TFMR: Remembering my first-not-to-be-child

Although time is a great healer, it still feels like it happened last week.

I’m terrible. I still have my pregnancy folder and scans stuffed in a canvas bag in a storage box in the loft. I couldn’t throw them out but I can’t face to look at them. I need them in my life, so I still have my attachment to my first-not-to-be-child.

Every 18th July, I sit and think hard to the whole experience, like opening up an old wound up  – being 16 weeks pregnant, having spent the whole period of time from the 12 week scan to then not knowing the fate of my unborn child. The phone call, “It’s not good news I’m afraid”, calling my husband, texting my mum…crying, screaming, aching and longing for everything not to be true.

Even with my Rainbow in my arms, she’s nine months old, I feel the burn in my heart of missing and longing for my first-not-to-be-child. It won’t ever go away, and although painful, I wouldn’t want it to. It mine to keep and hold forever.

I light my candle, close my eyes and feel the warmth of the flame across my cheeks as I smell the fragrance – something white linen.

“I love you my darling angel. We never got to meet this time but I am here and you are with me in my heart everyday and I love you so much. In my darling daughter I feel you near, a gift from you to me and I love you, I love you, I love you”.

 

Green-eyed monster

Even before I became pregnant, the first time round, I always found it difficult to deal with pregnancy news. I put it down to my body clock and its underlying need for a child. I always knew I would have children one day but hearing the news of friends and family announcing their ‘new additions’ always turned me into a bit of a green-eyed monster.

I denied myself the opportunity to announce my pregnancy when I knew we were high risk. It was an odd feeling walking the streets ‘pregnant’, sitting at work ‘pregnant’ and speaking to friends ‘pregnant’ – I mean it’s a big deal, but I was cautious as I didn’t know which way it would go.

After the TFMR, I remember the pregnancy announcements at work. Five in fact. All around the same due date as mine. I became a bit obsessed – picturing them in their scans, all receiving the good news, “Everything looks fine”.Their twenty-week appointments, “It’s a boy!”. I’m not sure why but only assume it’s so I could live some sort of pregnancy even though mine had vanished.

I had the pleasure of witnessing their conversations of hospital appointments, sicknesses and ailments, baby names – bumps growing month by month. I actually managed to completely avoid one lady for the whole duration, as she got married the same time as me, and the pregnancy was too much of a reminder of how I had been robbed.

It was one of the hardest things to deal with, completely selfish and of course, I wished nothing negative on these women. After all, I’ve learnt pregnancy is a blessing and precious. Who knows what these women had gone through to get their baby.

You can’t see it, but it is in fact everywhere

Baby loss is suffered by so many but it is one of the most untalked about issues.

I didn’t tell friends, family or colleagues that I was pregnant, which saved me the heartache of telling them I no longer was.

I work for a large organisation and there are pregnant women everywhere. In the lift, in the lunch queue, in a meeting – there really is no escaping it.

When you hear someone has ‘lost a baby’, most people think miscarriage.  I personally have never heard anyone say that have had to end a pregnancy or endure a TFMR.

I’m guilty in the respect, that the few people I did tell, I was vague – I too said, “I lost a baby”. I didn’t want to go into detail – it’s complicated after all. People didn’t press further but I guess I didn’t want to say the words ‘termination’ because people wouldn’t understand.

The TFMR forum community, and the other ladies I spoke to who came forward about losing a baby – is like an underworld of grieving mothers.

Many women hide their loss like I did. Little did I know, as time went on, and I opened up a bit more to friends and colleagues, I found I wasn’t alone.  In fact, at work (where there are around 20 females) there were four ladies who had pregnancies end in miscarriage.

I found the opening up of one woman can lead to a string of women wanting to share their story – grasping the opportunity to finally share. Announcing a pregnancy is a ‘shout-it-from-the-roof-tops’ moment – ‘hear my wonderful news!!’ kind of feeling. BUT, losing a baby or ending a pregnancy, is buried deep with the door closed firmly shut, hoping we needn’t go there again.

I’ve heard a lot in the media recently about stigma’s being addressed – mental health, same-sex relationships and gender identity. But it still seems difficult for us to talk about baby loss. And not just for the mothers – we should also spare a thought for the partners and husbands who feel they have to be strong, demonstrating a sense of normality, whilst grieving…

It would be great to see baby loss, especially TFMR, to be more widely discussed so people are aware of it, and it doesn’t just remain a leaflet that gets handed to a mother when she learns her baby isn’t growing ‘normally’.

Wellbeing: It’s OK to seek help

The ARC are there to support you throughout your TFMR journey. I visited their forums a few times but never actually used their counseling services.

Having suffered from depression through my teens and early 20s, I knew I needed to seek further help, rather than just self-helping. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to ‘let go’ of what happened, as I have a tendency to cling onto pain and see it as something that defines me.

