As I type this, we are deep into Baby Loss Awareness Week. A time where we honour all of the treatment cycles, embryos, pregnancies and babies who were not destined to stay with us.
Of course, for me and many, many others who have experienced this type of loss, we don’t need a reminder to remember them. We live and breath it day in, day out. But it’s very important that this week exists for those who advent been touched by the loss of a baby. It’s crucial that we spread awareness by talking. So that taboos can be broken down and others can begin to empathise, be compassionate and try to understand.
Grief Without Loss
I have been trying to conceive for coming up to five years now. But it was only 13 months ago that we, finally, went through an IVF cycle.
Until that point, I had felt a bit like a fraud. I cried at the lack of progress, lack of cycles, the bitter disappointment of peeing on a stick only to see negative result after negative result. It was heartbreaking, though I had never really suffered a loss. How could I have? I had never achieved pregnancy. Never seen those two lines, had a Beta blood test. Never before had we even managed to fertilise an egg, and start growing an embryo. Never before had we even had a glimpse of a new life starting.
An Untangible Loss
Yet I still felt it. Whilst I hadn’t suffered a loss, I felt loss. I knew what it was like to plaster on a smile every day and go on like nothing had happened, when inside I was anything but OK. It’s intangible. Unimaginable to others who haven’t been in the same space. Because, as they say, you can’t miss what you’ve never had. What Could’ve Been
What I grieved for was the ‘what could’ve been’. The pregnancies that would’ve been happening at the same time as friends’. Our children growing up together close in age. The mile stones that never really were, but could’ve been. And were imagined and played out in my head when in the two week wait limbo. And all held in secret. Not talked about, not asked about. Because, to everyone else, everyone who’s not in the know, I hadn’t suffered a loss.
That all changed 13 months ago with my first IVF cycle. When our 19 eggs dwindled to 12 mature, 11 fertilised and then, by that dreaded day 5 call, only one was just about decent enough to transfer. It was touch and go all morning, but we managed to go ahead.
Whilst I was relieved we could go ahead with a transfer, I deeply felt that loss of our 10 other embryos. Ten tangible chances at life. Ten embryos that, even if not for long, grew and developed on their own.
This I felt more profoundly than the grief that had gone before it. But again, went largely unrecognised by those around me. Those who were kept abreast of the journey didn’t consider the grief we felt in relation to the embryo loss, so again lots went unsaid. These emotions remained bottled up when, by day 5 of our second IVF attempt, another 9 embryos didn’t make it.
Failed IVF cycle
As if embryo loss itself wasn’t enough of a blow, I was knocked off my feet yet again both times my embryo transfers failed. Another two embryos lost. But these were different. They had been transferred and it was my body that couldn’t keep them safe and nestled in for 9 months. Along with the grief, came the guilt.
Shortly after that first failed cycle, it was Baby Loss Awareness Week 2021. Thankfully, the TTC community proved that I was not the only one thinking like this. Many of other warriors had suffered similar losses and were sharing their experiences. That was incredibly validating and comforting at the time.
Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise
You see, in the real world, you’re not pregnant until you see those two lines pop up. But in the TTC community, once you’ve had an embryo transfer you’re magically ‘pregnant until proven otherwise’. Pregnant.
That’s what I was, twice. I have suffered two pregnancy losses. Very early on, but still just as valid as any other miscarriage. The embryos failed to grow. My babies failed to develop. But they were real, they were in my uterus, and their loss is felt daily.
Raising Awareness of Baby Loss Awareness Week
Yet still not by anyone who hasn’t experienced infertility. And that’s why it’s so important to talk about it and make other people aware. Too many of us paint on a smile and go about our daily lives as normal while harbouring the grief of infertility, embryo and pregnancy loss. Too many of us wish that our friends, family and colleagues would check in with us and acknowledge the losses we’ve faced. Sadly, without speaking out in the first place, they won’t. So let’s shout it from the rooftops and hope that one day, all infertility, embryo, pregnancy and baby loss is validated by those around us.
Baby Loss Awareness Week runs each year from 9th – 15th October. It culminates in the Wave of Light at 7pm on Saturday 15th October. Join in by lighting a candle.