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Laura’s story: finding out about a missed miscarriage at an early, private scan

Laura describes going through a missed miscarriage, with details of the physical loss.

When you feel you can’t cope with any more pain, that you’ve given everything… You will get through it... You will start to gather yourself up, begin to heal and slowly turn your head to the sky, not the ground. 

Our pregnancy was planned, nervously, quietly, hopefully. I waited a full week after a positive test to make sure it really was happening, then said to my partner James over dinner:

‘Soo… you know the whole ‘having a baby’ thing?… I think it’s now… a thing.’

We grinned, hugged, joked about ridiculous names we would each insist on, and didn’t say too much more about it at the time.

I was generally quite resolute to try to not give this too much hope or attention until the infamous 12 week mark. However, that resolve slowly slipped away with each week that passed. By week 9, as I double checked my drastically dropping statistics of miscarriage by week – I started to allow myself to think of names, their face, our first Christmas, and my due date – June 8th. Truthfully, I had never felt so calm, happy and complete as those 9 weeks.

I remember having lunch with my sister shortly afterwards, struggling to eat just about anything due to nausea, and she said: ‘The sickness is a good sign’. I found reassurance in that, even though I’d had no signs of problems to report to date.

James and I were going away for a trip to Scotland that weekend, and on a whim I decided to book a private scan the morning we went. Strangely, I had actually started to worry about an ectopic pregnancy, having spoken to a friend who had one, despite having no symptoms of it myself. I figured a scan would put my mind at rest and we’d enjoy our holiday even more, hopefully with a bonus scan photo of our fellow passenger on the dashboard.

The imaging centre was filled with cherub baby photos with baby pink and blue flower frames. There were teddies behind reception, which played a recording of your baby’s heartbeat when you pressed them. Expectant parents in front of us were buying one for their teen daughter in preparation for the arrival of their baby brother or sister.

Taking it all in, I couldn’t help but feel a rush of excitement, like I was now part of a club I had never thought about before. It felt like everyone in the room was smiling and congratulating each other.

Shortly afterwards, we were ushered into the scan room. There was a big screen in front of us, which they explained they’d bring the image up on for us to see. After a few minutes and what seemed like an eternity of prodding and pushing, I began looking at it impatiently, wondering why she wouldn’t turn it on. My brief glimpses of her expression should have prepared me.

‘It’s not good news,’ she inhaled, then paused.

I blinked at her, expectantly and naively.

‘There’s no heartbeat. I am so sorry.’

I was genuinely stunned.

‘What?’ I croaked, after a few moments.

‘Baby is measuring 8 weeks and two days, but there is no heartbeat. It is in the right place though. I am so, so sorry. Would you still like to see…?’

The thought of immediately seeing the dead baby inside of me appalled me.

‘No’ I squeaked. ‘What… should I do?’

The next few moments were a blur. The scanner told me to call my GP and have another scan to reconfirm – I didn’t really hear much, just kept nodding mutely. I dived out of the room, desperate to get away from all those smiling faces, the receptionists pity, the photos, the flowers, those damn teddies. The sense of shame and failure was overwhelming. I felt I had failed at something everyone else there had succeeded at. My heart felt like it was being mauled to pieces as I wept in James arms in the disabled toilet.

As we walked through the car park, I couldn’t escape the horrific thought that my body had now become a vessel for a tiny corpse.

I’d never heard of a missed miscarriage. I thought it would pan out like on TV, where the lady has ominous pains, or sees blood in the toilet and realises something is wrong. I’d had none of that.

We decided to still go on our trip, as we concluded sitting at home crying wouldn’t do me much good either. It was a long week – I felt very anxious in case I started to miscarry at someone’s Airbnb, with an iron-clad check out time of 10am.

Following confirmation of results of the private scan at the hospital a week later, I opted for ‘expectant management’ i.e. a natural miscarriage at home. I’d read stories on here [the Miscarriage Association website] to prepare myself for what may happen – I found them more comforting and straight talking than the hospital leaflets, which were vague and overly clinical.

It took another two weeks for bleeding to start, along with cramps which woke me up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night. This continued heavily for another week, however I suspected this wasn’t the end as I hadn’t really passed any clots, which I knew needed to happen.

A third scan at the EPU confirmed this – almost everything was still there, and my cervix was fully closed. Another wave of disappointment and feeling I’d failed hit me. At the same time, I felt sorry for my body seemingly at loggerheads between trying to miscarry but also trying to protect the pregnancy. I already felt weak and mentally exhausted, and blood tests showed I was now borderline anaemic. I was told I could no longer safely undertake expectant management, so was booked in for medical management (tablets) the same weekend.

Except, that didn’t quite go to plan either, because the night before my appointment, I started to miscarry naturally in the middle of the night. I won’t mince my words – for me, it wasn’t anything like period pains, like so many of the pamphlets said it would be. It was truly, gut wrenchingly, blindingly excruciating. I thought from reading a few of the stories on here I was mentally prepared for what may come… But I think I may have drawn a particularly short straw on this occasion.

After several blackouts and far too much blood James called an ambulance (4 hour wait), A&E (3 hour wait) and the emergency Gynaecology ward (no doctors on shift). With me contorted on the floor, shaking violently and unable to move, the night ended with James holding his fist deep in my abdomen for hours, as the emergency services had advised, to hold off the bleeding. Four hours later, it eventually ended.

The following morning, I dazedly passed a very large, apple sized lump of tissue which I suspected included the pregnancy sac. I felt both relief it may be over, and trepidation in case there was more to come.

A further scan at the Gynaecology ward the same day showed no visible pregnancy. The doctors at the time seemed a little incredulous I had gone from zero progress to passing all of the tissue since my scan the day before, which may have explained why it felt so extreme and violent at the time over those few hours. So no tablets for me. It appeared my body had stepped in a mere 12 hours before.

Two weeks on with a few more spats of  bleeding and a round of precautionary antibiotics, my body and mind slowly started to feel a little more normal. It continues to be a work in progress.

As an aside, and for what it’s worth, here are my own musings and lessons since. Personally, I found it extremely difficult having to break the news to other people – I couldn’t bear the questions, the platitudes, the pity. I didn’t tell many in the first place, but it’s made me even more wary now if I was ever tempted before that fateful 12 week milestone. However, my advice would be to at least tell trusted people you’re pregnant who you also feel you would need support from if things don’t work out, because by god, I really needed it. And whilst your partner may never be able to literally empathise with what’s happening to you – talk to them, explain it to them. Through all of this, James has been like a lighthouse, gently guiding me back when I was lost and engulfed in a cold, stormy night sea.

And whilst I don’t have Disney-esque, triumphant, happy ending to my story thus far, what I will say is – when you feel you can’t cope with any more pain, that you’ve given everything, that you feel like you’re getting shoved off a cliff, terrified, losing control and that it just won’t end… You will get through it. Though you may come out broken and beat up on the other side, you will start to gather yourself up, begin to heal and slowly turn your head to the sky, not the ground.

That is, in a way, a beautiful aspect of life – it keeps shoving us along, and we have to keep moving with it.