Jade shares her experience of miscarriage at 11 weeks, including the physical loss and how her friends and family offered their support.
My ninety-year-old grandad said everything we needed to hear: “I’m sorry. It doesn’t matter that it was early, you’ll have imagined a future and you’ll be really disappointed and sad and that’s ok. It’s natural and ok to feel that way.”
We’d been trying to conceive for two and a half years, so when the pregnancy test was positive we were happy and relieved. I kept telling myself not to get ahead of myself. We’d seen friends struggle with infertility, we knew that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, and we feared that age was increasingly no longer on our side.
While we tried not to look ahead, naturally we did. We were hopeful. But, for whatever reason it wasn’t to be, and I miscarried at 11 weeks (although, cruelly, it would be another few weeks until I no longer felt pregnant). It was always going to be a terrible time, but a couple of things about our experience made it more difficult than it could have been.
Physically, it was traumatic. I wasn’t prepared for what my body went through because no one explained (even when was it was confirmed my pregnancy wasn’t viable) what could happen during a natural miscarriage – the indescribable and yet unforgettable pelvic pressure and pain, the shocking size of the clots (some were the size of oranges), that I could haemorrhage, what the pregnancy tissue would look like, or that the entire process could (and did) take weeks.
At one low point I just sat on the toilet and sobbed as bright red blood seemed to pour out of me. I didn’t know if what I was experiencing was normal. I had heard miscarriages being described as a heavy period but it was nothing like it. This lack of information meant that the miscarriage was one of the scariest moments of my life.
It was also a very low moment. Naturally, we were sad and disappointed and nothing could have changed that, but the location – and state – of our local Early Pregnancy Unit (EPU), which we visited three times (in addition to A&E), made things more heart wrenching than they might have been.
The EPU is located on the fourth floor of the maternity building, just above the maternity ward. When we were there, it looked and felt hopeless. It was so far removed from the bright, cheerful space of ground floor, where we witnessed smiling women holding their scan photos as they made their next appointments. The EPU was in the midst of being relocated from the first floor; it was dark and claustrophobic and the sound of drilling and banging echoed down the corridors. I don’t know why the EPU was moved to the fourth floor, and there might have been good reasons for it, but its new location exacerbated our sense of loss and grief.
The building work will end and the ward will (hopefully) seem less unwelcoming, but after hearing what could be devastating news women and their partners will still have a choice to make: walk down numerous flights of stairs or get in the lift and risk stopping on the maternity ward. A choice they – like us – might not think too much about in the moment. I’ll never forget how I felt as I stood in the lift, with my husband’s hand in one hand and a Miscarriage Association leaflet in the other, and watched as two new parents and their baby joined us as they began their journey home. I told myself not to cry, not to ruin the moment for them. This happened to us twice; the third time we remembered to take the stairs.
We didn’t tell our friends or family I was pregnant, but we did tell them about the miscarriage. It was such a painful process we felt that we didn’t have much choice. It was going to affect us and we needed their support. Their response was overwhelming; there was no “at least it was early” or “it wasn’t meant to be”, and they helped to legitimise the sadness we felt at an early loss. My ninety-year-old grandad said everything we needed to hear: “I’m sorry. It doesn’t matter that it was early, you’ll have imagined a future and you’ll be really disappointed and sad and that’s ok. It’s natural and ok to feel that way.”
A couple of months have passed since the miscarriage and we’re thinking about starting to try again, but our experience (the lack of information and support, and the location and environment of the EPU) means I’m scared of going through it again.