Since her own tragic experience of miscarriage, Karin Holmes has been helping other women and families survive pregnancy loss. What follows is Karin’s story of loss and the journey she went on with her grief.
When my husband and I first talked about having children, we imagined many things: how it would feel to take that pregnancy test, holding our hands on my tummy to feel the baby kick, my emotional outbursts that would be inevitable due to my messed up hormone levels.
What we got instead was heartbreak, a river of never ending tears and a roller coaster ride through depression and grief. The pregnancy we talked and dreamed about for so long ended in a miscarriage.
To me, it signifies the end of one part of my life and the beginning of a new one where the path wasn’t clear, my purpose was lost and I wondered how life should look with part of my heart and soul missing. The journey through grief is a challenging one to say the least and one that never ends. That is not per se a bad thing. Grief teaches us many things and we grow as humans immensely when we experience loss. After all, it takes an awful amount of strength to go through the worst (losing a child) and continue on living and finding joy, love and happiness again.
For me, my journey began back in May 2011. Life was pretty good. We had moved to Melbourne, Australia, from overseas and had finally settled in a bit. Michael found a good job he enjoyed, we lived somewhere we liked and after months of searching I found a job as well. I didn’t like it but it meant work and getting back into the workforce. You would think a baby was the next logical step. As it happened, I fell pregnant. I had an inkling about it but it was the weekend and our local pharmacy was closed. So I went on Monday to buy a test and took it. It was positive. I couldn’t believe it. I went and bought another test, took it – and got the same result. Wowsers!
I didn’t quite know what to make of it. We wanted children but I was not ready, I thought. My job sucked and it was stressful and I was worried how I would go being pregnant and working ridiculous hours in a toxic environment. My husband was on cloud 9 when I called him to tell the news! I, on the other hand, felt nothing and everything at once. I was scared, anxious, terrified, not ready and a little bit excited. A baby! We would have a baby! I went through the motions on a daily basis. I woke wanting the baby very much and went to bed crying because of the uncertainty of our future. I spent the first six weeks of my short pregnancy worrying and stressing about things I shouldn’t have. One day I woke up and decided that things will be alright and we can do this! I went to work feeling elevated for the first time in weeks. At 11am that day, I started spotting.
On the drive home from work I was crying, pleading with my baby, ‘please, stay with me. Please, stay with me.’ I felt like I was drowning in my own emotions. When I got home I went straight to bed, hoping that lying flat and still would help my body keep my baby safe. But it wasn’t meant to be.
As the day progressed, I experienced strong stomach cramps that brought me to my knees and the spotting turned to bleeding. I was hysterical and convinced it was my fault that I was in the process of losing my baby. After all, I had said to my husband a few days before that we can’t have a baby now, we weren’t ready! It seemed like I was stuck in my worst nightmare and was living it in slow motion. The bleeding continued and the cramps wouldn’t go away. We had no choice and needed to go to hospital. At 5.30pm on that fateful day, we arrived at emergency, hoping for reassurance. We were met with disinterest, a long wait and no kindness. We were just one of those couples who tried and lost so let’s all move on, shall we? It felt like my personal nightmare kicked up a notch and went from absolutely horrible to excruciatingly painful and impossible to bear.
I was in complete shock. I wanted the doctor to tell me everything will be alright. Instead, I was told to go and have an ultrasound the following week. This was the start of our two week ordeal where we had three ultrasound appointments, one technician worse than the other, and doctors who would send us home with no support or encouraging words. I remember how every day was going by ever so slowly. I kept bleeding and it would not stop. We didn’t know what to think or feel. The baby had grown a little bit between scans but there was no heartbeat. What were we to make of this? Am I still pregnant or was the baby slowly dying instead? It didn’t help that our very incompetent GP at the time told me cheerfully that a dead foetus could turn toxic and hence could cause serious health implications for me. I was absolutely terrified. I was so scared for my baby and at the same time was checking myself for any weird or unusual signs of my health worsening.
We received our final answer on July 1 2011. Finally, a lovely technician who started her findings by saying ‘I am sorry.’ Our baby had died.
This day is etched into my memory forever and so deep, I can remember details of the technician’s office, what she wore and how she spoke, every single word she said. When I think of that day, I can’t help but become teary. The nightmare I had been living in for almost three weeks came to an end in the worst possible way – my baby was no longer with me. It couldn’t get any worse than that, I thought. I couldn’t possibly fall any deeper. But it wasn’t over. Not by a long shot.
Losing my baby at 8 weeks of pregnancy was my first real experience with death and grief. I remember vaguely that my grandfather died when I was six but we weren’t close with him so I had no idea what his death meant. Now, I knew very well what it meant. My baby died inside me. I never met my little bean but despite my worries, I had loved the baby from day one. And now someone I loved so dearly was gone – just like that.
I tumbled and fell into a deep dark hole. I was overcome with intense sadness and sheer terror. My baby was dead but my body wasn’t able to abort it by itself. We had to go back to hospital after that third and final scan on July 1 2011. I was admitted straight away. Later that night, a D&C (dilation and curettage) was performed. By the time I woke up, my womb was empty and my baby gone.
Days and weeks of confusion, tears and an overall feeling of walking through thick fog with no direction followed. I couldn’t get a grip. In my desperation to make sense of my feelings, I turned to writing. I am a trained journalist and writing has always been part of my life when things got complicated. Poems, small stories and sometimes nonsensical sentences poured onto paper. One day I thought about what kind of advice I would have liked to get in those early days after my loss. That is how I started writing my eBook ‘How to survive a miscarriage – a guide for women, their partners, friends and families’. I never intended to write a whole book but it just happened over time. On my grief journey, I spoke to many other women who had suffered a loss just like me or a similar one. This felt like a fresh breath of air. After months and months trapped in sadness and feeling so very alone, I started to realise that in fact, I wasn’t. This was huge to me. Until then, I felt like I wasn’t allowed to grieve, that my pain was not real and that I shouldn’t be so upset about my loss. I felt and still feel very pressured to stay silent and just ‘get over it’. No one cared about my baby other than myself and my husband and it still hurts to know my baby is forgotten by everyone but us.
This lack of interest and compassion still haunt me to this day. I keep on wondering if I was entitled to my pain. Am I just carrying on? Am I being overly dramatic? I was and am hurting. Right after my loss, I was sad. I was angry. But above all, I missed my baby and all the things that could have been. Yet, it was just me, missing my little bean. And I still miss my baby. Maybe not everyday but I think of my little bean a lot and try to imagine what he would look like now. I keep these thoughts hidden from most people and they feel like a guilty pleasure that no one should know about. In these instances, the thoughts about being entitled to my pain and grief creep up on me again.
The truth is though, I am. My baby was real, my child existed and its tiny life mattered. No amount of ignorance and lack of interest can ever change that.
Karin Holmes is a Swiss-Australian writer and the author of the ebook ‘How to survive a miscarriage – a guide for women, their partners, friends and families’. The book is available on www.amazon.com. Karin is mum to one angel baby in heaven and two little girls here on earth.
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