TRIGGER WARNING: this article contains sensitive content readers are advised to take caution.
Despite having witnessed multiple miscarriages within my family growing up, knowing the statistic that 1 in 4 pregnancies do not result in a baby in your arms, and having faith in God that He has a beautiful plan for us all, was etched into my mind, and even then nothing could truly prepare me for having one myself.
The fear of not being able to have children was always a dark cloud at the very back of my mind. The type that you ignore most of the time but is always there in your peripheral vision when you turn your head. Only now, I don’t have to turn my head quite as far to catch a glimpse.
I tried to control the giddy excitement at finally seeing a positive pregnancy test, to not let myself get carried away into endless daydreams of teddy bear picnics and chubby cheek kisses at least until the 12-week scan, but it was almost impossible not to. Knowing I needed a constant awareness of another human being growing inside me in order to make sure I ate right, slept right and even felt and thought right (stress impacts a developing child in significant ways), combined with my husband being over the moon and constantly excited made it a battle.
As the days went on, I attended midwife appointments, began feeling more and more nauseous, bloated and tearful, the indescribable joy that had taken root at the sight of the two pink lines of the pregnancy test stick grew and grew. It became more real as the symptoms became more obvious and I began to let my guard down and truly allow myself to indulge in the hope of a new addition to the family.
I had an uneasy feeling and very slight cramps arrived one evening when I was at home by myself, I started bleeding lightly, the panic and pain that followed made me sick to my core. I realised my midwife had accidentally given me the phone number for an estate agent rather than the early pregnancy unit and didn’t manage to find it anywhere online (it was out of GP hours). Trying (and failing) to remain calm, I called every single local private scanning company until I managed to book one for that evening. On seeing a tiny heartbeat on the ultrasound, I broke down in gratitude to God with overwhelming relief. We were told the bleeding was probably an implantation bleed that was only coming out now, and not to worry because all seemed well.
The following day at work I began feeling even more unwell and experienced severe cramping. It was accompanied by heavy bleeding and of course, confusion at what was going on. By that evening, I was in A&E, bleeding constantly and experiencing the worst pain I have had in my life. I had experienced vomiting and have previously had to take codeine in the past for period pain, but this was like someone was tearing my uterus apart.
Crying in pain ( I was made to wait in A&E for hours), I actually got to the point where I was saying my Kalimah and genuinely believed I was going to die. By the time I was caught somewhere between hyperventilating and passing out, I was taken in, after being made a priority as a patient and given morphine immediately. After a quick procedure, within about 30 minutes, it was all over.
It took me weeks to process what had happened, how we went from hearing the miraculous sound of a tiny thumping heartbeat one day to feeling like I was going to die the next, with all those dreams of teaching the Arabic alphabet and buying baby grow’s snatched away. It was during the ultrasound that I had to attend to confirm all of the baby’s bodily residue had been removed that it fully hit me. It was gone. All gone.
For many women, a miscarriage comes in the form of a slightly heavier period, some mild cramps and blood, and for others, it is hours of labour pains but with no baby at the end of it. I had no idea that you could experience full on contractions during a miscarriage, being so unprepared for what I went through no doubt made it even more terrifying and devastating.
From the moment I found out I was pregnant I had been reciting Surah Maryam, Quranic dua’s for a righteous child, and saying the prayer of Maryam AS’s mother to devote what was in my womb to God and His cause. One of the only things that got me through was knowing that if I truly and sincerely meant to devote what I was given to God, and He decided to take it back, I would accept His will with grace and contentment. I made dhikr through the entire miscarriage process and found my only comfort in the knowledge that my remembrance through my pain would, God willing, would weigh heavily on my scales.
If a child dies in the womb, it is said that they will be able to intercede for their parents on the Last Day, and if a person has the sincere intention to raise a child for the sake of God but doesn’t get the opportunity to do so, they are rewarded as if they did. I found out that Aisha RA suffered from a miscarriage and also heard of many women around me who had miscarriages and went on to have healthy children.
All of this was extremely comforting and provided me with the strength to attempt to continue with life and my responsibilities, but by no means is it easy. I felt extremely lonely, not just because we had not told many people about what had happened but mainly because I had gotten so used to knowing I was carrying someone else with me everywhere I went. The acute awareness of another being accompanying me, and the anticipation of meeting them, had suddenly been stripped from me. I had not wanted to tell work that I was previously pregnant, as I knew my manager would be instantly doing calculations of how much maternity pay would cost the company, how inconvenient it would be and knew it would affect my progression, and so I did not inform them of the miscarriage. This meant I had to act like nothing had happened and could not grieve fully.
