Lightning strikes twice

(Or: A problem shared is a problem… doubled.)

Yesterday I found out that my sister is going to have a miscarriage.

She texted me at work, where I was concentrating on a report, her nickname (a funny family name she’s had since we were little) flashing up on my phone and pinging on my watch.

“Hello lovely Sister, I wanted to let you know that [fiancé] and I started IVF in September. We had a 9-week scan today and they confirmed a non-viable pregnancy, beyond doubt. I really want to talk to you but not ready yet. We hope this doesn’t bring back horrible emotions for you and T. Provisional ERPC surgery booked for next Friday. Talk soon? Just not now.”

What?

F***.

In that instant, I realised that my sister and I have a lot more in common than I’d thought.

      *                    *                    *

Growing up, we’d always been close but very different. I often felt that she was difficult to be around, for many reasons and probably because seeing weakness and brokenness in her was a reminder that I might be weak and broken too.

We have a lot in common.

But we deal with things very differently. She concentrates her pain and sadness inwards, selfwards… I generate rage and sarcasm outwards. Or I did. I’ve tried to become less angry and adolescent and it’s largely worked, mainly because I’m no longer an adolescent. And I went through a crazy stage but then I met T and Dog and everything crazy seems like a lifetime ago. (Nowadays I keep getting told that I’m “positive” which I think just means that when I have murderous thoughts, I keep them to myself. Although on a serious note, I do think age and a good relationship has a lot to do with it.)

Likewise, my sis stopped feeling so much pain. Or at least, she stopped visibly self-harming. I have a philosophy that adolescence is hard for everyone, but especially difficult for those who were adopted. It’s an untested theory – I didn’t know T when he was an adolescent, and he really is the most laid back man in the universe, so perhaps there are exceptions for every rule, and I also know a lot of people who had a difficult adolescence and hadn’t been adopted, so maybe it’s a faulty assumption I’ve made. But she seems so much happier nowadays…

And it’s kind of a swearword to say it, and I’ve seen adoptive parents get vilified for saying it, but I do tend to think love is the answer. (Not sure about the question…!) By which I mean that it seems somehow easier to move from a stage of uncertainty and self-doubt and insecurity to feeling self-realised, settled, secure… That’s pretty much where I’ve seen happiness in any people – when they’ve been settled with someone to love and be loved.

And really, over the past few years and my failed marriage my sister and I really have become a lot closer. Buddies. It’s strange really but maybe it was nice for her to have someone else having all the problems for once! I think time has rubbed off our sharp edges a bit, and everything has become easier… until this.

I understand why she doesn’t want to talk. I didn’t, either. Even when I messaged my BFF and told her about the miscarriage and she called up straight away, I really didn’t feel like talking. I think it takes time to process the feelings, and everyone has different ways.

Their situation is almost exactly the same as ours, a few months down the line. We started back in April/May and had the miscarriage in July. They started in September and she’ll be having a miscarriage or ERPC next week.

How can this happen just the same to the two of us? Two babies who were born halfway across the world and somehow ended up here in the same family, who aren’t genetically related… It’s a terrible coincidence, a horrible twist of fate. It’s an irony that the two of us who were “unwanted” babies (unkeepable, I call it) both have difficulty having much-wanted babies of our own. 

Two sisters.

Two miscarriages.

Two dead nine week old babies.

Two families shattered.

I kind of can’t believe how life can be so cruel.

The other thing is, when I was thinking about this that I suddenly realised that I was okay. I’m okay compared to my sister for whom this is all fresh. Maybe I wasn’t okay for a while, but I can talk about it now without crying or feeling terrible. I can understand that, y’know what, s*** happens and it happens a lot and WTF, miscarriages are just stupid and I can’t believe that we haven’t figured out a way to prevent them yet.

T and I were talking about how it seems like this horrible coincidence that they’ve had almost the same experience as us, and wondering once again about the NHS success rates, and wondering why they don’t test the embryos a bit more before transfer but it must be for economic reasons, and wondering how many couples have a baby after how many rounds of IVF. It’s hard to get the stats as each trust has different policies on eligibility and how many rounds.

