A detailed story of recurrent miscarriage, natural and medical management and the value of counselling.
I am writing this to try to express how I feel, and possibly to share my story with people who have been through something similar. Miscarriage can make you feel so isolated and alone at times.
I am writing this in the middle of the night, unable to sleep, having found out 6 days ago that my worst fear had been confirmed and that I was going through my third miscarriage in the past year.
It all started back in 2012 as I was preparing to get married at the beginning of October. We hadn’t been together all that long but everything clicked into place. We were both in our early thirties thinking that marriage and families was going to pass each of us by; and then we met. We were keen to start a family and I came off the pill just before our wedding. My thought was that if I stopped in September then I would have a few months for the pill to leave my system before we started trying for a baby. We got married, had a wonderful honeymoon and enjoyed the rest of 2012 as blissfully happy newlyweds. January soon came around and we decided to try for a baby… and what do you know, I feel pregnant straight away. We couldn’t believe our luck, we were so excited and happy that we were about to start our family. I didn’t know what to do or what to expect as I’d never been pregnant before so I rang the doctor. The receptionist asked why I wanted an appointment and I told her I had just found out I was pregnant. She asked me if I wanted to keep the baby which shocked me but as I did want to keep the baby I carried on in my excitement. She then informed me that I couldn’t have an appointment until I was 8 weeks pregnant so I’d have to wait unless there was a problem. Another 3 weeks seemed liked such a long time to wait but we remained excited. About a week after the positive pregnancy test I started feeling really under the weather. I felt sick each morning until around lunchtime, I felt so tired that I felt I could just fall asleep on the spot and I noticed my hair was falling out quite a lot. I spent a lot of my spare time looking on various websites that have the pregnancy calendars and reading what was happening each week, all seemed to be normal. Finally I had my booking appointment with the Dr and it felt that things were starting to happen. I had a call from the midwife to book my first appointment with her, and I got my card from the NHS for free prescriptions. It all started feeling real.
I got to nine weeks and had my appointment with the midwife, we went through all the paperwork and I got my purple file, had my blood tests and the excitement was building. This is what it’s like when you’re pregnant. Then suddenly things started to change.
On the Saturday I had a sleep after lunch as I was still feeling tired. When I woke up (around 2pm) I went to the loo and noticed something that looked like blood in my knickers. I have since learnt this is ‘spotting’. I came out of the bathroom and told my husband. We decided to try to ring the Dr but as it was the weekend my surgery was closed so we had to ring the out of hours number. I got through and was told they were experiencing a high volume of calls but a Dr would call me back as soon as possible. A couple of hours passed and the phone rang. It was the same lady ringing to inform me I hadn’t been forgotten about and a Dr would call soon. By now it was 5pm and finally a Dr called. I explained my symptoms and the Dr didn’t seem too concerned. He told me lots of women experience spotting and go on to have a healthy pregnancy but to be on the safe side I should go to the out of hours surgery to be seen by a Doctor. I would be called back by someone who would confirm an appointment time for me. That sounded ok to me. I thought that as he didn’t seem too concerned I had nothing to worry about. I got called back and told the next available appointment was at 9.30pm at Wycombe so my husband and I set off for our appointment slightly nervous but mostly just unsure of what to expect.
I was seen by the Dr who again seemed relatively relaxed about my spotting but decided I should have an early scan to make sure things were ok. To be honest I did feel a bit excited at the chance to see my baby. The Dr called the EPU but it was now 10pm and they had closed so he told me to ring them directly in the morning, explain what was happening, and arrange for a scan.
I woke up early on the Sunday morning as I was keen to speak to the EPU as soon as possible and get my scan booked. After about half an hour of trying I got through to the Unit to be told that I needed to be referred by a GP to get an appointment. I tried explaining that I’d already seen the Dr the night before and that was why I was ringing but they said I would have to go through A&E to get an early scan booked.
So off we went to A&E at 10am on Sunday morning. When we got there it was nice and quiet so I thought we would be seen quickly and would soon be home. After about an hour I was seen by a triage nurse for a quick assessment and told to wait in the waiting area to be seen. So we waited. The longer we waited the more football and rugby injuries and broken bones came in. I could see we were low on the priority list so we continued to wait patiently. By 4pm we were starving, and my husband decided to go and find the triage nurse to see how much longer we would have to wait. Just as he walked out of ear shot I was called through to a cubicle. I think I was in the cubicle for less than 5 minutes and the Dr seemed annoyed to be talking to me but I explained why I was in A&E. He sent me back out into the waiting area and told me to wait. We waited another half an hour and he came back with an appointment for me for Tuesday. At last, we could go home, relax and look forward to Tuesday. I was starting to feel nervous that there could be a problem but I don’t think the reality had dawned on me properly.
