Once upon a time, I thought that miscarriages occurred quickly. A hand clutched to the tummy as pain hit. A gush of blood. Hopes and dreams swept away.
Left to pick up the pieces emotionally, thinking of what could – should – have been.
Physically, the miscarriage would be over as quickly as it started.
How wrong was I?
In mid-July my partner and I received the devastating news that our much-wanted, much tried-for second baby had died at about six weeks.
I was oblivious until the scan revealed the truth: my body still believed it was pregnant. I had all the typical early-pregnancy symptoms. It was a missed miscarriage.
As it seemed my body was in no rush to move things along naturally, I ‘opted’ for surgical management with a D&C, or Evacuation of Retained Products of Conception (ERPC) as it is also rather insensitively known in proper medical terms.
So, one Monday morning a few days later Martin drove me to the hospital bright and early. The morning was beautiful: glorious sunshine, and it was early enough for the day to be fresh and still.
The procedure was straightforward: I was taken in to a cubicle, and given the typical attractive standard-issue bum-baring gown and compression stockings to wear. My nurse had a chat with me, answered some questions, carried out observations, and gave me a much-appreciated hug.
The hospital provided a zillion triggers as well as the sadness I was experiencing, so I was grateful for the calming effects of Diazepam.
As I haven’t given birth vaginally and the procedure involves going through the cervix the nurse gave me a small pessary to insert in to my vagina to help soften the cervix, to prevent it being damaged and causing a risk to future pregnancies. That was simple enough, and like inserting a really tiny tampon.
The doctor came to see me to do their standard checks, as did the anaesthetist. They said they were sorry for my loss.
Then it was time to wheel me to theatre. My details were checked yet again (this is good procedure, not an annoyance) and I was taken in to the anaesthetic room. The kind anaesthetists chatted nonsense with me as they prepped the equipment.
An oxygen mask was put on my face, and I had sensors put on my chest, and one clipped to a finger to monitor my heart rate. A cannula was inserted through which the anaesthetic would be put in. The beeps of the heart monitor felt triggering, and I closed my eyes and breathed slowly to help manage my anxiety. I was able to do that only for a moment, because the anaesthetist asked me to open my eyes as he inserted the general anaesthetic so he could check on me as I went out for the count.
I woke up in recovery, all done. I remember seeing a brightly-coloured picture on the ceiling. “Look there’s spacemen!” I said to the nurse caring for me. “But it’s a submarine! Why are there spacemen?” And so on I gabbled (I guess the ‘spacemen’ were divers wearing old-fashioned deep sea diving helmets).
Diazepam and general anaesthesia is good stuff!
From there I was wheeled back to the ward, where I dozed for a while while the worst of the anaesthetic wore off. When I came to the lovely nurse offered me a cup of tea and a sandwich – after hours of fasting before the procedure they were BEST cup of tea and sandwich ever!
My blood is Rhesus negative, so I needed an Anti-D injection to prevent antibodies forming – they could attack a future baby. The syringes come ready-made; I have to wonder why manufacturers make these and the steroid injections I had before Hugo was born so bloody big?
Soon enough it was time to go home. Still feeling shaky, my nurse held my arm while I shuffled out to the waiting room while Martin fetched the car.
Once home, I started to sob. All the emotion of the day, of the past few days came out.
I felt groggy, and with little appetite.
My overwhelming emotion was sadness, and sorrow.
I’m home, emotionally and physically exhausted. The procedure went as planned, and I was discharged late afternoon. All the staff caring for me were so lovely. I’m really out of it, and very very sad and bereft. Not to mention angry at how fucking unfair life can be. Hugo’s little brother or sister, our second chance, has gone and my heart has broken all over again. Thank you all so much for all your very kind messages here, on FB, on Twitter, and in my blog. They mean so much. I’ve been v low and sometimes I feel like I don’t deserve them and they can make me cry, but not in a bad way. I might not get around to replying to everyone, but please know how grateful Martin and I for all the love and support we’ve received. So many of the messages are from women who have similar experiences, and multiple times too. There is too much sorrow during months that should be abundant with expectant joy. We need to talk about this more, the pain and heartbreak and how effing unfair life can be for so many of us. For now I’ll be resting and crying and grieving and looking at the pictures in magazines. #miscourage #HugosLegacy #MatExp #lifecloseup #selfcare #movingforward #grief #miscarriage #miscarriageawareness #miscarriagesurvivor #hellpsyndromesurvivor #lifecaptured
The next couple of days were spent in bed resting, nursing an anaesthetic hangover. I was a little sore, but it was manageable.
Having been warned about the possibility of bleeding, I put an old towel under the bed sheet to protect the mattress. There was no need: no blood arrived.
Phew, I thought. Over the coming days I began to feel better again physically, and returned to my usual routine. It’s all over, I believed.
So this morning I washed my hair, put on my Hugo star necklace and got dressed (in my @selfishmother #mothertee of course). I’m now so knackered again I’ve returned to bed. Flashing my semi colon butterfly infinity tattoo to remind myself of keeping moving forward. Thanks so much for your love and best wishes everyone ❤️❤️❤️ #miscourage #HugosLegacy #MatExp #miscarriage #miscarriageawareness #movingforward #selfcare #lifecloseup #love #friendship #hellpsyndromesurvivor #miscarriagesurvivor #nothingisordinary #viewfromabove #nofilter
Two weeks later, I woke in the early hours in terrible, gut-grabbing pain. A trip to the loo revealed lots of blood. Paracetamol seemed to take forever to relieve the pain. I thought it might be a period that had arrived earlier than expected. As I’d been warned the first period after a miscarriage could be heavier than usual I wasn’t unduly concerned at first.
