One in six pregnancies (where the woman knows she is pregnant) end is a miscarriage. Many more are estimated to happen without the woman even realising*. It’s just something that is very common. This doesn’t stop it from being heartbreaking, though. I also know 100% of lives will end in death, again that doesn’t mean it’s not a devastating thing to face.
As someone who has always wanted to have a child, I imagined that having a miscarriage would be too much for me to handle, I thought it would destroy me. I was both right and wrong. It did destroy me, for a while (and then for longer in secret because I just wanted to bury it). But I also got through it. It happened and I survived, I am making it out the other side.
This is not easy to write. I’ve promised myself I’ll try not to cry as I write this, so let’s see how that goes. As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, I had a miscarriage. This is a sort of cathartic exercise to finally settle the feelings left over from that experience. It is the story of what happened and how it made me feel. I have not told very many people about this, in fact, I’ve kept it to the bare minimum. Not because I haven’t wanted to talk about it, but because I don’t know how to bring it up and I don’t like to bring negativity to others. Up until now, this experience has just felt like a big, heavy ball of negative energy on me (that I’ve shoved in the back of the wardrobe…but I know it’ still there). I need to release that energy and so that’s the purpose of this post.
It all started in December 2014, when I found out the great news…I was pregnant! My husband and I were thrilled, we’d been ‘not preventing pregnancy’ for a few months, just seeing what happened. Naturally, we…well I…took a number of home tests, from different brands, to make sure. They all said the same thing, I was pregnant. We had found out very very early on, so we were planning on keeping it a secret for a while. Circumstances dictated otherwise and we ended up telling our parents.
It was only about a month later, the day before we were supposed to be heading home after visiting my parents for a belated Christmas when I noticed some blood as I went to the toilet. I was very alarmed but tried to calm myself down, it was probably nothing. It wasn’t that much blood and if it was anything really bad it would be worse. I immediately told my husband what I’d seen (when I came out of the toilet). I’d heard of ‘spotting’ as something that could happen during early pregnancy. A quick web search confirmed this. The internet is both a blessing and a curse. For every source that reassured us it was nothing to worry about, there was another that told us it was likely exactly what we were fearing.
We got home and a day later there were still spots of blood when I went to the toilet. I was still trying to quiet the dread in the back of my mind, but it was getting louder. We decided to phone the doctors and let them know what was happening. The next day and things weren’t any worse, but they also weren’t any better, so we phoned again and this time we made sure we got an appointment. It was at the Early Pregnancy Unit (EPU) and they were going to check me out.
At the first appointment, they did an internal ultrasound, which is not as uncomfortable as it sounds when it is done by a professional. Back to that whole internet being a blessing and a curse thing. One of the posts I’d read that suggested I was right to be scared said that lady had known she was having a miscarriage when she got the ultrasound and the nurse performing it had been silent the whole time, with a slightly concerned look on her face. Apparently, in this lady’s previous, successful pregnancy, the ultrasound nurse had been very chatty and friendly, so the silence told her something was wrong. As the nurse performed my ultrasound she was silent. All I could think about was that I was right but that I shouldn’t cry until the nurse confirmed it, medical diagnosis is always better from professionals than from internet forums. So I tried to hold back the tears as I felt them welling up behind my eyes, just queueing up, ready to be released as soon as the nurse spoke. She did speak. She told us that we would have to come back in a week for another ultrasound to be sure, but it looked like I was having a missed miscarriage. I didn’t really take in much else of what she said, I just tried to hold back the tears (a lot of them had queued up at this stage) as I tried to wrestle my underpants and tights back on (why did I wear tights!) The nurse handed me a leaflet and we went back to the car. My husband and I both cried in the car, then we drove home to wait a week.
During that week not a lot changed, I was still seeing spots of blood when I went to the toilet but nothing more or less than before I had the appointment. I had started to go numb emotionally. I guess it was my way of preparing myself. We kept telling ourselves that we still hadn’t had it completely confirmed, but I think we both knew the truth. That week I basically just sat on the sofa and watched The Mentalist. I would wake up, come downstairs, turn on the TV, occasionally eat and then go back to bed. I’d shower occasionally as well, but I was mostly numb, trying not to feel anything at all.
