Picking Up the Pieces

If you’ve been affected by miscarriage and you’re reading this, the first thing you need to know is that you did nothing wrong, it absolutely wasn’t your fault.

You also need to know how deeply sorry I am for your loss.

After my miscarriages I felt so desperately alone and I can’t tell you how many hours I spent searching the internet for something, anything, to make me feel better.

Over the days, weeks and months that followed, my husband and I found a number of different ways that have helped us come to terms with our loss.

I’m not saying you have to do all or any of them even – everyone’s experience of baby loss is different – but I want to share with you some of the things you can do to help you navigate your grief.

Getting answers:

This isn’t always possible, but in the case of our first miscarriage we were fortunate that it was an option.

It was a missed miscarriage and the consultant believed the baby had Edward’s syndrome.

As a result, we were offered genetic testing to confirm or rule this out and it definitely helped me that we got an answer as to why the miscarriage happened.

At the same time, we asked to find out the sex of our baby.

My husband wasn’t sure he wanted to know, but I didn’t want to regret what we hadn’t done, and I knew this would be our only chance to get information that might help us process our grief.

It was tough to find out we’d lost a boy (although I believe it would have been difficult regardless) and ultimately knowing this has helped us on this journey.

The funeral:
So often we forget about the practicalities of a miscarriage and what happens with the baby that we lose.

Depending on the type of miscarriage, you may have to make a decision over where to bury your baby.

Due to the stage the pregnancy had reached when I had my first miscarriage and the fact I had surgical management, we were offered the choice of having our baby buried in a communal grave and a ceremony organised by the hospital.

However, after a lot of discussion, we felt we wanted him to be buried with family and in a place we can visit even if we move on from where we live now.

There is also the option to bury your baby with personal items, such as blankets, teddy bears, letters, jewellery, or any other items that will bring you comfort.

You can even buy an additional blanket or teddy to keep with you as a keepsake.

Naming your baby:

Having found out the first baby we lost was a boy, we thought long and hard and eventually decided to give him a name – Ben.

I understand that some people choose not to name their baby because it may make the loss more real, or it may even seem strange naming a baby they never met.

However, for us, it was something that helped us validate the existence of the baby we lost.

It may be that you don’t know whether you were carrying a boy or girl but would still like to give them a name.

In that case, you might have a feeling about the sex and you could choose a name to reflect that, or you might go for a unisex name, or even continue to use a nickname, such as Pip, that you gave them prior to the miscarriage.

It’s not a decision you have to make straightaway and a name isn’t even something you have to share with others, it can be something you keep private.

Memorial services:

It is likely that the health trust and churches where you live hold annual memorial services.

I went to the service at our local church quite soon after my first loss and while it was extremely emotional, I think it was part of the healing process – I was desperate for my baby to know he hadn’t been forgotten.

I also arranged for his name to be added to a special memorial book organised by the bereavement midwife at our local hospital.

The incredible Mariposa Trust, which supports people affected by baby loss at any stage, is bringing its Saying Goodbye service to Belfast on June 2.

The event, starting at 3.30pm at St Anne’s Cathedral, provides an opportunity for individuals, couples, families and friends to acknowledge and remember every baby that has been lost in a beautiful and moving service.

Memory box:

One of the most difficult things about a miscarriage is the loss of something tangible.

You grieve for a person you never met.

For us, all we had to prove that our first baby existed were the positive pregnancy tests, hospital letters and scan pictures.

With our second miscarriage, we just have a few pregnancy tests, but I keep everything from both pregnancies, including the teddy bear, together in a box.

Support groups:

There are a number of different charities and organisations that offer support after baby loss.

It can be one of the most isolating experiences, particularly if a miscarriage happens before you have told loved ones about the pregnancy.

Even if people are aware that you were expecting and know you have had a miscarriage, it can be helpful to speak to other people who have been through the experience as well.

Support groups can also be invaluable because in some cases, it may be easier to be open and honest with strangers about your emotions and grief than with loved ones.

In my case, I joined a few online forums for women who had been through baby loss, but I actually stopped using them as I felt they were too morbid and upsetting and were actually intensifying my grief.

Moving on:

This doesn’t mean forgetting your little one – it means bringing their memory with you as you continue on with your life.

There are so many ways of remembering your lost baby as time moves on.

We have a Christmas bauble we hang on the Christmas tree every year and a blossom tree we planted in the garden on Ben’s due date.

Every year for Christmas, I donate a little boy’s toy to charity for them to open on Christmas morning and we also have a candle that we light on special occasions, such as Mother’s Day, their due dates and during the Wave of Light ceremony.

Other people name a star in their baby’s memory, or you could sponsor a child the same age and sex as your baby would be.

Talk:

Hopefully you will be able to share your pain with your partner.

That isn’t always possible, so if you’re lucky enough to have an understanding friend or family member who knows the importance of listening, then make sure you talk.

There will be days where you find it impossible to even let yourself think about what has happened, but you mustn’t let yourself hide your feelings.

For quite a few months, I frequently found it difficult to speak about what had happened and then there were other days when it was all I wanted to talk about.

Grief is a strange thing, it isn’t convenient or comfortable, it doesn’t follow a set pattern or have a definitive end date.

The grief that follows a miscarriage can be even more confusing as you are mourning someone you never met and that can be difficult for some people to comprehend.

Perhaps you are even mourning the end of your journey to becoming a parent.

Then there is the guilt and the questions that come with baby loss, so be gentle on yourself.

You will have good days and bad days, days where all you feel is despair, but remember grief moves at different rates for everyone.

What I can tell you, however, is that the light will find its way back into your heart again.

For me, I will always mourn the two precious souls that we lost, but it is possible to laugh and love life again after loss.

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