‘I’m sorry, I cannot see the heartbeat’

Galwaywoman DAWN O’CONNOR remembers hearing the words that drove her to set up the Galway Miscarriage Support Group which has its first meeting in Athenry next Thursday night.

‘I’m sorry, I cannot see the heartbeat.’ These are not the words a happy newly expectant mother should ever have to hear. Reading a chapter in ‘What to Expect when you are Expecting’ cannot prepare you for hearing these words. These words change your life and the woman you are.

Unfortunately, hundreds of women in scan rooms across the country are told something very similar every year. Approximately one in every five pregnancies in Ireland end in miscarriage. That is about 50 miscarriages a day. In my case, I heard these words on more than one occasion. Each time I miscarried my world changed. The grief I felt was overwhelming and I was left feeling heartbroken and confused. After all, having a baby is the most natural thing in the world, my body was designed to do this, so why was it failing me?

From a medical perspective, University College Hospital Galway gave me great care. At times I was frightened, I had never been in hospital before but the staff were kind, reassuring, and understanding. On some occasions I was angry and frustrated at the injustice of it all. Was it right that I should be left in the Maternity Unit for an hour and half waiting for a doctor with lots of happy women with beautiful bumps? No, but nothing about what was happening was right.

After each miscarriage, I was given a yellow leaflet. It detailed the different types, causes and treatments of miscarriage. It was informative, detailed but clinical. What the leaflet didn’t tell me was how terribly lonely I would feel in the weeks and months ahead. Even though I had the most wonderful people in my world, I felt a horrible emptiness that I couldn’t exactly explain. I was confused, should I be grieving for someone I never met, held or kissed? Each positive pregnancy test had become a little person, a member of our family and was instantly loved. Now they were gone. Our hopes and dreams for the future had been taken away. This sense of loss was devastating and I didn’t know how to move forward.

I desperately needed to speak to others who had experienced a similar loss to me, to know that how I felt was normal and that I wasn’t alone. That it was OK to grieve for all the little ones I had lost. I also needed closure. When someone dies, there is a funeral, an opportunity to say goodbye and grieve. But this grief was somehow different, not recognised and not spoken about.

After my first miscarriage, I searched locally for an organisation or a group - somewhere I could go to talk. But I quickly realised there was very little available to me in terms of emotional support for people affected by miscarriage in County Galway. Thankfully a work colleague gave me the Miscarriage Association of Ireland’s contact details. The association is run by volunteers who have all had their own experience of miscarriage. They provide support by telephone and e-mail and they hold a free monthly support meeting in Dublin for grieving families to attend.

Meetings were a lifeline

I cannot describe the sense of relief I felt being able to talk to someone who understood what I was going through. They were incredibly supportive and gave me the space I needed to openly grieve for all the babies I had lost without the fear of being judged. I am truly thankful for the Miscarriage Association of Ireland. The monthly support meetings they facilitate in Dublin were a lifeline to me and many others. Their work is invaluable.

Through my experience of miscarriages, I identified the need for a similar type of support meeting in Galway. So under the guidance of the Miscarriage Association of Ireland, I decided to organise a support meeting for bereaved parents living in County Galway. These meetings, like the support meetings in Dublin, are for those who have had personal experience of miscarriage. My aim is to create a safe environment for grieving mums and dads to come together to talk about the loss of their baby or find some comfort by listening to other people’s experiences. I am hoping it can make a difference.

Losing a baby through miscarriage is heart breaking and life changing. I can safely say that with time the pain has eased but I still carry the loss of what might have been. It is important to recognise that even though it was for a very short time, these babies were here, they were loved and now they are missed.

The first miscarriage support meeting will take place on Thursday January 12 at 7pm in the Raheen Woods Hotel, Athenry. For more information, please contact 087 6893456 or see the Facebook page Miscarriage Support Group Galway or www.miscarriage.ie


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