“Show yourself” is the climax of Elsa’s journey. Throughout her life she has waited for someone else to give her answers but at this point she recognises that she’s been waiting for herself, she’s her own goddess and fully accepts herself for who she is. She sets her doubts aside, lets her fears go and steps into her power. She embraces all that she is in a wonderful empowering moment. This is the ultimate in self love.
We all experience resistance to accept who we are, and knowing that who we are, is enough. Changing a belief that you have held for a long time, a belief that you have been socialised to believe, one that you carry in your physical being, is difficult. We all want to be accepted and feel we have to show up in a specific way to be loved and accepted. We filter our experiences to give people what we think they want to know so that we are not avoided. We feel like we are doing the right thing, but does the right thing make you feel free? Trying to control what others think and what you think to a certain extent, is exhausting. This struggle & conflict comes from the judgement you make of your experience not the actual experience itself. Failure, guilt, shame, whatever it may be. Feeling the feeling is not the problem, it’s what we make it mean about ourselves. Our inner narrative. The pain comes from not accepting what is, not being able to speak your truth. The more we speak our truth, through personal stories, we provide the space and opportunity for other women to do the same. We heal and others heal around us.
I am guilty of this. I have a story that I don’t share outside of a very few close friends. It is taboo. It is personal. I don’t share it, to protect other people; to prevent them from feeling uncomfortable. Despite the fact “every inch of me is trembling but not from the cold”, I want to tell my story. In a world that makes it difficult for women to speak out, it could give another woman the strength that she needs. So here goes;
I’m Sarah and on 13th December 2019 I lost a baby. I was around 8 weeks pregnant and excited. It was too early to know the sex of my baby but my instinct tells me she was a girl. My instinct also told me that she was dead, but I wanted it confirmed. They confirmed, I had experienced a miscarriage with an internal scan (transvaginal ultrasound scan). There were 4 health professionals trying to figure it out while I lay numb, staring at a ceiling full of bright lights. Then there was the clinical room I was put in with a box of tissues, a hospital bed and more bright lights, before being asked to leave. There was no follow up, no explanation, no support, no signposting, no offerings of any kind.
I’d had a miscarriage. What kind of word is that? The term miscarriage is comprised of two words: mis–, meaning “mistakenly, wrongly or badly” and -carriage, a “means of conveyance”. I hadn’t made a mistake or done anything wrong had I? People also used the term “spontaneous abortion”. An abortion is a wilful act and I did not wish for this. I had lost my baby, my baby had died.
I wish that I hadn’t needed that confirmation, I wish I had trusted myself, I wish I had declined the internal scan. I didn’t want a robot poking around in my baby’s home. What if she was trying to hold on and my decision caused her so much fear that it led to the end of her life?
Then there was blood. It was only a bit, until it wasn’t, and then it was a lot, “a river full of memory”. There was a clot. The clot was baby shaped. It was just lying on the toilet roll. I’m sitting on the toilet, phone out of reach, tears rolling down my face, staring at my lifeless baby on a piece of toilet roll. Can I take a picture? Would I ever look at the picture? Could I ever show anyone the picture? Could I hang it on the wall with the family photos? But that’s all I’ve got of my baby. Still to this day, I wish it was decent toilet roll.
The blood was a continuous reminder of what was happening. Walking around, acting like everything was ok but I was actually losing my baby. A human that I was growing, I had bonded with, I had already imagined a life including her. Looking for sanitary towels in the supermarket, struggling to see my options through my tears even though the lights were brighter than the sun, trying to understand how much I’m going to bleed, what would work best. Why are there so many options? I’d know who to ask if we openly spoke about this. Why does no one talk about their baby dying?
You tell so few people that you are pregnant before 12 weeks (who made this a thing!), so no one even knows! No one seems to care. I don’t want to start a conversation, “I was pregnant”. What if they mishear and congratulate me, what if they don’t know what to say, what if the “was” confuses them, what if, what if, what if! And all the sorrys, they just don’t quite cut it.
