I already have a gorgeous little girl and we’d always planned to have two kids, but from the moment we first found out I was pregnant again, I had this little niggle. "What if things went wrong?" There was no reason to worry. I’d had a child before, so I quickly put the worry to the back of my mind.
I started telling a few very close friends, and my family knew from about six weeks. I personally feel that it’s good that a few people know as it’s good to have a support network around you when you’re pregnant. I got to 11 weeks and even told people at my workplace, especially as I had my scan coming up. All the symptoms were there throughout: awful sickness, exhaustion, swollen boobs.
A week before my scan, I started spotting. I was pretty scared. It wasn’t something I’d experienced in my first pregnancy so obviously alarm bells rang, even though this can be something completely normal and happens to lots of women who go on to have healthy pregnancies.
I called the early pregnancy unit and they booked me in a couple of days later. Those days before I was on a massive wave of emotion. Every time I went to the toilet, I panicked if anything was different. I spent most of the weekend in bed thinking that if I rested, it would all stop and everything would be okay.
My husband came with me to the hospital. I found the waiting room one of the most difficult places to be. You see some women visibly upset, obviously their worst fear confirmed. Some apprehensively clenching their partner’s hands, waiting for good or bad news, praying it’s the former. We all know why we’re there. You try not to catch each other’s eye as you wouldn’t know how to respond. It’s so surreal. You wonder whether you’re going to be relieved or devastated. Like a rollercoaster ride, your stomach is churning the whole time.
We were called in and I lay on the bed. I’d prepared myself to hear bad news, and it was. Something had gone wrong, probably fairly early on. I remember that, even though I’d prepared myself, it was still a massive shock. They had to check a few times to be sure (lots of probing) and even then I was told that, as my placenta was a certain size, I needed a scan again a week later to confirm it. It was pretty horrible. Part of me wanted to cling to the very small hope that it was going to be okay, but the rest of me deep down knew it was not. I wanted to know now. I did not want to wait for another week!
I was told I had to go back to the waiting room – back to that same place where others have been told the exact same news and some who had happier news – and a nurse would come and speak to me about my options. I’d not even thought about options. I was only just processing what had happened and was now about to be told all about the physical process I had to go through! As it’s something I'd never experienced before or ever thought about, I had no clue about all these options. It felt so matter-of-fact, cold, and procedural.
The nurse was helpful, telling me that it was very likely a chromosomal issue, the fetus would never have developed properly, and it’s just "one of those things that can happen." That’s what many tend to say to try and make one feel better (I appreciate that for those who haven’t experienced it, it’s hard to know what to say), but something like this is difficult to accept.
I remember trying to be so practical and distance myself from it emotionally – "I won’t be pregnant on holiday, so I can drink" – almost anything to avoid the reality of the situation. When you’re told bad news, it’s amazing how the brain works to process things and all the different emotional stages you go through. You can never anticipate how you’ll react initially when you experience grief or loss.
We discussed my options. One – let it happen naturally. Two – take a tablet at hospital to speed things along. Three – an operation under general anesthetic. Four – an operation under local anesthetic so I would be awake for the whole thing. Err, none of the above, please! When I did think about it later, I knew I didn’t really want to prolong it. I just wanted to get it over with so I decided that, depending on the outcome of the following week’s scan, I’d have an operation. I really didn’t want to but was terrified about the prospect of going through it naturally, not knowing when or how long it would take.
When we got back to the car, I burst into tears. Looking back now, I’m glad I did. I’m not a machine. I needed to allow myself to just go through the motions, no expectations, and no pressure for feeling or not feeling a certain way.
It turned out that I didn’t have to wait another week. It started to happen naturally. I’m not going to lie, it was awful. It happened over four afternoons for a couple of hours and then stopped. The pain was really intense. It got gradually worse over the days. At one point I remember singing really loudly, to try and take my mind off it but, in a weird way, it helped me focus. Sounds silly, but it got me through it.
I was actually visiting my sister and new nephew when the worst of it happened, and I’m actually glad I was. It was strangely cathartic to go through it in a different house but surrounded by my family. Even though I physically experienced it on my own, they were there for me to talk through it if I needed to. Once I knew it was largely over, I was relieved. In the days that followed, I gradually felt better. I was off work a total of two weeks, which really helped, but I think in the end I needed to go back to some sense of normality. (That’s how I felt. Everyone feels differently, no one goes through exactly the same experience.)
When I went back for the scan the following week, they confirmed it was all gone. "It," a weird word really. It was never a baby, it didn’t even get to be a fetus properly, but it still seems cold to say "it."
I think the hardest thing for me was that I did feel very alone, even though my husband, family, and close friends were great supports. When you lose someone you love, like a friend or family member, you share the grief. It’s not easy to do this when you’ve had a miscarriage. It was never brought into the world but it’s still a great loss. I wanted to share how I felt but I wasn't sure who to share it with. I needed a support network but felt like I didn’t know anyone who’d experienced this too. There were a few online stories but I didn’t know of any one specific place to go.
If one in four women have miscarriages, why isn’t it talked about more commonly? It’s so common! There’s a 25 percent chance you will miscarry in the first 12 weeks. When a statistic is this high, why does it still feel like such a taboo subject to talk about? I think there’s a whole stigma about not telling people before you get to 12 weeks, "just in case." I understand why, if this statistic is anything to go by, but that doesn't help you emotionally. 12 weeks is a long time. You go through perhaps the hardest bit in the first 12 weeks! All those awful symptoms, many of which are really difficult to hide. I think, if it feels right, you should be encouraged to let people know, helping to increase the knowledge about miscarriage if things, God forbid, should go wrong.
I found it more difficult, post-miscarriage, speaking to others. It must be difficult for people who haven’t experienced it to know what to say. I found that when I opened up about it, some people would almost recoil and seem uncomfortable. It made me feel awkward and very lonely, especially when I wasn’t with my husband. He'd been a massive support to me through it all and he had to go through how he felt about it too. I suppose in some way, you can’t dwell on it either but you need to work through things in your own way.
I can only imagine it must be even tougher for boyfriends or husbands to share how they feel. The focus is on the woman who’s going through it physically and mentally, but I feel strongly that the man in the situation should be supported too and have someone to speak to. You both experience the loss.
If I’m honest, the thought of getting pregnant again is scary. I know I’m going to worry that much more than I would if I hadn’t gone through a miscarriage. I know it sounds stupid but I felt like it was a waste of time. I’d got to 12 weeks (or so I thought) and will have to go through the same pregnancy symptoms again at some point, but I won’t give up on the things I want. That’s the key really. Don’t stop trying just because life’s thrown you a curveball. We all have a strength in us that is only realized when we go through personal tragedy, whatever that may be. Keep going. I know I will.
It takes a village!
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