You can follow my journey through miscarriage from the start here.
When someone you love dies, there is time to grieve. Some people choose to wear black. Some people have a wake and gather close friends and family around them. There’s a funeral where beautiful memories are shared. There’s usually a grave or at least a significant place where that person came to rest.
These rituals are part of the fabric of our society. Death is a certainty no one can escape and we’ve developed many ways, in our communities, to cope with the loss.
Not so when you miscarry. There’s a new path to navigate and it feels very lonely. There are some options available. If you’ve had surgery, the hospital hold a short ceremony when the remains are cremated. It will be with other parents. If you miscarry at home, you can flush the remains down the toilet. Or take them to hospital for cremation. Or bury them. Or if you are further along when you miscarry, you may need to have a funeral. There’s rules. It all felt very clinical reading the rules. I read them alone as I’m sure many women do. And men. Alone and wondering what it is they are supposed to do. And what it is they feel right doing.
Writing that out made me cringe – the language of it all seems so insensitive. It dehumanises the process. Remains.
No goddammit that is my fucking child.
Many people who have early miscarriages have nothing physical to bury. This happened with my first miscarriage. It was just like a period that went on for days and days. I ached for months. I couldn’t let go. I didn’t know how to let go of someone I hadn’t met. Eventually, on the due date, I went to a beautiful lake with a very dear friend and floated flowers on the water. I named the baby Susie. I read her a story about how her life would have been. I finally felt I could say goodbye. I felt the peace that comes with letting go. I said goodbye. I still hold her in my heart. But she’s resting there.
This time was different. I was faced with a very tiny little baby. Smaller than a finger tip. I was traumatised. I wasn’t expecting to see a baby. I wasn’t expecting to see his head and eyes, his heart, his arms and legs, his backbone. I felt a deep pain as I held him. I knew that he was gone but had no idea how to navigate saying goodbye.
Eventually I woke M. I said that I was holding George. I didn’t know what to do. By this point I had him lying on a small piece of tissue; I didn’t want to hurt his tiny body. M said he would put him in the bathroom. I could not cope with that. It is so hard and cold in the bathroom. I just couldn’t bear it. I had already immediately dismissed the idea of flushing him down the toilet. The idea seemed so barbaric. Before this happened, I wouldn’t have questioned the logic of flushing the remains, but once you are living in that situation – it just feels (well to me at least) so very wrong. I couldn’t even contemplate it because it brought great heaving waves of sadness over me.
M was insistent that George went in the bathroom. I faced a new horror. M was worried about the cats eating George. At least in the bathroom, we could shut the door. Finally I agreed, knowing that it was to protect George. I hated every moment he was in there alone. So cold. So hard. So alone.
Again, before this happened these thoughts would have seemed totally irrational to me. I never thought I would feel that way. But I did. And I had zero control over it. It was primal. So much of parenting is.
We bought a beautiful acer. I love acers. They remind me of many happy times in Japan. They are beautiful and vibrant. Very fitting for my son. I decided not to wrap George. I wanted him to become part of the acer. I still worried about him being cold but the thought of him bringing life to the tree helped me to accept it. We planted the acer in a pot so it will always come with us when we move house.
We hadn’t discussed that we were about to bury George. We both just knew. It was a great comfort having my husband process things in the same way. We felt connected. We moved together without needing words. We didn’t disagree. We knew what was best for George together. As I brought George downstairs, Boo looked up from the sofa. Her face became sad and she said ‘bye bye George’. It broke my heart. I don’t know how she knew what I was doing but she was connected too. I said goodbye. It helped a lot. But I still didn’t feel like George was at rest.
Yet again, I was faced with thoughts that I would normally deem totally whacky and irrational. I have learned to just be far more accepting that we don’t understand everything that happens around us.
A few days later, I asked Allison at PastelPrint if she would make me some jewellery. I was very hesitant to share the photos I had of George. But she was kind and made me feel that she would keep George’s memory protected. On one side of my pendant, is an acer leaf print. On the other, is the image of George and his date of birth. Receiving the jewellery has finally helped me to say goodbye. I finally feel calm. George is resting in my heart now too.
This is really personal. But I felt so alone on this journey. We didn’t have anyone to guide us. I think it’s really important to share it because too many of us are faced with this awful situation.