Story by Rachel Bridge, Psychologist, Author & Founder of Mama Base Illawarra
I’ve been holding onto this piece for a little while now, partly written, disjointed words on a screen, expressions of thought and feeling. A mixed state of wanting to speak out to share, to connect, to be a voice for others, and also wanting to hold closely to this very private journey.
But for me, at this time, this is a step forward towards my grief, towards my loss, acknowledging it, nurturing it, holding it with gentle strength.
After being blessed with two healthy and risk free pregnancies, labours and deliveries, and being mama to now two healthy, strong spirited, kind hearted little girls…loss during pregnancy was not something that my partner and I had even really thought about going into our third pregnancy.
We fell quickly, we found out early, and with full hearts we shared our exciting news with our nearest and dearest. Blessed.
So, when I begun bleeding towards the end of our first trimester, it was…shocking…confronting…confusing…upsetting….hard.
As a professional who has worked, and does work in the field of perinatal mental health, I have supported others through part of this journey. Offering a safe space to talk, to connect with the loss, to journey through the loss…to heal from the loss.
I knew the kinds of things that can be helpful during loss, to aid with grief. I was aware of the tricky things that parents, who have lost a baby come up against. It’s all there, stored away.
The belief that a woman with healthy happy children should bounce back quicker from the loss of a child.
The message that first trimester loss is in someway ‘less than’ loss later in pregnancy.
The assumption that the loss is ‘for the best’.
The message that the loss was a medical solution for an unviable pregnancy.
But the reality of the experience was, well different, to say the least. There may be truth to some of these messages, but to a mother grieving a loss…they are and always will be utter BS!!!!!!!!!
It’s shocking really, that in a society that is so progressed in so many ways, pregnancy in the first trimester still holds its original beliefs and rituals…secrecy, safety, protection. But from what I ask??
From support, from acknowledgement, from validation, from connection…
Technology and early detection of pregnancy has excelled forward, so much so that families are discovering pregnancy so very early in the first trimester. There is certainty beyond any doubt that there is a life being nurtured inside of the mother. Surely that calls for a shift in how society nurtures women through the first trimester.
First trimester loss is complicated. You see for everyone, typically outside of the family unit, there is no loss, no sign, no indication, no representation of tangible loss. There are even statistics which suggest that loss is expected, normal, ok….insignificant??
For the family, there is the loss of what should have been… We lost the baby that we had already made space for in our minds, in our hearts and in our family. We lost the baby we had begun planning and prepping for…where will he or she sleep, how old will his or hers sisters and brother be…when will he or she be here to meet us…
For the mother…it is a loss in every sense of the word. Physical, tangible, emotional, relational.
Third time around, when we fell pregnant, our minds and our hearts went straight to the little person who was joining our family. Third time around, my body changed quickly, the familiarity of the changes the body makes as it grows a life were evident and real. Third time around the significance of the adjustment felt when a new baby enters the life of a family were being sensitively considered and thought about. The impact on self (relationship with partner relationship with children, work role and goals) was real. The realness of the loss was also something I was not anticipating. The traumatic reminder of loss as you listen to the absence of a heart beat, are recited the dropping hormone levels of blood tests, try to manage your bodies response to removing the life you were meant to be growing.
Loss, Grief, Death, Miscarriage is an individual journey, no path the same, often resulting in it also being a lonely journey. Even when surrounded by people who love and care, how do you navigate loss in a way where you know what it is you need, and how then to you communicate that to the well-meaning people offering their help. More so, when experiencing first trimester loss, how do you seek the support, the time, the condolences you need for a loss that for others, is unknown, unsignified, untangible???
My answer…Frankly…. is, I don’t know. And the reason for that is…it’s your journey. Listen to yourself, and say ‘ok’. If you need support, seek it. If you need space, seek it. If you need time to grieve, take it. If you need to dive back into ‘normal’, do it. But whatever you do, treat yourself kindly as you go. Let go of the ‘should’.
So, Mama Being Frank…if you are a woman, a family, holding the treasured secret of a baby in the first trimester…ask yourself…what is holding you back from sharing with those around you. Is it expectation, habit, social rules? Or is it choice…an empowered decision to do so.
A message for all those who have lost, I see your loss, I feel you loss, I know your loss.