This is the first post in a five-part series about loss, healing and motherhood. Our story comes from Shannon, a photographer and mother in Brisbane, AU. Shannon’s story sent shivers down my spine when I first read it. It also put tears in my eyes. With three miscarriages and one healthy, full-term pregnancy, it is a story that can break your heart and fill it at the same time. We hope you enjoy Shannon’s words as we share them over the course of this week.
Here, she details the experience of her first two miscarriages and how family and friends supported herself and her husband Jeremy through them; check back tomorrow to hear how she lived through the roller-coaster ride of her third pregnancy.
“I want to start this birth story well before the contractions began.
In May, 2010, I married the love of my life, Jeremy. In early June, we conceived a baby. In late June I had the first of three miscarriages. Even now I find it hard to comprehend that this is my reality – that this actually happened to us.
We found out very early on that I was pregnant and I then lost that baby at five and a half weeks. Early days, but that week and a half was more than enough time to imagine our lives changing, to imagine this tiny speck growing into a child. Our child. So, when I realised what was happening, I felt profound sadness at the loss of this life I’d already daydreamed of, but also the knowledge that I would never again experience the pure excitement and joy of seeing those two lines on a stick. I knew my joy would now also be tinged with anxiety and fear.
In the eight years we had been together, Jeremy and I had a number of heart-to-heart discussions about whether we wanted children. I’ve always known I did, and knew Jeremy was going to be an amazing father. Jeremy had given it much thought and consideration and decided that he did want a child, but still had fears as to whether it was the right decision for the life he had imagined. One small positive to come from this miscarriage was that the grief he felt over the loss confirmed his decision and he felt sure that becoming a father was really what he wanted.
I researched on the internet and found out just how often miscarriage is thought to happen, how ‘common’ it is. I spoke to friends and many of them have had to deal with a loss as well. I was consoled by the fact that everyone I knew who had had a miscarriage went on to have a healthy baby the next time. I found numerous support forums, but it was challenging to find positive stories of loss. So many times people told their stories in forums, but never reported back with positive news of successful pregnancies. Or worse, there were sad stories of miscarriages happening again and again. Eventually, I made myself stop looking for information via google. It wasn’t doing my state of mind any favours.
With all of our subsequent pregnancies, we have shared the news very early on with close family and friends. We understand that most people wait until after 12 weeks, but for us, the fact that our loved ones knew what we were going through helped greatly. It was much easier to let people know what was happening, as it happened, rather than having to say “I was pregnant, but now I’m not”. Friends dropped around with flowers and meals, and just knowing that people were thinking of us and sending positive thoughts our way really did make a difference.
Our next pregnancy came after two months of trying. We were cautiously excited. We knew that the chances of another loss were slightly increased. I tried so hard to remain calm but every trip to the toilet was tinged with fear of what I might find. I practised deep breathing and positive affirmations. Then, one day at around seven weeks, I found a tiny amount of spotting.
I got in to see my doctor that day, who said that normally she wouldn’t recommend any testing at this stage as spotting can be completely normal, but since this had happened before, she would send me for a scan to set my mind at ease. The scan showed that the yolk sack had developed, but there was no baby inside.
They called it a blighted ovum. We were told that having two miscarriages was just bad luck.
I remember being surprised that my body wasn’t able to hold onto these babies. I had always thought of my body as being made to do this (and had reasoned that the hips I was given were made for child-bearing!). I felt like my body was letting me down.
I also felt guilt. I had to resist the urge to apologise to Jeremy for not being able to do this. For not being able to keep his babies alive. I knew he didn’t blame me but it was so easy for me to internalise and place blame on what I had done – I was not relaxed enough, I over-exerted myself, I must have done something wrong – even though I knew on some level, and had been told repeatedly, that there was nothing I could have done differently.”
Shannon is a Brisbane-based family photographer specializing in unique, natural portraits. Her work can be seen at langbecker.com.au.