Sensitivity warning – this post mentions pregnancy loss. I would never wish to cause anyone distress, so if this is not the right time for you to read this, please go gently with yourself and seek out someone you trust for support.
We bought our rural property four years ago. This was the first permanent home I had ever had, which was a strange feeling after living in twenty other houses (no that is not a typo). I had never before lived in a place where I knew I could stay as long as I wished.
I wanted to put down roots. I felt a visceral need to somehow mark that this house was different. This was going to be home, in a way I had never known.
So, we planted trees.
We planted lots of them, especially fruit trees. I like to joke that this is my financial plan for how to feed four teenagers one day.
Over the past four years, my husband and I have had both great joy and great frustration in watching our children and our orchard grow and develop. We have made mistakes. Some trees haven’t made it. Fortunately, the kids have all survived.
I want to tell you about three trees that are particularly special for me. Three lilac trees.
They are about the same height as me now. Bare in winter, but each spring they surprise me with a bright green foliage and purple blossoms that smell heavenly. I love these trees.
I planted them to remember three little souls that never got to be a part of our family.
Like so many women, I have experienced pregnancy loss. In between the years of having babies, I also went through an ectopic pregnancy and two miscarriages.
Some years have passed now. The memories are not quite as raw, the pain not quite so acute. I can talk about it more openly now without feeling overwhelmed by it. I have even shared this with training GPs as part of their training in communication with patients.
Though the pain has lessened, my little ones have never been forgotten.
I am so grateful for my four beautiful children. I look around our dinner table at night and, whilst I despair at the crumbs on the floor, my heart feels so full looking at their little faces and hearing their voices.
Sometimes, I can’t help wondering about the three who aren’t sitting with us. I wonder about their personalities, their quirks, their interests. I wonder about the relationships they may have had with their siblings.
I imagine being able to hold them in my arms, and that is where the tears can still spring up. That longing has never gone away.
When I was a little girl, I loved reading the Anne of Green Gables books. In Anne’s House of Dreams, her first baby daughter, Joy, sadly dies shortly after birth. When Anne has another baby, a son, her adoptive mother Marilla suggests that this new baby will help take Joy’s place. I love Anne’s reply:
‘Oh, no, no, no, Marilla. He can’t – nothing can ever do that. He has his own place, my dear, wee man-child. But little Joy has hers, and always will have it. If she had lived she would have been over a year old. She would have been toddling around on her tiny feet and lisping a few words. I can see her so plainly, Marilla.’
This is how it has been for me. My living children have not replaced the ones I lost. I believe our hearts have an endless capacity to love and grow.
Why have I decided to share this?
Honestly, I know how common this experience is and how lonely some women can feel. There is still some stigma around discussing early pregnancy and miscarriage, and I feel that this can exacerbate the grief sometimes. Through sharing that I too have been there, and I got through it, and I’m okay – I hope this might be helpful to someone who cannot see any light at the end of the road right now.
Every mother’s experience will be different and there is no right way to grieve. Every woman needs to be supported to process their loss in their own way. I found that for me, it took a long time. It still hits me unexpectedly at times. But I am okay.
If you have experienced pregnancy or infant loss, please take as much time and space as you need to work through this.
Please reach out for help if you are struggling.
Today, I am going to go for a slow walk in my garden. I am going to hug each of my kids a little tighter. I am holding on to the hope that we will all be together again one day.
If you have experienced pregnancy or infant loss and are struggling, caring support is available from:
Your local GP, MCHN, psychologist or mental health services.
Sands: 1300 072 637 An independent organisation that has merged operations with Red Nose Australia, providing support in the event of newborn death, stillbirth, and miscarriage.
Pregnancy Birth and Baby: 1800 882 436 Call for trusted advice and emotional support 7 days a week
Bears of Hope: 1300 11 HOPE Provides grief support and care for families who experience the loss of their baby.