It seems like both a lifetime ago and also just yesterday since the loss of our baby.
I’ve been reflecting on that old platitude of "time as a healer" and feeling that perhaps what it was trying to convey was more about the shifting of the seasons and a reminder of our constant flux; that there is healing and spiritual resilience if we can just trust our cyclical nature. It’s exactly four months after the miscarriage and I'm here in my favourite local paradise drifting in and out of consciousness on the beach, in what feels like the first sun of summer this year.
I lay here feeling blessed that I can still feel paradise is possible. I can still rest in the beauty of the present moment and be grateful for all that I have... blah blah blah and all that evolved spiritual crap...You see, as fast as those thoughts come I also remember the projections I had for this summer; for the days I would spend on this beach with a swollen belly, where I would finally give myself full permission to not be working mid week, because I would have maternity allowance.
I would let go of the chase for work and money, the sense of never being enough. I was enough. The baby in my belly was proof of this. I would introduce the baby to my best friend - the sea. As soon as I touch this thought, I am filled with sadness for the summer that never happened.
I was sat around a fire recently with friends discussing magic; how we experience magic in our lives, how we want to create communities filled with magic and love, as this is what the world need most right now. During the discussion our miscarriage came to mind as something that had helped me to drop deeper and trust in magic more than I ever had before in my life.
The miscarriage was a route to magic I had neither expected nor would have chosen but it is exactly what the journey ended up looking like. During my Red School Apprenticeship Training I dove deeply into the Five Chambers of menstruation, but which are also the stages we go through at any transition in life. These are: Separation, Surrender, Renewal, Visioning and Direction (For more detail on these gateways read Wild Power).
These gateways offered profound support to me during the miscarriage and through the last four months and I have no doubt that they will continue to do so. I'm currently sat in Visioning, which feels good; spacious and hopeful.
My intention is to really enjoy and harness the energy of this Gateway, as I know it could shift to any of the other four at any point! So, let me dive deeper…The experience of landing pregnant in November 2016 after 6 years of inviting a baby into our lives was literally breathtaking. After having every possible investigation available conclude that everything was fully functioning for both of us on a physical and biological level and dedicating time and money into looking more deeply inside ourselves and our relationship for the more subtle energies of the universe, there was very little left to explore.
We had reached the point where the pain of not conceiving had been present for half of the time we had spent in relationship. We were even ‘bored’ of the pain and its story and wanted to make space for new and wonderful things to come into our lives. At some point we needed to step out of that story and heal some of the grief and trauma that had been a part of it. 2016 was the year we did this.
In Summer 2016 we began to feel into whether adoption might be something we could be open to. After many conversations with friends and reading around the topic, we came around to feeling quite excited about adoption as a new adventure rather than a second best option. All that we had as a couple to offer a child seemed alive; perhaps this was even how it was ‘meant to happen’ all along.
This bit of the story is where we become one of those cliches, one of those stories that people tell you when you're trying to conceive (and you generally want to punch them in the face). The day I found out I was pregnant, we had our Initial Interview with the adoption agency! It was mighty unsettling at first to have wanted something for so long, to have let it go and then have it fall in your lap.
It massively messed with my head and heart. However, somewhere between weeks six and nine it really began to settle in. We had lots of support and love and so much quiet excitement from people we had shared our news with. Then at some point during week nine I shared with a friend that I suddenly didn't feel pregnant anymore, but I'd read so many stories of how a lack of symptoms doesn't mean you aren't pregnant and so I tried to let the feeling go and dismiss it as paranoia. I also liked not being so tired.
The next thing I remember, was arriving at the Red School menopause workshop where I was supporting the circle by creating lunches for the two days. I found myself deep in the space of separation. Again I dismissed this feeling, this time relating it to the workshop environment and the fact I wasn’t menopausal... or because I was cooking and had a different role.
