This is hard to write.
Two years ago, October 10th 2012, I lost a little boy in a miscarriage at 16 weeks.
I had known for 2 weeks that we might not get to keep this little guy. I had begun to bleed a little and had a scan which showed he had gotten to 12 weeks (he should have measured 14 weeks gestation at this stage) but now had no heartbeat. I remember the feeling of devastation when the midwife showed me the ultrasound, my first with this pregnancy. She was concerned because Elva, then 10, was beside me. Elva has seen kittens and pups born and is robust about birth and babies. Eddie was outside in the waiting room with a young foster child. It all felt surreal and wrong.
No life left.
No Baby to birth in joy.
The midwife was concerned that I wanted to be at home.
“I’d like to avoid a D & C,” I explained.
“Your Baby’s too big for that,“ she said gently. “It has to be an induced labour if you stay in.”
We had talked about our families. She had two children and had grown up with fostered siblings.
“You have a lot of people depending on you,” she said.
We had the last 4 of our 6 birthed at home with a midwife. The idea of being in hospital to have the loss of our Baby medically managed just didn’t feel right.
She was caring and empathic. She didn’t tell me I was young (I was 45!) and that I had plenty of time for other babies. She didn’t say I was lucky to have 6 children and other foster children. She was respectful and concerned and I am forever grateful for her kindness.
I got a text from a friend involved in birth and breastfeeding activism.
“Whatever you do” she emphasised “DO NOT take misoprostol.” I didn’t ask why and I didn’t do a google search to find out what effects the drug has. This was as much of my power as I could hand over. I trusted K and her suggestions for homoeopathic help.
The midwife went to consult with an obstetrician.
She returned to tell me that the opinion was I’d do okay at home, but would I please come in if I bled profusely? and in the meantime, make an appointment for a scan in an month’s time?
Then she gave me a coffin.
About 14 inches long.
Lined with satin.
A white coffin with a cross on it.
I had nothing to conceal it in. My bag wasn’t large enough. She wrapped it in a blue and white incontinence mattress protector. I walked out of that hospital past women with lovely bumps and Babies in car seats and Babies in buggies. Babies with futures ahead of them… while mine was dead inside me and I didn’t want to upset any of them with the sight of the coffin.
I know the statistics. I know how common miscarriage is. I know how many women report pregnancy loss. But I thought of none of that. It was irrelevant when what matters is: I loved this Baby I’d been talking to in the bath every night, promising to give her (I called her Maireád – Irish for Margaret – until I realised she was a he) a lovely pregnancy and peaceful birth and glorious infancy and the BEST I could manage.
So we came home.
Labour can be exhilarating, frustrating, tough, painful, ecstatic, empowering.
Labour when your baby is dead is cruel.
My neighbour loaned me her angel figurine. She buried a son and this is her symbol for him.
After another 10 days, A made me up a herbal concoction. It was AWFUL. But after 48 hours, I had a real labour.
And no-one warned me that he would come out head first, all 8cm of him, and there’d be a pause, just like a real live Baby-labour, before the rest of him emerged and the placenta came out 20 minutes later, like on all my births.
We had our new Priest come to bless him with our mothers present. I thought he‘d use some appropriate scripture:
“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.“
“I have carved you on the palm of my hand“ – all the uplifting words of the prophet Isaiah. I was amazed that he had a whole service of prayers in his breviary which were specifically designed for this occasion.
“Have you picked a name?” Fr. asked.
Eddie suggested Michael. It’s my fathers’ name. My grandfather’s name. My brothers’ name. Three of my twenty-one first cousins are called Michael. I don’t call Babies after others in the family, though I think the name is beautiful. But all I had was Maireád Catherine so that wouldn’t do. So Michael it was. Two days later, I woke with a start, saying “Daniel!” So I’m not sure.
After two days we buried him, where I can see the spot from our bedroom. The coffin just didn’t seem appropriate and H crocheted him a white blanket so we wrapped him in that.
What I’d like people to understand is the sorrow so many parents feel they have to conceal because our culture does not acknowledge this tremendous loss.
“It could be worse!” a family member said.
To my credit, I still am civil to that person.
Some people sent cards or texts or email messages. Many people prayed and sent love and healing thoughts. Some people brought food. It was so comforting to have acknowledgement that he was real, and though brief, his life was important.
The Miscarriage Association of Ireland has a Remembrance Service in November every year, support meetings and a newsletter. I bring my mother to the Service. She lost 5 of my siblings in miscarriage. We sit and listen, light candles and cry. We buy the Association’s Christmas cards as it’s something we can do, in the season when we celebrate babies and life and children, for the ones we didn’t get to carry for very long.
Sometimes all I need is not to feel alone.