Thursday, 19 July 2018

My Precious Nugget by Ellie

I know you’re not ‘supposed to’ admit this but when I found out I was pregnant I cried. Not tears of joy, but tears of pure fear. The pregnancy had been planned and I’d been so excited that I had taken pregnancy test after pregnancy test until I got those two pink lines. But alas, when I finally saw them, I was terrified. I began questioning if my husband and I were ready and able to give this baby the best care possible. I then harshly judged myself for not rejoicing in the little miracle we had made, like you’re ‘supposed to’ when you’re in a committed relationship and are trying for a baby. This is something I’ve learnt from having a miscarriage; it’s the times I told myself I was supposed to think or feel a certain way that fuelled the guilt I felt when I lost my baby.

Even writing the words ‘my baby’ sparks doubt in my mind. I had a miscarriage at 5 weeks just before Christmas. Christmas Day was difficult as we spent it with people I didn’t know well and some of their babies. Just the sight of the babies made me cry and feel resentful towards those new mums for what they had and I didn’t. That’s when the guilt crept in. After all, my baby wasn’t like these babies. My baby didn’t have a face or a gender or even a real name, we just fondly called it Nugget. I had quickly grown attached to Nugget and I imagined a life with the little person inside me. First words, first steps, first day of school. I was grieving the idea of someone rather than a person I had actually met.

Finding out I was pregnant so early meant that only a few people in my life knew about it. We had planned to keep it quiet before 12 weeks because that’s what you’re ‘supposed’ to do. I knew that this was in case something went wrong but to be honest, I naively believed that this was just something people said. After all, I was young, healthy and fertile. I’d heard plenty of stories about women who had trouble conceiving but barely anything about miscarriage. The lack of awareness added to the shock when it happened to us and we were even more shocked to learn about how common it is. I often found myself asking, why didn’t I know this was a real possibility and why are we ‘supposed’ to keep quiet in case it happens? For me, keeping the news to myself when I fell pregnant left me open to not knowing where to turn when things didn’t go as planned. I’ll never forget the morning I came home from a yoga class to find I was bleeding. Instantly I knew something was seriously wrong and the most primal scream I’d ever heard left my mouth. My instant reaction was to call my mum however, she didn’t know I was pregnant. I could hear her confusion on the phone as she became excited and then concerned, reassuring me some bleeding can be normal. By the next morning my husband and I were in hospital being told I would need blood tests 48 hours apart to find out if I was having a miscarriage as I was too early for an ultrasound.

Those 48 hours of waiting were emotionally excruciating but possibly more painful was the reaction from the woman taking my second lot of bloods. As she expertly stuck the needle in my arm she explained that we were hoping for my hormone levels to go down. I glanced across at my husband who looked like he’d been shot. “Up,” I said assertively. “We’re hoping the hormone levels will go up.” The assumption that we didn’t want the baby angered me and made me feel guilty for not being ecstatic about the baby from the beginning. If I had reacted with joy instead of fear when I found out I was pregnant would this be happening? Or was it something else I did? Should I not have gone to yoga that day? I was reassured by hospital staff that this wasn’t the case and lots of women go through miscarriages. In fact, given I was only 5 weeks along some women may not even know and may just think it is a late period. Once again, guilt reared its ugly head and I felt silly for mourning a late period.

Eventually I learnt to stop putting so much emphasis on what I was supposed to be feeling and just accept that I had been through something difficult and painful. I stopped asking what I was supposed to do and went with what felt right. For me, talking about it with trusted people helped. I’m so grateful to the women who have shared their stories with me and provided support and hope. For my husband, he preferred not to share our loss because his friends and family didn’t know we were trying for a baby. He wanted to keep the news of our next pregnancy a surprise. We were lucky enough to get pregnant right away and I’m now in the second trimester. Those first 12 weeks were full of anxiety as I often checked for signs that something was wrong. Even though I often complained, they were also full of gratitude for my terrible morning sickness telling me something was coming to life inside me. Getting pregnant again straight away was such a blessing and provided a much welcome distraction from our loss however, it also forced me to move on very quickly. Every now and again I have a low day when I remember the grief I didn’t always acknowledge. Instead of fighting it or telling myself I have no right to feel that way because I’m pregnant, I just let myself feel it and give myself the compassion I deserve.


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Ellie Bethel

Ellie is a psychologist living on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. After having a miscarriage in December 2017, she is expecting a baby boy in October this year with husband Jeremy. Ellie is a self-proclaimed crazy dog lady and adores her fur baby Spencer. She is also a one eyed Sydney Swans supporter and loves doing yoga.

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