1) What is your personal experience with infertility/miscarriage?
I first became pregnant in 2014 and looking back, as excited as I was, part of me was slightly inconvenienced by the timing. Something I cringe to think of now. I was the first of my friendship group to get pregnant and I felt I would be missing out on so much socially by being the first. To be honest, I was a little scared about how it would change my life.
By the time I started to spot (so lightly I could barely even tell) I hated myself for ever having such selfish thoughts. If it wasn't for my husband pushing me to get it checked out during my lunch break I wouldn't have bothered the hospital for a scan at all.
My 12 week scan was due to be the following week and receiving the news the baby had passed some 4 weeks earlier was a real shock. I hadn't even heard of the term 'missed miscarriage.' We opted to have the tablets to induce miscarriage and I was admitted the next day. The whole process was cold and clinical and a lot more distressing than I had imagined. It was such a big blow to my husband and I. I left feeling really empty and sad. We had already told all of our family and friends and so un-telling them was awkward. I felt so much guilt and a failure to my husband.
I turned 30 a month or so later and my husband and I decided to make some plans as a complete distraction. He’s always been great at organizing trips and this was no exception! We went to Berlin, Paris, Iceland and Amsterdam (in that order) all within a couple of months. By the time we reached Iceland I still hadn't had a proper period and so without knowing it, I fell pregnant again.
At Christmas we were in Amsterdam, knowing at this point that I was pregnant, and decided as another distraction to move to Toronto from the U.K.
I arrived in Canada almost 5 months’ pregnant awaiting my 20 week scan. At that time I had no idea of the list of things that could go wrong after a 12 week scan, which I'd had the 'all clear' at. Looking back I knew something wasn't quite right but I put it down to being vulnerable and pregnant in a new city.
The news that followed changed my life forever. At 20 weeks’ pregnant we found our baby had osteogenesis imperfecta type II. A condition incompatible with life. We had to make the gut wrenching decision to end our very much wanted pregnancy. A decision I still find it hard to come to terms with or think of too much to this day. The only comforting factor has been that our baby's bones were breaking inside my womb and that his skull would never have formed, so we were just putting an end to his suffering. Something any parent would want to do for their unborn child. The thought of him being in pain was just heartbreaking.
Being faced with this news 4 weeks into a new life in Toronto was as hard as you can imagine. We didn't have OHIP as we didn't yet qualify. Starting every appointment in the finance department of a hospital discussing what your insurance company did and didn't cover. Was beyond depressing. It also caused a lot of problems in whether we would be able to find out if this was likely to happen again. Most of the tests we needed to have weren’t covered on our insurance and with every new test we had more bad news thrown at us. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. Again.
We had to wait almost 3 weeks for me to be induced due to complications and wait times. That stretch of time was the hardest. We were in limbo and I felt like we were waiting for a death sentence. I spent the time obsessively researching what would happen in great detail. I had nothing else to focus on and I just couldn't grieve or move on in that time. My belly grew significantly and it broke my heart to see it. I hid away from people, afraid I would be asked about my baby that I was waiting interminably to lose.
The day came and I was induced. After 12 hours of labour and a very swift delivery, my son Phoenix was born. Against all odds he was alive, something I had been told was almost impossible. The nurse screamed in shock and the rest of the room followed in tears. Meeting him was an unexpected joy. I had thought so much about what I was losing, but very little about what I could gain. My fear was that he could gruesome but he was so beautiful. As I held my son in my arms I was full of love and pride. His skin was thin, his eyes were closed and he looked so peaceful. There was such a calm energy in the room, so full of love. Whether this was due to a rush of hormones or a moment of unexpected pure happiness. I don't know. But I felt how I imaged a new mom to feel meeting her first born child for the first time. For the 5 or so hours he was alive, Phoenix was held in mine and my husband’s arms. These moments are some of the most precious memories of my life. We took photos, we were given gifts and clothes which he was dressed in and we had a non-denominational blessing as we said goodbye and left the hospital with empty arms. That’s when the reality of the loss really hit me. Every part of my body felt like a Mom, yet I had no baby to hold or care for.
My highest high was then followed by my lowest low. It may sound stupid but that came as a surprise. I remember Facetiming my best friend and turning my head away to cry. Feeling like I didn't know how I would ever stop, I couldn't at that point imagine happiness at all. My heart longed for my son. It really felt like the world had ended for me. The memories and photos I had of Phoenix gave me something to hold onto but I felt so cheated out of starting a new life as a mom in a new country. I mourned the loss of both.
2) How has it made your life worse? How has it made your life better?
I don't like to think either loss made my life worse. I'm a glass half full kind of person. Both losses had a positive impact on my life. Although I don't believe that everything happens for a reason (I can't believe there is any good reason for an innocent baby to suffer or die) I do believe in fate, and I certainly wouldn't be where and who I am today without those experiences. Loss has taught me never to judge, to be a lot more compassionate and never take anything or anyone for granted. The love I felt for my son and the impact he had on so many of my closest family and friends has shown me the good and kindness in the world at a time I felt that it was nothing but cruel. I've met people and made friends I otherwise wouldn't have and I'm reminded on a daily basis how lucky I am to have such an amazing support network of people who care. For that, I am extremely grateful.