My mind is a jumble of questions. I want answers that no one can give me. Am I being dramatic? What if I can’t get pregnant again? Why couldn’t I keep my baby safe? What is happening in my body? Did I do something to cause this? Could I have prevented this? Do I say I have 2 or 3 children? Do people even class an 8 week old foetus as a baby? Is the information I am giving a few select people too much or controversial? The questions are endless, they eat you up during the day, they eat you up at night, they take over!
And I should be grateful, I have two children already. I am grateful for my children, so grateful, more than I have the words for, but I can’t be grateful for this. I can be grateful and hate this. And while we’re on other children, when the hell do you grieve when you have other children around?
Even when you don’t carry your baby to term, there is a postpartum period. Mine wasn’t honoured in the way a postpartum period should be. Why does it not get honoured? Why are women not nurtured through this stage? Why is no one holding space for me? I’m responsible for just getting on with it, not asking for the help I so desperately wanted and needed, not asking for the physical and emotional space I needed but the offers never came.
So, I began to live my life on autopilot. Pushing these memories and emotions to the back of my mind so I can be present in my life, present for my children, yet spontaneously bursting into tears at random things. The emotions wash over me in the strangest places and at the strangest times. The shame that I did something wrong. I really understood the pain of the women that came before me and will come after me.
I’m also carrying huge guilt that I haven’t honoured my baby. How do you remember a baby that you lost? There seems to be so many suggestions that did not resonate with me at all; With pictures. The only picture I have is of the tiny baby shaped clot on the shitty toilet tissue! I can’t put that on display. With baby clothes that I hadn’t yet bought or my baby had never worn. With an empty memory box. I’m so angry with myself that I threw the pregnancy test away. I have memories but nothing tangible. Plant a tree? I’m well known for killing all plant specimens I acquire. I can’t be responsible for killing the memory of my baby. I don’t want that responsibility. Visit a special place. Oh how I wished I could climb inside my baby’s home and just be. As Pink says, “Could you beam me up? Give me a minute. I don’t know what I’d say in it. Probably just stare, happy just to be there holdin’ your face”. (Yes, Pink’s song, “beam me up”, is about baby loss and is epic, although I’m obsessed, so probably a little biased). Speaking her name would make this all so real. Light a candle. I know this is a known and popular way to remember people that have died, making it scary to voice my feelings around this, but they are my feelings, and I don’t want the memory of my baby to burn out and fade away.
It was on the second anniversary of my baby’s death that I found the answer. “I’ve never felt so certain” about anything. A doula course with a big focus on baby loss. A course allowing me to gain wisdom to support women in a similar position. A way to honour my baby. To be a pair of non-judgmental ears for other women, to see them, to hear them. To nourish another woman’s heart and soul while they heal themselves. “I’m here for a reason. Could this be the reason I was born”
Different societies and cultures shape our understanding of fear. They teach us when to fear and how much to fear but it can be unnecessary and mean that we avoid doing things that would be beneficial to us and others. Sharing your story gives you the power to own it. If women do not say what they want, what they desire, how they feel, the world will fill in the gaps and create what they think women want and feel. Personal stories help us make sense of the struggles that we face, they grip people emotionally, they give people the feeling they are part of something bigger, they have power; the power to shape our lives and lives of those listening. “Step into your power…..You have secrets, too, But you don’t have to hide”
Don’t be me. Don’t carry on in silence. “I have always been a fortress, cold secrets deep inside. You have secrets too, but you don’t have to hide” Talk to us, talk to someone who can hold space for you both physically and emotionally. Honour your postpartum period. Find a way that feels right for you to honour your baby. Don’t speak to make others comfortable, speak your truth and your tribe will hear you. Be authentic, be open, be vulnerable, be self-aware, and connect from your heart with intention.
“I’m no longer trembling. Show yourself, I’m dying to meet you. Show yourself, it’s your turn”. I invite you to show yourself. Your true self. Be the woman you need, be the gift that other women need. Tell the story you need to hear. Empower yourself and the women around you. We would love to hear your story either publicly or privately. We are here for everything you have going on; you matter to us. Please get in touch if we can support you in any way.