I just saw a friend’s Facebook post announcing their new baby to the world. It of course included a shoutout to his wife who’d been incredible. She of course would have been, labour is hard. But so is miscarriage and those women, my wife included, never get the recognition for their bravery in the face of suffering with no happy ending.
It starts with small spots with blood. The first time it happened we tried to think of every reason to ignore it and Googled frantically for explanations that would normalise it. By our fourth miscarriage those few spots made what happened next feel almost inevitable. Medical professionals brush us off in various ways, politely or abruptly, because once a miscarriage has started there’s nothing they can do, but they don’t want to say that. Eventually the pain gets too much and we rush to Accident and Emergency. The junior doctor fumbles about, we’re at the bottom of his list because there’s nothing he can do, but he doesn’t want to say that. He’s too young to understand what he’s seeing and he’s overworked but the older female nurses stand silent with knowing looks on their faces, they recognise and feel the tragedy they are witnessing. The next bit is what most find unbelievable but I’ve seen it multiple times; my wife is very tough when it comes to pain but as the contractions kick in the morphine barely takes the edge off. By the sixth time we’re experts and ask for morphine upfront which makes me feel like some kind of drug user trying to scam meds out of the hospital but I can’t just come out and say “get out of here with your paracetamol”. I want to but I’m too British.
In that situation, no one is rushing onto Facebook or Instagram to say “she was incredible”. The first few times it happened to us we barely talked about it to each other. But she was incredible. All that pain and no joy at the end, rather the loss of a dream and a life. The pain of healthy childbirth is subsumed by the joy of new life but the pain of miscarriage is carried for life. As the years have gone on I have felt our loss more, not less. And it is in that very pain, not despite it, that Lizzie has gone on to help many others in the same situation. She got back late Saturday night (pretty exhausted) from a day helping women struggling with their own childlessness. All of them living with uncertainty and pain and Lizzie and other wonderful friends sat, listened to and helped them as much they could in one day.
Pain doesn’t automatically make you a saint. This is the other error we fall into; the moment someone is in serious health trouble they become perfect and we say nothing but good about them. Plenty of people have let their pain turn them bitter and angry. So this isn’t my application for an OBE for Lizzie but to give her that moment; that six times she was incredible too and in the years since she has been even more incredible. To all the women out there who have been through baby loss, you were incredible too. You are not alone. It’s okay to grieve. Your story matters.