Recently I’ve been speaking with my sister about freezing her eggs. It’s something she is seriously considering as she is 29 years old, single and wanting to make sure she still gives herself the best chance at starting a family when the time is right despite people telling her that she’s crazy for doing so. If that’s the path that she decides to go down, she will be very open in sharing her experience with you all and I honestly admire that so much as it’s clear from reading the messages of people who have walked this path before her that it isn’t easy and it’s quite taxing on your mental and physical health. After starting a conversation about this topic I’ve had many people wanting to know more about my miscarriage journey; I suppose when we delve into discussing IVF and other fertility options, it’s a natural topic as there is often an excessive amount of miscarriage for some. I believe we have gotten much better at discussing miscarriage but after all your requests, I thought I would really go into it today…
I was chatting to a woman the other day and we were talking about her pregnancy journey so far; she has been trying to get pregnant for nine months without any success and she is feeling really down and out and beginning to discuss other options with her doctor. Everybody has a message of hope and tells her that it’s going to be ok – some even go as far as reminding her it’s really no time at all and that some people try for two years before finding out they need IVF. It’s the same kind of thing that my sister is told when she talks about freezing her eggs so young and sometimes it’s just not as uplifting as you think it may be; you’re essentially being told that you’re silly for thinking ahead and being proactive with something so big and important in your life. The stories of why women do it – some choose to do it sooner rather than later and some have no choice around the timing – is enough to break your heart. Through stories, we’ve learnt that young girls who have been given life-threatening diagnoses, freezing their eggs is in fact the only option for them to have children as the required medication can quite literally stop their bodies from being able to have children. Now if these same girls had have waited, they would have missed the boat altogether which is a sad and scary thought. We don’t know what’s around the corner for us and after being taught your whole life how NOT to get pregnant, we get to a point where some of us are fighting desperately to fall pregnant. We can’t necessarily predict or plan our futures, but I think it’s great to have these options, no matter your health or age.
I think we forget that sometimes people don’t want to be told those kinds of things at a time when they are feeling incredibly useless. I find sharing in their vulnerability and being someone they can confide in is much more uplifting; knowing someone’s struggle story as opposed to their ‘positive’ advice trying to rush you through how you are feeling is much more comforting and empowering. A feeling or emotion can be perceived differently at any moment; when you are feeling like crap, advice from someone who is seen to have it together can be hard to hear but advice from someone who has had the struggle and is willing to talk about it before sharing their positive advice is a lot easier to take. That’s what I try to do, and the feedback from you all speaks for itself I guess.
I started my conversation with this woman off by sharing that, at 25 years old, I’ve had four miscarriages. Did I feel like something was wrong with me? Absolutely. So I told her “I know exactly how you are feeling right now and I want you to know that you are NOT broken”. Funnily enough, we are given these ‘setbacks’ or ‘failures’ as a lesson – we need to learn first before we get to move to the next level. It’s almost like, if you haven’t had the setback, you can’t be ready for what you really want just yet. I truly do believe that and on my hardest parenting days now, it’s a wonderful reminder to think back to the struggle I went through to get these darlings. I told this woman that every person who has children, every person that will tell you about their children, they all have a story. Some are lucky, but almost everyone has ‘something’. I really believe that while it is pretty likely that it won’t make any sense to her now, it will one day. Just like my very own miscarriages, which I’ll talk more about later.
I was 19 and a baby was something my then-partner and I really desired. It suited our lifestyle perfectly and I guess we weren’t your typical 19 year olds living the ‘party lifestyle’ so it seemed fitting for us to try for a baby like we had always jokingly discussed while I was still in high school. I was never reliable at taking the pill so the fact that it didn’t happen earlier was probably a surprise (and a relief as I was not long out of school). Would you believe we got those two lines first go and it brought tears to my eyes. The excitement was next level, the fact that I was 19 never worried me. I knew people would have their opinions, and I’m glad I knew from a young age that no matter what you do, someone will always give you their two bobs and never to worry about it as long as you’re doing what you want. Have you ever heard the quote “some people are old at 18 and some are young at 50’’? Well, that was my mantra. So off we went to the doctors that Friday for a blood test and straight afterwards, we drove to Bendigo to share the news with my parents. I remember my Mum jumped off the couch yelling “I’m going to be a Nanny!”. She was so excited and anyone who knew us, knew a baby was all we had wanted so no, I was never ashamed or afraid to tell my parents because I knew they would support me even if it wasn’t something they thought we should do.