It also got us talking about adoption. (If you’re not a regular reader: there’s a lot of adoption in my life!) I think it brings up feelings of that. We even for some reason ended up talking about our birth mothers. (I feel like without giving away too many details of stories that aren’t mine, I have always found it easier to be okay about my adoption because I don’t believe my birth mother was coerced. That’s not to say she might not be unhappy about it now, but I also firmly believe that a birth family’s grief is not the responsibility of the adopted person. Maybe as I get older and think about it more, I’ll open up the lines of communication or possibilities. Maybe not.) 

I don’t feel as an adult adopted person that I have a responsibility to trace my birth family – regardless of how much they might want me to do so. (That sounds harsh – I don’t mean it to; I just feel that adoptees have had something done to them that was outside their control and they should be in control of their own connection or not with their birth families… We have so much of other adults’ responsibilities put to us, to be “adoptees”, to be vessels for others’ feelings and hopes – I don’t feel we should be compelled to take that on. My opinion only and probably one for a longer post.) But it does kind of bring up feelings.

I guess what I’m saying is that it somehow seemed doubly suckerpunched to have this happen to my sister. Someone who has had similar experiences and similar but different difficulties in life. I certainly don’t feel that it’s alleviated my pain at all for her also to be going through it (in that “a problem shared is a problem halved bull****). For one, I’ve been kind of getting over it in my own slow background way. It does mean I think about it more because it’s all I have thought about since she told me. Secondly, I don’t know how to help – and yet I do have a bit of insight, uniquely and recently.

I know why she wouldn’t want to talk because I didn’t either. I know that they want to get away – and I urged her to, because that was something that really helped me/us. I think there’s a certain amount of escaping from it for a bit (I read a lot of books when I was off work) and not facing up to it until you’re ready. I still haven’t thrown away my nine positive pregnancy tests. That’s sad. I keep seeing them in my drawer but I can’t do it yet. All my pictures of PB are tucked into the back of the pregnancy Moleskine (book) I got that I never filled in because somehow I didn’t feel like it was actually happening.

I spent most of last night trying to send her something nice. I sent her a card, and a care box and some stuff from The White Company which she loves and which she sent me very similar when this happened to me. I have this belief that people send you stuff that they like… but also I feel like there’s something sad about being the sympathiser and comfort-provider; a role reversal from a few months ago. One of the things she sent me was a dressing gown, and I actually ended up wearing it a lot, and it was something I wouldn’t have bought myself (I have one but it’s not as nice and it’s not as white!) so I knew it was something she would like. I got her some fluffy slipper boots and a candle. I already got her an advent calendar with lots of toiletries and cosmetics in so I didn’t send her any more of those.

Really then I got to thinking: what made me feel better during the miscarriage? I thought I’d make a list. I feel like there should be some kind of miscarriage hamper/care package you could send when this happens, a way of showing you care and with things that make you feel better, so this is for my future reference more than anything.

So anyway, here’s my list of things that made me feel better. Obviously only time really did that, but still. Worth a note.

