Expecting a baby is a wonderful thing but when you are plagued by anxiety after a previous loss, it can be a time of intense distress, Sophie White explores what it feels like
Rebecca Flynn is an activist who advocates for women's rights. In the days following a devastating miscarriage earlier this year, Flynn opened up on her social media platform about what was happening to her which prompted an outpouring of shared experiences from women who have tread this isolating path.
The mother-of-one realised that this was a conversation we needed to be having.
"It was the end of March that I found out that I was pregnant and I was delighted because we had been trying and I was starting to feel concerned about secondary infertility. I was 10 weeks pregnant when I found out that I'd missed. I had gone to the private clinic to have tests done and they do a scan first (as routine) to rule out miscarriage. That was when we realised there was no heartbeat there. So it was what's called a missed miscarriage. Which I didn't even know was a thing. I thought all miscarriages were that the woman started bleeding, this was that the foetus had stopped growing and died at seven and a half weeks."
One minute they were doing the usual 'hope it's not twins!' banter and the next the consultant was struggling to find the heartbeat, while Flynn and her husband waited tensely.
"I was yapping away couching myself in the chats, I think that I must've subconsciously known because I had had a horrible nightmare that I was miscarrying... I was so shook and unsettled by that dream that I rang to pull the appointment forward."
"I had always thought that I'd be really pragmatic about a miscarriage, but I wasn't. I was so upset. They were nice in the clinic but I was bawling in the middle of the reception, there were other couples sitting waiting."
"When I got into the car in the car park, I stated making noises that I didn't know I had in me. Wailing like a banshee. I was so upset and I remember being really stunned at how upset I was. A friend of ours had had two or three miscarriages but she would always have said 'those babies weren't meant to be' and I was like 'yeah that's a really rational way of looking at it', but that's not how I reacted at all."
"For me, personally, I never felt like it was a baby that I lost, it was hope. But I think it's totally valid for others to feel like they've lost their baby, it's just not how I felt."
"For three or four days I stayed in my pyjamas and wandered around the house crying."
Flynn then had a lot of difficulty arranging for a D&C procedure because her case had somewhat fallen through bureaucratic cracks. This meant she had to continue with her baby inside her for much longer, making an already harrowing situation even worse.
"I started talking about having the miscarriage on Snapchat which was helping me so much. I said 'I was going to tell you all lots about being pregnant so why shouldn't I tell you about this' and I went from having about 1000 people watching my stories to 8000 in a day. So I closed my snaps so that people couldn't message me, I needed to not have to deal with that. So I went through that whole week with Snapchat. I talked about being treated very poorly (in the hospital). I spoke about the 8th amendment and the fact that women are treated this way are not unrelated. Our maternity system is so disrespectful to what women want."
Remarkably a key player in midwifery in the Rotunda watched Flynn's snaps, made contact with her and was able to expedite the procedure Flynn needed.
"I'm not a private person, I like to talk. I think that the things people don't talk about are stigmatised or taboo and we need to talk about these things. I was angry about my miscarriage and I was angry that I didn't know all these things. I was furious and I just remember being like 'why does nobody talk about this?'"
The lack of open conversation means that culturally we are terrible at engaging with this very specific type of grief. I have found myself attempting to comfort friends in the wake of a miscarriage with cruel platitudes like "at least you can get pregnant" and then deeply regretting such shocking insensitivity.
"Nobody could say the right thing to me," Flynn reflects. "And now looking back I see all these people had good intentions but unless they'd had a miscarriage... I was like 'I don't want to hear your platitudes'."
"I know that it's human nature to want to try and fix things but I didn't have the energy to be compassionate. 'At least' can get in the sea."
"When I turned my snaps back on I had about 800 messages, 95% of them were 'I'm so sorry I've been there'... People want to share their stories, I want to share mine."
The couple decided to try again and now Flynn is in her second trimester and navigating the uncertainty of pregnancy after enduring a loss.
"I found out I was pregnant and I felt very numb, not joyful in any way. I'm almost 19 weeks now and I'm still not really allowing myself any joy. I was like 'don't do anything, don't overdo it, just lie on the sofa', but when I was pregnant with Frank, I was the most laid-back pregnant woman. And this time I've been so careful which I didn't think was in my personality."
"I was angry with my body which was weird for me because I'm so into body positivity and loving my body as it is. And then I was like 'f*ck you body', but I know it could been anything."
"I actually feel guilty for this baby because I haven't allowed myself to connect to it or this pregnancy in the same way I did before and rationally I know that's self-protection."
"Now, I really want to get to the stage where I can feel the baby moving more so that can be reassurance and I want to have the anomaly scan... The last time at Frank's anomaly scan, Jim and I were so casual about it laughing and taking selfies, this time I know I'll be scared."
"It's just the worst feeling and I think that society has minimised it. It's so devastating for so many women, because it does call into question your body and your actions."
"I texted all my friends, because I just wanted them to know and then it was like an influx of 'me too' from really close friends, who I'd never known had experienced this because they hadn't talked about it. And however anyone chooses to process any kind of grief, I feel of course that it your prerogative, to do what you need to do."
"I was convinced I was going to miscarry again and even now at 18 weeks, I'm so nervous. The anxiety has just been bonkers, through the roof. I feel guilty because I'm not connecting to this baby in the same way that I connected to Frank and then I'm like 'mother guilt' already and the kid's not even born yet!"
"I think a lot of people think that now that I'm pregnant, I'm not sad about the miscarriage anymore but I still definitely am. It's like walking on a tightrope."