Not many people will hear ‘miscarriage’ and not wince in some way. Hearing the word miscarriage provokes a range of reactions from awkwardness of not knowing what to say, to a sickening thud in the bottom of your stomach, to devastation.
This post is about my miscarriages, a post I was going to write earlier this year but kept putting it off because I didn’t feel it was worth writing about. The first time it happened I was five weeks pregnant and I didn’t feel that I had anything to say other than vent about how angry I was that it happened and how I had a plan, and now I had to start over. My plan did start over, and we were very happy for 12 weeks, until I had another miscarriage.
I still feel angry that it happened, but this time I had a whole list of issues to deal with that just weren’t applicable to my first miscarriage (or ‘chemical pregnancy’, so clinical sounding, no less heartbreaking). Pain, fear, and upsettingly being reminded of your loss with silly things like having to call your home insurer to see if you can claim for your mattress which is ruined from the pool of blood you woke up in, or having to cancel your Babycentre email updates on how your now absent baby would have been growing each week.
We lost our baby at 12 weeks, unfortunately on our five year wedding anniversary and on the day we were booked in for the first scan. Suffice to say our day did not go as planned. We had already told our close friends and family, not playing by the ‘rule’ of keeping it to ourselves until 12 weeks as we were just so excited and wanted our loved ones to be part of our happiness. I’m glad we told so many people, because the love and support we’ve had over the last two weeks has been vital and much-appreciated.
For those curious as to what happens during a miscarriage (or at least, one variation of what can happen) I am going to recap the day, partly for my own benefit as I’ve found that talking about what happened helps me a lot, and because some of you out there might sadly encounter it one day and maybe reading about it will make it a little less scary. I sincerely hope you don’t ever ever have to face it though, I genuinely have never been in a more upsetting and frightening situation and it is just so cruel and unfair.
I write from the heart, and at times I write with humour because that’s how I deal with some things. The day was quite graphic so if you are going to read ahead, be warned that although I’ll try not to go over the top, I’m not going to sugar-coat it. It’s horrific, but its real, and it happened.
As I mentioned earlier, I woke in a pool of blood just after midnight on the day we were booked for the dating scan, and (after taking a photo, it is me after all and I just can’t help but grab a quick picture) quickly hobbled to the the toilet to contain the flow of blood, clots, and possibly even baby. I’d been reading up on miscarriage and it seemed like most happened on the toilet, and that way I wouldn’t be redecorating the house at the same time. I’d been spotting and cramping on and off for a few days but because I was due for my scan the hospital had told me to just hang in there and wait, rather than go for an early scan. “An early extra scan won’t change the outcome” a kind sounding woman gently explained to me on the phone. I understood, and I’d already started preparing myself for sad news on the Friday.
After calling 111 (not 999 as I assumed that because this was a miscarriage it was a very common thing, therefore surely wasn’t an emergency. I was corrected by the paramedics when they arrived that it absolutely WAS an emergency and should definitely have called 999. Oops.) I was told an ambulance was on its way and I should lie on the floor on my left side, which I did, for the next 45 minutes while I rang around my parents in the middle of the night trying to get someone to come and look after Sophie. A special thank you to my mum who made my bathroom look less like a crime scene.
The next hour and a half involved me making jokes with the paramedics, telling them every time I felt a blood clot pass (like, every few minutes, and they could clearly see anyway) and having my good old mega-deep voice back from the gas and air, same as when I was in labour with Sophie. I was essentially in labour now, and was right back to deep breaths through contractions and wondering if it would ever stop. The pain got worse during the journey to the hospital, and as they were getting ready to wheel me from the ambulance to A&E I had a contraction that didn’t die away like the others, instead it got worse, and seemed to be two of them run together. The voices of the paramedics I had just been joking with faded away. I was aware that Damien had already gotten out of the ambulance and I was scared that I’d never see him again. I screamed into my gas and air tube, and everything went black. I think that’s the closest I’ve ever been to passing out before, I can only imagine that’s what it’s like. But eventually the contraction faded, and I squeezed Damien’s hand tight when I realised it was already squeezing mine.
From that moment of terror I then had another (eventual) giggle as when we got into A&E I told them that my gas and air wasn’t working and they just patted my hand and comforted me, “Don’t worry we’ll get you something stronger soon”. No, seriously, it’s not working, I’m sucking on the tube and I can’t even breathe. “Oh…yeah, she’s right, it’s actually empty”, followed by me gasping for air. “Told you”. Luckily I had a nice new bottle waiting for me when I was wheeled into the right place.
We were relieved to be in the care of the doctors and nurses. They knew (mostly) exactly what to say, and after having gone through this type of situation many times before I can imagine they’ve got a ‘one size fits all’ approach to explaining what’s happening, so it was up to us to push for more information when what they offered just wasn’t enough. From asking how the different medications work to asking to see the baby when it was out, we were curious as well as devastated and knowing as much as we could was a way of us coping and accepting.
We had already accepted the fact that I was miscarrying. From the moment I realised I was lying in blood on my bed I knew that was it. So when the doctor who first examined me explained tentatively that “Unfortunately, the neck of the womb is open” instead of “Unfortunately you are having a miscarriage”, I panicked and assumed it was more than a miscarriage. “Oh god, is she telling me I’m going to die? Does that mean my womb is going to fall out? Do I need surgery?”. I think I might have asked one of these bizarre questions out loud based on her reaction, but no, she just means that I’m miscarrying. Something along the lines of “Oh thank god, I KNEW that” may have crossed my face, and I worry that I might have seemed less than bothered because I was clearly very relieved, but of course that’s compared to the fact I thought she’d told me I was done for.
