refuge

Behind The Screen: Heartache & Loss

refugePsalm 57:1

This behind the screen post was originally meant to follow on from the previous one on photography but I’m afraid life got in the way and everything’s been a bit up in the air. My promised photo editing post will have to be postponed until next time. In it’s place I thought it fitting to tell you what has actually been going down over here. These posts are called Behind The Screen posts after all. I think its important that all you beautiful readers know that life over at The Lovely Drawer ain’t always so lovely. I don’t want you to think its all perfectly styled images, endless DIY projects and Instagrammable food because life isn’t always that ‘magazine-worthy’. You may already have noticed things haven’t been great if you follow me on Instagram or snapchat and to be honest ‘not great’ is quite the understatement. The truth is I recently had a miscarriage and I feel compelled to talk about it because it was real and it still hurts and I know so many women feel they can’t say anything about this struggle. I can only imagine that keeping your lips sealed ends up fuelling the shame and feelings of isolation that surround the whole issue when it’s actually a devastatingly common thing to encounter. Something that has been so helpful over the last three weeks has been talking to many other women that have been through the same experience. The details may differ but the same loss is there, the loss of a baby and a derailed future that now looks very different to what you’d thought. You may see this as too much information and that’s totally fine. You don’t need to read on and I won’t be offended because I can’t see you.

I’ve always had a deep fear that I wouldn’t get pregnant, even from as far back as Uni. I’m not saying I wanted kids then, I was just a kid myself but even just thinking about the future, left me with this irrational idea that I’d be infertile. This wasn’t based on anything solid but that didn’t mean it didn’t stay immovable in my mind. It was however, easier to push under the carpet when the prospect seemed so out of reach with our finances the way they were and us living in the big smoke. When Nick started his new job in January we decided I would come off the pill and I was all too aware that it would take me a while for my hormones to return to normal. I’d spent 11 years on those horrible fake hormonal pills for various reasons, so I definitely wasn’t expecting a ‘hey presto’ moment. Saying that, waiting in the limbo was uncomfortable and just fed my warped ideas of never being able to conceive. I toyed with the idea that my cycle would never return and felt horrified. Thankfully it did, come April and I was over the moon. Never had I been so happy to welcome cramps and PMS my way! 

Much to both our surprise I got pregnant straight after. It was totally ridiculous and shut me right up with my irrational woes. Nick kept on telling me I should take a test as I was notably different, getting all the classic signs. I was also more importantly very late by that stage but I kept on saying my cycle’s probably still all over the shop as I had no solid point of reference. He finally convinced me and I remember doing that test one night, totally resigned to the fact I wouldn’t be seeing two red lines and yet there they were. Open mouthed, I put the test down and sat staring into space, completely stunned. But I was infertile, right?? As I composed myself to leave the bathroom to tell Nick, he laughed because I looked so out of it. I was so happy and yet was sure this was some kind of joke. ‘I’m going to take the other one’, I said quickly. I needed harder evidence to believe this crazy notion. So I returned to the bathroom and my jaw dropped once again. I really was pregnant! This was the craziest and best news ever. I was scared and overjoyed all at the same time. We both hugged and squealed, forcing ourselves to go to bed when the time was already after midnight. And there we lay wide awake, totally consumed by the news for hours on end. We giggled, talked about how tall they would be with both of our genes and prayed in thankfulness to God. The next day we were bleary eyed but couldn’t stop smiling at each other. In a strange way, knowing that we were now parents, our genes combined in this little human, made me love Nick even more, if that’s even possible. 

IMG_3049My birthday and Father’s Day; celebrating Nick’s first

We both believe that even in the early stages of pregnancy, that cluster of cells is a new life, a baby. With that in mind it seemed crazy not to tell people. Waiting for the 3 month green light seemed silly when it came to our family and any one we knew us well as we knew that if the worst did happen we’d tell them regardless. There was no doubt in our minds that we would need people’s love, support and prayers if the outcome wasn’t good. So whilst we didn’t shout it from the roof tops, many people involved in our live’s were quickly informed. I wanted to say, ‘don’t be hasty’ when the congratulations rolled in and yet I also knew that it was a gift that needed to be celebrated, regardless of what happened.

