The Weekly Advertiser Horsham
Amy: Please don’t suffer in silence
W hen Murtoa’s Amy Friedlieb shared her story of early pregnancy loss on social media last year, she was both overwhelmed by support and heartbroken to discover so many women were suffering alone.
Her own sense of isolation and loneliness – despite being surrounded by people as normal – provided motivation to speak up and encourage others to do the same.
In Australia, up to one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage each year, affecting about 110,000 women.
Statistics show about 2200 more endure the pain of stillbirth, 600 lose their baby in the first 28 days after birth and many more face the grief of termination for medical reasons. For many, the trauma remains silent. As a nurse and mother Amy knew the ‘one in four’ statistic.
But knowing the statistic does not prepare you to become one.
“I hadn’t really had a conversation with a friend or relative about miscarriage so I had so little understanding about what it really was,” she said.
“I’m a pretty open person and I wanted to make people feel they were not alone. I also wanted to teach people, so they are more prepared than I was if they were to speak with someone going through a similar situation or they were in that situation themselves.”
Amy said friends were quick to respond to her story.
“I had so many women private message me thanking me for speaking about infant loss and sharing their stories with me,” she said.
“It definitely made me feel less alone.
“It was so nice to start a conversation and hear their stories but also heartbreaking that so many go through the loss and keep it to themselves.”
After welcoming their daughter Pippa in November 2018, Amy and Matt were excited to expand their family.
Their joy in becoming pregnant quickly turned into concern after Amy started bleeding at six or seven weeks’ gestation.
“I had already started getting a lot of pregnancy symptoms, so when I started bleeding and had pain that only strong pain relief in the hospital’s emergency department could fix, I knew something was wrong,” she said.
“Matt and I were both upset but we didn’t officially know we had lost our baby until we got the blood test results days later, which showed my HCG level had dropped. It was too early to see anything on an ultrasound.”
Amy said miscarriage not only created emotional upheaval for everyone involved, it also took a physical toll on a woman’s body.
“I felt physical side effects for weeks after,” she said.
“It can take months for your cycle to come back and to stop bleeding and feeling like you are pregnant.
“That’s another thing I didn’t know and find super unfair. I thought you lost the baby and that’s about as far as I was educated about.”
Despite their loss, Amy and Matt considered themselves ‘super lucky’ to conceive again a couple of months later.
“We were told it could take some time to conceive again so we started loosely trying,” Amy said.
“It was great to fall pregnant again, but because it happened so quickly, I didn’t get to process my miscarriage as much as I would have liked.
“I grieved a lot for my loss during the first half of my pregnancy. I also wish I had waited longer to get my body back to normal before trying again, but in saying this, I am so thankful it didn’t take long because it can take a long time for some women to get everything back in sync after a miscarriage.”
Amy and Matt welcomed Sadie, their rainbow baby – a term for a healthy baby born after a loss – last month. “I am beyond lucky,” Amy said. “The pregnancy was horrible – I was sick the whole way through which affected my mental health significantly.
“This was another subject I found hard to talk about, because again people used the ‘lucky you are pregnant, some people wish to be in your shoes’ card.
“Saying that you don’t enjoy pregnancy does not mean you do not want the baby – I adore being a mum and love my babies, but pregnancy was not a good time for Matt and I.”
Amy said when it came to dealing with everything from the loss of a child to difficult pregnancies and births, words mattered.
“I think women are speaking more openly about their birth stories and pregnancies but not so much about losses,” she said.
“I don’t know if it’s because of this whole ‘people have it worse off than me’ attitude or that they feel ashamed and that they feel they did something wrong for this to happen.
“I also think people don’t know what to say back and the women experiencing loss know they might get a response that hurts them.”
Amy said she was no exception, with some people responding to her miscarriage story with, ‘you’re lucky you have a daughter already’ and ‘at least it happened early on’.
“This makes you feel like you are being overly sensitive, which is not helpful,” she said.
“At the end of the day it’s still a baby and it’s something you have desperately wanted.
“These days you know from day one what the birth date will be, so it’s all so real from the day of your first missed period.”
Amy said if she could give advice to couples experiencing the loss of a child, it would be to talk about it, either to each other or a professional.
“The worst thing you can do is just pretend it didn’t happen or that you will get over it,” she said.
“Acknowledging it is the best way to work through your grief.
“That’s what motivated me to speak up about my own experience and I hope anyone going through a similar situation feels they can talk to me. I would love to support them and let them know they are not alone.”
On Friday at 7pm, the Friedliebs will light a candle as part of a ‘wave of light’ for International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.
“It is super important to stop for a moment and think about the baby who could have been, but will always have a piece of your heart,” Amy said.
• People can visit sands.org.au or rednose.org.au for more information about pregnancy and infant loss. Sands – which offers miscarriage, stillbirth and newborn death support – will also host a virtual ‘walk to remember’ on Sunday. Red Nose provides 24-hour support and services to thousands of Australian women every year who lose a baby to miscarriage, via termination for medical reasons, in early infancy or to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. People can call a grief and loss support line on 1300 308 307.