One in four women experience a miscarriage, the first thing we are told when it happens is ‘it’s very common’. So common to go through, yet so uncommon to share what it actually entails. So here it is, my raw, open and honest account. I hope it might help prepare the many couples who may unfortunately have to go through this.
Almost a year after giving birth and experiencing a true miracle moment, we had ‘the chat’. There were a few things up in the air at work and so it felt timely to have an open discussion about what the future held for our newly formed family. We were still so engrossed with our little peanut and all the joy he had brought into our lives, that talking about a second child almost felt like we were betraying him.
In some ways we couldn’t bear the thought of dividing our love and attention. We wanted to give Diyan everything he needed, but we also didn’t want to deny him of playing the role of big brother, something we could just tell he would be amazing at.
It had previously taken us two years of trying naturally, followed by a failed fresh IVF cycle before finally conceiving Diyan through a successful frozen IVF cycle. So we were very aware how long it could take to fall pregnant once again.
We decided that mid way through 2019 was the time to proactively start trying to conceive (naturally) with a view to progress onto treatment should nothing happen for 6 months. We felt much more in control of the situation this time round and we sealed the decision with a kiss.
A Christmas Miracle
It was the Christmas holidays, we were over indulging in sweet treats, spending lots of quality time with friends and family and we had confirmed our intention to extend our family. Life seemed good!
I tried to mentally prepare myself for the monthly cycles of pain and potential disappointment. Mother Nature was due just after Christmas Day, so I was already fearing her arrival. Except this time she didn’t arrive in full flow like normal! This was odd… surely it was a blip, I couldn’t be pregnant? It wasn’t 2019 yet, we hadn’t officially started trying?!
I was now 5 days overdue, I popped into the supermarket to buy some tests just in case. I figured I didn’t want to invest too much into what was probably just a delayed period, so I bought the cheapest own brand box.
Two faint positive tests later, we couldn’t quite believe the result. An online due date calendar confirmed that I was 4 weeks pregnant! As I recalled the familiar feeling of nervousness, I couldn’t help but be excited. Whilst it was such early days, this had happened for us without any needles, without medication and without a big bill! I hoped and prayed that this time it would stick.
A Spot of Bother
The fear of this being taken away from me had kicked in not long after. I saw red. Again. Spotting is common in early pregnancy I told myself, it could just be implantation bleeding. The feeling of having been here many times before was overwhelming.
By now I was 7 weeks pregnant, so I was referred by my GP for an early scan at the Royal Free Hospital. As I sat patiently in the waiting area, I hoped for the best, but prepared myself for the worst.
The sonographer showed me the screen, there was indeed a sac, a yolk and best of all a heartbeat!! ‘But we can see a small subchrionic haemorrage, which is causing the spotting. It’s perfectly normal and nothing to be too worried about’, said the nurse to us reassuringly. I wasn’t convinced, and off I went to confide in Google.
So there began another pregnancy full of doubt. The first trimester symptoms came flooding in and I certainly took some reassurance in that.
I was feeling constantly nauseous, everything felt tender and I could feel my waistline noticeably expanding. As I got closer to the 12 week mark I couldn’t help but get excited. With that excitement though, came some guilt. As we were about to announce our second pregnancy, I knew of so many that were still struggling on their journey to parenthood. I wondered how they would take my news and prayed they too would have some good news to share soon.
But at 11 weeks and 4 days I knew something wasn’t right. I could feel my body cramping, my flow getting heavier, my body screaming to me that I needed to seek medical attention.
Reading online forums gave me hope, there were many stories that described spotting in early pregnancy leading to successful deliveries. Although I’d been spotting from the start, I’d seen the heartbeat. Bleeding was common, we definitely still had a good chance. At least that’s what I kept telling myself.
The Beginning of the End
A few days later I rushed to A&E I couldn’t bear the waiting anymore. Even though our 12 week scan was only two days away, I needed either the reassurance that all was OK or the confirmation that it was not.
The early pregnancy unit confirmed what deep down I already knew.
I had miscarried.