My fears of getting pregnant were instantly replaced with the fear of losing the baby. It felt so vulnerable and I felt an acute sense of powerlessness, acknowledging that I really couldn’t sustain this growing baby on my own. I don’t think I’ve ever prayed for something more in my life. I prayed for it’s health both now and after birth. I prayed that it’s heart would belong to God and it would grow up to love and serve him. Whilst feeling sick and groggy most of the time was grim, seeing my body change even in those early stages was strange and hormonally weeping at the smallest things, even simply because I enjoyed a meal was common place. I found these things reassuring. The baby was ok. My hormone levels were high and I could live with being repulsed by 50% of my already limited diet and the cruel bread cravings when I have a severe gluten intolerance. At least my body was busy growing a human.

I slowly started to feel more peaceful about the baby’s health. We talked about how we’d have to move when our contract came up for renewal and started perusing right move, with a cuppa every now and again. We got increasingly excited as my brother and his wife were also pregnant (along with 80% of my friends) but the thought of our babies being so close in age made us extra overjoyed. We went on our trip to Copenhagen both beaming in anticipation of all that was ahead. That holiday was so special and it makes me tearful even thinking back to how happy we were. We loved being together in such a magical city, the three of us. We extensively talked through potential Scandinavian names (I’m not even joking), whilst Nick enjoyed my share of the wine. I was even able to enjoy eating as my sickness stopped the day we went. I toyed with the idea of being worried but I wondered if perhaps I was closer to the doctor’s estimated date for me of 12 weeks, than I had cared to believe. It’s strange to look back now, knowing I was carrying around a dead baby and yet we were completely oblivious. It’s such a horrible thought.

behing the screen | heartache and loss | copenhagenCopenhagen, the week before

The day we arrived home I started bleeding and cramping. It wasn’t bad in any way at that point and to be honest I wasn’t even too worried. I’d spoken to a fair few Mum’s who have had those symptoms throughout their pregnancy and been fine. I phoned one of those friends the next day just to check. With her medical background she told me I needed to go straight to the walk in clinic to get it checked out just in case it was something serious. Suddenly I felt panicked as I walked to the hospital, my thoughts a jumbled, garbled but constant prayer for help. I phoned Nick to let him know, trying to play it cool momentarily but when he asked if I wanted him to come home from work tears started running down my face. We sat in the early pregnancy unit waiting room huddled together, observing the furrowed brows that lined the seats around us. We were called into another room with a doctor and her assistant. According to the doctors calculations I was already due my 12 week scan (I was never convinced) but she said that’s what they would do. After a few different angles on my belly she told me she couldn’t see anything. My mind raced, taunting me with the totally ridiculous concept that perhaps I wasn’t even pregnant, the tests and symptoms lied and instead I’d constructed some kind of wishful thinking fantasy. She told me she need to do an internal scan instead and this time she found what she was looking for. I didn’t want to look at the screen, I couldn’t bare it. She confirmed I wasn’t crazy and I was pregnant but the foetus was much smaller (only about 5 weeks in size) than she would have expected for the size of the sac. In fact what should have been a foetus at that stage was still in the embryonic phase. She used the word ‘concerned’ which immediately sent my heart to the ground. She explained they could have had their estimations very wrong or there was a chance the baby had stopped growing whilst the sac carried on. I knew then which one it was. I didn’t feel good about it at all, with the word ‘concerned’ still ringing in my ears. The teeny size meant it was too small to even make out a heart beat and so she explained we’d have to come back in a week to see if it had grown at all for them to confirm. The idea of waiting a week filled me to the brim with anxiety. They left me to get changed and I just turned to Nick and sobbed and continued to do so the whole walk and bus ride home. I felt so weak I could barely stand up right…and all evening I cried, to the point of feeling dehydrated from all the tears.