So that was Friday. I celebrated my 20th birthday that Sunday at the MCG watching the football. It was women’s round and it was the first day I spoke to my now best friend, Haylea Cooney. Believe it or not, it went a little like this “Hi, I’m Abby and I’m pregnant. I didn’t know who to tell and I felt I needed to tell you”. The rest is history with her and our friendship goes deeper than anything. Fast forward to the following Monday, my partner went off to work and the door slammed behind him. Moments later I received a text message from my doctor saying “Hi Abby, congratulations! Friday’s bloods confirmed you are pregnant”. I got up out of bed with a spring in my step, headed – of course – straight to the toilet as I needed to pee and to my absolute horror I looked down and saw every new expecting mother’s nightmare. Why? How could this be? I was just told it was confirmed though, I don’t understand. I started to feel dizzy, I don’t handle blood well at the best of times but I think I was partly in shock. This is where my age played a factor but having Haylea there to guide me through was a dream. I rang her, she said it didn’t sound good and that she wasn’t going to sugar coat it “babe, expect the worst and anything better is good”, they were her words. I know it sounds bad, but it does help. If she had have told me not to think the worst, even though that’s the news I was about to receive then I think I would have handled it a lot worse. It really shook me. I was so young, I thought this stuff only happened to older people?
The bleeding stopped and I felt like myself again a few weeks later. It’s recommended that you wait two weeks before trying again after a miscarriage to make sure that everything has been cleared out and to give your body enough time to get over the huge changes it’s been through. Not long later, I was pregnant again. This time I was quite scared. Blood tests once again confirmed I was pregnant but then a few weeks later I was at home in Bendigo when I had a massive bleed. I went to hospital as it was thought it may have been an ectopic pregnancy and that needed to be ruled out because we were flying to New York the next day and of course it’s dangerous. I was discharged from hospital that evening after six long hours and the outcome? Miscarriage once again.
By this stage I was quite upset. The first one I could understand, “one in four women miscarry so that was mine now let’s get on with it”, I thought. But no, I was now experiencing a second in a row at the ripe old age of 20. I was angry. I felt useless. The whole point of me being on this earth was to be a Mum. For me, it was never about going to university or becoming something big and great, it was simply to be the best mum I could be to my own kids, just like my own mum did. I was the most maternal child who could smell a baby miles away and instantly manage to be holding it a few seconds later. That day, I realised life doesn’t always go the way you want it to, and that realisation has been popping back up over the five years since then.
I’m often asked how I dealt with my miscarriages at the time and to be honest, I think part of me never did. It’s awful when you’re going through it, almost like you’ve been handed the only thing you’ve ever wanted, only to have it taken out of your hands never to return again. It messes with you in ways you didn’t realise it could. It instils a fear in your future that you wish you didn’t understand. It puts awful thoughts and doubts in your head for the next time you fall pregnant, and I now know you never relax again until you are holding your next child safely in your arms. Do you want to know what it does do for you though? It gives you an appreciation for the life that does make it. It makes you have gratitude for the happier times you can’t quite see yet because you’re stuck in this dark time. It makes you appreciate the gift of life from a deeper perspective because without loss how would you ever know such joy? It gives you strength to know you are on a journey and have survived 100% of the bad days before this, so you can do it again.
What people tell you won’t make it better, but it will give you something to ease the pain while you heal. My Mum told me that I’ll never understand why these miscarriages had to happen to me until I hold my next baby. That didn’t make sense to me at the time because all I wanted was the baby I just lost and nothing else. But she was right, my mum was right, like she always is. It wasn’t when I held my kids though, for me, it was when I went through my separation that I realised why I was sent these two angels in particular, and why they survived to share this life with me. The strength I’ve taken from them and their personalities is what has gotten me where I am today. The guidance they have given me, the love they have shown me and the lessons they have taught me, have made me realise why it never worked out before they came along. And that’s why I don’t feel as heavy in dealing with the next two miscarriages that I faced. I’m at a place in my life where I know that every single one of us is on our own journey. Nothing that happens to you, happens TO you. It happens FOR you and without those things we wouldn’t thrive and grow. I’ve never faced a failure I haven’t overcome and although you feel like it’s launched you back five steps, make sure you’re ready for when it launches you forward ten more.
Be open to pain; enquire within it, explore it, be friends with it. You will never benefit or grow from hiding from it, only facing it and learning from it. There is a lot to learn in a setback, if only we weren’t taught to push through and get over things, we might actually have control of our mental health rather have it take control over us.