How Traveling Helped Me Heal From My Miscarriage

Photographed by Eylul Aslan.
Today is the day a tiny screaming bundle of joy should have been placed on my chest. I should have been staring into my baby’s eyes, but instead I’m staring at the sun set over the waters of the Côte d'Azur with a glass of ice-cold champagne in my hand. Earlier this year I was budgeting for the tiny life growing within me, and now those funds were being spent on flashy hotels and expensive drinks as I desperately seek to run from the grief of my second miscarriage.
Just like my first pregnancy, this one wasn’t meant to be. Instead of cradling new life, my arms are empty. My second baby died before his or her tiny heart even had a chance to beat, and within a week of the positive pregnancy test I was on the kitchen floor howling from the heartache of losing another baby.
The weeks and months that followed saw a multitude of doctor's appointments, blood tests, scans, and tears as I stumbled through a thick fog of grief, unsure of how to keep going and unsure of how I could ever feel normal again. People's unintentionally callous comments pushed me backwards. There were those who told me it would be worse if I was married, and a nurse who told me there was no reason to feel sad as it was unplanned. But slowly I emerged from the heavy, choking fog, into a tiny slither of light. It took many months before I felt any semblance of normality again, which was helped hugely by the kindness of friends who put me up in various cities and countries while I tried to feel like myself again.
A month after the miscarriage I flew to Malaysia for some much-needed TLC from one of my closest friends whose family lives there. We gazed at the Orangutans swinging through the trees in Borneo, and ran shrieking through Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur when the macaques descended the cave wall towards us. We sang karaoke with her dad and performed a duet of Kanye West's “Gold Digger” to his family who spoke only Chinese. We ate all the sugar-laden pineapple tarts. For the first time in a month I felt happy — I laughed and I smiled, and I knew I had to do something similar for my dreaded due date.

Each year on the anniversary that I lost my first baby, I go on vacation somewhere beautiful and close by to the ocean. It helps. It gives me something happy to remember on that date, and the sound of the waves soothes my aching heart.

The first time I miscarried I spent the due date — Christmas Day 2010 — wallowing in self-pity and attempting to smile through the Christmas celebrations with my boyfriend’s family. But these days I'm not one to feel sorry for myself. Each year on the anniversary that I lost my first baby, I go on vacation somewhere beautiful and close by to the ocean. It helps. It gives me something happy to remember on that date, and the sound of the waves soothes my aching heart. I don’t know if it's my way of running away from grief, or if it’s my way of simply coping with it all, but it feels right. And so I messaged my best friend in Australia, in all caps, and demanded “COME TO FRANCE WITH ME.” My best friend, being the most magical and wonderful person to ever grace this earth, instantly said yes and booked a flight.
I planned the trip meticulously and found it gave me something to focus on and look forward to, while I was being tested for medical issues to find causes for my miscarriages. On the days when Instagram ads would target me with baby clothing advertisements, I would open up my vacation spreadsheet and think ahead with a smile, pushing away that awful empty feeling that something in me was missing.
The thing is, when you've lost a baby before you’ve had the chance to meet them, the due date is one of the most terrifying dates. That day is filled with so much hope when you are pregnant that it's difficult to know what to do with that date once there is no baby to birth. I couldn't bring myself to delete the due date reminder from my stringently organized calendar after the miscarriage, and so there it remained, looming over me.
Some couples use the day to remember their lost baby together. Rachel Bale shared her miscarriage heartbreak on her blog, The Department of Wandering, and says, “Losing a baby is a unique kind of grief because you have nothing tangible to mourn. For that reason, it was so important for us to mark the loss and say a proper goodbye.” She also notes how difficult the due date was on her from an emotional standpoint, “When the due date of the baby we lost came around, my heart ripped open and the trauma of the miscarriage flooded right back in. I was an emotional mess all day, thinking of what could have been.”
But for those whose relationships broke down following a loss, or who are single, it's an impossible situation. Do you go about your day as normal, pretending everything is fine? Do you take a sick day and throw yourself a pity party for one in the comfort of your home? Or do you somehow mark the day, either alone or with a close friend or family member? After a lot of thought I chose to mark it with one of my oldest and dearest friends, a friend who has been there continuously through my baby loss journey over the past eight years, and whose love and support has been unwavering.
When I planned this trip over these dates, I had doubts in my mind about whether I was doing the right thing. Ultimately though, you must handle your grief in the right way for you, and you alone. There is no correct way to grieve, and I've learned not to feel guilty for putting myself first in these months post-miscarriage. I’ve therefore decided to focus on my own happiness before I finally get that meant-to-be baby on my chest.
And so my best friend and I have spent my due date doing the things I love most: relaxing by a beautiful pool with the sun beating down onto our skin, sipping cocktails and champagne, and eating an Alps-sized mountain of ice-cream sundaes. I've been unafraid to think about what I went through and everything that the baby could have been. I have been gentle with myself, I have been respectful to my experience, and although I have spent the majority of the day feeling numb, rather than teary, the one time I did feel my emotions erupting, I let them. I locked myself in the bathroom and sobbed, and then lay on the marshmallow bed in the suite with my best friend while she consoled me. But despite the pain of losing another baby, and despite the pain of having empty arms on this day, it’s important for me to be grateful for what I do have and make the most of the moments I have as a childless woman. To do the things I've always wanted to do, as well as remember the babies I loved so much, but never got to meet.

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