I was given tablets to bring on labour, and if I thought I was in pain with my earlier contractions, boy was I in for a shock once the tablets kicked in. I wasn’t due a second dose of morphine for another 30 minutes when it kicked off so I basically screamed non stop for all of those minutes. I was on a 4-bedded ward and during the few seconds of reduced pain between contractions I would feel awful because I knew I was waking the other women up. There was nothing I could do, and the second another contraction kicked in it was forgotten in a heartbeat, until I opened my eyes during a lull and saw one of the women stood over me. I panicked thinking she was about to have a go at me (who could blame her, I reckon the whole hospital could hear me), but next thing I knew she took my hand so I could squeeze it and gently rubbed my belly, talking me through it softly until a nurse arrived with the next dose of morphine. That was one of the few times I broke down and wept (the first was for the fate of the NHS, once my first dose of morphine kicked in and I was just lying there, dazed) and I was so grateful for her kindness.
I was moved to my own room and given the second dose of morphine. An hour and a half of calm, relief, and attempting to sleep. Oh, and typing out a text to send to everyone who knew I was pregnant, just to get ahead of anyone who might wish me luck at the scan that day. I had a quick video chat with my dad who was looking after Sophie, but Sophie didn’t want to know as she was more interested in what was on CBeebies. This was his first time alone with her and we needn’t have worried as Sophie was fine with grandad appearing in her room in the morning when she was expecting to see us, and even told him where everything was in the house as he was a bit lost. Yay Sophie! She missed an opportunity to ask for biscuits though, she can be pretty convincing.
Right on time, an hour and a half after the morphine, I spiraled into agony again. They told me I would feel the urge to push. I never did. I worried that maybe I wasn’t concentrating hard enough and just didn’t notice, so I tried pushing a bit and quickly realised that was a bad idea and incredibly painful. This went on for a while, and when my next dose of morphine didn’t help (oh by the way, I was told they don’t have gas and air on the ward. What’s that all about? Wheel me to the maternity ward, damnit, it HURTS) and I was still only passing blood clots, they prepared to take me to surgery. This would have involved general anaesthetic and some sort of suction device. Not ideal, but you gotta do what you gotta do. I still didn’t get any urges to push, but I was gently gently pushing during each contraction, as much as I could bear. Just as I was at the peak of a contraction, the worst one I’d felt so far, so bad that I actually wondered if I was going to die and they just weren’t telling me, I felt something a bit like a blood clot but a bit different, and I slumped back on the bed like the pain had been completely switched off. The nurse wasn’t expecting that to have happened, and looked a bit surprised when she had a look, then told me that she was just calling for help but not to worry. She then told the 3 others who ran in not to worry but gesticulated that she needed more hands to help with the ‘clean up’.
We asked if we could see the baby, then asked the nurse if asking to see the baby was a bit morbid. She told me that most people ask, which surprised me. Presumably it gives people a sense of closure, as that’s what it meant for me. The baby came out in an unbroken sac, still in its waters. When a baby is born in its sac people say it’s lucky, so I have decided that that applies to all babies, and that the luck will find its way to me in some way.
Everything after this moment seemed insignificant. Nothing really mattered. I was bleeding heavily, numb from events, still dazed from morphine. A nurse brought a stack of papers in and asked a lot of questions. She apologised and didn’t rush me, which was good because my initial answer to a lot of it was “I don’t know”. Did we want the baby cremated or buried? Did we want to note a name down for the baby? Did we want anything written in the memorial book at the hospital? A service? Spiritual support? They have a lot of options which I can imagine for some people is very helpful. We chose cremation (I don’t know why, I think we both just agreed and that was that) as that’s the only question that didn’t have a yes/no answer, and said no to everything else. I’ll never forget what happened and what we had, but I don’t need or want any more than a memory.
You bleed a lot after a miscarriage. Just like after giving birth, you’re in mesh pants and giant sanitary towels for a while. It doesn’t last long, though. It didn’t hurt much afterwards either. What did surprise me was how little energy I had. I felt worse than I did after I had Sophie, but maybe that was because I had a newborn who chained me to the bed and sofa and I was entirely happy to let everyone make me food, put the washing on, etc, but this time everything felt back to normal straight away, and I was confused as to why I couldn’t walk up the stairs without collapsing on the bed. Luckily, Damien’s mum stayed with us for a while to help me and I’m so grateful as I don’t think I would have coped very well on my own with Sophie. It’s been two weeks and I’m still struggling to do what I normally would. I’m on iron tablets for anaemia, as I was close to needing a transfusion from the amount of blood I lost, which is very similar to my experience from having Sophie. I’m not surprised, just from the state of my bedsheets alone. (Don’t worry, they’re in the bin. If ever there’s a time you deserve new sheets, it’s this)
So we’re back to square one. Again. Well, not square one. We have Sophie, and are grateful for her every day. Even with the terrible twos. So we’re at square two, and are just taking each day as it comes. Yes, it’s sad that we would have been sharing our scan photo on facebook, telling all our friends and family who were none the wiser, and most heartbreakingly, excitedly telling Sophie she was going to be a big sister and hearing her tell everyone when she finally understood what we were on about, but that will hopefully happen soon. I’m less angry about my ruined plan now. I feel sad frequently but cry less often. I’m more optimistic, more calm, more accepting of what happened. From the start I’ve been very open about what happened, as talking really helps me and hopefully helps others too.
If you want to ask me anything, please don’t feel afraid to. Miscarriage feels so delicate and intrusive to a lot of people, but I have no problem talking to anyone about it. I won’t be offended. I will possibly get upset, but crying is cathartic. I will be over the moon if my words help someone through a tough time. I will be ok.