We Need to Talk About the M-Word

Miscarriage.

About one in four pregnancies will end this way and yet for something that is sadly so common, most people still know so very little about it.

People who have experienced the hurt of a miscarriage feel uncomfortable and embarrassed even, to talk about it.

I am not sure if this is because we are told it is taboo to announce a pregnancy before the magic 12-weeks, so feel any loss before then will not be accepted as real.

Is a pregnancy in its first 3-months less wanted, less planned for, less loved?

Does a woman who loses her baby at 11-weeks have less right to feel as devastated than one who miscarried at 13-weeks?

Miscarriage is utter crap at whatever stage it happens.

It does not feel like a heavy period – physically or emotionally.

It is not something that you can get over with a cup of hot tea and a hug.  Although that is still nice, obviously.

It is devastating.

It is confusing.

And, it is terrifying.

It was not supposed to happen to you.

It was not supposed to happen to me.

I did not feel very pregnant.  My boobs were a little bit sore, but I did not feel overly tired or sick.  All of which were very prominent symptoms in my first pregnancy.

I started to have dreams about blood.  Lots and lots of blood filling my womb.

I dreamt about Dexter (the TV show) and more blood.

I dreamt I miscarried.

I began googling things like: ‘no pregnancy symptoms’ and ‘could I have miscarried without noticing?’

When I was 10-weeks along, I went for an early pregnancy scan at my local hospital.  I had experienced a tiny amount of pink spotting, only when I wiped, but I needed some reassurance that everything was ok in there.

I lay back in the chair, my modesty covered only by a white paper towel, and tried to relax while the doctor performed a transvaginal scan.

She was silent throughout the examination.

It didn’t matter, I already knew.

Tears started to fall down my cheeks as she removed the scanning instrument and told me that she could not detect a heartbeat, and the fetus was measuring at only 6-weeks.

I felt dizzy. Sick. Scared. Vulnerable.

I couldn’t catch my breath properly.

The hospital policy was to wait a week and then scan again to confirm.  In this time, it was possible that I might miscarry naturally.

So I was sent home to wait.

I waited for my baby to leave my body.

Willed it to, even.

Every single twinge, every cramp and every ache, made me wonder if this was it and if it was about to start.

I wondered how much it would hurt.

Wondered if I would pass the sac, and if it would be recognisable.

I sat on the sofa and waited for my body to finish what it started.

It did not.

A week later, I returned to the hospital for another scan and it was confirmed that the pregnancy had failed.

Early embryonic demise is the term they used.

I opted to have an ERPC (Evacuation of Remaining Products of Conception) the following day.

I was 11-weeks pregnant, exactly one week before the magic 12-week scan, and lying flat on an operating table with an oxygen mask covering my face, waiting for my baby to be removed.

I was trembling so much that I could not speak.  I just cried.  Big fat silent tears rolling down my face and onto the clean white sheets beneath me.

‘Are you ok?’ the surgeon asked.

I nodded.

But, I was far from feeling ok.

Everything had changed.

I knew I would never be the same again.

I didn’t know if I would ever be able to move past it.

But, I did.

Kind of.

Not really.

A little bit.

I was doing a good job of trying.  I could get my head around these things happening and it being nature’s way – all the things people felt they needed to tell me; but I found the physical process of miscarriage totally traumatising.

If I had any suffered any other kind of loss, or had any other kind of operation, people might have sent cards, flowers, or popped round with chicken soup.

But, most people find it difficult to know what to say or do in this situation, and there is not much advice out there for friends and family.

Some may try to cheer you up, hoping to make you feel better this way.

Others will try and reassure you with positive stories of women they know who had several miscarriages before finally going on to have a healthy pregnancy.

Some people will just say nothing at all.  Scared of making you cry.

So, I focused on other things.

I started the Couch to 5k plan.  I started to eat a bit better.  I cut back on the wine.

I was moving on in my own way, but some days it would still catch me totally unaware.

I would be standing at the kitchen sink thinking about whether to make chicken fajitas or spaghetti bolognaise for dinner, when suddenly without warning I would just burst into floods of tears.

The sadness would just creep up on me from nowhere and there was nothing I could do to stop it.  I just had to stand there and continue thinking about chicken fajitas, or spaghetti bolognaise, until the moment passed.

It felt so unfair.

It was not supposed to happen to me.

It was certainly not supposed to happen to me again.

I fell pregnant again just 3-months later.

This pregnancy came with extreme tiredness, breast tenderness and sickness.

I definitely felt differently about it.  I did not have the empty feeling, the dreams about blood, or the obsessive googling of symptoms, or lack thereof.

I went in for a reassurance scan at 7-weeks and a heartbeat was detected.

I felt pregnant.  I knew this one was going to stick.

I spent a sober Christmas driving the Greek God(zilla) from party to party and throwing up in various car parks and driveways.  Yet, every wave of nausea felt like a positive reminder of what was taking place in my body.

At 9-weeks, I went back in for a dating scan.

The sonographer was silent throughout.

She did not have to say a thing, I could see in her face that it had happened again.

I took a deep breath and placed my right arm over my eyes as she continued to probe about, desperately trying to find some good news to tell me.

‘It’s not looking good for this pregnancy’ she quietly concluded.

No cramping, no bleeding, no loss of pregnancy symptoms.  But, early embryonic demise was the diagnosis I was still sent home with.

Again.

Another child that would never be.  Another sibling, grandchild, nephew, niece or cousin.

Another age gap getting bigger.

Another mother getting older.

Another decision to make.

Another conversation to have.

Another general anaesthetic.

The devastation could not be relieved this time with a bit of exercise.  The consequences felt so much greater, the risks were so much higher, and the loss so much harder.

Miscarriage.

It might make you feel awkward or uncomfortable but it shouldn’t.

Sadly, one in four pregnancies will end this way.

If it happens to someone you know, tell her how sorry you are.  Send a text message, an email, or a card to let them know you are thinking of them.

They need to know you get it.

Resist asking if her age was a factor. Maybe. Maybe not. Women in their twenties miscarry too.

Don’t try to be overly positive. Maybe things will work out next time but for now, they have just lost a baby and not just failed a driving test.

This is also not the time to ask when they will try again.

If they already have a child, they do not need reminding how lucky they are.

Nor try to find a silver lining… ‘At least it happened early on, can you imagine how hard it would be if it happened later… ’Of course! I cannot imagine the devastation of losing a baby after feeling a kick, growing a bump, decorating a nursery, or holding him in your arms. There is nothing more tragic.

Yet, everyone’s experience of miscarriage is individual and relative to them, so we must try not to minimise it.

I found the most comforting messages to be ones that said ‘This is shit. I am sorry it has happened to you. Is there anything you need?’

Miscarriage.

It is mostly random and unexplained.

I was ‘lucky’ in that I discovered thyroid antibodies were behind my miscarriages.  Unlucky in that these antibodies give me a 60% chance of miscarrying again.

But many couples will never know why.

They will enter each subsequent pregnancy with trepidation, prepared for the worst to happen.  Every twinge will feel a cause for concern.  There will be no excited Facebook statuses or Twitter annoucements. They will never skip in to a magic 12-week scan again.

Miscarriage is frightening.

It is out of your control and once it has started, there is nothing you can do to stop it.

But, you will get through it.

And I promise you this – you are not alone.

*****

Are you or someone you know going through this?  I found the information on the Miscarriage Association website really helpful: www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk

*****

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