Looking back, I realise there was something much bigger happening in the realm of ‘separation’. The last thing we did in the workshop on Saturday was to choose a Red Power card. I picked "lose it". Before any bleeding or other signs of the miscarriage, this was like a dagger to my heart. I found myself praying in the bath later that night that everything would be OK with the baby. But the deeper knowing in me was coming through.
On Sunday morning 22nd January 2017 I started to bleed. I felt sick and panicked and then immediately went into denial. “Well, it can't be that - nothing would be that cruel, make us wait all this time only to take it all away again”. I couldn't even stomach it as a possibility. I didn't even want to name the word. I rested. I got words of reassurance from women who’d bled all through pregnancy or had also bled at this stage (the time when my period would have been due). The bleeding continued. No pain and not heavy bleeding but not stopping either.
By Monday A&E was the only option. After a clumsy examination, we were told to expect the worst as it was likely this was the beginning of a miscarriage. We would need to wait 48 hours for a scan to confirm it. Our world collapsed.
After an initial sense of “there’s no way I am strong enough to handle this”, a lot of fear and absolutely blood boiling anger, I slipped into a quieter place (perhaps shock), but a knowing I had to just be present to whatever was happening in my body moment to moment. There was nothing else. I remember feeling grateful for the years of pain and work we had experienced together as a couple. They felt necessary if we going to survive this one. We went to sleep about midnight as the bleeding was getting heavier.
As I drifted off, I felt the pull onward to the second gateway - Surrender. I felt a reluctance and an inevitability. I felt so strongly connected to the baby, but knew that wasn't because he was still there, just that he was safe and I just needed to be with grace now. I fell deeply asleep and woke at 4am having passed everything in my sleep; no pain, just quiet grace and surrender. I felt deep compassion and love for my body for having known just what to do and so grateful to have been at home.
Here we were surrendering, letting go and falling into the abyss, feeling the victims of the cruelest twists and turns. It felt like being in a spin cycle, so violent and non sensical. Amidst the brutality and clinical coldness of repeated hospital visits, scans and blood tests, we spent time in a nest. In a world that felt unbearably cruel, I had to find comfort. It's a survival tip I would wholeheartedly recommend: everything soft in the house in one safe room, in a giant pile (and in our case it was next to an open fire and with our loving cat in attendance).
The universe shrunk to this tiny space; a space I wondered if I would ever leave. When the anxiety rose like that, I kept coming back to Surrender: “this is just how it is right now, there will be change, while I'm this lost I just need to stay safe and soft”. Waking up in the mornings was the hardest thing. Those brief moments before reality hit. For a while I would start the day just inconsolable, often terrified by the force of my own rage.
After a compelling vision where I just wanted to compost down into the earth and I saw myself sinking deeper and deeper into the leaves, on Sunday 29th January I took all this energy to the forest, to fully feel the holding of something bigger. Here I found the space and the bigness that could hold the force of my feelings.
I dug a hole to scream into. I gave my grief back to Gaia. She welcomed my release.
I found the pile of leaves from my vision and buried myself in them. In deep meditation I watched my emotions shift and change shape. I saw my need for answers disguised in many forms and again came back to just surrendering - “just keep letting go”. As I lay in the leaves that morning I noticed two deer I had been following earlier that were standing close by, just watching with a kind of sweet wonder. Another gentle reminder.
A little bit at a time I began to pick up the other threads of my life, resisting the temptation to throw myself aggressively into certain projects, as much as the temptation to prove my worthiness was present. Surrender is probably the gateway I return to most often; the place for me (as for many) of the greatest learning. The greatest nourishment through this was from friends and the unbelievable outpouring of love and understanding from others; people who came and sat in the nest with us with no words, just hugs and open hearts or flowers and some food.
The offers of massage, womb blessings, remedies, soothing playlists, loving thoughts and messages really opened me to the possibility of the next gateway: Renewal. Healing the trauma in my body was powerful. I was lucky that my body knew what to do and had suffered minimally, but not insignificantly. Opening myself to wholeheartedly receive the gifts being offered by dear sisters was not always easy, but was so deeply rewarding.
