done.'

The following deals with pregnancy loss. For 24-hour support, contact SANDS Australia on 1300 072 637.

When people ask me how many children I have, I answer two, but in my heart of hearts, the answer is three.

While only two of them made it ‘earth side’, my first conceived and first loved was lost at eight weeks.

Only the size of an olive but loved fiercely by both myself and my husband, her loss was profound and personally transformative.

WATCH: Em Rusciano talks about how to cope with pregnancy loss. Post continues below.

Video via Channel 10

This is why, when my two daughters asked me about having children and why some have more than others, I thought it was the right time to tell them about their sibling – their sister, Olive.

While the journeys of having children, pregnancy and conception are unique for every couple or person, or not a part of their journey at all, I wanted them to know that it is not a ‘given’ for many reasons.

I also wanted them to know that women don’t just always easily fall pregnant and carry their baby to deliver it healthily and safely in nine months’ time.

For some, like me, it can have its challenges and they can sometimes be heartbreaking.

While my two girls may only be five and seven, and not every detail was necessary to be shared with them just yet, I still wished to provide with them enough information for them to understand that it can be complex. So, I told them this:

Your Dad and I first tried for a baby before we tried for either of you.

We were lucky and very quickly I was pregnant. For the first few weeks, everything seemed to go well but then when the baby was 8 weeks old, I had some bleeding, so I went to the doctor because sometimes this can mean that something is wrong with the baby.

When they did their ultrasound, a special test to check the baby and its heart, they found that the heart had stopped beating. They then had to take her out of my uterus, so mum could try again if and when she wanted to.

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Shona's daughters. Image: Instagram.
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It was a simple explanation. Perhaps not the most sophisticated, but it was enough for my daughters to understand physically what had happened, or at least have an idea.

After this, I then told them how it was very upsetting for myself and their dad to lose the baby and that we still think of her often.

I showed them my ultrasound images of baby Olive. Although barely a recognisable human shape, the black and white ultrasound image still enabled them to really see that yes Olive was real, yes, she was here but now she is not. I told them her name is Olive because that was the size she was when her heart stopped beating.

After explaining what had happened and answering their questions about how and why women miscarry, both of my daughters hugged me. Their comprehension of, for them, such an intangible situation was beautiful. Their compassion and supportiveness filled me with a sense of pride and contentment I’d never felt.

It comforted me perhaps more than I had ever felt comforted with this loss because it felt like somehow there was a bit of Olive in both of them reaching out to me to say, “I’m here.”

“So, we have a sister?” My eldest asked me as they broke from our embrace.

“Yes, you do,” I replied. Because it was true. They did have a sister, she was just somewhere else.

Olive often comes up in conversations now, usually instigated by my daughters. They like to talk about what she would have been like.

“Would she love icy poles like me?” Asked my youngest. “Or maybe cheese like I do?” Replied her sister.

They talk about her personality, her appearance, even whose room she would have or if that would mean they would have to share one (much to their dismay).

These little pieces of dialogue, often trivial in subject matter, offer an ‘insight’ (imaginary, I know) into Olive that I would never have had otherwise.

From this, her spirit is felt within them, as it is me, her existence is celebrated and most importantly, her place within our family is solidified. For all of these reasons, sharing my miscarriage with my two daughters was one of the greatest things I have ever done.

Shona Hendley, Mother of Goats, Cats and Humans is a freelance writer from Victoria. An ex secondary school teacher, Shona has a strong interest in education and is a passionate animal lover and advocate. You can follow her on Instagram here.

Feature image: Instagram/@shonamarion

SANDS Australia: 1300 072 637.

 

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