Tuesday came around and the nerves had kicked in. I kept telling myself that everything would be ok and the spotting that had been continuing since Saturday wasn’t anything to worry about. My husband had been rummaging around for change so we could purchase a copy of the scan picture but I had this horrible feeling that we wouldn’t be buying anything. We went to the EPU for our scan and as I had never been there before I didn’t realise that we’d been sent round the back away from the main waiting area where the women with healthy pregnancies were waiting for their scans. A nurse came out and called my name so we into the meeting room to see the sonographer. I again explained that I was 9 weeks pregnant but having some spotting and she sent me into the room where the scanning equipment is set up. I lay on the bed with my husband sat on a chair by my side and the Sonographer moved the camera around. The room was silent as we waited to hear the heartbeat. I have no idea how long this took, probably seconds, but the silence went on forever. And I knew. I knew that there was no heartbeat but the silence continued. Finally the Sonographer said ‘I’m sorry, I can’t find a heartbeat’. I burst into tears. I couldn’t help it. We were given some time to take in the news and we asked what next. The Sonographer felt that perhaps the dates were wrong and advised that we come back in a week’s time for another scan because the baby was too small (about the size at 5 weeks), but maybe if the dates were wrong the baby would be bigger in a week. We left the hospital feeling devastated. I knew then that there would be no heartbeat next week. Both my husband and I went home feeling exhausted from the past few days events and sad at the probable loss of our baby, our hopes, and our dreams. At home we lit a candle for our baby and then I called my mum who came over to see us. We didn’t go into work that afternoon but spent the day together trying to come to terms with the news. And then, just as I thought it couldn’t get any worse; it happened.
I woke around 1am on the Wednesday morning and needed the loo. I went to the bathroom and as I sat on the toilet I felt what seemed like all my insides slip out of me and into the toilet pan. I looked down and all I could see was blood. I was terrified. No-one had told me this could happen and I had no idea what to do. I went into the bedroom to sort myself out and get a sanitary towel to catch the bleeding. My husband had woken up so I told him what had happened. He decided that we should go to A&E because it was the middle of the night and we wouldn’t be able to speak to a midwife or Doctor. I wasn’t really in pain, it just felt like normal period pains that are uncomfortable but bearable, but every time I stood up more big clots would come away. When I checked in at the A&E reception desk I asked for some of their sanitary towels as I’d noticed women being given some really think ones when we’d been in A&E on Sunday. I was called into triage quite quickly and saw a nice nurse who seemed sympathetic to what I was going through. I was given a cannula in case it was needed later, and unfortunately I wasn’t thinking straight and had it put in my right arm. It had to go in a vein on the side of my right arm and because I had to change my towel every hour, and I’m right handed, it got in the way every time and really hurt. We then had to sit and wait to be seen. Although it was a Wednesday there was a drunk shouting at people in the waiting room and I spent the whole time trying to avoid eye contact hoping he wouldn’t come near me. I had to sit in the chairs by the toilet as I had to change my towel every hour because I was losing a lot of blood. After 5 hours the triage nurse called me back and explained that she would take some blood and send it off to be tested while I was waiting to be seen by a Dr to speed things up. I joked that I didn’t think I had any blood left to give but she took my blood anyway. It was a slow process and I could see the blood spluttering into the vial as it there was clearly not enough coming out. As I walked back to the seating area I felt really hot and clammy like I was floating out of my body and asked my husband to get some help. As he called for help I passed out, although luckily he and a passing security guard caught me. I was whisked back into the triage room whilst I came to. After about 10 minutes or so, and a glass of water I felt ok and was sent back to the waiting area. At about 6am a Doctor came out and called my name, we went into a side room which was freezing as the window was open and it was only early March. We sat down and the Dr said ‘so what do you think is happening then?’ I couldn’t believe it. I thought, I haven’t been waiting all this time to tell you what going on, you’re the Dr, you look at me properly and tell me what’s going on. I was so tired, frightened, sad, and worried about my husband that all I said was ‘I don’t know’. I’m sure she’d had a busy night but there was no need for her to seem so annoyed to have to deal with me. She made me feel like I was wasting everyone’s time. She ummed and ahhhed for a while about whether to call the Gynae department or to just send me home. Eventually she decided that she would call them to see what they say. They did want to see me so she left us in the freezing cold room to wait for a Dr from Gynae to come and see me. By now it was about 7am but it was worth the wait. The Dr we saw came in and immediately understood the emotional impact of what both myself and my husband were going through. He talked us through what was going on, and what would happen next. He wanted to examine me and make sure everything was coming away as it should. He also very kindly closed the window!! What happened next was relatively undignified and certainly not pleasant but having checked out what was going on the Dr seemed to think that everything was happening naturally and I could go home and be looked after while nature took its course. We finally got home about 8.30am feeling bewildered, shell-shocked, exhausted and so very very sad at losing our baby. The next week went by in a blur and when we went back for our scan we had confirmation that everything had now gone, and we would be able to try again in a month to two months’ time. It was probably just bad luck.