My heart sank, because even though I’d been preparing for this for the 3 hours it got taken to be seen, there was a tiny glimmer of hope that I was so tightly clinging on to.
Hubby and I went into a private area and then came the tears. We had already imagined how much more enriched our lives would have been in September 2019. How much this baby would have been loved by us and its older brother. How happy the grandparents would have been to welcome another grandchild into the world. How our family would be complete.
Soon after came the rational thoughts. Perhaps it wasn’t meant to be. Better for it to happen now then further down the line. And as hubby held me tight, I felt my mind wonder into the reality of what happens next. I had miscarried before, but that was only at 6 weeks, I imagined at 12 weeks, there would be much more to it.
A nurse came to us, apologised for the bad news and then gave us three sheets of paper that listed out the options.
- Conservative management – wait for the tissue to pass out of your womb naturally
- Medical intervention – take medication that causes the tissue to pass out of your womb
- Surgical treatment – have the tissue surgically removed
She gave us some time to discuss and also gave us the option to decide at home. I knew getting through to the hospital by phone would be difficult so wanted to decide there and then. With a quick call to my mum, we concluded surgical management would be the quickest and most effective.
The hospital didn’t have a slot available until a weeks time! The nurse suggested it would likely happen naturally by then. Well there weren’t exactly 3 options available to me then were there?
We booked a provisional surgery date nonetheless and with that she sent us home asking to give her a status update in a few days time so she could arrange for the necessary follow up blood tests and scans.
There was nothing she told me to prepare me for what was about to follow.
By chance I plucked up the courage to speak to a friend whom I knew had suffered multiple miscarriages in the past at various stages in her pregnancies. I asked her what I should expect and was shocked to hear the rawness of what she had experienced and how little information either of us were given.
Pouring my heart out and sharing experiences helped me to process and register all the emotions that had built up from hearing the terribly upsetting news. It’s incredible how therapeutic talking can be. Alongside her invaluable advice, in her true considerate and thoughtful style, that very same friend left a care package outside my door and in there were items critical in getting me through the next few days.
The Theory vs The Reality
The hospital info stated that symptoms of miscarriage have been described by some women as similar to very bad menstrual cramps with heavy bleeding and passing clots for 3-4 hours continuously. Their advice is to:
- Take painkillers IF you need them
- Use sanitary towels instead of tampons
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Try to rest at home preferabley with a companion.
Sound advice some might say… but I’d like to meet the women that describe what I would call ‘contractions’ as ‘very bad cramps’, what I would say is ‘uncontrollable blood loss’ as ‘heavy bleeding’, what I would class as a ‘mini labour’ as ‘a bad period’!
And it’s not just them I’d like to challenge. The NHS info advises painkillers ‘if’ needed. Miscarrying at 12 weeks I needed more than off the counter pain relief to get through the worst of it (and having had painful periods my whole life, I have a considerably high pain threshold compared to most).
A sanitary towel would have served zero purpose during the actual miscarriage, it would be like putting a plaster on a gunshot wound. The amount of blood loss was immense, intense and came with no warning. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without the Tena pants given to me by my friend.
Iron tablets are also a must, particularly if like me you don’t have a high iron diet. Your body suffers a huge amount of blood loss and it’s important to replenish the iron lost.
There was also such little information about the amount of physical and emotional pain one would experience and therefore the provisions that would need to be made. For example, taking leave of absence from work for a week, making arrangements for childcare, ensuring someone was on hand to bring you tissues, drinks and hot water bottles on demand!
You are not alone
Whilst the last few days have been pretty physically and emotionally traumatic, I consider myself lucky that I had such good intel from my friend, a caring and supportive husband and all the practical things I needed to hand. They all made the whole ordeal that much more bearable.
For that reason I wanted to share my experience for those that may not have the same information to their disposal. I want to make talking about miscarriage just as common as it is to unfortunately experience it!
Always remember you are not alone. Imagine your three closest female friends. One of you will likely experience a miscarriage. Let’s normalise talking about it.
Here’s to friendship, sisterhood and lots of get betterness coming your way!