I found myself crying every day almost, often not knowing why frustrated with myself and worrying that I would not return to normal. I fluctuated between feeling overwhelming grief as if I was mourning a loved one who had been in my life forever and feeling kind of ok. And I could switch between the two in an instant. Some days I looked at the ultrasound photos many times and other days I couldn’t bear to.
I had to work hard to refrain from retracing every step and action in the weeks before it happened to rule out the possibility of me being the cause of endangering the pregnancy, and reassure myself that it was most likely because of a chromosomal abnormality, as with most miscarriages. But the thoughts continue to creep back in, and the entire mental process is beyond exhausting.
It is tough on your partner too, and just as I had unpredictable emotions, it is also a nightmarish rollercoaster ride for them too. Staying strong for one another without masking your feelings to the point in which it becomes unhealthy is a difficult balance to reach.
I was lucky enough to have a wonderfully supportive husband, and a handful of friends and family members who we had told, around me, and no doubt this was God’s mercy channelled through human beings. But the inner devastation and whirlwind that accompanied the agonising pain that prevented me from walking for a number of days afterwards was still a very isolating experience.
“Will we ever be able to have children?”
“Did I do something wrong?”
“If I have to go through this again I will actually die”
“This is a blessing and is bringing me closer to God”
“Am I being punished?”
“When we actually have a child iA we will value them a thousand times more because of this”
The conflicting emotions that fried my brain and heart daily, made me want to tear my hair out, and there was a strong sense of feeling inadequate as a woman that left me feeling insecure in bizarre, and irrational ways. Despite never having defined myself by my ability to have children, anxiety set in and all sorts of unfounded, illogical ideas began running wild.Perhaps the most annoying and painful times in the following weeks were when people would casually ask us why we haven’t started a family yet.
Well meaning, teasing comments from people left me choking back tears, angry at the way we throw around these words as if we humans are in control. A few times I was very tempted to answer back and tell them exactly why I was not pregnant, but held back knowing that the lack of emotional intelligence and prevalence of cultural taboos and stigmas and old wives’ tales in our cultures still lingered in the air.
Months later, after being overjoyed at the return of a normal period, only just beginning to muster up the courage and strength to begin thinking about trying again. The thought of pregnancy does not make me excited as much as terrified, and I feel that I will be riddled with anxiety until the moment I hold my baby in my arms. But of course, I trust in the Divine plan, and the knowledge that this process has brought me nearer to Him and for that alone, it was worth it.
It made me look within myself and also at my life. How carefully have I crafted an environment, inside and around me to nurture a life to the best of my ability? Are there things that God wants me to achieve before I have children? Experiences like this are perfect times for introspection to evaluate how in line my soul is with the purpose of my existence, a litmus test for spiritual progress almost.
Particularly in Eastern cultures, miscarriages are not spoken about, as if they are something to be ashamed of. There is an ancient stigma associated with ‘miscarriage’ that needs to be broken. We shouldn’t feel the need to hide it as if we have done something wrong or failed in some way. How can something that the Prophet SAW’s incredible wife, the mother of all believers went through, be a negative reflection on us?
If you find yourself being tested in this way; know you are loved by your Lord. You are being tested in the same way Aisha RA was tested and though you may not perceive it, He is with you every step of the way. Know it was not your fault. In the majority of cases, there was absolutely nothing that could have been done to prevent or predict it. Be kind to yourself. You may well be experiencing post-natal depression, because your hormones are doing the same insane freak out that they do after birth, except you have the added heartbreak of not having had a child to show for it. Know that whatever you are feeling is ok.
Don’t suffocate the emotions, let them come, let them rage and swell, recognise them, accept them and when you are ready, you will find yourself letting them go. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, be it a friend bringing you food, or your partner doing the household chores for a few weeks.
Be patient with yourself, and if you feel nothing is shifting or that you are sinking further and further, seek counselling and support. Step up your worship and if you can’t find the energy to pray or to read Quran, just stay where you are and talk to God. Cry to God. Confide in God. And know that just as all things come to pass, this will too.