That week was awful. Nick prayed and prayed, because every time I tried the flood gates opened once again. No words came out. As we told people what was happening it seemed even more real and as the bleeding got worse I started to grieve. I felt like I had to. Nick was still somewhat hopeful but I found the tension of knowing God was capable of anything whilst preparing for the worst at the same time, left me clueless as to how to feel. I tried to get on with work and events but I wasn’t fully present. I even had my first midwife appointment booked in that wednesday which felt totally pointless and yet was necessary if we got the all clear. In some ways it was comforting to hear them go through all the admin as if I was still carrying a healthy baby that would be born some January. 

By thursday evening the bleeding suddenly got a lot heavier and my heart sank again. This time I could see Nick was more worried than he had been. Then on Friday I just knew. I knew I was miscarrying and with a heavy heart I turned to the internet for final confirmation. I had stayed well away from the google pit up to this point but I needed to know if I was right and sadly I was. In a state of shock I left the bathroom, picked up my parcels and walked out the front door. I didn’t go to the nearest post office or the second or third nearest. Instead I walked to one 20 minutes from our flat and stood in the long queue, frantically wiping away tears. I then went to buy some deodorant and face wipes from boots because I’d run out (I mean really?), got home and made a smoothie. I think it’s safe to say I was in denial. And then it hit me. I cried and wailed, unable to breathe properly and probably sounding like a dying dog to our neighbours. I cried so much it hurt and I couldn’t hold myself upright. There was the strangest sense of relief to know after all the waiting but at the same time I felt the loss at full pelt, like being hit by a truck. I think Nick was probably in denial himself when he got home from work. He got our favourite ‘Teri-friendly’ fish and chips so I didn’t have to cook and then we went for a walk in the park and watched a movie. In a very surreal way, we had a lovely evening but the next day I woke up with extreme pain to the point that I got back into bed and couldn’t move from there. Strangely it passed within half and hour and so we decided not to got to hospital and wait around in A&E for hours. Nick had organised a friend’s stag do and was still meant to be going. I kept on telling him he should go and I’d be fine but then the flood gates opened again and I was rolling around in bed, wailing and breathless. At this point my defence for him to still go was apparently a little weak, so he decided to stay with me and contact our family to tell them. That’s when he broke. Saying the words out loud to the people we loved seemed to make it all real and the tears came thick and fast. There we sat on the sofa, me clinging to his waist, both of us devastated and totally gripped by sadness.

That day both our families came and we had a very hazy day of strangely normal conversations mixed with more tears. One thing that’s come from this experience is that we’ve undoubtedly doubled the amount we walk. We’ve walked through our local park more than ever before just because we don’t know what else to do. That’s what we did with our parents. That evening a sweet friend appeared at our door with a boxed up dinner she’d just cooked, with all the ingredients listed on the front of each box so I knew I could safely eat it. The sentiment made me cry all over again. By the end of the day we felt so drained from grief and tired out by processing what had happened. It didn’t seem real that less than a week tour our knowledge our life trajectory had been completely different. I immediately wanted to know everything about our baby, what sex it was, it’s exact age, what it would have been good at and bad at, what it’s voice would have sounded like and who it would have looked like. I felt deep sadness that I wouldn’t get to find out those things. The only thing I could find comfort in was knowing that God knew all those things. He had knitted it together in my womb. He created it and it’s life was not an accident because nothing is out of his control. There was purpose in our little baby’s very short life and we may never understand what that was but God does. He also thought it best for it’s life not to continue. That hurts because we loved our baby but we can trust God because he is inherently good and just and we have to remind ourselves that our view is so small in comparison to his.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

