Deciding to talk
It’s Baby Loss Awareness Day and for a while I’ve been agonising over whether to actually talk about my personal experiences openly. Today, thousands of people have been brave enough to broach the subject of miscarriage and having read many accounts in this past couple of years in the wake of my own, I’ve realised I used them as a big emotional crutch and hope that perhaps I could do that for even one person going through the same.
My first miscarriage
Yep, there have actually been two. I’d experienced a very early miscarriage 5 years ago in October 2013, deemed a ‘chemical pregnancy’ when I read up on it but not treat with much understanding at the hospital when I presented with period-like bleeding in A&E. The Dr simply told me I might never have been pregnant in the first place and sent me on my way. This pregnancy ended at 5 weeks following numerous positive pregnancy tests just a couple of weeks before. If we hadn’t been actively trying, I may never have ever known and just thought I was having a late period. I cried at home for a few days but we didn’t tell anyone until my next miscarriage that this one had ever happened.
My second miscarriage
We’d had our beautiful son in July 2014 so when we came to try for another baby, we didn’t have any concerns. I finished work on 23rd December, excited to tell my husband we were expecting the baby that would complete our family. We perhaps got complacent and told family that we were expecting only 6 weeks in, mainly as I was suffering with morning sickness and knew people would notice me acting strangely trying to avoid all the Christmas goodies.
In the end I was signed off work for a month with morning sickness and over time I noticed the sickness ease but just thought it was one of those things and was grateful. The day before I was due back I noticed faint traces of blood when I went to the toilet. I consulted Dr Google who told me spotting was normal but that night we went to A&E as the bleeding began to increase. I didn’t know what to expect after my last experience of miscarriage in A&E, but this time every single member of staff were wonderful. They took bloods and sent me to speak to a Dr in the Early Pregnancy department (EPAC) who booked me a scan for a couple of days later. The gist was that hopefully it was spotting but if I was miscarrying then there was nothing they could do. At what should have been 10 weeks pregnant I returned to work, game face on but silently losing my baby.
Two days after my return to work I went for an early scan. Although I knew what the outcome would be nothing could have prepared me for actually going through it. Sitting in the waiting room with smiling, excited women looking forward to their little black and white pictures and us waiting to receive confirmation our baby had died is honestly one of the most harrowing things I’ve ever experienced, especially knowing I was going to have to face them all again on the way out and feeling aware that I didn’t want to frighten anyone with my tears.
When it was our turn the sonographer completed an internal and external ultrasound (just to be absolutely sure); confirmed our baby had died around the five or six week mark, and asked if we wanted to see the screen (we didn’t). When I asked how I had continued to feel all the symptoms or pregnancy I was told it was ‘nature’s cruel trick’ and that my body had continued to grow the sac the baby was meant to be growing in. We went back up to EPAC to speak to a nurse who told us that if I didn’t miscarry naturally they’d have to surgically remove the ‘products of conception’. I don’t really remember much of the appointment, it went by in a blur.
Fortunately, I had the miscarriage a few days later at home. It was much more painful than I expected and I had contraction style pains for the morning before starting to bleed heavily and pass anything that was left . After consulting with the hospital, they suggested I come in as the bleeding was getting worse and they needed to check if I required any surgical intervention. Once again, I was not prepared for any of that process, especially not the volume of blood that I was passing soaking through my clothes, a folded towel and onto the car seat. After having the main clots removed and spending a few hours getting monitored in hospital we were allowed to go home and I was told I had to rest. The bleeding continued for the next week and I asked to work from home so as not to have to go through the physical symptoms in an office full of people. With hindsight, I wish I’d requested to take unpaid leave but I think I wanted to prove to myself I was ok and having already been off for a month I didn’t want to have to awkwardly ask for additional days.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve got a very dark sense of humour and sometimes I use it to help me cope with things I’m not doing too well with. I’m very good at getting on with things as though nothing has happened and hit breaking point once the dust settles. Breaking point came a month or so later. Work was extremely stressful and in the middle of a one-to-one meeting with someone from the same department I had a panic attack. I’d never had one before and for the second time that year I was completely out of control of my own body. My colleague had shared some sad news and I’d got upset and then all of a sudden I couldn’t stop crying, for her and for me. I ended up running to the toilets and hiding in a cubicle for ten minutes trying to catch my breath and feeling as though I’d been winded and been for a marathon run all at the same time. Hearing someone else come in, I ran out of the building followed by the concerned colleague. Sliding down the wall around the side of the office I tried to explain between shallow breaths what was happening. She was saying kind things but they were interspersed with the things you don’t want to hear when you’ve had a miscarriage like reminding me I was lucky enough to have a son and that I could try again. I don’t think anyone knows the right thing to say in situations like these. Is there a right thing to say?
Terrifying. In one word, that’s how I found it. I just couldn’t bear to go through all that again. People who have multiple miscarriages, still births etc and keep trying are so brave. You’re told that you should wait a couple of cycles before you try again and that you’re really fertile when something like this happens so it’s in your best interest to get straight back to it (in not so many words). That was the last thing I wanted to contemplate and if we hadn’t been lucky enough to fall pregnant again quickly I’m not sure I would have had the guts to continue trying.
We’re extremely lucky that we did go on to have another successful pregnancy. At time of writing she’s a chunky little 8 month old. However, I’ll never forget the other two babies that lived in my belly, no matter how briefly.
Helpful info and support
I hope that my story can help someone going through baby loss and I’m happy to field any questions at any time should someone wish to contact me. I’ve also included some sources that will give you more information about miscarriage and there’s also a helpful forum you can go on to discuss your experiences.