14 June, 2011

The emotions of loss - Part 1

Prior to my positive pregnancy test, I had been rather relaxed about our inability to conceive.  I’d come close to tears only once, telling a friend in a cafe that we had in fact been trying but that it appeared it wouldn't happen. I’d been surprised when my eyes had unexpectedly filled with tears; whilst I felt ready to be a mother, I didn’t feel a desperate desire to be one. 

But all that changed after the ectopic.  I was stunned by the overwhelming strength of emotions I experienced.  I’d never experienced grief or loss before.  And it hit me with like a tonne of bricks.  I blame hormones of course.  But they weren’t solely responsible.

Of course, there were the inevitable comments.  But it wasn’t really a baby.  You didn’t have anything so you didn’t lose anything.  It was meant to be.  Stupid things like that.  But a cousin made me feel normal.  About my age, she’d had a miscarriage a few months earlier.  “From the moment you get that positive pregnancy test, it’s a baby,” she said.  She was right.  This is not an argument of when life begins.  Emotionally, for me, the pregnancy was welcome, and the outcome of the pregnancy, our baby-to-be, had been alive and well in our imaginations, keeping us awake at night, running around destroying things, smiling and giggling, making us laugh, making us worried, making us proud.  That is the child we had lost. 

In some ways the grief was helpful.  It made me feel that I knew we were doing the right thing, that I really did want children.  But the grief was subversive too.  it presented me with a new obsession.  Those in the infertility blogging world will understand that.  Others probably won’t.  Because I wouldn’t have understood it, couldn’t have understood it, until this happened to me.  Women who lose a pregnancy often feel an incredible urge to be pregnant again – as soon as possible, and whether or not they were actively trying to conceive.  I was no different.  I felt out of control.  I didn’t know myself.  I cried more in a week than I had in previous years.  Floodgates were opened that I’ve never been quite able to close again.  It’s a good thing I wasn’t allowed alcohol in those first five weeks until my blood tests were back to normal.
I might have started drinking and never stopped.

I seemed to see pregnant women or newborn babies everywhere.  It didn’t help that my changed Christmas plans meant I had to be around my sister-in-law and brother-in-law and their first baby.  For the first time, it was difficult seeing babies.  Before, it had never bothered me one way or another.  In fact, I’d never been someone who was interested in babies.  Toddlers, young children, teenagers I like.  Babies?  Meh! 
That changed.

There was fear too.  Would this happen again?  But I found the wonderful Ectopic Pregnancy Trust website, where they reassured us that most women go on to conceive again, and to conceive in the uterus.  This was just a blip.  I read that and felt reassured.  And in a few months, I was ready to try again.


  1. Apart from the ectopic bit, I could have written this, from the indifference to babies around me to the positive pregnancy test

  2. Beautifully written and so true.

  3. Once you see or hear a positive it is a baby! Heck, going through IVF, seeing the picture of those embryos, you are already in love thinking it is a baby! Well written...

  4. Hmm. I do believe it is a baby, just attached at the wrong spot. Am I wrong? I was told the same thing after my miscarriage by my mother who had no idea who to help someone else (a continuing problem). She knew better than to say something so idiotic after my sister-in-law's stillbirth.

  5. i have heard this from women who have had miscarriages.... it is a loss no matter what in my mind.

    i am still going through the grief of having had a hysterectomy. it drives me nuts that i still feel so sad, but i am learning it is something you can't fight - much like the grief you feel after a miscarriage i imagine.

    thanks so much for you sharing your story with us. It takes strength and courage.

  6. Bridgett, it depends what you define as a baby. Tubal ectopics don't develop in the same way as a normal uterine pregnancy cos there is insufficient space, and blood supply to provide nutrients and aid growth, in the tube. So most tubal ectopics never develop heartbeats, though some do. The pregnancy though would have developed into a baby if it had found the uterus.

  7. With my last ep it had developed a yolk sac and was apparently doing really well. Apart from that there's a reasonable chance it would have killed me if it had been left. I think eps are particularly horrible because you can be left feeling s sort of survivor's guilt that you're still around but the pregnancy isn't, even although rationally it's not an either/or choice.

    Mali - I've been through the same emotions as you but in a different order, since my first ep. I agree that most people don't get early losses at all, no matter how devastating they are to us.

  8. This is so well written, and shares some of the things in my heart too, but especially:

    “From the moment you get that positive pregnancy test, it’s a baby.”

    our baby-to-be, had been alive and well in our imaginations

    Women who lose a pregnancy often feel an incredible urge to be pregnant again – as soon as possible

    I seemed to see pregnant women or newborn babies everywhere.

    Thank you for sharing this. Hugs to you.

  9. This is all so, so true. Thanks for sharing.

  10. We tried for 3 years to get pregnant and then gave up. It took about two or three years to gently mourn the loss of not being able to have children but I wouldn't say the grief was devastating. More twinges and pinches. I counted myself lucky that I had come relatively late to wanting children and that I hadn't become as obsessed with fertility treatments as others.

    Six years later, at the age of 43 I found out I was pregnant and just as I was getting used to the idea (my husband was 49), I found out that there was no heartbeat and that I would be going through a miscarriage. It took a D&C on Boxing Day to finalize that.

    I was completely unprepared for the level of grief and that urgent need to get pregnant again. Dh didn't want to try again, we were too old, and the risk of birth defects too high. I was so desperate there were times that I caught myself looking at men on the street saying "he looks like a good donor, maybe I can just grab him for 10 minutes". Dh and I almost didn't make it during the worst of the times. We did, but it wasn't easy.

    It's been 3 years and I've been completely humbled by the experience. I went through infertility once so I thought recovering from the miscarriage and the resultant decision that we were once again childless/free would be easier the 2nd time around. Not even close, in fact, it's been much harder. It's definitely easier now than it was, but on the 3rd anniversary of my due date this year I was a bit of a wreck.

    Thank you for sharing your story. You are not alone.

  11. Thanks Sandy. I appreciate this, and I do understand your emotions. All I can say is it gets easier.