After my post about my girls, I have had a topic on my mind that might be painful for some to read about but is one that often too many people that have been through it don’t feel safe to open up about. I’m talking about the topic of pregnancy loss.
It’s not easy for me to talk about, so I apologise if this post jumps around. I have talked about it to a few trusted friends, but even then it usually comes out as mish-mash of feelings, but after the long post about my girls the other night, I felt the need to talk about my other little girl, the one whose personality I will never get to know.
Miscarriage is still such a taboo topic, even in the 21st century. Often, unless someone has been through it themselves, they don’t understand what it feels like. That it feels like losing a child because it IS losing a child. Yet too many women feel like they can’t talk to others about the loss of their child. I am sharing my story because my little girl deserves to have a voice and I hope by sharing my story that other women will know that they are not alone. That even if there are still some people out there who don’t want to hear their stories, that there are an ever increasing number of people who will be there, to listen and support them.
So here is my story.
It begins when I had Sammie nearly 13 years ago. Due to medical negligence when she was born, I was left with internal damage (and ongoing pain) and a strong chance that I couldn’t conceive again. Or if I was able to conceive, a strong chance that I wouldn’t be able to carry to term. I love children and ever since I was little myself, growing up with three siblings, I always wanted a large family. I was devastated at the thought of never having more children, but I never gave up hope. After Sammie’s birth, Andrew became very mentally unwell and as much as I wanted children, and as slim as the chance of falling pregnant was, I wasn’t going to take the chance of falling pregnant again while Andrew was so unwell so we used contraception.
One day I will share the story of my life with Andrew, but I will summarise it by saying that between 2001 when Sammie was born and 2007 when Andrew and I separated, that his violence gradually increased until one day in January 2007 he attacked Sammie and I immediately told him to leave. He then beat me and took off before I could call the police. He was charged, but unfortunately only with violating the DVO I had taken out against him and not charged with assault for his attack on me or Sammie.
After throwing Andrew out it was no longer possible to ignore that I had fallen pregnant. I didn’t tell Andrew because I was afraid he might deliberately hurt me if he found out. He had been deliberately hurting me for months (rather than accidentally hurting me during a his psychotic episodes as he had been doing for years) and I was very scared.
I will never know for sure what he would have done to me if I had told him, but three weeks after I asked him to leave, he came back to the house demanding I hand over any money I had and any valuables so he could take them to buy drugs (despite the fact that he had already taken pretty much everything of value in the few days after I kicked him out, and we never really had much of value because he’d always take it and pawn it for drugs). I had nothing to give him and he turned violent. The next day I started bleeding and I lost the baby.
I know I wasn’t far enough along to know the gender of my baby. But my baby was a real person and I could not call a person “it”, so to me, she was a girl. I will never know if she was a girl or boy, but believing she was a girl and choosing a name for her helps to deal with the pain and grief of losing a child.
Chloe is what I named her. Unlike the pseudonyms I use on this blog, Chloe is the real name of the baby I lost and a child I will always treasure even though I never got to hold her. All I have to remember her by is a name, but I will always remember her name and it is etched in my heart.
After losing her, I really believed I would never have another baby. I loved Andrew and after the pain of having to separate from him, I didn’t even want to date again at first. After having been hurt so much and knowing I would never lower my standards for love again (as I had lowered them to date Andrew), I doubted I would ever be capable of loving someone again and I doubted I would ever find a man who met my standards. Not that my standards were high or complex – all I looked for in a man is a man who truly shared my beliefs and values. Unfortunately those are quite rare, and finding one who was still single by the time he reached 30 was not something I expected.
Even after I met John, and then several years later when we got married, I never thought we’d be able to have a child. I hoped we could, but part of me never believed it possible with multiple medical problems meaning the odds were stacked against me (in addition to uterine adhesions and other scarring, I have PCOS and hormone problems, take several category C medications and had an operation on my cervix to remove pre-cancerous cells).
When I fell pregnant with Rose, I was overjoyed because it was miraculous I’d managed to fall pregnant. All though my pregnancy I was beyond terrified I would lose her but the day she was born, despite the fact that I had been depressed and anxious for months, I was so incredibly overjoyed to hold her in my arms.
When we found out we were having Rose, I originally wanted to name her Chloe in memory of the baby I had lost, but John didn’t like the name. At first I was really disappointed, but I am glad now he talked me out of naming Rose “Chloe”. Chloe is the little girl I lost and Rose deserves her own name as she is her own person, not some kind of replacement. When you lose a child, nothing (and no one) can ever replace them. Even if you had a dozen more children, they never replace in your heart the one that was lost.
It hasn’t been easy since then. I eventually told Andrew about the baby we had lost. His response was to accuse me of making it up to “manipulate” him. When I asked him what he could possibly think I was manipulating him into, he couldn’t think of anything. But by then, he was in such a paranoid delusional state that he was accusing me of all sorts of things all the time. I repeatedly pointed out to him, that if someone wanted to manipulate him, they’d say they were pregnant when they weren’t, they wouldn’t share months later that they’d been pregnant and lost the baby.
