I was supposed to be writing a rant this morning. But I can’t summon up the energy. Why? Because scrolling through facebook on my phone after the school run, I saw two posts that made me drop my shoulders, and stare off into the distance for a little while (and oh the fucking irony of it being October 15th…).
The first was from Mumsnet Woolly Hugs, a group of Mumsnetters who make blankets for various charities and individuals. It began as a project to make a blanket for a bereaved family. People knitted and crocheted six inch squares and sent them to the people organising it, who then joined up all the squares and sent it to the family, to let them know that a lot of people were sorry for their loss, and were thinking of them. It’s grown hugely since then, but the idea remains the same.
The second was from Cakes Kids and Other Ramblings and it did make me well up quite a lot, thinking about what she’d been through. It certainly put my experience into perspective.
Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Rememberance Day. For people who’ve had a miscarriage, a stillbirth or lost an infant. One in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, so that’s a lot of people who are affected. And horribly, your chances of having another miscarriage are increased by the very fact of having had one previously. And of course, knowing that increases your stress levels when you’re pregnant. I remember when I was pregnant with The Boy, ten years after my miscarriage, how terrified I was of it happening again, even though what happened to me was because I’d fallen, rather than what’s called a ‘spontaneous’ miscarriage, where there’s no apparent reason for it.
I remember how fervently I believed that some part of the spirit of the child I would have had stayed with me. I know that’s utterly woo bollocks, I know it. I’m an atheist, I’m deeply cynical, I have no time for spirits and crystals and souls and third eye fuckwittery. When someone talks about crap like that I want to slap them around the face with a wet fish. But… I still feel a little like that. Not in a ‘baby angel looks down on me from heaven’ crappy picture way. More that what happened did have an impact on me, more so than I perhaps realised in the immediate years afterwards, when I was trying not to think about it and had no one to talk to. I did self harm for a while, hoping the physical pain would distract from the emotional. Obviously it didn’t, and I still feel like a twat when I see my left wrist, although you wouldn’t really notice the marks.
But in my case, I didn’t even know I was pregnant. If I had known, I would have been doing all that I could to have an abortion – I was 15, my boyfriend was massively unreliable, not in love with me, and 6,000 miles away, I very definitely did not want to have a baby. For a lot of women, a miscarriage is not for the best. For a lot of women, they want to have that child. For a lot of women, a miscarriage is one of the worst things that can happen to them.
And it happens so often in secret. 80% of miscarriages happen in the first trimester (or first twelve weeks of pregnancy), which is the time when you keep it secret, before you have your first scan to tell you that things are progressing as they should. You’re advised not to tell anyone before then, because of the awkwardness of acquaintances asking how you’re doing and you having to say ‘Er, actually, I had a miscarriage’ before bursting into tears and snotting all over yourself. That’s an awful lot of women and their partners carrying around a lot of sorrow, misplaced guilt and angst in secretive silence.
There are charities out there that can help though (of course they’re charities, not government agencies. Priorities and all that). I’ve linked to a few of them below. But the main thing is talking about it. I didn’t have that, and that’s probably why it’s haunted me so much and for so long. Trust me, talking about it helps. Don’t bottle it up, don’t dismiss it, don’t block it out.
And tonight, I shall be lighting a candle at seven o’clock. Like I said, I’m not woo or sappy or a ‘Like if you believe in angels’ clicking sentimentalist (although lose the first five letters of that word and we may be a little closer to the truth). But it feels like the right thing to do.