After a week we had our follow-up appointment at the EPU. Remember how I said the internal ultrasound wasn’t as uncomfortable as it sounds if it’s done by a professional? Well, this time I had the trainee, she had not got her technique down quite yet. It wasn’t as quiet this time because the ultrasound nurse was talking to the trainee, not that this made things any easier. They confirmed that it was what we had feared, I was having a missed miscarriage. I remembered that the leaflet had said something about there being different kinds of miscarriage, but that didn’t mean much to me at the time. The nurses told us they were sorry as the tears crashed down my face and blurred my vision. My husband and I were then sat down in a room where a counsellor came to talk to us. She handed us another leaflet then said something about it being very common and not my fault. I vaguely remember her comforting me with something along the lines of, ‘people have babies in war zones, so babies are actually much tougher than you would think and if they can survive that then it is certainly not something you’ve done, it just wasn’t supposed to be this time.’ I wasn’t really listening, not because I didn’t want to, I desperately wanted to hear her words, for them to comfort me and for this to be okay, but I just couldn’t – I was shutting down.
We went home and waited. We had to tell our parents and I had to explain to my boss why I hadn’t been at work for a week and why I wouldn’t be back for another week. I cried some more and then just sat blank faced watching The Mentalist.
This part will be a bit graphic, my apologies but I feel like I need to tell this story in its entirety. After a few days of waiting, the spotting turned to what was essentially a VERY heavy period. Then the pain started to increase as I was going to bed. Miscarriages hurt. A lot. I managed to find a good routine of painkillers (Ibuprofen, paracetamol, and co-codamol) combined with heat cushions and deep breathing that meant the pain was manageable. A miscarriage is basically a mini-birth. You have contractions and they are not fun. When I had the pain under control (still hurt but in a manageable way) we just lay down in bed. My husband fell asleep as there wasn’t really anything else he could do and it was very late, probably actually quite early in the morning by now. I lay there awake, I wasn’t going to be able to sleep with the pain. I found (as I’m assuming is the case with birth contractions) that if I pushed when I felt the pain it didn’t hurt as much. So that is what I did. I helped my body push out what was the start of my baby. That sounds very traumatic, but in the quiet and the darkness, after all the crying and the sadness, it was actually kind of peaceful. It was the best I’d felt (in retrospect that might have also been due to the painkillers). It felt like a kind of closure. This did not end the way I wanted it to but at least I had gotten to be a part of it in a weird way.
Although I had some sort of closure, I still wasn’t over it. This was one of my biggest fears turned real, it was always unlikely I’d be able to just rub my hands and move on. Personally, one of the hang-ups I’ve had that stopped me moving on was that fact it was a missed miscarriage. That means that the baby stopped developing, but my body didn’t catch-on for almost 4 weeks. It means that I now know that when I told my parents I was pregnant I technically wasn’t. What I was is walking around with, essentially, a dead baby inside of me. Just that thought; that I was walking around beaming and happily thinking about my baby and what crib I would buy, but there was nothing other than a bunch of dead cells inside me. I know it’s not my fault, but I also kind of didn’t. It’s like how if friends and family tell you you’re pretty a part of you thinks ‘you have to say that’. I realise now that they were of course right, it was not my fault, but for a long time (as in up until about a month ago) part of me thought it was my fault. My body, my responsibility, my fault. I felt that I should have at least somehow known something was wrong sooner. How was my body able to just go about its business without realising what had happened. FOR WEEKS! What kind of dumb, useless body did I have? I get now that is not how it works, and that my body was just doing what it could, that it simply wasn’t meant to be for reasons outside of my control.
Another thing I’d like to address is the term baby. You’ll notice I’ve referred to ‘my baby’ and similar a lot in this post. I know some people would argue it wasn’t technically a baby yet, it wasn’t even really a proper foetus – more a collection of cells, an embryo. That’s the technical side, the medical interpretation. Sadly for me in this instance, I am not a robot. As soon as I saw that positive pregnancy test it was a baby. I was going to buy a crib for it, and clothes (although not too many because it would probably be spoilt by family). I was wondering what kind of pram to get, is it more economical to get a travel system? We were going to listen to music together and I would have fun seeing how it reacted to Fall Out Boy versus Slipknot, maybe it would be a metalhead baby. My husband and I had started to refer to the baby as ‘Cashew’ because it was a tiny little cashew size and that sounded cute, certainly preferable to ‘it’. So although Cashew was technically just an embryo, to me at least that was my little cashew, my baby.
I’ve come to terms with what happened now, and if it happens again then that would suck but I’ll deal with it and move on. It still makes me sad, but I’m getting strong. Good news is I kept my promise to myself by not crying, and this was a long post so that is pretty impressive if I do say so myself!
*NHS Choices website: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/miscarriage/pages/introduction.aspx