A friend of mine has taken a leap of faith and decided to begin a book on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Recovery and Hope. I wrote about how my experience was turned from something horrific to something positive and light filled.

When you’re young, you think you’re invincible. Sure, you know death exists, but you also know it is something that happens to other people, it is something that happens to old people, to pets, to friends of your parents. Death is not a concept that you are conscious of at seventeen. You certainly do not think that death can happen to a baby, most definitely, not yours.

I was thrust into the world of pregnancy loss at seventeen, blinking confusedly at the harshness of my new reality. The only comparison I can think of is the scene from The Wizard of Oz, where following the twister, Dorothy is dumped into a foreign land. Being a teenager not only experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, but also losing a very much loved baby at just ten weeks into my pregnancy, without a doubt, resembled the abovementioned scene.

While all of my friends were worried about if their crush would notice them, studied for exams and were learning how to drive a car, I was learning how to navigate a world that no one should ever have to.

After nine months of being in a relationship, I had a suspicion that something just wasn’t “right”. I tried to call my partner, but there was no answer. After leaving several voice messages over a number of days, I ended up being forced to send him a text message saying “I think I might be pregnant”. I didn’t end up ever getting a reply. He’d left without telling me, and moved two thousand kilometres away. No word. No warning. He just left. I didn’t hear from him again, I don’t even know if he ever got that text message. As far as I know, he had no idea he was going to be a father.

I knew I had to continue my unexpected journey towards motherhood alone. It is said that there are only two times in your life where you are truly alone- in pregnancy, and in death. This rings even more true with teenage pregnancy. It was so very lonely. I did not intend for my pregnancy to stay a secret from my loved ones around me, it just turned out that way. I knew my baby was there, the baby was my secret, ready to reveal when I felt ready.

In the lead up to confirminig my pregnancy, I was struggling to stay on top of things, mentally as well as physically. I was juggling a heavy study load, tutoring after school 2 days a week, debate team prep weekly, as well as keeping this amazing secret to myself, until I knew what to do.

I was able to tell a few friends, but essentially, I was alone in this. I continued to go through the motions, pretending that everything was normal. On the outside, it seemed there was nothing wrong. On the inside, oh on the inside. The only feeling I can strongly recall besides an overwhelming love, was guilt. It has been said that motherhood is comprised essentially of feeling guilty. I felt guilty for putting my baby through an incredible amount of stress and anxiety, guilty for wanting to pretend there was no baby, guilty for rolling my options around in my mind. Guilty for thinking that somehow, everything would be ok.I had spent almost 3 weeks thinking, dreaming, hoping, fearing, planning. I had a list of names, both for a girl and a boy, I had a way of telling my parents, I had the next 12 months planned out- postpone my studies for a year and then go to uni. People studied with babies all the time, right?

The mother-guilt I felt in the beginning of my pregnancy only increased on the day that I awoke to find myself bleeding.

In the early hours of the morning, on the 10th of August in 2006, I woke up to increasingly worse cramping, and bedding covered in blood. It was like something from a horror film, the tomato sauce thing, except it was worse than that. I was pregnant, and at the tender age of 17, I was thrust into the world and language of miscarriage and grief.

It was a different kind of pain. I think that it physically hurt more than it should have because of the silent screams, because of the muffled sobbing, because of the short, sharp breaths I was struggling to take in, as I attempted to comprehend what the blood meant.

I showered, washed the blood away, only to make more, all the while, numb.

At the time, I lived at home with my parents. My mother dropped me to school early, a lie-the first of many- that I told that day, telling her I needed to be there early for debate preparation, wishing me a good day as I got out of the car.

When I knew she couldn’t see me, I walked the short distance to the emergency department, fearing what I already knew in my heart.  I was told “Your baby died, I’m sorry. But you’re young, so it was probably for the best.”

What had I done to deserve this? What had I done wrong? Was it because I didn’t eat enough? Was it because I was too underweight from the all day “morning sickness”? Was it because I was destined to be a single, teenage mother, stuck in her home town?

I knew babies could die, but I never ever thought that mine would be one of them.

That was the beginning of my journey.

That day, was the day I lost my innocence, my naivety, my childhood.

I continued on, appearing situation normal, when on the inside, I was feeling a constant knot in my stomach, one that stopped me from eating, from functioning, almost from breathing.

It took me a month of pushing the sadness down, ignoring it, pretending it wasn’t there, to have an emotional breakdown in the classroom of one of my teachers. In the first of many conversations we had together following my loss, she revealed to me that she too had suffered her first miscarriage, just weeks before I had. I remember crying for hours at home, knowing that finally, I wasn’t alone. Someone understood. Even though some days, her advice wasn’t what I wanted to hear, just knowing that someone got it, despite the ten year age gap. Without her, I highly doubt I’d be where I am today. I named my baby after her, Lily Natalie Anne, as a tribute to the person who pulled me up, who told me it was ok to be sad, who was a source of inspiration for me.

Over the months that followed, I put my journey “out there” online. I met people, spent my days emailing back and forth to people half a world away. Two of these women have a very special place in my heart now. Without them, as with my teacher, I don’t know where I would be if it weren’t for their emails arriving in the dead of night, when they were beginning their day, and I was dying  for mine to end so that I could fall into a dreamless sleep for even a few hours.

No one ever tells you about the sleep deprivation following a loss.

I found someone who, just like me, had fallen pregnant to her boyfriend in her final year of school, and had also suffered a miscarriage, losing twins in 2007. We spent months emailing each other, discovering that our lives bore a striking resemblance- we’re both at a point in our lives where we are about to get married, to settle down properly, are allowing ourselves to dream the possibility of another baby.

It was through internet friendships that I began to slowly find parents who lived in the same city as me. It was though these friendships formed that I was able to turn my miscarriage into something positive rather than something that would hold me back. It took me so very long to recover from losing Lily, that I thought I’d never be able to smile again. It was a long road, one that I do not feel like I am entirely finished on. I now am very active in our local Pregnancy and Infant Loss community, donating memory boxes and care packages to our major maternity hospital, I assist with running an online private support group on Facebook, I work with a local photographer who creates beautiful memories on the sea shore of a local beach. These simple acts of kindness and empathy bring me a sense of peace, knowing that someone who receives a package from our volunteer group at Luminous Light will not feel as alone as I did when I lost Lily.

I think that losing a pregnancy as a teenager is such a lonely experience, purely because it is not a topic that is widely acknowledged. Society in general spends so much time focusing on the “negativity” associated with teenage pregnancy and parenthood. The stereotype of the silly, giggly, teenage girl, who believes that a baby won’t impact their life is one that is over-emphasized. No one focuses on the knowledge that pregnancy happens, no matter how careful we are. People don’t like to realize that even though we are in our teenage years, that some of us will make the best of the situation, try our hardest and to give our children the best life possible. I may have been young, but the impact of my daughter’s brief life has been one that has changed me, it has aged me, it has made me a better person. I think the reason I have been able to look at my situation in a positive light is time. I didn’t get over it in a short space of time, but it did get easier. I learned who I was underneath the shadow of my loss.

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