Why do I sew?
I have decided to be brave and put on my big girl pants and share the real reason I sew – in short, to mend a broken heart.
The long version is this…my wonderful partner and I struggled to conceive for around five years, endured invasive and painful procedures and suffered three cruel miscarriages.
There are even some close friends of mine that don’t even know this and I know that I am guilty of projecting a very lalala, everything’s fine persona, so why would they?
This picture is always bitter sweet for me – we look so happy – it was April 2011 and I was eight weeks pregnant for the first time (after a couple of years of trying) and we had just told our families. Not long after that, things took a turn for the worse and our whole life was turned upside down. We had an anxious week of not knowing for sure whether the baby would be ok, but I think in my heart, I knew things weren’t right, and this was confirmed by a second scan. I cried for weeks and went through an endless cycle of feelings of guilt, failure, sadness, loneliness and disbelief.
Just before Christmas, later that year, around the time my due date would have been, I discovered I was pregnant again. It was a surprise and I was very nervous and worried that something would go wrong again. I was only a few weeks pregnant in this picture and had no idea (although the fact that my dress wouldn’t do up properly should have given it away!)
Sadly, we lost that baby only seven weeks in to the pregnancy and life as we knew it was put on hold again. I decided to get some counselling this time around as, even a few months on, I just couldn’t shake the sadness. These sessions were amazing and really helped me to get some perspective and deal with the emotions that I was feeling.
As I had had to have a surgical procedure to “evacuate the retained products of conception” (a despised term by anyone who has had the misfortune to have one), I was then left in agony for months and had to have further surgery to investigate the cause and it turned out I had been left with scarring on my womb. I then needed another operation to remove the scarring.
Following that surgery, I had then been back at work for less than two weeks, when my amazing mum had a brain haemorrhage that nearly took her life. We had a horrendous few months of her being in intensive care, in and out of a coma and going through full rehabilitation. I’m so fortunate that she not only survived but continued to get better and, while she will never be fully independent and still has short term memory issues, she is still with us and is doing really well, four years on.
Mum’s illness really shelved the baby plan for quite some time as we just didn’t have the capacity to even think about it but once things were back on a more even keel, we went back to the doctors for more investigations and some further fertility treatment.
We had two rounds of IUI (intrauterine insemination), which were painful, humiliating and stressful (I had to inject myself with hormones in the middle of a car park in Cardiff once, as timings are so precise). Neither round worked and then a couple of months later I fell pregnant naturally for the third time.
My initial reaction to the positive pregnancy test was ‘oh shit’. Not really the reaction you should have, but I just didn’t know if I would be able to cope with the emotional roller coaster again. I tried to convince myself that we could do this, that maybe this time would be different and the third time would be the charm, but my world came crashing down again a few weeks later. I even tried to hide the news from my family this time, as I didn’t want to add any more stress on their already heaped plate. That didn’t work though as they just wanted to know why I had gone into hiding.
Alex and I were both devastated and soon came to the realisation that we no longer wanted to put ourselves through this torture, as it was tearing us apart individually and as a couple.
While I struggle with the fact that I have been pregnant three times but I am not a mama and never will be, I am simply not prepared to endure any more pain and heartache for a theoretical baby that may never materialise. So instead, I chose to channel my energy into getting back to being happy. I had spent so long focused on an end goal that kept moving further out of reach, that I wasn’t really living my life at all.
We had a heartbreaking but therapeutic evening on a local beach where we said goodbye to our babies with a note attached to a chinese lantern. It felt good to have a sort of closure and an element of drawing a line under the awful feelings of pain and guilt.
So, three years ago, I took up sewing with a renewed purpose, started my blog, got a sewing Instagram account and tried to find the joy in life again. I decided to convert what would have been the nursery into my sewing room. This was a hard step but an important one as I felt I needed to move forward. This is the first picture I posted on Instagram – my beautiful girl helping me sew.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have moments and days where I get really sad about what happened and what might have been, but now these times are fewer and easier to come back from and at least I know that I am doing my best to be happy. There will always be things that catch me off guard – a pregnancy announcement, a picture of a newborn, walking past a parent/child parking space, wondering who I will pass my handmade wardrobe down to etc, but, I had to make a decision to embrace a different future than the one I had pictured – not a worse future, just a different one. And I think that is really a key point here. Just because you aren’t doing 1) what you envisioned and 2) what society expects of you, doesn’t mean that you can’t make an amazing life for yourself. You always have a choice about how you feel about things and it does take a massive mind shift. I also choose to surround myself with positive, upbeat souls who enhance my life, and I find that the sewing community is so warm and welcoming that it has played a big part in my recovery.
I know there are so many women who have been through the same pain and heartache and my heart goes out to each and every one of you. If you would like to talk, please get in touch, as I know how lonely it can feel.
One surprisingly sad thing is that over the last five years, I have lost a lot of friends. People who either couldn’t deal with what was happening to us and kept themselves away, or who ignored the situation or were so insensitive that I withdrew. I do know though, that the friendships that have remained, and those that I have gained along the way, are really strong and are with people I can really count on.
Instagram may be a place where everything seems perfect and it gets a lot of criticism for that. I know that I have been guilty of only sharing a certain window into my life, but what it has done for me, is connect me to a wonderfully supportive and creative community and a strong network of friends.
I haven’t publicly shared our story up until now, as it has just felt too raw, and it clearly still is, as I admit that I have wept while writing this post. But I know, I can dust myself off much quicker nowadays. I do feel though that it is important to share our story for anyone else who is going through a similar situation and needs not to feel so alone in it. You hear a lot of stories where women suffered miscarriages, but went on to eventually have healthy babies and got their happy ending that way. I wanted to show that sometimes you have to write your own, different happy ending.
Much love, Sarah x