Psalm 139:13-18

We knew we needed to go to church the next day. We were all too aware it would be hard and yet both of us strongly felt it was where we wanted and had to be. Whilst we were a mess though the whole service and could only mouth most of the words to the songs through tears, we felt so happy to be with our church family and community. Each person that came over to hug us, cry with us , offered to cook or take us out for meals and pray for us meant the world. There was nothing to say, no good or wise thing that would change the situation but just to know people cared and acknowledged our pain was what we needed to help us grieve. So many of those people, particularly in our community group had been praying for us for years through all the things we’ve faced since being married and the love and support continued throughout the week. Endless bunches of flowers to the point where I had to start using Nick’s coffee chemix and peanut butter jars as we didn’t have enough vases. People cooked for us, took us for meals, ordered us paleo takeaways, met up with me in the week while Nick was at work, text regularly to see how I was, sent beautiful cards and allowed Nick to work from home to make things easier, reminded us that God was taking care of us through people.

behing the screen | heartache and lossOur dining room table covered in flowers from lovely people

The follow up appointment for the scan was another traumatic experience. At this point I saw it as a mere formality but we were told that the sac was still in place so without a significant change they couldn’t legally confirm it as a miscarriage until 2 weeks had past. Both Nick and I pointed out that there was no longer an embryo where there had been last week. She agreed and said in her opinion this was a miscarriage but they couldn’t legally sign it off until a scan the following week. This drawn out process felt like torture and I felt a pang of anger, as if she was telling me that I didn’t yet have permission to grieve. She sent me away with a leaflet and both of us left exhausted even though it wasn’t even yet lunch time. As I said, we were around people a lot that week and we really did want company and yet at the same time we felt so tired out by being social. A strange combination. Having grieved before for something totally different the process seemed all too familiar which in some ways made it easier than before. I knew that the rawness we felt would change. This season would not last forever and healing does happen in God’s kindness and at the same time I didn’t even want to think about brighter days just yet. I was so immersed in the sadness.

By the time a week had passed and we could go back for the conclusive scan, they told me the sac was still there and so I needed to decide what to do. We were called into a separate, family room and they broke the news. It was so strange as I noted the gentle and concerned tone in their voices, they’re eyes expectantly waiting on my tears. I had none. I’d started grieving two weeks prior and we’d spent the last week knowing what was happening. This wasn’t new news but the same thing we’d already been coming to terms with. The options were laid out for me and I felt very clinical about the whole thing at this point. I opted for the operation or a D&C as they call it. I wasn’t sure what to do at first but I knew I didn’t fancy waiting around for it to all happen naturally and taking more hormonal pills freaked me out. The idea of bringing on a mini ‘labour’ in a sense, also sounded grim and painful.

They told me to come back the next day at 9.30am to go on the emergency list as there were no booked slots until the following week. We arrived bright and early at the hospital, on the hottest day of the entire year, sufficiently underfed and under-watered in preparation for the operation. We sat in a small and humid room for an hour and then I was prepped on the ward. Of course there was no air conditioning on the ward and I was given compression tights to wear in those uncomfortable 33C conditions. I was absolutely out of it for most of the day as I couldn’t eat or drink. They got worried at how low my blood pressure was at one point and treated me to a drip which gave me the tiniest, unsatisfying amount of water to stop me passing out. We kept on being told that there were still no slots but we would definitely get one that day. Poor Nick waited with me until dinner time when he went back home to make some dinner and cook me up a post op snack. I only went in to surgery at 11pm by which point I was on a totally different planet, covered in sweat, with a pounding headache. Those painkillers they pumped me with just before they sent me off to sleep were the bomb. I wanted to stay in that happy place for way longer. By the time I’d come round from the general anaesthetic and was back on the word eating my dinner, it was 1am, 15 hours since I’d last eaten or had a proper drink. Cold sausage and browning avocado has never tasted so good!! I had to stay over night for them to monitor me and by the morning I was pushing very hard for the doctor to sign me off. I wanted to get out of there pronto. I never wanted to drag my drip with me to the toilet ever again or wear my synthetic gown any longer. I can safely say God has been teaching me a thing or two about patience over the last month. It’s felt like a whole lot of waiting.

