In 2016 I wrote an article for Standard Issue Magazine about my losing my baby, that you can read HERE. Which then led me to write an Edinburgh Show about it in 2017, which I will allow to watch (a very roughly edited version) HERE.
Since then I’ve steadily continued to get messages from people sharing their own stories, but the reason I’m revisiting this is because over lockdown, quite a few of you randy bastards have been having the sex. Well done. Bragging.
The upside for a lot of those people is that they’re now half way through a pregnancy that was either very much longed for, or in my case due to a night on the Rioja. Congratulations.
But what happens when that pregnancy doesn’t go to plan? One in four pregnancies don’t make it to full term, and we as a nation, well, a civilisation just don’t talk about it.
I have constantly bored people with, and will now hopefully make people listen, the fact that this is such a huge taboo and it would actually be really really helpful to so many people if it wasn’t.
Over the last week or so, I’ve had a few people messaging me to tell me that they have lost their baby in lockdown and have had to undergo the horrific process of giving birth knowing their child has either past or is about to pass away.
Not only is this absolutely tragic on its own but in some cases due to bloody Covid, some people have had to fight tooth and nail to actually have their partners with them whilst under going this process.
This situation just highlights why I did what I did, because I didn't have any information or an outlet to discuss this with anyone. And It’s just such an alien process.
We get told constantly how amazing pregnancy is and how great it is to get to hold your child at the end, but no one ever talks about when it can wrong, and unfortunately does, a lot.
For me, when I went to hospital I treated the process like a job. I had to. I knew what i had to go through and i just couldn't get my head round it, so I just treated it like a step by step process. And when the midwife was asking me a million questions just before the process started, like did I want a funeral, did I want to meet her when she was born, had I considered that if she was still alive when born then die, she’d have a birth and death certificate, what did I want for dinner?
The conversation felt like I was answering the simple questions, like I was hiring a car, or booking a hotel, or something so mundane, and I realised then that this was something that i just had to get done. There was no other way. It was happening whether I liked it or not.
I have been asked for advice from the people messaging. Recently and in the past. And if you’re reading this now waiting to go to your special birthing unit, or you know someone that is, or has, please pass this on. It may/may not help, but I felt a compulsion to put this down on paper because there really is very little no nonsense, realistic help out there.
This is not airy fairy, so if you’re easily offended, please read on because you especially need to know what happens to women in this situation.
When a woman finds out her baby has either past away or won’t survive, they will unfortunately have to, in most cases, go through a process called Medical Management. In my case I found out at about 21 weeks.
I was then given a tablet that would help prepare the womb and two days later, I was booked into a birthing suite, and had another tablet placed into my cervix to start labour. If it didn’t start it off I would be given another tablet seven hours later. However mine started straight away, lucky me.
I was then dosed up on Morphine as the pain was unbearable and when it started wearing off, I asked for more, and when the nurse went to get it signed off, my waters broke, and I gave birth to daughter into a bed pan over a toilet.
The placenta then got stuck and I ended up in theatre having to have it removed.
The next day I was given a tablet to stop my milk kicking in.
I then got to meet my daughter.
I went home via McDonalds and had everything on the menu.
My advice only comes from someone who has lived this. I am not a medical expert obviously, and it may not appeal to everyone, but here goes:
Everyone will cry. You will tell people that care about you, that you lost your child, and they will cry. Get used to it. Buy extra tissues for you, and for the visitors. Get biscuits. Get milk in. But be prepared. You will be the one that makes the tea, and gets the tissues.
People will buy you presents because they don't know what to say, let them, I got some lovely jewellery out of it, and an endless supply of free vases. They are for sale if anyone wants one?
When you decide to tell the rest of the world, IF you do, then be prepared for that world to message you and offer you all the advice in the world. Ignore it or read it, but remember, your experience is individual to you, and some people will unknowingly make you feel guilty/bad/almost like you've done something wrong, and you haven't of course but the Great British public have that wonderful way of sticking their nose in where it quite often isn’t wanted and you’ll be bombarded. Fuck it, fuck them, or just take what rings true. It’s your loss not there’s.