I had to deal with a police system that didn’t even recognise that my baby was a victim and facing that because I wasn’t far enough long, that the legal system didn’t recognise her either. Also, dealing with a family court system that was very anti-mother at the time, in all the reports, they only described Chloe as a miscarriage and deliberately left out the fact that I’d miscarried because of the savage beating from Andrew, because the writer of the “independent” reports thought it would disadvantage Andrew too much in court, and my lawyers didn’t think it was a serious enough issue to bother bringing up.
But of course the most hurtful thing was the fact that I only shared her existence with a handful of people, one of those being one of my best friends – a woman who I was later to find out had been carrying on affair with Andrew for quite some time and had used my friendship with her to pursue him. All the years she knew he had been beating me, and yet she began pursuing him anyway. I eventually found out (directly from her) that during their affair, she encouraged him to be violent towards me (and by extension Sammie) and had frequently told him that violence in spousal relationships is completely normal and that I was the one in the wrong for going to the police and deserve to beaten for it. The most hurtful for thing though, was when she said all these things to me on the day I discovered their affair, was her comment that he had done nothing wrong at all in beating Chloe to death because he didn’t know I was pregnant when he badly beat me.
To have someone who had been an incredibly close friend for years, someone I had trusted and opened up to about things that I had only told maybe one or two others, and one of only two people I had told about my pregnancy, to say that it was ok to beat my baby to death, took a long while to get over.
I no longer grieve for Chloe. I only wistfully wonder what she’d be like if she was alive now. Holding Rose in my arms helped me to let go of the last of my grief. I do often wonder though what Chloe would look like, what her voice would sound like and even what she would smell like. I have an extremely sensitive sense of smell, and I love nothing more than the natural scent of my girls. Rose sleeps in John’s and my bedroom and the whole room now smells of her delightful baby smell. I won’t say what Sammie room’s smells like because unfortunately it smells like a typical teenager’s room, but when Sammie is clean, she has her own unique beautiful scent. I totally understand why some mums keep baby blankets and smell them to remind them of their children as babies.
After I separated from Andrew, I lost a lot of friends. For many reasons. Some simply didn’t want to be associated with a “divorced” person because of the stigma. Some were stalked by Andrew and his friends and felt it was easier to end their friendship with me rather than endure the abuse from him. Some were also friends with his mistress and some of them would tell her and him private details of my life so I ended the friendship with them to protect myself – others just stood back and did nothing while the pair of them stalked me for three years while making threats to harm Sammie and abusing her during access visits and I decided in the end that I couldn’t be friends with people who could stay silent while watching Sammie and I go through that. I don’t believe in asking people to choose sides – but I do believe who claim they are not taking sides when they see abuse happening have actually chosen sides and have chosen the abuser’s side. My best friend Shelly, is the only mutual friend I stayed friends with from that time.
Other friends I lost, not specifically from the stigma of the divorce, but simply because I could not pretend all the time that I was okay, and I reached out to them for support, as I had supported them in the past, only to find that our friendships were not a two way thing. They made it clear that they didn’t care that I’d lost the love of my life after a decade together, that I’d been through horrific violence, and now my child was being forced by the family court into a situation where she was the one being abused instead. They made it clear they didn’t care what was happening to my living child, so I knew they would never care about the child I had lost. And then there were yet other “friends” who decided to try to take advantage of my newly single status meaning I no longer had a husband who always took all the money and my car and could now leave the house without fear, to constantly ask to “borrow” money, to get driven places and to use me as a free babysitter. It took a while, but I eventually realised these people were not friends and put boundaries in place. Once they realised I would no longer give them money (knowing I would never get it back) and no longer be able to drive them around and babysit their kids for free so they could go out clubbing, while not even returning the favour so I could go to hospital when I was very sick one night, they very quickly disappeared.
It’s true what they say about going through difficult times in life really shows who your true friends are. I am blessed to have had a few really good friends at the time who supported me, even when some of them became targets of Andrew and his friends and mistresses (yes he had more than one when we separated). Shelly stuck by me even though she copped some terrible abuse for it.
I would gladly have a dozen good friends than a thousand bad ones. And even though it hurts to lose a friend or to have to end a friendship, I’m a firm believer it’s better to find out who your real friends are.
The only thing I wish I’d had, is someone to open up to about losing Chloe at the time. Losing a baby is really such a taboo subject still and even some well meaning people, think it’s best to quash any talk of it.
I just want anyone out there reading this who has lost a baby to know that if you want to talk about it, find someone to talk to about it. Whether it be a professional, or you can share it here, or join a support group for those who have been through similar, or find a good friend who will let you share it – or even if you’re not ready to share your story with another person, maybe write it down – you don’t have to share it with anyone, but the simple act of putting it in words can help the healing process.
If it helps, give your baby a name like I did. Some others find healing by making a memorial, planting a tree or doing something else to remember their child by. Whatever helps you find peace.
For those who haven’t lost a child, but know someone who has, please don’t ask someone who has a lost to keep it to themselves. You wouldn’t ask any other mother not to talk about their children, so please don’t ask a mother who has lost her unborn child not to talk about their child. Miscarriage is so taboo to discuss but please don’t let that continue. The life of a child is precious, and even if we never get to hold our child, their life has intertwined with ours. Let us talk about our child, just as we talk about our living children.
I will never forget Chloe, and I hope by sharing her story that others who want to share their stories but are afraid to will also find the courage to share the stories of their angel babies. I hope everyone with angel babies find the peace and healing I have. *hugs*