My husband was very keen to try again as soon as possible in case it took a while for me to get pregnant but I wasn’t so sure. I felt that I needed time to grieve for my baby but I was also worried it may take a while so apprehensively I agreed. I fell pregnant immediately again – hurrah. It was now mid May and we’d had a week away on holiday and were about to complete on a nice three bedroom ‘family’ home we were buying. Things were good again and although it brought back feelings of loss for the first baby we were both excited yet again. I felt different this time. I didn’t feel sick and my hair wasn’t falling out. I felt convinced that it would be alright this time as things were so different. Everyone was right; it was bad luck. We knew what we were doing this time so waited for our 8 week booking appointment to come along. I explained to the Dr I was anxious because of the miscarriage and asked if it would be possible to have an earlier scan. The Dr looked at me and in a flat, almost accusing way said ‘what do you want that for?’ We walked out of the appointment surprised that yet again I was being made to feel like I was over-reacting and wasting people’s time. In mid June I reached 10 weeks and had no spotting. We had a week off work as we were moving house so decided that as the Dr wouldn’t arrange an early scan for us, we would organise a scan ourselves and go to a private clinic. We went for our scan that same week, and it was such a different experience to the last scan. It was a much nicer waiting area as we weren’t shoved out the back of beyond like at the hospital. We also weren’t kept waiting for our appointment so were promptly called in for the scan. The Sonographer couldn’t find anything with the first attempt so informed me that she would need to use the internal camera. Immediately I felt pangs of dread creeping in. Oh no! This can’t happen again. I had to go and empty my bladder as I’d been asked to have a full bladder for the scan and when I came back in the room I glanced at my husband. He was looking worried too. He held my hand and this time the monitor was on a screen right in front of us so we could see exactly what the Sonographer could see. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was looking at but there seemed to be a big kidney shaped object on the screen and I thought to myself ‘ it shouldn’t look like that’. Very quickly the Sonographer said those dreaded words ‘I’m very sorry, the baby is too small and I can’t find a heartbeat’. I couldn’t help it but I cried. I cried for the two babies I already loved, but had lost. How could this happen again? There had been no signs! This time the Nurse and Sonographer were brilliant. They left us alone for a while to take in the news. They even contacted the midwife I was supposed to be meeting for the first time that afternoon and explained what had happened. I was booked in for a scan at the hospital EPU the next day. On the way home from the clinic the spotting started. When we got home we called our parents to break the bad news again. They sounded as devastated as we felt.
The next day we went back hospital EPU, to the little waiting room shoved out the back and waited for our scan. It was during that time that I realised we were in a different bit of the unit to all women with healthy pregnancies and I felt glad I didn’t have to sit near those women. At this point I resented them. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t be one of them and why this was happening again.