I was lucky enough to have a counselor who I had spoken with before, who was there to help me and to guide me out of the ‘grief’ maze. I describe it like a maze, as you feel so overcome with sadness and anger, that you feel like it’s never-ending – you keep going over the same thoughts and feelings without any improvement – but with most things, there is always a way out (somewhere, somehow).

The great thing about any counselor, is that they are a stranger. I always feel with friends and family that you can’t really open up completely. Having gone through a TFMR, I was worried what people would think – would they judge me? See me in a different light? With anything grief related, people don’t really know what to say anyway, but we want them to have the answers and makes things OK again.

My counselor used techniques of mindfulness. She was a lovely Indian lady who had a calm aura about her. She seemed to make absolute sense and was often very matter-of-fact, which I think you need when you are so overcome with emotion, sadness and anger. I will talk more about practicing mindfulness in another blog.

The thing that stuck with me from the counseling was facing the fact the TFMR was our ‘choice’. I had begun to associate it with being ‘robbed’ of my baby, which in some respect I had been. But, unlike a miscarriage, my husband and I made the choice to end our pregnancy. I’m not sure how that’s supposed to make the situation better, but I believe it is to shed a new light. Most of all, I think it was a way to stop the anger and bitterness – was I angry and bitter at the fact my first baby had a chromosomal abnormality? Or at myself for ending the pregnancy. I think the feelings were very confusing, but either way, the decision was made and we had to deal with the consequences.

Most importantly, the TFMR is in the past – Now, we had to look to the future whilst ‘living’ in the present. Not being stuck on looking back which had always been my problem.

Being thrown a lifeline

This came via a TFMR forum on Baby Centre. I also joined the ARC forum (Antenatal Results and Choices) and they offer further, professional support if needed.

The TFMR forum helped me to start thinking about the future. I really didn’t know how I would have overcome the whole thing without it. I found comfort in reading other people’s stories, who shared their experiences, and really opened up – I remember thinking, ‘That happened to me’, and ‘That’s how I feel’.

It’s an awful thing for anyone to go through but through this forum, I found a sense of salvation – I still do today. There’s a real strength in the group of genuine kindness and optimism, even for those women who have been through multiple miscarriages and TFMRs.

Like me, I found many women wanted to TTC (Try to conceive) again straight away. It seemed to be a common feeling, that when you lose a baby, you do want to be pregnant again – not to replace the baby but I guess it’s part of the healing process – to get back to that time in your life when you were having your baby. To convince yourself, yes it was a horrible tragedy, but the whole thing was some sort of ‘blip’ in your path to becoming a mother.

On the forum, each month, there would be a ‘cycle train’, e.g. The October Train, and any members of the forum, TTC that month, would request a ticket (it would be the date for their next period) and if they were lucky to get pregnant, it would be turned green, or red, if Aunt Flo showed her face.

Heartbreaking it is for those women who try month after month, year after year, and not conceive, the train was there for support as well as a motivator – it was such an amazing feeling to see those ladies get their BFP (big fat positives) after so much heartbreak.

For anyone reading this after a TFMR, I really encourage you to join a forum. You can anonymously post your story, your experiences and feelings, and you will see the overwhelming kindness and warmth you will receive from fellow women. It really will lift you up and kick start you, whether on your road to recovery or trying again.

Post TFMR

The following days and weeks…

I still feel the anger inside me today, simmering away, like a deep pit in my stomach even though it is now nearly two years ago.

Anger was the biggest emotion – I felt it stronger and harder than I thought it was ever possible. But wasn’t I sad? Yes, of course. But I felt robbed most of all, like someone had stolen from me.

Angry, bitter and sad. I cried for weeks on and off, curling up in a ball, grieving for my baby. I felt different, a little lost and everything else seemed so unimportant. The pain I was feeling was real and true – I held onto this feeling as a connection to my lost baby.

I can’t really say how I started to pick myself up again. My husband was amazing. He listed to me over and over again, repeating the same feelings and the tears. My parents said kind words and looked to the future but there was no way they could understand.

TFMR – WTF?

I’d heard of TMI (too much information), TTFN (ta ta for now) even TIA (thanks in advance) but TFMR – unheard of. All I know it wasn’t an abbreviation for social speak and I imagine it is only a term known to those who have had to face it.

TFMR is an acronym of Termination for Medical Reasons. Used for those women whose baby during pregnancy has a chromosomal abnormality and who have made the decision to end their pregnancy because of it.

I’m not an expert in this field, but abnormalities are usually be picked up in the 12 weeks blood test, and scan, but unfortunately it can be later into the pregnancy, around the 20 week+ growth scan.

I guess TFMR is a term for women who are pregnant with a much-wanted child. It separates them from the women who just want to get rid of a baby. Even to type this today, to say terminating a baby, still makes me hold my breath.