M is for… Miscarriage? Menopause? Miscarriage in the menopause?
Harriet shares her story of pregnancy and 3 losses during the menopause.
Miscarriage in the menopause... wholly devastated that I couldn’t have another [baby], and accepting the finality of this due to my hormonal stage.
I have had four unexpected pregnancies in the perimenopause, the first of which was successful. When you’ve been told by doctors that your hormone levels are so low you aren’t ever going to conceive, our surprise years-in-the-making first successful pregnancy was an absolute bonus miracle. We were so happy, and content to have even one child.
That’s what I happily thought for nearly 5 years, when I unexpectedly at the age of 42 discovered I was pregnant again. My first miscarriage started in a layby in Cornwall at the start of a 3 hour journey on my own with my 4 year old son in the car, sitting on towels and trying to act as if everything was ‘fine’ all the way home. There was just so much blood. It was horrendous. I kind of knew something wasn’t right all along, I felt it.
Flailing in the system not knowing who to call or where to go for medical assistance as I thought the huge amount of blood must be normal. It ended up incomplete; I ended up in A&E. I have a physical job but somehow worked throughout it all without telling anyone, with an absolute focus on ‘I must get on with things’ and with hindsight an absolute disregard for self care.
To my disbelief I got pregnant immediately after, I didn’t feel worried as this one really felt right, this one was my second chance at our second child. The child I was previously content not to have, but my perceptions had changed radically by now and I just knew my body could do this. I really felt this was going to be ok, I even had a due date from the midwife.
I went for an early scan and devastatingly the sac was empty, I had a blighted ovum and a missed miscarriage. I didn’t even know that could happen. My memory still sees that dark empty circle on the scan even years later. My body really felt that I was pregnant still, that I could do this! How could it deceive me so much?
I had the local anaesthetic procedure for this one; I just wanted it out. I did all this on my own, leaving my husband to look after our son – the overriding practicality again. It was painful, and this time I was forced to actually take a week off, but as soon as I could, I just ‘got on with it’ again, not mentioning a word to anyone at work.
I had been pregnant for six months, with two pregnancies, with nothing to show for it. My little boy had just started school and there seemed to be pregnant people all around me everywhere I looked. I had no idea of the emotional toll they both had taken on me, which I had managed to totally ignore up to this point.
After 6 months of crying a lot, I sought counselling from a local charity whose poster had been on the back of the hospital door. This has been invaluable. It helped me understand and begin to unknot the knitting ball of confused feelings in my head – my altered perception of being so grateful for having one child, to being wholly devastated that I couldn’t have another, and accepting the finality of this due to my hormonal stage.
I worked through it. Realising that I had pushed my friends away but was happy to talk about it with total strangers, I acted weird but have now reached out to them. Talking to a professional has made me realise that there is a balance between being kind to yourself alongside practicality.
My menopausal hormones were not helping any of this and my periods are still all over the place and I started acupuncture to help this aspect. I knew in my 40s it would be risky but how I felt during the second one was just cruelty from my body. I didn’t look into why as I just assumed I only had the chromosomally rubbish eggs left, and was sure I would never have another chance.
Fast forward 2 years and that familiar feeling of sore boobs then a positive test, aged 44. I was very anxious this time, and it was a rollercoaster of medical appointments. This one eventually had a heartbeat! The sonographer actually said, “congratulations!” In my mind I’d named ‘her’ and could imagine life with another baby, but it was only alive for one week. I don’t seem to be able to maintain life past 7 weeks.
They couldn’t call it a miscarriage for another two weeks because another embryo had been seen, but neither twin was viable – the irony of this happening during Baby Loss Awareness Week was not lost on me.
I knew the drill now, I had learnt that I needed support so took my husband to every single appointment. I had started bleeding a little bit but again just wanted it over so had the misoprostal tablets. It was awful. I was so dizzy as I was anaemic, and the hospital didn’t want to help over the weekend, and I felt poorly for weeks. This time I told some people at work, and I took time out to feel better and rest. Being self employed and miscarrying sucks.
A few months on, and it is like it has never happened. A bad dream. Life has moved on, but I keep seeing in my mind that scan with the heartbeat.
I feel like I need something to remember this one by. There will be no others for definite now. I can’t go through this again. My hormones are all over the place.
I have sought counselling already, to re-establish the peace I made for being grateful for my one amazing little boy. I can only be thankful too that I was in blissful miscarriage ignorance during that pregnancy so had the opportunity to enjoy it.
I was listening to a podcast the other day and they were talking about how when they had a baby after miscarriage it brought back feelings of the one(s) they had lost previously, but I know that those feeling will never be mine to experience.
I found great comfort during the last miscarriage reading the stories on this page, so I do hope mine will resonate with someone and provide some help at their time of need.