I had the scan and the Sonographer at the hospital agreed with the Sonographer at the private clinic and although I was 10 weeks pregnant, the baby had stopped growing at around 7 weeks. I was advised that I would need to see the Nurse who would explain what would happen next. More than anything at this time my husband and I felt relieved that we weren’t being treated like over-reacting time wasters and the staff at the EPU made us both feel cared for. We met with the Nurse, Kate, who was lovely. She explained that I had three options to choose from and explained what would be involved in each. She didn’t rush us and sent us off for a coffee so we could think about what to do. She told us to come back when we were ready. I felt confident that I did not want to have surgery but I was worried that if we left things to happen naturally it could take weeks. I was expecting the same thing to happen as with the first miscarriage and was anxious that I might have to continue working whilst waiting for nature to start things, and then be at work when all the blood came. We sat in the hospital coffee shop and came up with some questions we wanted to ask to help decide. I like a list! We went back to see Kate, went through the questions, and I told her that I would like to opt for the medical management option. She didn’t react either way and didn’t try to change my mind or persuade me to choose a different option, but I guess subconsciously I wanted to be told I had made the right choice. I didn’t get that which then led me to worry that I’d made the wrong choice and I started to wonder whether I should change my mind. I decided to stay with the medical management and Kate booked me in to a ward in two days’ time and to have the first tablets the next day. That evening I searched the internet for information about medical management and ERPC. Whilst the NHS website and The Miscarriage Association have leaflets I felt they were too general and I wanted to know more about what would happen specifically to me. I looked at various forums but all I could find was stories of negative experiences of medical management. There were stories of pain, and huge amounts of blood and it frightened me. My husband tried to reassure me that there were lots of women who had good experiences of medical management but because it was so straight forward they hadn’t written about it. That made sense but still I felt that I had made the wrong choice. When we got back to the hospital the next day Kate met us and asked me how I was feeling. I told her I could only find negative stories and felt that I’d made the wrong choice. Again, Kate was very kind and patient and did offer me more time to think things through. I decided to listen to my gut instinct and stick with the medical management, and I’m glad that I did because my experience was a positive one.
I had to wait to see a Dr before I could be administered the first set of drugs but we didn’t have to wait too long. My husband was able to stay with me which was great and we waited in a little waiting room away from everyone. A nurse came to take my blood pressure and once the Dr had completed the paperwork I was given the drugs to take. I then had to wait an hour or so while they took effect. I had my blood pressure checked again and as I felt ok I was free to go home. I was warned that things may happen overnight but not to worry as this is normal. We went home. Nothing happened.
I was booked in for part two the next day, so we went back to the hospital. I had to go to a ward this time, and when we got there I was given a private room with its own bathroom and my husband was able to stay with me the whole day. A nurse came in to explain what was going to happen and I had to have a cannula but I had learnt from my last experience so had it inserted in my left arm this time! That was probably the worst bit of the whole day. The nurse then came back and gave me the pessaries that I had to insert myself. After that we just had to sit and wait for the action. I was advised that if I needed the loo I had to go in a commode and tell a nurse as they had to check it for clots and the remains. Having read the various leaflets I had found, and the forums, I was expecting a lot of pain and nasty side effects from the medication and for lots of blood like my first miscarriage but nothing seemed to be happening. I had to stay on the ward for a couple of hours but then I was free to walk around the hospital. I was brought cups of tea and later in the afternoon I went and found Costa Coffee at the front of the hospital, convinced something would happen if I left the safety of my little room. Nothing! At around 5 pm a different nurse came in and said I was free to go home. It was perfectly normal for nothing to have happened and that it could happen at home. I was booked in for a follow up scan a week later. I felt ok, no side effects but nothing seemed to happen. I didn’t want to go to work as I was still convinced there would be lots of blood so I spent the next few days at home to scared to go anywhere ‘just in case’. I did have bleeding like a period but that was it.
So the days leading to the follow up scan passed and we went back to the EPU for the scan. I was informed that everything had gone and I was so surprised I didn’t believe them. I was convinced it hadn’t worked and that I would need an ERPC after all. It was such a relief that I almost skipped out of the hospital. I felt guilty for feeling happy that everything had gone. That was when I finally allowed the emotional side of a miscarriage take over. I had been so focussed on getting through the medical procedure that although I had some initial sadness I had become numb to that. I was then able to grieve properly for the baby. I found it such a difficult time as actually I found myself coming to terms with the first miscarriage all over again as well as the second one. I felt completely lost and unable to talk to my friends and family about it.
I had made it clear that I needed more time before trying again and that I could not be rushed like last time. My husband completely understood. At the same time we had also heard from close friends that they were expecting their first baby, and that it was due two weeks before our second one should have been born. Whilst I was so happy for them, I was completely devastated. It seemed so unfair. Why weren’t we allowed to have a family too? I felt so overwhelmed with conflicting emotions; sadness, guilt, resentment, confusion, and hope to name just a few.
