Eve, who works as a midwife, talks about her experience of having a missed miscarriage and how she was supported by her family, friends and colleagues.
On my first day back, I took a phone call from a lady in tears who was 6 weeks pregnant, and bleeding. I gave her advice... then promptly burst into tears myself as I put the phone down. It all felt so raw and so close to home.
We lost our first baby through a missed miscarriage in December last year. I’m a midwife myself and therefore knew how common miscarriage is, but I still didn’t really believe it would happen to me, right up until the point that we heard the words ‘I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat’.
At six weeks, I started bleeding heavily, but it only lasted two hours and then completely stopped. I phoned my local Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit (EPAU) and was told it was an implantation bleed and I was too early to be seen anyway (they calculated me to be 5 weeks and 5 days, despite me explaining several times that they were basing this on a 28 day cycle, which I did not have).
The amount of blood loss I’d had didn’t fit with what I knew of an implantation bleed, so we booked a private scan. The scan showed a pregnancy and a small subchorionic haemorrhage (SCH), but no heartbeat. I was told it was probably too early and it might all be fine, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong.
I went back a week later, expecting the worst but was shocked to find our baby had grown and a heartbeat was now present! The SCH they’d seen last time hadn’t grown and EPAU agreed to follow up from then on.
Despite continuing to fear the worst, my husband and I let ourselves get excited. My pregnancy app said our baby was the size of a smartie and we affectionately adopted ‘Smartie’ as a nickname.
When we went for our EPAU scan, we’d convinced ourselves it was going to be fine. As soon as she started the scan, the sonographer’s face changed. She explained gently that our baby hadn’t grown in size since our last scan and the heartbeat was very slow. They said although baby was still alive, these were both signs that the pregnancy wasn’t likely to continue.
I felt like I was moving through some weird kind of fog as I got off the couch and got dressed. Wordlessly, my husband and I stared at each other over our face masks while he helped me put my shoes back on as we both tried to take on board what had just been said. We were re-booked for another scan in two weeks, but I was warned my body could start to miscarry naturally at any time.
Those two weeks were unbearably hard. We were in this impossible in-between phase of not knowing if our baby was alive or dead. I couldn’t bring myself to say anything to my colleagues. I didn’t want to hear their condolences or pity in people’s voices for my baby who might not even be dead yet. So I went to work and did my best to act normal. I’d deliver babies and palpate hugely pregnant tummies, only to run off to the bathroom between each appointment – rubbing myself raw, convinced I’d felt myself starting to bleed. I could have taken the time off, but the idea of sitting at home and staring at the walls for two weeks seemed worse.
I’d come home and cry my eyes out and my husband and I clung to each other. We did our best to support each other, but neither of us knew what to do, or how to be. I felt angry at my body for not just ‘getting on with it’. It felt like I had doubly failed – not only was I having a miscarriage; my body hadn’t got the memo and the result was we were stuck.
While I was still pregnant, we couldn’t really start grieving. It felt wrong to start the process of grieving and moving on when our baby was still inside of me, and maybe even still alive.
It was almost a relief when we were scanned again and told there was no heartbeat. Weeks of uncertainty and not knowing were over and it felt like I could finally properly say goodbye to ‘Smartie’. I opted for a manual vacuum aspiration (MVA) as my body still didn’t show any signs of letting go of the pregnancy naturally and I couldn’t tolerate the thought of being in the ‘in-between’ phase any longer. This was straightforward and I went home from EPAU the same day.
Once it was all over, we told our close friends and family and were lucky to have amazing support. Some people sent a message to let us know they were thinking of us and were sorry for our loss. This helped because acknowledging the loss made our baby feel loved and important, even though they were only with us for such a short time. This in turn validated the sheer devastation we were feeling ourselves.
Friends listened over the phone, wrote us letters, sent flowers, checked in a few months later on mothers’ day, even cooked us a Christmas dinner so we wouldn’t miss out on a Zoom Christmas party! This allowed my husband and I time to process our loss at our own pace, without societal expectations about moving on or being ‘over it’.
Once I told them, my work family rallied round me too, but it was still really hard. I took 8 days off work and in hindsight probably should have taken more. I put myself under a lot of pressure and especially felt that I didn’t want to let my colleagues down by being off sick over the Christmas period.
On my first day back, I took a phone call from a lady in tears who was 6 weeks pregnant, and bleeding. I gave her advice, directed her to the EPAU then promptly burst into tears myself as I put the phone down. It all felt so raw and so close to home.
I was met with unending understanding from the people I worked with. I never felt like I was being treated with ‘kid gloves’, which I appreciated, but at the same time I was able to talk through what happened without having to edit out any of the ‘gory’ details. It was quite cathartic to be able to discuss the process of the MVA itself in a candid way with people who wouldn’t be upset by the graphic nature of what I was saying. This was especially important as at the time I couldn’t see my friends and family in person due to COVID restrictions, so it gave me another source of in-person support alongside my husband. He was my absolute rock throughout the whole process, yet I felt it might have been quite traumatising for him to discuss the procedure in the same ‘clinical’ depths as I could with my colleagues.
I’m happy to say that as I write this we’re now 21 weeks pregnant with our rainbow baby. I don’t think the pain of losing Smartie is less, but rather that I’ve grown around it. I can think about our loss and feel the grief without it being overwhelming, and without it taking away the joy of our new pregnancy.