Over the next couple of days the pain worsened (it hurt much worse than any period pain, and was felt all across my pelvis not just at the base of my tummy, which is the usual spot for my period pain), and the blood kept flowing, heavily. You’re supposed not to use tampons to prevent infection, and I filled up sanitary pads with worrying regularity. To top it off, I started to feel rotten everywhere – like flu was trying to get me too.
I called the early pregnancy unit, who asked me to take a pregnancy test, which I begrudgingly did. It was taken begrudgingly because taking a pregnancy test should be a time of joyful expectation, not crossing everything with the hope it will be negative.
Frustratingly, the test showed I was still pregnant. I couldn’t believe it! I was booked in for another scan a couple of days later.
An afternoon spent at the hospital having more tests and scans. Complications related to the miscarriage. I never like to be ‘normal’ you see, that’s boring. I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice to say I’m grateful for wine and chocolate. And the NHS and kind staff. Keep on keeping on…❤️ #matexp #miscourage #movingforward #viewfromabove #miscarriagesurvivor
The scan involved the regular tummy scan, as well as a prolonged internal. Well, probably it wasn’t that long but it felt like ages. I was grateful for my strong glutes and quads because I had to lie in the bridge position (knees up, bum raised) for a while to help the sonographer get a good angle.
Afterwards I was sent in to the now all-too-familiar quiet room, which I know is never good news. “The doctor will need to speak to you,” said the kind sonographer, “I think there are still retained products of conception.” Oh joy!
The wonderful midwife came to talk to me; my uterus was ‘bulky’, with a lining several times thicker than it should be. When you become pregnant, your uterus lining prepares to grow the placenta which will nourish the baby – that lining had been missed during the ERPC and had just started to come out.
Essentially I was having mild contractions, which was why it hurt so bloody much.
Bloods had been taken and while they came back clear, the presence of so much ‘retained conception product’ and my flu symptoms meant an infection could have been brewing, so I was given antibiotics.
The doctor, I was told, was reluctant to perform another procedure because of the risk of damaging my uterus and therefore the risk to future pregnancies. I was advised that while it’s frustrating now, it is better in the long run.
No one could say how much the longer the bleeding would last for – it’s kind of how long is a piece of string. If it seemed my body wasn’t naturally evacuating the tissue, another procedure might be needed anyway.
By this time it was already a month since I had discovered my baby had died, yet the miscarriage still was far from over.
I was frustrated the doctor didn’t deign to talk to me directly.The procedure is done ‘blind’, and I was confused about why the procedure couldn’t be done under ultrasound guidance so they can see what they are doing and ensure all tissue is removed, to prevent such additional stress and distress?
An appointment was booked to another scan in ten days’ time.
Those 10 days were unpleasant, physically and emotionally. Physically I was in a lot of pain and discomfort. A bloated tummy, and wearing thick sanitary towels during a heatwave is never going to be comfortable.
Emotionally, my body still believed it was pregnant. My body still carried pregnancy hormones, yet I was grieving for the baby that was not going to be.
To compound that, I was still going through EMDR therapy which is incredibly challenging at the best of times.
Nature can be a wonderful beautiful thing, but it can also be a terrible tease.
The next scan thankfully revealed the lining had thinned a lot. The end was in sight!
I was advised that the prolonged physical and emotional agony is ‘normal’ for a missed miscarriage. The bleeding could take a further couple of weeks to subside, and a period should then arrive.
The period was likely to be heavier and last longer than usual – something else to look forward to! And it certainly has been (a week and still going strong!).
But it is over, physically, six weeks later.
Emotionally, it will never be ‘over’ as such because I shall always grieve for what could have been.
Ultimately, while it is a sad and sorry tale, have lived to tell it.
And that is why I am sharing my story. To show how the experience was awful emotionally and unpleasant physically, but I survived. I should now be about 19 weeks’ pregnant, and looking forward to the 20 week scan. Would our baby be a boy or a girl? I would be proudly showing a small bump. My life would probably also be ruled by hospital appointments because of what happened while I was pregnant with Hugo. I would be thinking that it is only a few short weeks until I got to the point when I was pregnant with Hugo when I nearly died, and our lives changed irrevocably. In February, which should have been this baby’s due date, just a couple of days away from Hugo’s third birthday, we will reflect on our lost babies and what should have been.
I wanted to show how compassionate the care I received was, but areas that could be improved – as always communication. My main gripe is that I wish the doctor could have taken the time to talk to me rather than communicate the decision to not repeat the procedure through the midwife. That’s no disrespect to the midwife, but I would have appreciated a conversation about the risks and benefits rather than a fait accompli.
I’m a little obsessed with making sure my babies are not forgotten. My Hugo hand print star is worn with pride every single day. Now it has a companion in memory of his little brother or sister in the form of a crescent moon filled with real forget-me-nots…kind of perfect considering those flowers are another obsession! Beautiful ❤️
Onwards, as always, and upwards.
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