The fertility journey can be rough and a physical and mental roller coaster. Having a friend who supports you throughout the process and helps to advocate for your strength can be the humbling and motivational support that one needs to help share their story with others. Jess Kitching, founder of The Good In Every Day blog, was that support for friend Sarah Clarke and together they share Sarah’s fertility and pregnancy story with us.
Guest Authors: Jess Kitching and Sarah Clarke
For most people, ‘Miss Honey’ is the character in Matilda that epitomizes having a pure, loving and generous soul. She’s the kind of teacher that every child wishes they had been taught by – optimistic even in the darkest situations, patient even if someone is not getting fractions after the seventh lesson and so unbelievably kind it makes your heart sing just by being around them.
As a teacher in England I was lucky enough to work alongside a real-life embodiment of Miss Honey and even luckier to call her a friend, but to reduce someone as brilliant as Sarah down to a fictional character seems completely wrong because she is so much more than Miss Honey could ever dream of being. She is without a doubt the least selfish person I have ever met and undoubtedly the most supportive. She cheers coworkers on the hardest of days both professionally and personally. I’ve never met someone who looks at others achievements and bravery in the way she does, almost taking their happiness as her own. Every blog post I write she tells me how proud she is of me and she means it. Good or bad, moment of confidence or self-doubt, Sarah will be your biggest cheerleader.
It’s almost ironic that when I asked Sarah to give me a brief bio about herself that she described herself as ‘a normal person’ when in reality to so many she is so much more. Her relationship with her husband Michael was ‘couple goals’ long before the term meant flash holidays and ludicrous gifts. They are the kind of couple you look at and go ‘ah, they’ve found each other’. She’s the teacher children cross their fingers to be in her class and the kind of mum to her son Max that you think ‘if I ever have children I want to be like that with them’. I don’t know a single friend of Sarah’s that would describe her as ‘normal’ and having the courage to share her story with you is anything but ‘normal’, but Sarah is humble and not one to brag about herself so that’s why I’m doing it for her.
This interview will talk about miscarriage. It will talk about surgery. It will talk about pregnancy in a real, honest way. It will talk about the strength to try again and to carry on after one of the biggest traumas a person can face. This interview will pull at your heart, make you smile, fill you with a sense of pride over a woman you don’t even know, it might even make you cry, but at the end of it you’ll agree – there is nothing ‘normal’ about Sarah and her courage.
Jess: What was your pregnancy journey like?
Sarah: When Michael and I decided to start trying for a baby we were just so full of excitement and nerves. There was lot of ‘Are we really going to do this?’, but really it was just pure happiness that we were going to start the next chapter of our lives.
We’d been married for around 3 and half years, it was one of those cheesy love at first sight stories. We’ve been each other’s rock, wingman, wing woman and partner in crime ever since then. Having someone who supports you, stands by you and just simply loves you for who you are is just the most amazing thing in the world and we were ready to start a family. We had it all worked out.
We’d gotten pregnant the first month of trying and just couldn’t believe how lucky we were. I remember running down the stairs after randomly taking a pregnancy test and shoving it (a little too closely) in Michael’s face. We were gobsmacked and overjoyed at the same time. We immediately told our parents and ran out to buy prenatal vitamins. We couldn’t believe how easy it had happened. In my naivety and excitement, we told a couple of close friends and my Senior Leadership team at work – a move that I would later be so glad that I did because their support got me through.
Eight weeks in and I started to feel unwell. I’d been having pain on my right side, nothing excruciating, but enough to go the doctors. Three different doctors later and I’d been told it was just ligaments stretching. It wasn’t.
A week later I started bleeding and around 24 hours after that I had lost my baby. Some people might say ‘oh it’s not a baby at that stage’ but to me and my husband it really was our baby. I just remember looking down and hearing this horrendous cry and realizing it was coming from me. I just dropped to the floor and cried and cried and cried. I had never felt so devastated, so disgusted with myself or so incredibly guilty in my entire life.
Unfortunately, things then got worse. I had a scan and they had confirmed that there was ‘no sign of a fetus’. What the scan had also missed was that my right Fallopian tube had burst, it was obliterated and had, in the process, damaged my left one. I was rushed back in two days later where the most talented senior midwife saved my life by calling a consultant who ordered another scan and discovered the damage. I was rushed straight to surgery. I just remember my husband being right by my side the whole time. They told me afterward that I was hours away from losing my life. Hearing something like that puts things into perspective. It took Michael a long time to recover from that moment, not only had he lost his baby, but he had almost lost his wife too.
