When you are trying to get pregnant, each month is a waiting game as to whether you will get a visit from your now frenemy; your period or not…
When we decided to start trying for a baby shortly before my 28th birthday we weren’t sure how well it would go. My fertility had always had a big question mark over it, not only because of my battle with Anorexia (Blog post can be found here) but also because I had suffered with Endometriosis for many years, have had several laparoscopy surgeries with diathermy to remove parts and had been through a six month induced menopause to try to stop it from getting worse as well as medication to manage it. All the treatment I had had seemed to work for a while but had never stopped it from rearing its ugly head over and over again. Thanks to the Endometriosis, my periods were never very regular so I decided to start using a fertility tracking app on my phone to record them. It also came in handy when we did start trying as I could roughly see when it thought I would have been ovulating and also notified me when would be a good time to do a pregnancy test.
I’d been off the pill for a few months and we had only been trying for a few weeks when it flashed up that it was a good day to do a pregnancy test, I hadn’t even realised I was late as this wasn’t something new. I thought what the hell, and did a test on the 28th June and was beyond shocked when it had a little ‘+’, I knew I needed to do another test or two to confirm but I instantly felt different. It’s amazing the power that little sign on a stick has on you. Suddenly your head and heart is filled with new hopes and dreams. I did another test later that day, a digital one, I think I needed to see the word and there it was ‘pregnant’ staring back at me. My heart jumped, I was so happy. How amazing that the little cells inside me were starting to grow into a tiny person.
I had my first midwife appointment at around eight weeks for bloods etc. to be taken and I was so nervous at the appointment, I think I was half expecting them to tell me that I wasn’t pregnant at all, that the tests had been wrong but they didn’t. My hCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) pregnancy hormone levels were where they should be and all that was left to do was to wait a few more weeks for our twelve week scan.
As we got closer to the scan my body was in full pregnancy mode, I had morning sickness, my breasts were sore and I could feel my body changing with my stomach slowly beginning to swell.
I was at work a week before our scan was due and when I went to the toilet I noticed I was bleeding a bit, only a little amount but it was enough for a rush of dread to wash over me. I didn’t know what to do, I was in floods of tears and panicking. I phoned my cousin and explained, she told me to go down to the hospital and she would meet me there. I phoned J straight after and told him what was happening, he left work and headed to the hospital to meet us. I had completely forgotten I was at work in that moment and that only one manager knew I was pregnant (I had only told them as I knew I would need time off for appointments and it would be easier for someone to know the truth of my whereabouts in the beginning) I came down into the office shaking, they were all in a meeting, I had no choice but to knock on the door. I was invited in, the whole room saw me and looked in terror as they saw the mess I was. The words just blurted out of my mouth, I couldn’t stop them; ‘I think I’m losing my baby, I have to go to hospital’. Through the shock of what they had heard were offers of calling an ambulance or driving me but I couldn’t face sitting in the car with someone for 30 minutes so I made myself look as together as I could and told them I’d drive myself. I don’t remember the drive to the hospital or even parking the car, I just remember seeing my cousin and J in the waiting room and the reassuring words from them, that it was going to be okay.
It wasn’t long until I was seen, they could only do an examination I’d have to wait until the next day for a scan but in their eyes all was well as my cervix was closed. The bleed had nothing to do with the baby. I went home and tried to relax and get excited that we were going to get to see our little one a week earlier than planned.
We went to the hospital the next day to their early pregnancy assessment unit and waited to be seen, when the doctor called us we were sent for the scan. I laid on the bed and they started scanning, our eyes focused on the screen the whole time; that’s when we saw the little amniotic sac but there was nothing inside it. It was empty. I was immediately asked how far along I should be, I struggled to answer but told them eleven weeks through the burning tears running down my cheeks. We were then told to go back to see the doctor at the unit once they had the report to talk to us. I don’t remember walking back, the next memory I have is being in a cubical on the unit and the doctor saying ‘You’ve had a partial abortion, sorry. You can go and sit back in the waiting room’. The words were delivered so bluntly, as if he was telling us something lighter not the heart-breaking news that I’d had suffered a miscarriage. J immediately refused for us to sit in the waiting room filled with other people given the news we had just received and the inconsolable state I was in. We were allowed to stay in the curtained off cubicle while it was explained to us by the nurse that my body hadn’t released the miscarriage and the amniotic sac on the scan was only showing a size of eight weeks not the eleven I should be. The doctor came back and told us what our options were, we could wait for the miscarriage to fully complete, I could have medical management (medication) or surgical management to complete the miscarriage. J and I spoke and as it appeared I had lost the baby several weeks earlier but my body hadn’t let go, that I would go for the medical management. The doctor left to get the prescription and a few moments later the nurse came back telling us the doctor had told us the wrong information and that we couldn’t do anything yet, we had to wait a week and go to another hospital for a further scan as there had only been one sonographer completing my scan and the policy was that two needed to be present. Apparently the doctor was new and didn’t know this. This just added to our pain, we went home and informed our immediate family and my cousin came over to support us. I couldn’t believe what had happened, the way we had been told or the fact we had to wait a further week to go through it all again.
The following week leading up to our second scan dragged, it felt like forever but was a blur at the same time. The hardest part was knowing the truth but still getting all the same pregnancy symptoms as before, it was so cruel. When the day of the scan arrived I just wanted to curl up in a ball and disappear, we went through the whole scan process again to see and be told the same thing, the only difference this time was that the doctor who told us after was kinder and more gentle when talking to us and explaining what happens next. We were told that she didn’t think that the medical management would work as my body was still showing no signs of releasing the pregnancy and recommended the surgical management. I agreed as I wanted this nightmare to end so I could try and heal and move forward and at that moment I was stuck, I felt frozen and that my body was tormenting me.
