Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon.
Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted,
And human love will be seen at its height.
Live in fragments no longer.
– E.M. Forster • Howards End
When I was in high school, one of the only people who I could talk to was one of my English teachers, A. — I went to a school where we’d address our teachers by their first name. I’d even write her letters during the summer holidays and she’d always respond. (A. will always have a big place in my heart.) The summer I had to read Howard’s End, A. referred to the above excerpt in her letter, signing off with Only connect: the communication chink can be the lifeline. I’ve never forgotten her words. It’s partly why you’re reading mine now.
Through this blog, I have had the privilege of connecting with dozens of women who know something of my loss, many of whom have miscarried recently. I hear from some of you in comments, others via Facebook / Skype / Twitter, and others of you by private email. The past few days I have broken my ritual of posting something at least once a day, and haven’t been as good at communicating via email and Twitter — but true to the silent promise I made to A. all those years ago, I have still been connecting. These days, it seems like the best therapy.
I was at Trader Joe’s (an indie, ‘own brand’ grocery store — for those of you in the UK, I’d compare it to a 1950’s Hawaiian surf-themed M&S Food Hall) and got chatting with the woman on the check out. She spied my Jizo necklace and cried I love your necklace! Is that a little robot? I giggled (well, she was a couple of feet away!) and began to explain who Jizo is, J-I-Z-… She interrupted me and said she knew exactly who he was. There were people behind me waiting to check out their groceries, but we exchanged meaningful smiles before saying goodnight.
Last night I went to my first pregnancy loss support group meeting. I’m still not sure what to make of my experience, but I am glad I went. There were three other couples there: one lost their daughter 14 hours after birth due to a brain defect diagnosed at 5.5 months gestation; one couple lost their daughter at 38 weeks due to umbilical cord compression; the other couple lost their son at 23 weeks. I felt — and, to a certain extent, still feel — guilt over my grief. How can a loss at 8 weeks compare to one at 38 weeks? And yet, a fresh surge of tears flowed in my direction as I spilled my story, accompanied by gentle yet emphatically murmured words of support by these men and women who were mourning the loss of their own son or daughters: a loss is a loss. I whispered humble thanks.
The main reason I haven’t posted anything in 3 days is because I feel as though I have nothing more to say. It’s just GRIEF. When I was crying in the shower the other day, DH came in and wrapped a towel around me. He asked if I wanted to talk and my response was I don’t have anything new to say because what I was thinking is how damn monotonous grief is. (That’s how I came up with the word ‘miscarrousel‘…) Then it occurred to me that the only time I have felt a surge of loss that could begin to compare to this was when my great-grandmother, Nanny, died 21 years ago. I have known plenty of other people who have died since but Nanny was the only one whose absence I felt acutely and actively mourned for a long time. I think this is because I have always lived so far away from the people I love, so when those I have known died there was no constant reminder that I’d never see them again. But out of everyone I have loved and lost, I loved Nanny the most. And, though it seems impossible to quantify, I loved the little life growing inside me just as much — if not more, in some ways, because I was fiercely protective of him. But, because I never met my little bean, it is hard to explain to others why this feels like a justifiable loss. In the face of stillbirth and neonatal death, there is a part of me that feels ashamed that I am as sad as I am. Who am I to mourn when it could have been so much worse? Who am I mourning, exactly? But, crucially, why do I even feel like I need to justify my pain?
Interestingly, even though all the pregnancy loss grief professionals agree that a loss is a loss and measured not by gestational age but other more personal factors, such as how much the pregnancy was longed for, how long it took to conceive, &c., I was still surprised when a friend told me that losing her first pregnancy at 23 weeks was easier than losing her second pregnancy at 10 weeks. At 23 weeks, your child is visible, recognised as a person who died. By contrast, a miscarriage is… silent. Something that happened. Something that you should “just get over”. Something that no one can understand (and it often doesn’t occur to them to try) unless they have been there themselves. Yet those words, a loss is a loss, ring true.
Statistically, if you hear a heartbeat at 8 weeks gestation the risk of miscarriage drops to less than 5%, yet before my ultrasound I was offered a bright and cheerful Congratulations! by the nurse practitioner who, less than 20 minutes later, would only say that it wasn’t good news. The wave of emotions I have experienced since has shocked me, but I am also angered by the lack of discussion about pregnancy loss and infertility. Our society is so keen to congratulate, offer premature congratulations and plan baby showers, yet glosses over the fact that “One in four pregnancies end in why me?“
I wonder how we begin to acknowledge pregnancy loss and infertility. Only connect…
In the past few days I’ve had meaningful connections with several women. Two I know in real life; two I don’t but have connected with via OFT. Between a Facebook friend request, Facetime, Skype, and emails, we have shared our experiences, listened to each other, bonded over uncomfortable feelings, and, I believe, strengthened our resolve to heal our hearts. It’s also got me thinking: would any of you be interested in joining me in an online forum to connect with other people who are struggling with pregnancy loss and infertility right now? I’d be happy to organise and would appreciate your thoughts / feedback / input.