Erin and Laura’s stories
Erin, Laura and Clare discuss their experiences of coping with early pregnancy after loss. Listen to a recording of the chat and read the transcript here.
So my name’s Erin. I had a miscarriage last year, between seven and eight weeks. We had been trying for two years, we had had a bit of fertility treatment, and sadly that ended in loss. And I was advised to give it a few months take Letrozole and start again after a period, or whatever.
But because of my age, and, I don’t know, how I was feeling at the time. I just was very worried that it was going to take another two years, and that it was going to be the same again, just month after month after month. So I kind of went against the advice and I just said, “We’re going to try again straightaway.”
I would maybe not advise it, because I just didn’t think it would happen again so quickly. I ovulated, pretty much, two weeks after the miscarriage. They had told me in the hospital to check my hCG level. So I did it four weeks afterwards, and there was a faint pink line. At first I was like, “Oh, there are still levels in my system.” So it was actually quite upsetting to see, because I just thought, “Well. It’s not recognising it’s gone yet.” So I said, “I’ll monitor it for the next week.”
The next day I took another one and it was darker pink. And that was really quite confusing. Then the next day it was darker again. I was showing my husband and I was saying, “Look, it’s getting darker.” And he was like, “Well, let’s not get excited.” It was just like almost… I can’t really describe it. Almost disbelief, but not really. I just thought, “I don’t know what my body’s doing.”
So I called the GP and got a blood test. Then the days that followed, it just got darker and darker and darker. ‘One to two weeks,’ ‘two to three weeks.’ I couldn’t feel anything. Neither of us could. Because we were just so excited, cried and hugged each other. It was such a lovely evening, the first time, but this time …one of the mornings, I woke up and there was quite a bit of red blood. I just collapsed. I just started crying. I was spotting then for a while. So when we got back to the UK, I went to the early pregnancy unit.
And that first scan,I was just a mess. It was only five weeks, obviously so it was just a little blob on the screen. And my husband actually, until that point, didn’t believe it.
But I didn’t feel happy at all. I didn’t feel joy. I didn’t feel relief. I just felt absolutely terrified. Then she told me to come back in two weeks. And again, that scan was very similar. It was just crying.
Then, because I had fertility treatment, I had another one at nine weeks. So I was lucky enough I got a lot. But every single time I went in there, just hearing the heartbeat was just… But it just took a long time. I think I cried nearly every day for the first 12 weeks
I think until the 12-week scan, I think that’s when I finally stopped crying every day, You don’t feel happy, you don’t feel like, “Oh, great, this is another go.” It’s just, “I can’t go through that again. It’s everything you want. But then also you’re just like, “I can’t.” It’s very conflicting.
Especially if you’ve taken a long time to conceive, you don’t want to wait anymore. You want to get straight back. Even from the very start, you’ve got these kinds of conflicts.
I don’t think it’s said enough what a brave, courageous thing it is, and the strength that it takes to try to conceive and to be pregnant after a loss.
You have to face the fear of something going wrong again and keep going anyway, and try and get through it.
I was still going through a lot of trauma from what happened that night, and how it all played out. So I think, you know, dealing with that as well.
Obviously a new baby is not a replacement for the one I lost. So it was trying to get my head around that, still grieving but also then still have a new baby to keep myself healthy for and look after. Because you just don’t want to feel like you’re forgetting it. It’s hard.
Yes, a lot to work your head through and around.
Laura, are you alright to tell us a bit more about your experience?
Yes. It’s interesting actually, because my experience, in terms of situation, is quite different to yours, Erin. But so many of the same feelings are exactly the same.
We actually spent a long time, my partner and I, deciding that we probably wouldn’t have kids. Because I have Lupus and Sjogren’s syndrome, both of which can cause complications, there are risks and things like that. Coupled with thinking that maybe I wasn’t well enough to have kids, in terms of pregnancy and looking after them.
Then we made the decision that, actually, we researched it with a lot of support and everything, we could do this. I got pregnant super quickly, and actually went on to have four miscarriages and every time got pregnant super quickly. It’s one of those things that I think you don’t expect it to happen quickly. Because you do sort of think, you know, “It won’t happen the first time.” And every time it happened super quickly.
All of my loses were between five and ten weeks. So they were all before the twelve-week period. But exactly as you say, that feeling of just not being able to allow myself to get excited. I had the exact same thing of that, “I know I should wait before we try again.” But part of you is just like, “But how long do I wait?” you’re just so conscious of time.
I also had, I think my third or fourth loss, I was still getting a positive pregnancy test for about nine weeks after the miscarriage. And that was so hard, having to test because that’s what I’ve been told to do, to test to make sure my hCG levels went down, and then we could try again. To see it coming up for nine weeks, to say I was still pregnant when I wasn’t, was so, so hard.
But it also then made it very difficult in those first few weeks of the fifth pregnancy, which I went on to have my daughter. But just that feeling of, “Don’t get too excited. Don’t get too excited. Probably the same thing will happen” because logically, for me, I found that I was like, “Well, if the previous four didn’t stick, why is the fifth one going to stick?” You know, I didn’t really do anything that different. So, yes, the logic side in your brain goes, “Well, it’s not going to happen. It didn’t happen the previous four times so why would this one happen?”
You almost have to try and rationalise stuff in some way, don’t you, because there’s uncertainty and so little control that your brain is, basically, desperately trying to …
…cling onto anything.
I found that because, obviously, the way the NHS works, and the fact that they won’t investigate until you’ve had three miscarriages, I have my third miscarriage and was almost happy about it in the sense that I was like, “Somebody will listen now.”