Be nice to yourself. If you want to cry in the shops, cry, if you want to scream in your car, do it. Sometimes you’ll have a good day and five minutes later you’ll find yourself crying at Cool Runnings on the telly and you won’t know why. That’s fine. That’s normal. (Other films are available).
I found solace in furiously patch working...! I have never sewn, ever, but I found the monotony of doing something repeatedly was mindful and helped me forget.
Things will get better, I cannot stress this enough, they will. You'll find yourself feeling guilty for having a good day. Don't. You are allowed to feel whatever the fuck you feel. If you’re laughing one day and you catch yourself and you tell yourself you shouldn’t. Shut up. You can do what you want.
Don't forget that, if you have a partner, they will probably be trying to be strong for you. The one thing that was very clear after my Edinburgh show about this, was, I had mostly blokes come and talk to me about their experiences after the show. The partners feel like they have to be brave and strong and like it didn't happen to their bodies, well, I sort of agree a bit, but also they don't and can't understand your hormones and what your body goes through but they are experiencing loss as well, and i would encourage him/them to talk. To you, to anyone.
You'll get offered, hopefully, bereavement counselling. Take it. It won't be enough, it won't be what you thought it would be, but take it. And if you find yourself crumbling a year later, look into grief counselling, it will help you 100%. I didn't and i'm just over PTSD, so just bear that in mind.
Don't go back to work until you absolutely feel you want to. In my line of work, I had to go to work the day before my daughters funeral and it was all I could do not scream at everyone in the audience. I thought the distraction would be good. It wasn’t it was too soon.
Buy tener lady thick pads. When your period returns it’ll be pouring out of you and won’t know what the fuck is going on. Pad up, get prepared. Don’t use tampons. You need to see what is coming out. You’ll get clots. You’ll get, in my case, bits of placenta that wasn’t removed, and you need to see what is coming out. Grim but true. No one told me just how much I would bleed. I stupidly went on a pilates retreat up a mountain in Spain and bled all over my bedroom floor, in my leggings and by the pool side.
Don’t drink to forget. If you want a drink have one but remember it won’t make the pain go away. Nor will eating the contents of your cupboards, it’ll be nice for a bit, but you’ll then tell yourself off and you’re going through enough as it is so just be kind.
If you have a funeral, if it’s arranged by the hospital, make sure you get the right date. I wasn’t and me and my parents turned up to the cremation of a Jewish man, and it was all very awkward.
Surround yourself by the people you love and will understand if you tell them to fuck off one day.
Make sure someone removes the baby stuff in your house before you get home. It’s gut wrenchingly painful.
If you’ve subscribed to all the baby stuff website, Netmums, Mumsnets, Boots shizzle, Mothercare or whatever, unsubscribe as soon as you can because you’ll get continuous streams of ads and emails and you don’t need those triggers months down the line. (Actually if there’s any tech wizards out there, please invent a ‘i’ve lost my baby’ button that people can click so they don’t have to go through the tedious process of unsubscribing make it oh so more painful for people)
Trying to process the illogical thing that has just happened will probably not go away for a long time. You’ll try to make sense of why it’s happened. But you just won’t get it. You’ll question yourself over and over and ask why me? Why us? Why again? But there is no immediate answer. Sometimes it’s medical, sometimes it’s ‘just one of those things’ (I hate that phrase) but it happens, and you’ll eat yourself up trying to work it out.
The most important thing right now, is that you are kind to yourself. Go to bed if you want to. Watch shit telly if you want to. You are allowed to feel what you feel when you feel it and no amount of someone telling you to get out of bed, or go for walk will do, if you don’t feel like it, don’t do it. There will come a time when you want to. There will. But it’s ok if it’s not straight away.
VILOMAH is the name for bereaved parents. It's nice to have a word, like widowed, says it all, but this is new to me and hopefully if we can get it shared then we won't have to explain to people, "No I don't have kids because of this this and this." "I'm vilomah" or "I'm vilomahed" there you go, that should be enough.