Danielle wrote a book dedicated to women who have experienced miscarriage called Little Big Love. This is her story written specifically for Sands
Written four days after Danielle lost her baby
Until four days ago the word ‘miscarriage’ meant losing a pregnancy in its early stages. It was a sad concept and I felt some sense of emotion for those who had experienced one, but how bad could it be? The baby was not even really a baby yet, just a foetus, right? Wrong. There couldn’t really be an attachment between mother and child at such an early stage, right? Wrong. It was just a matter of trying again wasn’t it? No it wasn’t.
Until four days ago I had no idea how many women had experienced a miscarriage and how many women still carry the deep emotional scar from that experience. Now I know because I am one of those women. Now I know because as a woman who fortunately for me wears my heart on my sleeve I have grieved on the shoulders and in the ears of all sorts of women in the last few days, from medical staff at the hospital, to close friends, complete strangers and everything in between. Women really are incredible beings full of strength, beauty and nurture. Having always been a woman who has preferred to hang out with the boys because they are easier, less bitchy and drink as much as me, I never had an appreciation of this until now.
I am a 38-year-old woman with one son. Although I’m a later bloomer in the kids department this was never my plan. I remember when I was in my late teens mapping out my life. I would become a top-notch corporate lawyer and make loads of cash. I would have my first child at 23 and my second at 25. However my life went in directions I would never have foreseen. I did become a lawyer but I didn’t make loads of cash. I ended up working for a string of legal aid type services which were at times personally rewarding, but paid less than the average 'tradies' wage. I passed the age of 23 not having met Mr Right. I passed the age of 30 not having met him either. When I got to the age of 35 and Mr Right was still nowhere in sight, I began to seriously wonder whether he existed at all and whether it was my destiny to be single and childless. My mother has an aunt who has never married or had children and she seems to have a wow of a life, travelling here, there and everywhere. So I kept this groovy aunt in my sights and started to get used to the unplanned direction my life had taken when, pop, out of the blue, he appeared. My neighbour across the street named Matthew was the most handsome man I had ever met and his conversation equally stimulated my mind.
Fast-forward a little while and Matthew moved over from across the road to live with me and we were expecting our first child. Jago Jack was born on 12 September 2010, when I was 37 years old. He was the first child for both of us and he still is the most incredible thing that has ever happened to me. Having never had a child in my twenties or early thirties I am absolutely making assumptions here, but I think that my energy levels would have been very different having a child then as opposed to now. It’s hard work! Whilst I have always had the utmost respect and admiration for my nana who had 8 living children, now I think she should be made a saint! I love every day of motherhood though like I have never loved anything and I wouldn’t trade it for a trillion dollars.
So when I found out I was pregnant for the second time 3 months ago I was over the moon. Matt and I began making plans for the next 9 months and beyond. From neighbours to complete nuclear family in a few years. What a whirlwind! A huge lesson that no matter what I might have planned, life has its own agenda.
I did a pregnancy test a few days after I missed my period so I found out about the pregnancy very early on in the peace. This made the first trimester seem to go on forever, but when I made it to 11 weeks I thought I was on the home stretch, out of danger. I hadn’t had any major hiccups with my first pregnancy and so I guess I thought it was all going to be the same this time. However, I had also been going through a lot of stress at the time because my grandfather was dying from cancer.
I went to the toilet on Sunday night and looked down at the paper to see a couple of little red brown marks. I froze. I felt nauseas. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe. I steadied myself and called for Matt. I showed him and he tried to reassure me by reasoning that ‘the same thing had happened last time’. ‘No it hadn’t. Not a drop’ was my swift reply. A woman’s instinct is very strong, regardless of how desperately she wants to consciously or sub consciously ignore it. In my heart I knew this was bad. I called my midwife and she did her best to reassure me, telling me to go to bed and get some rest unless the bleeding got worse, in which case to go into the hospital. I did as suggested and not much changed overnight, giving me a chance to muster up some false hope that all was well.
In the morning when I got up I went to the toilet and passed a couple of clots. No longer was it just spotting I was dealing with. My midwife called and I told her what had happened. She suggested I go and get it checked out. It seemed to settle again, going back to just spotting but I left my partner and 16 month old bub at home and drove to hospital. I was taken into the emergency ward very quickly which was a relief, but then I lay there on a hospital bed for hours, being checked on intermittently by a lovely nurse until I was seen by an intern doctor who gave me a few different options for what might be going on. She wanted to conduct an internal examination, which I declined. I just wanted to see my baby’s heart beat and asked for an ultrasound. The doctor said she would arrange it and within an hour I was being escorted to the x-ray department.
I lay on the bed staring at the screen, desperately looking for the reassurance I was seeking. Instead the ultra sonographer said ‘I’m sorry but this doesn’t look good’. ‘I can’t see a heartbeat and the baby is too small’. I just started bawling. What I had known in my heart but desperately not wanted to hear was true. My baby had died.
I didn’t want my little boy to see me like this and so I declined the hospital staff’s offer to call my partner and ask him to come in. My mum was away in Adelaide seeing her terminally ill father and I felt I couldn’t call my dad because when I had told him about that pregnancy he responded by telling me he thought I was stupid because I was too old. I thought he would just tell me I’d lost the baby because I was old. My closest friends live in other states. There was no one else I could think of that I could call to come and sit with me. So I just sat there in the ultrasound room, sobbing uncontrollably. Then in desperation for someone to hold me, comfort me, take away some of the excruciating pain I asked the woman who had done the ultrasound to go and find a woman who I don’t know well but is lovely and works in the emergency department. My mum works in the x-ray department and so they know me in there. Word must have travelled and within a few minutes both the woman I had asked for and a work colleague of mums had come into the room. There in the arms of relative strangers I howled for the loss of my unborn baby. The pain was so intense. I had not anticipated it, which made it so much more overwhelming. All I could think about was that my baby was dead inside of me. Here I was this professional woman in her late thirties and I didn’t even know that could happen, let alone happen to me.
