I have written and rewritten this post a dozen times over the past week. Sunday 15th October is Baby Loss Awareness Day and I have been tasked with writing five hundred words about my own experiences of loss and how they have changed what Motherhood means to me.
How to do this justice in five hundred words?! Here is the best i could do – a mere 900 words cut down from the 3000 in version 1.0.
I didn’t meet the man I wanted to have kids with until I was 35. My Dad was not in my life from the age of six and so finding the right bloke who would step up felt pretty bloody important. It took a long time and many failed relationships before I met someone I felt was up to the job.
Within less than a year I was pregnant. Aside from the shock we danced around the room clutching the magic stick with the little blue line.
7 weeks later our world came crashing down. I started bleeding, and didn’t stop for two weeks. I had lost our baby. She may have been the size of a pea, but that little pea was ours; we’d named her, started planning her bedroom, talking about what she would be when she grew up. I was told by the GP to think of it like ‘an extra heavy period’. I sat in the early pregnancy clinic to have my miscarriage confirmed surrounded by women who were clearly pregnant, clutching their yellow maternity books. Oh, how I hated those yellow books. Oh how I wanted one.
Over the next five years, we had two more miscarriages.
One was ‘silent’. Who knew that something so traumatic could happen so silently, only finding out with ‘I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat’ at our 12 week scan. I bled for a month that time and still had morning sickness for another 3 months. Nature is a bitch like that.
The final time, I was 40. Handwritten on my maternity notes were two ominous words; ‘Geriatric Mother’. Nothing like the power of language to make you feel….under pressure. This time I hung on until 15 weeks. I started bleeding in a hotel toilet in London, where I was managing a high profile event. It was two in the morning. I’ll spare you the detail but when I arrived at the hotel I was pregnant, by the time I got home I wasn’t.
This time around I was so traumatised I took a few weeks off work to recover.
When I returned, my boss started a campaign of bullying – now he knew I wanted a baby, he wanted me out. There aren’t many kicks in the teeth that are worse than that.
I think I spoke with friends immediately afterwards, but everyone moves on so quickly and life goes back to some sort of normal. I remember though being surprised by how many of my friends who told me they’d also been through miscarriage, but had never mentioned it. If more of us talked about it, maybe we would feel less alone?
I should add that either side of my miscarriages I had my two miracle babies, now aged 7 and 3. With 4 years between them (and being so ancient) I didnt think it would happen. I can’t tell you if parenting after miscarriage is any different because it’s all I’ve known. I do feel profoundly grateful though and am aware of how different my life may have been: on days like today I hold them extra tight. It doesn’t stop me nagging when I can’t get them out the door in the morning though!
For a long time I struggled not to helicopter parent them, so fearful was I of further catastrophe. Looking back, I was struggling to find an outlet for the feelings of grief and loss, although Im not sure I recognised it as this until recently.
At a counselling session about a year ago, my therapist referred to me as a ‘Mum of five’. I sat there stunned. I literally cried for a week afterwards. If it didn’t smack of a mid life crisis, I would have this tattooed down my arm to remind me every day.
I am a Mum of Five.
Running has without doubt helped me deal with the swirling range of emotions. Since starting This Mum Runs, I have also worked with many women who have experienced all kinds of loss and have felt so much empathy for these women. I hope they felt supported and safe as we talked. I have seen the healing effect that running has had on them all. Women like:
Emma* who I coached through a Couch to 10k programme shared with me that she had quite literally started from the couch, having been unable to leave the house for 6 months after losing her daughter to still birth.
Lauren* who I met during a TV challenge, whose only son had died aged 6. She had entered the challenge because she wanted to shout to the world “I’m still a Mum’.
Alicia* who had endured years of disappointment with miscarriages and multiple failed attempts at IVF, and had finally been told she was ‘too old’ to adopt. She was unsure she would ever come to terms with it but still felt in her heart she was a Mum.
My own experiences and those of all the women I have since worked with have fundamentally changed my belief system about what it means to be ‘a Mum’.
Yes, it’s about fun times and holidays and trips to the cinema and family jokes and laughing till you’re sick. It’s about sleepless nights, and cooking meals from scratch then throwing them away uneaten and dealing with meltdowns at the supermarket and the pressures of juggling work and homework and school runs and feeling that you always get the balance wrong.
But it is also the disappointment and loss from failed IVF; it’s the heartache of miscarriage or still birth or the pain of ectopic pregnancy; it’s being told you’re too old to try again; it’s about bereavement and the aching loss of a child to illness; its about the challenging road of adoption and fostering to give a cast adrift child a new home; it’s about helicopter parenting after the pain of loss; it’s about the decision not to have kids actually, but to be an absolutely amazing Auntie to your sisters kids.
Motherhood is all of these things and more.
This Mum Runs welcomes, embraces and supports ALL women, no matter what motherhood means for them. On this important day, we hope you know that whatever your story, we have your back.
Sunday 15th October is Baby Loss Awareness Day, an event recognised globally. It is a day where everyone is invited to remember all the babies that have died during pregnancy, at, during or after birth. If you would like more information on this, head to their website here: https://babyloss-awareness.org/about-us/
Or if you would like to share your own story below, we would really love to hear from you.