3) When & how did you realize that you were going to be able to carry on after infertility/miscarriage?
Something unexpected that came from Phoenix being born alive was that it actually entitled him to his own OHIP number as a Canadian born citizen. This meant we could have tests that we otherwise couldn't afford or wouldn’t have been included in our insurances. A twist of fate we were very grateful for. In the 6 plus months we were left to wait, my mind had run wild. I had gotten used to bad news so regularly that I couldn’t imagine a positive outcome. I felt it was easier to prepare for bad news than be given another blow. Given the statistics and our incomplete family history (due to my husband being adopted) the doctors had indirectly told us to be prepared for bad news also. Finally finding out that our chances of it happening again were less than 1% gave me hope and a weight was lifted. I no longer felt as if we had been cursed. However, I was in disbelief for months. I had become so accustomed to bad news regarding fertility, I really thought all my luck had run out, even when given good news. Until I held my son, Bodie, in my arms I really couldn't believe I would ever experience motherhood no matter what anyone told me.
4) What have you learned through this experience?
I have learned that nothing in life is a given , to be grateful for what you do have when you have it. To try and look for a small grain of positivity and hold onto that, to distract yourself, give yourself time to heal and to try not to be hard on yourself. I now appreciate that having your own children is not everyone's reality, that grief doesn't have a timeline and that you have the right to cope in anyway you see fit. I’m not religious but the spiritual side of me likes to think that Phoenix is with me, guiding me down the right path. I often get little signs, right when I really need them.
5) What do you hold on to for hope/courage/strength on your bad days?
On the bad days I tell myself that I'm so lucky I got to meet my son, that the experience has shaped me to be a better, kinder person. It's made me stronger and proven that my relationship with my husband is more important than anything else.
6) How do you feel about your experience with infertility on your good days?
On my good days, after we lost Phoenix, I felt grateful that I had been able to get pregnant and that gave me hope that I could be again, that every pregnancy has the ability to be different and that I had to focus on making myself happy first, along with a little patience.
7) In three words describe yourself before/during/after miscarriage (in miscarriage specific situations)?
Presumptuous. Lonely. Grateful .
8) In what ways has your experience with infertility/miscarriage changed you as a person?
It's changed me so much. It’s made me stronger for sure. I often think, if I survived that, I can survive anything. It puts the small stuff into perspective and I've learned to be a better listener, and to be more open and compassionate. It's made me understand people much more and to always treat people how I want to be treated.
9) How have others responded to your infertility situations? Has it impacted your relationships? What are some things you’ve been told that have been helpful/harmful?
My family and friends have literally been my saviours. Although they were hundreds of miles away, I felt so supported and they went to the ends of the earth to help me heal and do the sweetest of things for me, my husband and Phoenix. Kindness that I will never forget. Although my husband is the polar opposite of me with regards to grief, I respect his manner of coping and he has been my rock, my perspective and ultimately it's made us stronger as a couple. I found it harder to open up to the wider world, I told very few people here in Canada anything about my losses for a long time. Never the full story or the details. People becoming pregnant around me, was awkward. At the time I felt it was a misconception I could be jealous. But for me it was actually the opposite, I was so happy for them but it made my grief harder to ignore and I couldn't face the thought that someone may misinterpret my grief for envy. Of course I wanted a baby, but a baby didn't make up for the losses or erase the grief. I just wanted my son Phoenix back, not a replacement. I couldn't sit in a room talking about the joys of pregnancy when for me it had been more of a nightmare. The best help has been those willing to listen. I didn’t need them to create an answer to my problems, or to give false hope. Just to offer a shoulder to cry on. Remembering anniversaries and important dates also meant a lot to me.
“Everything happens a for a reason” became a saying I loathed. I couldn’t stomach thinking my son had to suffer for any good reason. Or hearing that “at least I could get pregnant”. Although that was a fact, it didn’t seem to help me in the moment of loss or unknown fertility issues. After all, just getting pregnant doesn’t automatically equal a baby and I only equated pregnancy with loss at that point so it wasn’t helpful to hear.
10) Tell us about you. What are your hobbies/passions/pursuits?
I have been a hairstylist for more than 14 years, working in some of the best salons London, England. I still love doing hair, especially for friends, although I don't work in a salon now. Hair, fashion and clothes have always been a part of life and something I am deeply interested in. Following my losses I signed up for every craft course the city had to offer. I've made everything from leather bags to quilts. I'm a qualified personal trainer and passionate about exercise. Especially as a form of therapy. I love to run especially by the beach where I live, and my husband and I have run several marathons together. Most recently I started a business with one of my best friends whom I met on mat leave. After bonding over our experiences with depression and anxiety we wanted to start a company that could help give something back to the community that has helped us so much. We sell t-shirts to women with simple words, delivering an empowering message and a portion of the proceeds go to miscarriage, childloss and postpartum charities, causes we are both very passionate about.
11) What is your favourite quote?
My favourite quote is: “Hope rises like a Phoenix from the ashes of shattered dreams”. I stumbled across it after losing Phoenix and it pretty much summed up the experience for me. I had to find a way of finding hope and staying positive after I lost him. It's also quite fitting for me personally, as Bodie was born exactly a year after Phoenix was due.