  1. Doctor’s note. This sounds silly but one of the biggest stresses to me was having the time to be signed off work. My employer is not sympathetic to women/pregnancy and it would be horrendous for people to think I’d been “trying”. My doctor was amazing and signed me off for two weeks (did not mention anything about miscarriage – said “abdominal pain”), which made me feel okay to take that time and not be checking in at work. I put my out of office on and disconnected from the stress.
  2. Dressing gown. I spent a lot of time in loungewear. It was great. Maybe if that’s too big to send, then a pair of slippers or socks or a blanket… something cosy. I think you want to kind of hibernate from the world.
  3. Getting away. We already had a long weekend planned, and we still did it. I had some remnants of the miscarriage going on, but just being away from the normal environment really helped. We had a fabulous short break with Dog, in a place where we were just us and hadn’t lost anything, and it was very healing.
  4. Planning the trip of a lifetime. We said if IVF didn’t work out then we would go to Disney World. I had never been before and I really wanted to go. We did a big trip (as seen on this blog!) and it was fantastic. I don’t think anyone can be unhappy at Disney. And it gave me something to look forward to during the dark days. 
  5. Messages from friends… but space. I think this is really important and maybe it’s a personal thing but I found it very hard to talk on the phone or in person and I really didn’t want to. I am okay doing it on the blog or in messages but I don’t want to be crying down the phone or in public. I don’t want the “pity head tilt”. But – I had friends who were great, who messaged me every now and then to ask if I was okay – just checking in. Didn’t push it. And sent little cards/presents/flowers. I think you want to know that people care, but you also want time on your own. I even was fine with T going to work each day because I just sort of wanted to sit on the sofa and read and pretend it wasn’t happening to me.
  6. Time out from social media. I just think that social media can be a killer as well as a good thing. Blogging was really helpful but even then I didn’t want to blog all the time… I couldn’t face writing so much about it at times, but at other times it was very cathartic. But Facebook is a killer… All the ultrasounds, belly bumps, babies and children. I unfollowed certain friends (so you’re still friends but they don’t show in your news feed). And I didn’t go on very often. I just laid low for a bit.
  7. Candles. They’re one of my biggest indulgences but I love them. There’s something calming about a scented candle. Maybe because we don’t have a bath! I think you can’t go wrong with a scented candle (the luxury type in a glass thing and boxed up in a fancy bag, like Diptique or White Company or Elemis or Oliver Bonas… they’re my go to gift for all occasions and I have a stockpile at home).
  8. New clothes. One of the hardest things to deal with is the weight gain and body changes. You get this from the IVF drugs anyway even if you’re not pregnant. I ended up buying new clothes because I needed to be able to feel comfortable and not hideous and ugly and fat-not-pregnant. I really think this helped – I still don’t feel 100% confident and I don’t like what the weight has done to me, but I have some clothes I can wear and cope. A lot of my clothes got way too tight. I’ve lost a bit of the IVF weight but not all of it. It’s important not to feel like you’ve let yourself go entirely, I think. It’s partly why I didn’t feel confident in front of T… I felt very unattractive and I’ve had to work over the last few months to gain back some confidence, and clothes etc were part of that. You can’t really go out in public if none of your clothes fit, and if you read the entry about my awful colleague then you also know the importance of dressing like you’re not pregnant! It takes time.
  9. Haircut. It’s a cliché but I had a haircut. I went to the most expensive recommended place I could (as I never have haircuts – I hate them) and booked the expensive stylist. It cost me something ridiculous but it made me feel better about myself. The stylist was very sympathetic when I explained my lack of confidence and really made me feel better – when I next need a haircut in a year or two, I’ll go back!
  10. Massage/spa. My parents didn’t know what to do to help. They wanted to come and see us but I couldn’t face it and anyway we were away. So they said I should book myself in for a massage / facial / pamper and they’d send some money. It was nice to do.
  11. Chocolate. Obviously. And that stuff that’s banned during pregnancy, like rinded cheese and wine…
  12. Dog. I really think it helps if you have a dog. 

I guess you could add blogging to that although I know most people don’t do that, and you can’t do that for someone else… but I think it helps to be able to talk openly to someone who understands. I think the thing is you don’t know how you’ll react until (if) it happens to you. Everyone is different. Some people are into full disclosure. Some not so much. Some people want their friends to rally round. Some want privacy. I’d hazard a guess that most don’t want to be surrounded by pregnant women and babies – either virtually or in real life. I found that very hard. I’ve avoided most babies – but some are unavoidable and I just had to suck it up, and I have realised that people are generally nice enough, and babies are not that bad.

Some friends say the stupidest things when you tell them. Some are sensitive and kind. Some say dumb-ass stuff about “At least you know you can get pregnant” and “It happens to everyone” and “There are a lot of children in the world who need parents” and “My cousin’s sister’s wife couldn’t have children and then they went on holiday and relaxed and she got pregnant” or “Why don’t you give up your job?” – none of which help. They really don’t. I know what not to say. I don’t know what to say because everyone is different.

I suppose the best start is to reach out – preferably via text, not forcing them to talk on the phone or get dressed out of sweatpants – and just say Hey, I’m sorry to hear that… I’m here for you.

One of my best most unexpected friends in this was pregnant. She’s not even geographically close but she messaged me to say hi, and I told her. She has kept sending me random messages throughout her pregnancy, which is really sweet and thoughtful, asking about how the op went and so on. 

So… 

Miscarriage is horrible.

Bad things happen.