We decided to go to the support group at the hospital as I was finding it difficult to come to terms with the past 6 months. It runs on the first Tuesday of every month and the next session was approaching. Unfortunately when we got there we found a sign saying it had been cancelled. So we decided to find a counsellor that we could go to for help. This was brilliant. I was able to talk and talk and was never interrupted by someone telling me how I must be feeling, or someone telling me about their mate who’d had a miscarriage but went on to have lots of children. Both my husband and I were able to talk openly and honestly and were given the reassurance that the way we were both feeling was perfectly normal. The sessions helped me to stop beating myself up for what had happened and to start to accept that I was not to blame for what had happened.
After only a couple of sessions we both started feeling much more positive about the future. We had about 6 sessions in total (one a week) and whilst we could have continued we both felt strong enough to cope on our own. During this time we decided we would like to explore some options for testing the cause of my miscarriages. As ‘we’d only had two miscarriages’ the NHS would not do anything. So we decided to try to find a private clinic. My husband did a fantastic job of hounding our GP until they gave him the name of a local clinic and my husband arranged an appointment for us.
We went along and met the consultant who agreed to do some blood tests for me. He felt that the first baby probably had something wrong because of what had happened, but the second miscarriage was probably bad luck.
I was starting to feel much more positive for the future and to feel that it had all been bad luck. I had the tests done and they came back as normal. We went on a lovely holiday and time moved on. We were happy again.
We decided to try again in November, but I think we tried a little too hard and were perhaps a little too desperate so nothing happened. As December approached I made a conscious decision not to look at calendars and work out when I would be ovulating or when my period was due and just to stop worrying. As Christmas approached I did noticed something was missing and although we had agreed that I would not do a test until 22nd December when I would be about 5 days late, I couldn’t resist and on the Friday night took a test – positive J J J. My husband was out at a work’s do so I told him later in Tesco’s car park after I had picked him up. We bought another test so I could show him properly (even though he believed me) but for some reason we bought a cheap one that wasn’t digital so when I did the test on Saturday morning it was inconclusive. My husband went out and bought a digital one and yet again we got a positive result. We were both delighted. This time it would be ok.
We had a wonderful week of thinking about a baby, and although I went to see the Dr and spent the whole time crying I did manage to remain relatively calm and relaxed. I was scared of losing another baby, but with Christmas happening I didn’t have to work and was able to take things easy. This was going to be our Christmas miracle.
Then on Monday 30th December, I went to the loo and found some spotting. It was only when I went to the loo but I was still scared. We had friends round so I couldn’t tell my husband until later. I must have seemed quiet as all I could think of was whether everything was ok. The next morning I phoned the Dr and got an appointment for that morning. She did her best to reassure me it could be ok but I had a sinking feeling that she knew what was about to happen. She felt my tummy and checked for any signs of any urine infections etc. and phoned the EPU. They agreed that they should see me and I had an appointed for a scan on Friday 3rd January. I was only 6 weeks pregnant. During the days in between I had more bleeding like a heavy period and I knew we’d lost another baby. I felt so sad. This time it no longer felt like bad luck. We had an agonising wait until our scan on the Friday.
Again, we found ourselves in the EPU little waiting room, out the back away from the ‘normal’ people. I had the scan and it confirmed what we already knew. This time though there was nothing on the screen. I became worried that no-one would believe me, or that even though this was my third miscarriage no-one ‘medical’ had seen any evidence so it wouldn’t count. Again, we saw Kate after the scan and she arranged a blood test and a pregnancy test which tested positive – just. The blood test confirmed the pregnancy too but the hormones had dropped so low it would only be a couple of days before I got a negative result again. I didn’t need any further treatment so was discharged from their care.
Now I am taking some time to grieve for another little baby that we will never get to meet. We are going to look into further testing and the hospital will recommend that my GP refers me to a specialist. We went to the support group at the hospital and we were the only ones there. We didn’t get to talk with other couples going through the same thing, but it was like a personal counselling session and we both left feeling like we’d had some help.
I feel like I’m on a cliff edge staring into a black hole, I do not know what the future will bring. I do not know how I will feel about any of the tests, is it better to find there is a problem and get the help to try to overcome the problem, or is it better for the tests to find nothing meaning it really is just bad luck? I guess time will tell. I am lucky to have a loving and supportive husband and throughout the past year I really do feel like we are in this together. I know I am luckier than many people. I also work for a very supportive Manager who in her own way has helped me come to terms with the hand we have been dealt. I am writing this to try to express how I feel, and possibly to share my story with people who have been through something similar. Miscarriage can make you feel so isolated and alone at times.
It is early days but I am trying to accept recent events. I still have hope that one day it will be our time to have a family…