Still with a doubting voice in me that there was all this love and kindness in the immediate aftermath that was so soothing... but what about further down the line; when I need carrying and it's become boring to everyone else? I realised how deeply ingrained the myth of a finite time to grieve was for me. A finite amount of love, even.
I existed in this liminal space for a couple of months; open, absorbent, highly sensitive and with this need to stay really close to myself, to somehow find the balance between protecting my heart and remaining open to life. Here I was again in a type of mindfulness practice. In many ways I liked this sensitivity, it felt more honest to have just allowed the armour to melt away.
One of the major fears I had was to re-enter the world of ‘baby making sex’, the roller coaster of hope and disappointment each month. Equally adoption wasn't something we could just pick up again, with our hearts fully in the process. So Renewal came with questions, but not necessarily ones that needed answering.
Approaching Mother's Day I felt the need for a small ceremony to really say goodbye to the baby. This felt like the next stage of Renewal, as I was beginning to see more clearly some of the gifts and opportunities this horrid experience was offering, I was also called to honour myself and this brief experience of motherhood, acknowledging that the universe had shifted and things were different. I gathered a small circle of women and many more people held space from a distance, carrying these intentions...
“Thank you for being willing to tune in at 3pm today for our ceremony. The intention for me is to honour this whole journey, as it is fully illuminated by the light of the fullmoon and give thanks to the being who both arrived and departed with grace but while here brought such intense joy and magic to us and so many people. I am also feeling to mark my own transition across the threshold from maiden to mother and to marvel at the magnificence of a body that can bring in life and let it go with gentleness. Acknowledging that the loss of the baby is not the loss of the mother. Just so you have some context to be with us in! Blessings and love ”
The ceremony was serene, beautiful and full of healing and love. What happened over the next few days was unexpected. Somehow having dropped into grace and gratitude, I made way for all the anger to resurface. As I came into autumn of my menstrual cycle that month, I was with all the injustices of the world, the miscarriage, the destruction of the planet, the patriarchy - the whole lot!
As I entered the void before bleeding I experienced a depth of rage so terrifying in its power that it was hard to trust that I would be ok. Underneath this fear however I sensed the wisdom of the cycle at work, pulling my attention back inside and guiding me towards myself. An even deeper surrender was required, the non linear journey through the chambers was happening.
It seemed that surrender was calling me back, acting as a bridge between renewal and visioning. It was a painful but beautiful transition. So here I am at day 29; the end of the 4th cycle since the miscarriage. Holding myself present in possibility and visioning.
I am aware of all the stories of how you're more fertile for a time after miscarriage. All the voices that said “well, at least you know your body can do it now”. Still we wonder what the future holds, but these are all the outside bigger voices. What I know now, is that I need to pay attention to the tiniest things. I know this is where the magic is.
I value stillness. I value the quieter, deeper wiser parts of myself. I want my life to create the conditions in which I can hear my soul speak to me. If I am listening that closely to what is true for me, then everything is surely as it should be. Truth plus presence equal magic.
Our baby was due on August 25th 2017 - our 10th wedding anniversary. The vision we have now is to hold a party to celebrate everything that we have in our lives; the depth and wonder of our relationship, everything that we love. This will include our unborn baby. This will include having become parents for a brief time this last year and all the pain and grief for it not having become manifest in this world. Our celebration can hold both love and grief and an enormous amount of gratitude.
I restarted my stone project (see image above) with the pregnancy as I thought 9 months of tracking the journey to motherhood would be a beautiful thing to have, it was unfortunate that after 10 weeks the project unravelled into the miscarriage story. Now with four months hindsight, I feel an appreciation for the story that these words tell and the fact that my cycle reset itself so gracefully.
Abi works as a Nutritional Therapist currently completing Functional Medicine certification, yoga teacher, Eating Psychology and Menstrual Coach www.nutritionforchange.com.