This is the story of Martin & Ilinka
“Do you have children?”
Everyone asks this question – family members, friends, friends of friends, colleagues, clients, random people, banks, doctors, shops, various surveys, everywhere you go people expect you to talk about your children’s situation. How do I answer this question? What do I say to people who love to talk about their babies, and people who love to complain how difficult their life is, because of their children? Depending on what I say, I either leave the asker of the question or myself uncomfortable. Usually my honest answer leaves the question-asker lost for words. They will mumble something unrelated that actually hurts more than helps, and then attempt to end the conversation, or talk about something different and pretend like this conversation never happened.
“Do you have children?”
Lie: No, we have two cats.
Truth: Yes, we have 10 children who are not with us, 10 angel-babies: Peter, Sam, Angela, Jonathan, Maria, George & Helena (twins), Patrick, Nektarie & Hope (and two cats).
When you say it out loud, it sounds surreal – I have been pregnant more frequently than the majority of the women, and yet, I have never felt a contraction. I have never taken a baby home from the hospital. My husband and I lost all our 10 babies between 6 to 12 weeks gestation. Those were our babies, with beating hearts, tiny hands and feet, and loved beyond measure by us. I am a mum to all our 10 babies lost through miscarriages. We were never able to hold them in our arms, but we forever hold them in our hearts. We don’t have any living children, and we don’t know if we would ever be able to hold any of our children in our arms. We are reminded of our losses daily, in how empty the house feels even though our babies never took up physical space there. In the years and decades to come, we will think of the toddlers whose first steps we will never see, the teenagers we will never send off to university, the young adults we will never walk down the aisle.
I am now part of the less than 1% of women that experienced multiple miscarriages, statistics that I never thought I’d be grouped into. And the most difficult thing is that we don’t know why we’ve had these multiple miscarriages – we had millions of tests done, and both my husband and I are perfectly healthy, and we cannot do anything to change the situation. It’s beyond us, and beyond the medicine at this stage. I didn’t know what miscarriage was before I had to start facing it over and over again in the past 5-6 years. I never met anyone who had a miscarriage (or at least I never met anyone who openly talked about their miscarriage).
I wanted to shout at people when they would say “at least you lost them early”, “they were not even babies”, “you can try again”, “it was probably just bad luck”, “at least you have your husband, I’m not even married”, or “you can adopt”… Those types of comments are so hurtful. We don’t tell people who’ve lost a husband, “you can just remarry” or someone with a terminal cancer diagnosis, “it’s just bad luck.” We love all of our babies and were prepared to do anything for them. They are a part of our lives, our hopes and dreams, our future. Our children are not replaceable. People don’t understand that.
Grief is messy and unpredictable. It’s complete chaos and it comes in waves. I felt pain, shame, emptiness, guilt, fear, I felt like a complete failure, I was completely heartbroken, devastated and so alone. I hit the rock bottom. Then I met Flora from Petals. I am so grateful I had Flora’s support, she encouraged me to forgive myself, and to talk about all my feelings, about all my fears, about all my babies. She made me realise that it was completely normal to feel the way I felt, and she helped me offload a very heavy weight off my shoulders. She guided me to learn how to protect myself in conversations with people: people do care, but they don’t know how to deal with such situations.
And the most important thing – she encouraged us to name our children, which was the turning point in my journey. I’ve learnt how to live with the pain, and how to love life and be grateful and happy again. I’ve learnt to accept life as it is, and to look at the positive side, no matter what it brought us in the past and what it might bring us in future. I’ve learnt that there is room for both joy and sadness; grief and gratitude; hope and disappointment, two conflicting emotions can coexist simultaneously. I am sad for my children’s absence, but still happy for their brief existence. I have also become much better at telling our story, and relaying to others just how insensitive their comments are.
It was immensely difficult for me to face my reality, to accept all the emotions that have been accumulating over the years, and to admit that I needed help, and I’m so glad I did it now. Petals have helped us immensely. Having Flora’s support, I have learnt that people can be there for us and I’d like to tell others who are walking this most painful journey of pregnancy loss to know that they are not alone.