All we can do is get through…. carry on… 

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43 comments

  1. ashleykyleanderson

    Wow… I am heartbroken to hear this. How strange that you both have had such similar experiences only a few months apart. It’s just terrible. I will be thinking of them these next weeks and especially Friday. And I’ll be thinking of you too… I’m sure this stirs up some painful memories for you as well. But I’m glad that you can be there for her through this. ❤

    Like

    • Nara

      Thank you. I’m actually okay. I just think it’s crazy bad luck for it to happen twice. Equally I confess I don’t know how I would have felt had they announced an IVF pregnancy so soon after our unsuccessful round. I know that sounds horrible… Really I am more used to other people’s good news re babies so I’d probably just have sucked it up like I did with my brother.

      Like

      • Courtney

        You know, I wondered this, how it would have gone if it had been successful. We want everyone to be happy, but naturally, we don’t want to see people get what we’re working hard for but can’t attain. I hate admitting it, but I think it’s true for most people. It’s the old, happy for them – sad for me, thing that gets us every time someone gets pregnant while we’re trying… Even happens with family (I know… My sister announced her second easily-attained pregnancy during my failed IVF and I couldn’t talk to her for 3 months. Wasn’t angry, but was terribly hurt).

        Like

      • Nara

        Exactly! I don’t mean I’m not happy for others when stuff goes right. It is just hard to see them. I saw the new baby but I won’t see her again until Christmas. I feel like I can’t keep exposing myself to that sort of discomfort/sadness/reminder. I still haven’t seen some of my friends’ babies although I always send them gifts and cards. It is definitely a case of “always the bridesmaid, never the bride”!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Nara

      I knew they were waiting but didn’t know they’d started. Same as us – we did tell people we were on the list but didn’t say when we started as otherwise people will keep asking.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. stealingnectar

    I am so sorry for your sister’s loss, and always for yours as well. Life is so frustrating and sad at times! I am glad she has you. Heartbreaking. I will be thinking of your entire family as you all continue to heal. Hugs.

    Like

  3. My Perfect Breakdown

    I am so sorry to hear that your sis is going through her own loss. I am just so sorry.
    Your list is pretty darn accurate. Texting is the only way I told people about our losses and I kept my distance from almost everyone for a few weeks. I just couldn’t bear having to actually tell people and people wanting to hug me and to what sit with me while I just hated the world. I just couldn’t do it. So, I relied on texting and even then barely did more then just people I needed space. I respect both yours and your sisters decision to do the same. And yes, I indulged on every banned pregnancy food and we also planned distractions just like you.

    Like

    • Nara

      Thanks! I know you understand. I agree – I just didn’t want people to hug me! And I did feel like I hated the world a little bit – at least, the fertile ones. I think with texting you can keep your distance and answer in your own time if you want to, or have a conversation if you want to. And I think I’ve managed to get fatter on all the banned food!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. thecommonostrich

    I’m so sorry. This sucks. Which feels like a huge understatement, but sometimes words just don’t do justice.

    Both my brother and sister experienced miscarriages. Though I mercifully didn’t have one, it was actually comforting to know that they had their struggles too. At the beginning, I wanted my pain to be MINE. But once I was able to open up, it was nice to know they were there for me.

    Buy her a gift card for some comfy pants, and give her a hug. Just knowing you’re there for her can also be enough.

    Like

    • Nara

      Thanks. I sent her a couple of care packages. It is sad and horrible but I know she will need space for a while… It’s difficult when our brother’s just had a baby and isn’t super-sensitive about it!

      Like

  5. sewingbutterfly

    That sucks. Life isn’t fair and that sucks too. I am sorry for both your losses. I like the idea of sending something. It lets them know you are thinking about them but doesn’t force any interaction if they don’t feel up to it.

    Like

  6. mamajo23

    Oh how awful. I am so sorry for you and your sister to have to share this kind of pain. Your instincts of compassion and resilience will help her tremendously. Life is so damn unfair. Yet it is also precious and a gift. I know you get that. Hugs to you.

    Like

    • Nara

      Yes, I get it… It’s sad but I think we will get over it, like we have everything else… It’s just nuts that so many people go through this pain. (I always say that if men went through it, they’d have sorted out miscarriage spas by now!)

      Like

      • mamajo23

        That is a good point. My twin sister and I both had to go through many many rounds of IVF to have our miracles. It was nice to have someone who actually got it but also stressful to have two people that needed miracles. A miscarriage spa is actually a great idea.