The two women were absolutely fantastic. I can’t recall what they said because I was in another world, but they were of great comfort as I clung to them, drenching them with my tears. Eventually they convinced me to go back to the emergency department. After another period of waiting the obstetric and gynaecological doctor came to see me. She confirmed that my baby had no heartbeat and had died about 2 weeks earlier. She offered me three options. 1. I go into day surgery and have a d&c, where they remove the baby and placenta by surgical means. 2. I take a tablet which makes my uterus contract and causes the baby and placenta to come out. 3. I go home and wait for the baby to pass out of me naturally. She told me about the statistical success rates, pros and cons of all three options and without much hesitation I said I wanted to go home and wait for it happen naturally. I try to avoid medical intervention whenever possible anyway but there was also the mothering part of me that was still trying to protect my baby. Maybe it wasn’t dead I rationalised. Maybe they just missed the heartbeat. Maybe there was a chance it would be ok. I wanted to let nature take its course and give the baby that chance. If it was meant to come out it would, on its terms. The doctor told me it was important I watched for the ‘products’ to pass. It was important that the products came out otherwise I risked infection. In ignorance I asked what colour these products of pregnancy would be. ‘Flesh coloured’ she responded. Astounded, I asked ‘are you talking about my baby?’ ‘Yes’ was her answer, with no further explanation.
Once I had calmed down I called my partner and told him what had happened. I asked him to come in with our son. It was much better having them with me. While we were waiting for the ok to go home my neighbour happened to walk past and see us. She looked into my eyes and all I said was ‘the baby is gone’. She knew what I was saying because she had been there too, unbeknownst to me until now. She hugged me and began to cry, telling me she knew how painful it was. I believed her. She offered to do anything she could to help, make us dinner, or look after our boy. We thanked her and said we’d be ok. She’s a beautiful woman and the third of many who were to give me the strength to get through the days to come.
We went home and I put all my mental energy into asking my baby to come away naturally, if that was meant to be. My partner went out with my son that evening to give me some space to let things happen. Acting on instinct I ran a bath and climbed in. Within a few minutes whilst squatting down my baby came out into the water. I scooped it up into my hand and couldn’t believe what I was looking at. I was holding a beautiful, tiny baby. My baby. She had eyes, tiny holes where the ears were forming, arms, legs and I could see the formation of internal organs. Even though it was too early to tell I felt like she was a little girl. She was so much more than a ‘product’ and I felt so honoured that I had the opportunity to hold her, to bond with her just for a small time. To say goodbye to her. When I was ready I put her into a little ring box nestled on cotton wool. I put her on my dresser and that night we all slept in our bedroom. My partner, my son, my tiny baby and I were together for the first and last time.
My older baby’s placenta had been sitting in our freezer since we bought it home after he was born. I had always planned to bury it under a tree but had not gotten around to it. It was pretty weird at first seeing the package every time I went to get out a steak or some frozen veggies but after a while I just got used to it being there…as crazy as that sounds. I’m glad I left it there so long because the next day I took it out and buried my big baby’s placenta with my little baby in the back yard. It felt like it was meant to be. We had a goodbye ceremony and planted a tree on top of the grave. Now we can watch the cycle of life in action, returning from the dust, day by day in our own back yard.
In the following days I discovered that there were women all around me who had been through a miscarriage, but I had never previously known. The compassion empathy and shared stories from these women was what got me through those hardest initial days.
When sharing her own journey, a friend told me that just after she had miscarried; her husband bought home a stranger to stay with them. My friend got upset at first, wanting to grieve in the company of familiar people. However, this stranger ended up giving Jane the same gift she gave me. Comfort. Jane told me that this woman was a yoga teacher. The woman told Jane that babies lost to miscarriage are little souls who have almost reached the end of the karma wheel, otherwise known as maya. These little souls are very close to enlightenment, but just needs to do one last journey into the human world, before reaching nirvana. Even though I am not sure about where we come from and where we go after this life, it gave me peace of mind and brought a calm to my heart to think that what I was going through might not be in vain. I may have helped that soul to get to where they needed to go. In my times of sadness over the coming months I often thought about that story, being instantly comforted by it.
Although I will never know one way or the other and it may have also been a coincidence, I believe that the immense stress I was going through at the time, travelling to and from hospital to see my grandfather, contributed to my pregnancy loss. My ‘Papa’ and I were very close and watching him suffer and fade broke my heart and caused many a sleepless night on top of those already attributed to being the mother of a very active 1 year old.
I will never forget the tiny angel that came into my life for a short but profound little while. She taught me that I am stronger than I think. She taught me to appreciate the people I have in my life. She taught me that life is not a given.
If you require support after reading this blog please contact
13 000 72637
13 000 72637
Danielle was born in Adelaide, South Australia, but moved with her family to Alice Springs, Northern Territory as a teenager. She has moved between Adelaide and Alice Springs ever since. Danielle began her career as a lawyer specialising in human and women’s rights. She then transitioned into film making and writing. She has made documentary films, written a feature film and written a published children’s book. Inspired to help others by her own experience of miscarriage, Danielle wrote a book dedicated to women who have experienced miscarriage called Little Big Love. She currently maintains a Facebook page with the same name, devoted to supporting people through the experience of miscarriage and its aftermath.
You can purchase a copy of the book directly through the Facebook page, which also regularly has giveaways