Miscarriage is becoming more present in the media and both medical and creative literature, but it’s still a subject that’s treated with awkwardness and silence.
Steph is an aspiring midwife who is undertaking an Open University degree in health medicine/biology while getting her life set up to be able to do midwifery placements. She’s a Mum of two.
She's also a member of the Secret Community For Midwives in The Making who recently shared some photos with us. She had recorded her miscarriage and her 8 week baby. You could sense her shock and sorrow – but also her awe of her body and her baby.
With her permission, I’ve shared her thoughts here with photos under a separate link*. These photos are sad and intimate, of course, but the anatomy and concept of this being what many women go through as they say goodbye to their baby, is beautiful.
‘I wanted to share these photos in the hope that they might be interesting and educational. I miscarried 2 nights ago. I knew it was happening as I had started spotting the day before and was referred to the EPU (Early Pregnancy Unit) for a scan the following morning.
The scan showed the baby, whose heart I had seen beating in an early scan, had sadly died at around 7.5/8 weeks. I should have been 11.5 weeks so it was a devastating blow.
As the day went on my body gradually prepared for what it needed to do as bleeding got heavier.
That evening I was lying on the sofa trying to ride out the cramping and lower back pain which I was now experiencing. My youngest started to stir over the monitor so I got up to go to her and as I began to stand up my PJ bottoms just filled with blood and clots. I told my husband to see to our little one while I tried to work out what to do. It was a little scary. I've miscarried before but never like this. I made it to the bathroom and let my trousers and pad drop to the floor. It was quite shocking and felt horrible. As my trousers dropped something also fell and landed slightly away from the rest of the clots and blood, as soon as I looked at it I knew what it was and I had passed the foetus still inside the sac. I knelt for a while while my body cleared out a bit more and cleaned up a bit and then went to the sac. It was strangely beautiful. Heart breaking and gut-wrenching, but so very perfect.
I picked it up and couldn't take my eyes off it. I was in a bathroom surrounded by and covered in blood and yet I was holding this beautiful tiny baby, still safely protected in its watery cushion.
I have had 4 losses but this is the only time I have been able to properly say goodbye. It has made it more raw and hit me harder than any of the others, but equally I feel immensely privileged.
Miscarriage carries a lot of stigma and is a very dark and lonely place for women who go through it. I hope these pictures show there is a beautiful, peaceful side to it as well.’
A huge thanks to Steph for sharing this experience of motherhood with us. We honour it.
My novel, which is coming out this year, explores termination of pregnancy through the eyes of a young student midwife, as based on many of your experiences. (Thanks if you helped by sharing with me). I wanted to address this topic in particular because despite one in four women having had an abortion, I’ve never read about the experience in a fictional book. And I’ve read a lot of books about women.
Sometimes childbearing experiences can be so complicated that you can’t class them as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. They just are. Like the snow flurries that have hit the UK this week, they are an act of nature and it’s us that assigns the meaning.
It's an isolated place to be though, if you can't share that meaning.
Steph’s ability to share helps to address the loneliness that can come with this kind of taboo topic.
I’d love to hear from you – have you experienced miscarriage or termination of pregnancy, or any other ‘taboo’ childbearing event? Have you been able to talk about it? What would have helped in terms of the care you received?
Leave a comment – and please let me and Steph know what you found most insightful about her post.
Take care, Ellie.
*We face tough decisions as moderators of the Secret Community. We never aim to censor anything but we’re aware part of our job is helping the community access information and experience in a way which doesn't overwhelm them with no warning. We asked Steph to add the images in the comments instead of in the main post which meant members would have a choice of whether to access the photos at home, when they had space to think about them, etc. (we're really thinking of the few members who might be experiencing infant loss right now).
Whether you agree or disagree with our decision, I think we can all praise Steph for sharing this so openly. We wanted to document her experiences in a permanent blog post here on Midwife Diaries.