behing the screen | heartache and loss | hospital bluesWaiting for my operation in hospital

All the practicalities of the operation hadn’t given us much of a chance to engage with any of it emotionally. Part of me thought I would feel sad that everything was finally out and yet after the excessive hours of waiting, I felt a weird sense of relief that almost made me feel guilty. The rest of the week was a blur, with the affects of the anaesthetic really taking it’s toll on my energy levels. One thing I realised before this experience is how long and drawn out miscarriages can be. Even after having the operation the physical effects of losing the baby only tailed off yesterday and who knows when my hormones will return back to normal. That’s a whole month! The physical aspect makes it harder as it’s a constant reminder of what you’ve lost and that your body couldn’t do what you wanted it to. I wasn’t able to do much of my usual activity,particularly swimming which was a sad thing to put on the shelf temporarily. I was incredibly bloated in that first week, resembling a baby bump under my baggy outfits, which seemed to rub salt into the already open wound. Who knows when my hormones will return to normal. too. It’s a physical and emotional process which feels like it sucks you of all energy. I’m sure those of you who’ve experience it will agree.

And so here we are, trying to get back to normality whilst still feeling anything but. This stage is hard as people move on but we haven’t. We think about the loss of our baby all day long, just interspersed with normal, mundane activities. We’re ok in the sense we are better than we were, more able to hold a conversation, less likely to burst into tears at any given moment. Mascara is once again a bit safer to wear and I’ve remembered how to wash my hair. We’re ok in the sense that we have been forced to lean on God and been reminded of our weakness and inability to face things without him. We’re ok in that we are stronger as a couple and have seen God at work through one another in this experience, leaving is feeling incredibly loved. We’re ok in that we know the pain gets easier to bear and we don’t need to be afraid of grieving, learning from my past traumas. We’re ok in that we are thankful that we know we can conceive, which is a blessing in itself. But in many ways we’re not ok. We are parents and yet we no longer have our baby. In some senses we feel empty and life in general seems so much more tiring than it ever has. We are not ok because you don’t just forget something like that and move on. Whilst it gets easier you are forever changed. We are not ok because we are not only grieving the loss of our baby but we will never have that first baby experience back. If we get pregnant again it will be our second and undoubtedly it will be a big old battle against anxiety which is likely to be a massive joy drain for the most part. We are not ok because all those pregnant couples we know will have their babies and as amazing and wonderful as that is, it’s a reminder of what we’ve lost.

Both of us felt an overwhelming desire to name our baby. agreeing that ‘it’ sounds impersonal and somehow makes it harder to make sense of. Nick suggested a name from a song we both like, which is actually written about a miscarriage. I remember when I found out what it was actually about a couple of years ago, re-listening to it sent me crying even then. So we settled on the name Zion for our baby. It means something to us in more ways than one and isn’t gender specific and we take comfort that we might see our baby one day. It’s been good to get a greater grasp on how much God loves us through all of this. The fact that he gave up his own son to save us means even more to me. Even just how much we loved Zion in such a short space of time gives me the tiniest taste of the depth of love God has for us, having made us from scratch, given us particular gifting and laid our lives before us. It’s overwhelming to think about.

And so we carry on, a little bit weaker, a little bit stronger.

 

‘Maybe someday we’ll meet under the stars

Healed and home free, complete, that’s where we’ll start

Zion, I’m coming soon to where you are

‘Till then my love’s with you, though world’s apart’

Kings Kaleidoscope – Zion

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Hi, I’m Teri and welcome to my own creative corner of the internet. I blog about interiors, DIY projects, design inspiration and my general life so stick around have a read and say hi.

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