I was booked in for surgery for the Saturday of the following weekend but this was cancelled and moved to the Sunday. We arrived at the hospital for 7:30am and I was given a bed on the ward. The ward was for Gynaecology patients and was filled with other women, some of who were visited by small children or even had recently had babies which made my time there harder. It was difficult when the other women tried to talk to me and asked in a friendly way what I was there for, expecting me to be in for a similar reason to them (I had been on this ward for all of my previous laparoscopic surgeries) I couldn’t find the words to tell them the reason and just ended the conversation, I had the curtains shut on my cubical as much as I could to block everything out. It got to 5pm and I was told that my surgery had been cancelled, what I hadn’t been told was that I was on a c-pod list that meant I was at the back of the queue to any other operation. To add to my devastation, I was now also exhausted, starving and angry. I just wanted to go home and it to all be over but I had to stay in over night and have my surgery the next day. After a sleepless night I was taken down to the operating room and a couple of hours later I woke up feeling empty.
In the days that followed at home we had some visits from friends and family, many of them just came over, drank tea and sat silently just being there; others sent messages such as heart emoji’s just so we knew they were thinking of us. There were a few people who’s comments I imagine came from a good place but were the last thing I wanted/needed to hear, these were ‘at least you know you can get pregnant’, ‘this was a practice run’, ‘it wasn’t meant to be’ or ‘never mind, you can try again’. I think that last one was the hardest to hear, it belittled what had happened.
I sat on the sofa staring blankly for the next few days as the realisation fully sank in and my pregnancy symptoms disappeared. I was so angry with my body for deceiving me, I felt cheated. Why couldn’t my body nurture a foetus? Why couldn’t it even miscarry properly? Couldn’t it do anything right? I was so harsh on myself, I felt like it was my fault. Had I done something wrong? I was also angry at how we had been treated especially by the first doctor and I did complain to our local NHS trust about this, I received a letter of apology and hope that no one else going through that heartache has the same experience we did.
As a form of closure I asked for the pathology report from my doctor a few weeks after my surgery to see if I could understand further what had happened. The report stated that within the amniotic sac they found ‘broken down placenta and products of conception’. On face value I still didn’t understand what had happened, so J suggested I call and speak to the doctor who had commented on the lab report to see if they could explain more to me. I managed to get a message to them and they called me back and were happy to go through it with me and were very patient and sympathetic on the phone. They explained that there was nothing I could have done and that the problem was more than likely caused by chromosomal abnormalities at conception. I felt a little better after this conversation and it was the first time I allowed myself off the hook for what had happened.
I wanted some way to remember our baby that wasn’t to be but I had no idea how to do it, my mum said to me one day that she wanted to buy us a rose and it was perfect, we went to our local garden centre and she found a peach coloured one called ‘Sweet Wonder’, even it’s name was right. Every year it blooms around the time we were told the news and in the spring when would have been their due date. I like having something to mark their brief existence in our hopes and dreams.
I had no idea when I would be ready to try again, it was a few months later we did start and on the 14th December I took a test and there again was that little ‘+’. This time when I saw it I wasn’t as excited as before, I was terrified of going through the same thing again. We didn’t tell anyone but my cousin, part of me thought that keeping it more to ourselves would protect the little cells inside me. We eventually decided to tell our immediate family Christmas Day as we were all going to be together. I wrote the words ‘We are having a baby’ on five thank you cards and handed them to my mum, her husband, my dad, sister and her other half face down and told them to turn them over and read them aloud one by one. It was lovely to see there expressions change as they read each word and started to guess what the final one in my dads hand was going to be. It helped us to get a little more excited too.
After what had happened before I was told to have a scan at eight weeks to make sure at an early stage everything was okay. Waiting for that day was so slow, the date was only four weeks after we found out as it turned out I was already a month along then. I was in floods of tears in the hospital car park before we went in, I was so scared of seeing an empty sac again. In the ultrasound room I was shaking with silent tears running down my cheeks and then there it was, this little bean and a tiny flickering heartbeat. Both J and I felt like we had won the lottery, we were both crying happy tears. J was so happy he gave both the sonographers some money to get a coffee, he just wanted to thank them in that moment for giving us the best news.
With any pregnancy there is always worry and fear attached to it but when it is a pregnancy after a loss, this is amplified ten fold. I was scared of every scan we went to, on edge every time I hadn’t felt our baby move for a little while or getting pains. I visited the hospital a few times out of worry and always felt a bit silly when I left and all was okay but I was never made to feel that way. It’s so much better to be safe and the midwives always told me they would rather I went to see them and that it was never a waste of time.
Our beautiful rainbow arrived in August 2017 and is perfect in every way. Having Thomas doesn’t fully fill the void our loss left in our hearts but he fills our arms with joy.
I hope that my writing this post helps to start conversations around pregnancy and baby loss, I have found it hard to speak about it myself. I have chosen to put our story on my blog as part of Baby Loss Awareness Week and will be joining in with the wave of light on 15th October at 7pm by lighting a candle to remember our baby that wasn’t to be and all of the little ones who couldn’t stay.
If you need help and are unsure of who to talk to there are wonderful charities and organisations who are trained to listen. I have listed a few below.
The Miscarriage Association
As always thank you so much for taking the time to read my story.