        Like

      • Nara

        Oh that’s tough. I’m hoping that it doesn’t take many rounds of IVF. I actually think I would give up after the three – who knows but I definitely didn’t feel like doing it again after the first. It sounds weird but I’m wondering if it would even be that bad not to have kids. IVF is so tough emotionally.

        Liked by 1 person

      • mamajo23

        We have very extreme cases so I am confident it would not take that much for you. We are the exception. IVF can be emotional and really tough but I have lots of coping mechanisms I am happy to share :). Xoxo

        Liked by 1 person

      • mamajo23

        Oh yes-a miscarriage is something I don’t think we can really learn to cope through. I think we just have to somehow get through it and keep enough hope to keep trying. It is such a huge loss and there are no real shortcuts to healing ( in my opinion). Xo

        Liked by 1 person

      • Nara

        I agree. Time is the only thing really, and we just kind of heal but we still feel the hurt. Although I think I am quite good at putting things out of my head and concentrating on something else! 🙂

        Like

  7. thegreatpuddingclubhunt

    I’m so sorry to hear your sister’s sad news. You are a wonderful sister to offer her your ear and love – it’s just terrible that you have both suffered a loss in this way.

    Your list of how to help yourself is perfect. I would have loved to have a dog with me to help (cats are OK, but not the same) and I think your number one is very important.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nara

      Yeah, I know you understand – I don’t know how you coped with work etc. I can barely cope at work when I have my period (I have horrific heavy periods) so I don’t know how you managed to go on with a miscarriage! I just sort of sat on the sofa and cuddled Dog and read books. I guess everyone has their own way of coping with it. Just so sad that so many people have experienced this – it’s crazy.

      Like

  8. 30yr old nothing

    Oh no, I’m sorry your sister has to go through this as well. Thats so unfair. I love your list though. number 5 is so true for me. I can’t talk on the phone or see people but I’d appreciate texts.

    Like

  9. Courtney

    I’m so sorry about your sister. No one wants to have company in the IF or miscarriage realm of life, but having you is making this a little easier for her.

    I emailed my family about our failed ivf, the one that they all SWORE would work (as did I… But I needed a reality check). Subject line was, “negative” and the body said, “we are dealing with this together and do not want to talk about it. Please do not call.”. Of course my mother didn’t respect my request but I didn’t answer the phone, so all was fine. I just couldn’t talk to them about it, and I certainly didn’t want to hear about this happening for a reason, blah, blah, blah.

    Good list! Helpful for those who need it. 😉

    Like

    • Nara

      Oh gosh, I can’t stand that “Everything happens for a reason”! (Yeah, that reason is: to cause me pain!) I did have a few calls from my mother but I just didn’t answer if I didn’t want to talk. It feels really strange that my sister’s going through the same just a few months later. I knew they were on the list for IVF but she didn’t tell me she’d started… It’s tough to know when to share, I guess. We’ll be starting again but I don’t think we will publicise it. I don’t want people asking all the time – it’s too much pressure.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. flatwhitetogo85

    This is so heartbreaking. Your poor sister. I know there is very little you can do or say to comfort her, but at least you will have a better idea about what NOT to do or say. It makes me so angry that so many people have to go through this (e.g. you and your sister) and then others get pregnant so easily without any awareness of how painful and difficult it is for others (e.g. your brother).

    Like you, I have unfollowed many of my friends with young children as I just can’t bear it. I understand that everyone has a right to be excited, but I wish they could do it a little more privately and considerately (I’m thinking of the OTT Facebook pregnancy announcements. Fuck off.)

    I really hope things work out for both of you soon x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nara

      Oh thank to my dear! I know exactly what you mean re OTT FB announcements. Someone I know has just announced their second twice. First with a pumpkin shoot with the first and second the gender. Quite frankly I want to punch them in the face (for a millisecond and then I get control! Haha).

      Like

  11. Recurrently Unlucky

    I’m sorry to hear about your sister. Seems surreal you both have such similar experiences. It’s nice you’re there for her, though. Your list is very nice, all these things bring some comfort, but for me what helps the most is being honest about my feelings, accepting them all. Best wishes to your sister.

    Like

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