I mean, that’s a whole separate conversation, but just to feel like that. It was a strange feeling. And those first few weeks, I mean, we were in lockdown when I was pregnant with my daughter, so the first few weeks I took pregnancy test after pregnancy test. Literally every day and insisted it had to be the ones that tell you that you’re pregnant, you know, the digital ones that say the word pregnant because that was a little bit more believable.
I dread to think what I spent on pregnancy tests.
But also it meant I couldn’t have any early scans. The NHS weren’t doing early scans despite my recurrent miscarriages, because of lockdown. So I paid for private scans, but even then, for the very first few I couldn’t have any more with me. So going into that first scan on my own, knowing that they might tell me I’d had a miscarriage again and I couldn’t have anyone with me, that was hard.
The place where I went, they were so lovely. I was totally upfront with them, with the sonographer, that I’d had four miscarriages before. Partly, I felt like, to prepare them as well, in case they had to say to me, “I’m really sorry, but there’s no heartbeat.”
I think that private sonographers, in some ways, are more experienced at supporting people. They basically are there supporting really terrified women who need that. I think they have a greater awareness.
I found that definitely. I found some of the sonographers I saw under the NHS were much more dismissive, in terms of, “Well, why wouldn’t everything be alright? Of course it’ll be alright.” Whereas I found that the privates sonographers were much more like, “Okay, we understand what’s happened in the past. Let’s see what’s going on, and whatever happens we’ll deal with it.”
I found it quite difficult when people were like, “Well, why wouldn’t it be okay? I’m sure everything’s fine.” Because I sort of felt, like I said, that, “Why would it be okay? It hasn’t been okay the previous four times. Why would it be okay this time?”
Especially if you’ve had investigations, or not, but you’re not really doing anything differently. Then you kind of think, “Well, I’m taking this or I’m doing this, so maybe the outcome will be different.” But…
Yes, I had all the investigations, and nothing came up. The only thing they discovered, that couldn’t be proved but that was being looked at is hyper fertility, basically. In that literally every egg was being fertilised and I was getting pregnant. When actually, in a lot of people, that egg would have been deemed not good enough and you wouldn’t have got pregnant. Whereas my body wasn’t deciphering the difference and was just going, “An egg, let’s make you pregnant.”
What helped you through the first 12 weeks? I know that, you know, it’s that sort of thing where people try and solve it, and make you feel better when actually nothing really can. But I don’t know, maybe if both of you were able to talk a little bit about how you coped, I suppose, might be a better way of putting it?
I’ve been on Facebook groups and things like that since. I don’t know if I coped very well, to be honest.
You know, it’s one day at a time, and also not beating yourself up about a right or wrong way to feel. I think, weirdly, I was kind of lucky because I was obviously still working from home because then I didn’t have to put on a show for people and pretend like everything was fine.
But at the same time though, actually maybe being in the office and maybe distracting myself might have been a better idea. I was alone. My husband’s a teacher, so he was going out to work. So sitting there just Googling everything…
I think one of the things, and I ridiculous to say because we’re all the same, basically, but Googling things…. I mean, the amount of things I was Googling. And stats, I became obsessed with stats. You know, at this stage what’s the stat for losing it? And then at this stage? And then looking at my age. Really diving deep into sites about all that kind of stuff, just driving myself crazy. It’s not something I told my husband or anyone else really, because you just think, “I’m driving myself crazy.”
I think maybe staying away from Google. And just not beating yourself up about it. Literally taking it one day at a time.
Just thinking, “I’m pregnant today, and everything’s okay as far as I know.” And then deal with tomorrow, tomorrow.
And just allowing myself, a bit like what you said Erin, just allowing yourself to be like, “I am pregnant today.” That was massive.
I can remember, I had a thing. I was texting my mum every morning and being like, “Still pregnant. Still pregnant.”
Also, I found that a bit further along, once I hit the 24/25-week mark, I was like, “My baby could survive. If I had to have the baby now, it could survive with some help.” That was a massive milestone to reach.
But I think by the time I was pregnant for the fifth time, what really helped was that I kind of learnt to tell people I was pregnant, if I wanted to. It’s that whole stigma of you have to wait till 12 weeks, because what if something happens? And actually, I found that for the first couple of miscarriages that made it really hard, because I didn’t want to be like, you know, “Why are you off sick? Why are you off work sick?” “Oh, because I had a miscarriage because I was pregnant, but you didn’t know I was pregnant.”
Honestly, by the time of the third/fourth/fifth pregnancies, I felt like, “No, I want to tell the people that I want to be there if I do miscarry again.” Just people that I knew would be there, if I needed them. And if I didn’t need them, fabulous. They’d be there to celebrate with me for the pregnancy. That helped massively.
I think that was it.
By the time I did have my daughter, some of these people had almost been on the journey with me. You know, they’d been there for almost all of it. And it was a really awesome feeling, actually, by the end of it.
But it massively helped me that I didn’t spend those first few weeks thinking, “Oh, if this doesn’t work out I’m going to have to go through this on my own again.” It meant that, yes, I just had a few people that I could talk to every day. And even if they didn’t get it, as such, in that they hadn’t experienced it, there was no judgment on ‘I’ve just taken my fifth pregnancy test of the day, and it’s only 10 am’. That was absolutely fine. And that really helped.
And not feeling guilty about however you feel. If you feel scared, if you’re not looking forward to it… you don’t have to be ecstatically happy.
Also, you know, get the scans. I went for a private one as well, at 10 weeks. If you can afford it, and you want to do it, just do what you need to do, basically.
And don’t feel stupid for, I don’t know, maybe if you do Google these things or you do obsess over stats, don’t feel bad for that, or don’t feel silly. The thing is, you know, yes, there are these milestones, you know, you look for the 12 week, then it’s the 20 week, then it’s 24, like you said. Don’t think about the whole thing; just break it down into small little bits.