I slowly began to recover, we were told that our chances of having another baby were slim. I was at my lowest, I genuinely despised myself. I was angry.
6 months later, although very apprehensive, we decided to try again. Miraculously like before, the first month of trying we fell pregnant. And this time it led us to our Max.
Jess: How did the ectopic pregnancy change your relationship with yourself?
Sarah: During those 6 months I was truly disgusted with my body. It had let me down. And then there was the mental torture of ‘did I do something wrong?’ ‘Am I a bad person? Why has this happened to me?’
It was the amazing support system I had around me that got me through it and helped me to build my confidence back up. My wonderful, loving husband never stopped building me back up though. We came out of it so strong. Friends and work colleagues were brilliant, they helped me to get back to into my routine and I started to feel ‘normal’ again. I don’t think anyone ever really gets over something like that though.
Jess: People seem to not know what to say to someone who has gone through what you did. What kind of things were said to you that did and didn’t help?
Sarah: I do think it must have been hard for people to know what the right thing to say was, but most people were really kind. Some comments were not so helpful like ‘maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing because now you can focus on your career’ or ‘it’s just your body getting used to what it’s supposed to do for next time’. Sometimes just listening is enough though. I feel very lucky that I had so many supportive people around me. One special lady sent me a quote a couple of days after I had gotten home from hospital. It said: ‘There is no footprint too small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world.’ That meant the world to me because it validated my grief. It helped me to start to heal.
To my surprise, talking openly and bluntly about it helped me to process everything. I also found that some women I knew had been through a similar experience of loss so talking to them really helped. I think talking about loss and recognizing loss is important. There are charities that raise awareness of it which also provides people with a platform to share their experiences.
Jess: I’ve read that sometimes partners don’t know what to say because they’re trying to be ‘strong’ for their partner and not show their grief as well. Did you find that your relationship with Michael change at all throughout this?
Sarah: My relationship with Michael didn’t change, but we did grow stronger and appreciate each other just that little bit more. I honestly couldn’t wish for a better man to be by my side. He got me through. I think it’s also important to remember that your partner suffers too, Michael was devastated with our loss but he did feel he had to be strong for me.
Jess: What was it like to find out you were pregnant with Max after what had happened?
Sarah: When we found out we were pregnant with Max we were shocked, ecstatic but very anxious. The pregnancy was difficult – I had a large bleed at 12 weeks and thought that was it. I remember praying for this baby to make it… And he did.
Every time we had a scan, seeing that heart beat flickering kept reminding us that he was real and strong and ours. Hearing the heart beat every time I visited my midwife was such a relief. There’s a photo of me when we had reached 30 weeks pregnant and it was a happy moment for us. We sort of turned a corner and started to look forward with more confidence. I don’t think either of us ever truly believed or rather trusted that we were going to be a mum and dad until the moment he was actually born!
Jess: What is it like to be a mum?
Sarah: Becoming a mum is my greatest achievement. Whenever I feel inadequate I just look at Max and think ‘wow, I made you’. The love I feel for him is indescribable. I feel truly privileged to be a mum. Michael and I try to enjoy every moment because we feel so lucky. Sometimes we do need to remind ourselves though that it’s ok to be exhausted and find it really REALLY hard, and that it doesn’t mean that we are being really ungrateful to feel that way. We also try to do something nice each year to remember our first baby.
Jess: What would you say to anyone who is struggling with fertility issues them self?
Sarah: Before my journey began, I don’t think I ever appreciated the fact that many women can struggle to have a baby for many reasons and how deeply upsetting and devastating it can be. I feel so incredibly lucky to have found my happy ending but it’s so sad that what I have may not happen for everyone. I was fortunate. It’s true when they say you never know what someone is going through. Just be kind, just listen.
I hope that reading my story might help someone somewhere know that they aren’t alone in dealing with a loss. When I was asked to do this interview all I could think of was ‘No one wants to read about me!’ But then the more I thought about it, the braver I became and decided to go for it. I found that talking about what had happened helped me to process everything and for me it helped me to grieve and I’d like to thank you so much to anyone who has taken the time to read my journey.
Jess Kitching is the founder of The Good In Every Day, a blog that shares content with the aim to uplift and inspire through the use of real life interviews, photography and articles that promote self-care and emotional wellbeing. Born in England, she originally worked as a primary school teacher before travelling around Australia and pursuing a career in writing.
Sarah Clarke is a primary school teacher from the North of England. She lives with her husband Michael and their son Max.