Néna talks about recurrent miscarriage.
Christmas was full of ‘should haves’ – Should have been our baby’s first Christmas or should have been pregnant and telling our families over Christmas dinner
I had my first scan booked for 13th March 2013. I would be 12 weeks and 3 days pregnant by then and we were so excited to see our baby on the screen. We both took the day off work with the plan to go for the scan at 10am then go looking for baby stuff afterwards, maybe have a nice lunch. We had such plans – within a week of that positive test we’d picked names, buggy, nursery furniture. We’d told our families the week before, including my two stepchildren and they were excited to see the scan picture of their brother or sister.
We were called into the room and I lay down on the bed. As I did I looked at my belly and said to my husband, Terry, ‘It doesn’t look like there’s anything in there does it!’ and turned to the screen grinning with anticipation. He grabbed my hand and we watched.
My grin faded as the sonographer moved the receiver over my belly. I couldn’t see anything. I just saw black. About 30 seconds passed. I was willing her to find it, to show us our baby, to point out something, anything. She asked me if I was sure of my dates and that’s when I knew it was over. She was talking but I wasn’t listening. She was saying something about there being a sac, but no foetus, no embryo, no baby. My husband asked her what she meant. He didn’t understand. But I knew. I’d known the minute I saw that expanse of black where I should have seen my baby.
I’d had my first miscarriage. In that moment my whole world fell apart. I lay there, staring at the ceiling. She asked me whether I would like to go to the Early Pregnancy Unit now. I said no, I want to go home.
We told our parents and families. I cried. Terry didn’t know what to do, we sat for hours, me crying and him trying to comfort me. It was the worst day of my life. Terry had to go and tell his children. He went to their house and tried to explain. All I could do was sit at home and cry. I felt like a failure, like I’d let everybody down. I felt cheated by my own body and most of all I felt so sad that we wouldn’t be having our baby in September. Later, Terry said the only way he can describe the feeling is that it’s like someone telling you that your lottery numbers have come up, and then telling you weeks later that they got it wrong.
The following day we went to the EPU and talked about our options, I opted to have surgery called an ERPC – Evacuation of Retained Products of Conception. I went into theatre three days later. The surgery was fairly straightforward and I was home that evening with a hot water bottle and painkillers. The physical side wasn’t too bad, but I felt so very sad. I threw away the baby books I’d bought and we tried to get on with our lives, trying not to cry every time I saw a pregnant person or newborn.
We decided to start trying again pretty much straight away. I was desperate to be pregnant again and 8 months later, I had a positive pregnancy test. We were cautiously excited this time, knowing that miscarriages sometimes happen for no reason at all and that what happened before was most likely a total one off.
I came home from work one day at the end of November when I was around 6 weeks pregnant and went to the toilet. My heart stopped when I saw blood. I was spotting. I panicked immediately and called the GP surgery. They referred me to EPU where I had to go and have a blood test to determine how far along I was. The hormone levels came back as around 5.5 weeks pregnant, which wasn’t too far off. It settled my nerves a bit, as spotting can occur with absolutely no issues in pregnancies so I tried to relax and they booked me back in for 48 hours later to see if the hormone level had doubled. It had increased but not doubled. I started to get that sinking feeling again.
Forty-eight hours later, when I had my 3rd blood test in a week, the level had started to drop. I was still spotting and the doctor sent me home saying I basically had to wait it out. Two days later I miscarried at home. It was awful, I was scared and we were both devastated. We couldn’t believe it had happened again.
Christmas was full of ‘should haves’ – Should have been our baby’s first Christmas or should have been pregnant and telling our families over Christmas dinner. I went to see the doctor and broke down in her office begging her to send me for tests, but she told me that the NHS don’t look into miscarriages unless the person has had 3. I was so upset. I knew this, but hearing her say it just made me feel worse.
In March 2014 we found out I was pregnant again. We were convinced it would be ok this time. The last 2 miscarriages were so different to each other, and so far apart that surely it wouldn’t happen again? It was ‘one of those things’, right? Unfortunately we were wrong and on 13th March, exactly a year to the day that I found out about the first miscarriage, I miscarried for the 3rd time. I was 6 weeks pregnant when I lost it. I knew what to expect this time, but it didn’t make it much easier. The only thing that kept me sane through the 3rd miscarriage was knowing that now we would be sent to see a recurrent miscarriage specialist who would maybe be able to help us have the baby we so desperately wanted.
We met with the consultant on 2nd May 2014. He was brilliant, he explained what he thought was going wrong and put me on a programme of low dose aspirin every day and a progesterone supplement to help support a pregnancy in its very early stages. We left his office feeling quietly confident.
Lo and behold, in June 2014 I was pregnant again. We were sent to EPU for an early scan around 7 weeks. I’ll never forget the moment that the midwife told me ‘we have a heartbeat’ – that feeling of relief and elation will stay with me forever. In total I had 8 scans during my pregnancy, including one private gender scan where we discovered we were expecting a son. Cooper was born in February 2015, 2 years after finding out I was pregnant for the first time. My pregnancy was smooth but I was terrified. I checked my knickers every time I went to the toilet. I squeezed my boobs every half an hour it felt like, to check they still hurt. I did pregnancy tests daily, sometimes twice a day, as I felt it was all I could do to stay in control. It was only when he started to kick that I relaxed somewhat, but I didn’t truly believe he was coming until he was placed in my arms.
When Cooper was 6 months old, wrapped up in a bubble of happiness, we decided to not use contraception and ‘see what happpened’. You can probably guess what did happen. The day before Terry’s birthday, in September 2015 I had my 5th positive pregnancy test. I started the aspirin and organised another prescription for the progesterone.
We felt scared, not by the thought of another miscarriage, but the thought of a 15 month age gap. I began researching double buggies, 7 seater cars and looking at bigger places to live. I had a scan at 5 weeks and again at 7 weeks and everything seemed fine and the baby was progressing as it should. I celebrated my 30th birthday with a big party (and no champagne!) and the following week we made the now familiar trip to EPU to have my final ‘reassurance’ scan before being discharged to the care of the midwives.
The nurse began the scan and was very quiet for a long time. Too long. I knew within 30 seconds. ‘I’m sorry, it’s not good news.’ The baby’s heart had stopped beating about a week before. Around my birthday. I felt that same gut wrench and just couldn’t believe it was happening AGAIN. We went for a coffee afterwards and it was only then that it really sank in and I sobbed in Costa. I was booked for an ERPC a few days later but the night before I was due to go in, I miscarried at home. It was physically the worst of the four. Emotionally I switched off and tried to concentrate on Cooper, he still needed me to be his mum and I pushed it to one side and got on with things, I still don’t think it’s really registered, even now, almost a year on, I wonder if it ever will.
When you experience a miscarriage, things never go back to how they were before. I won’t lie, you don’t go back to normal, but you do find a new normal. A new way to get through the days, a new focus. You may pretend it hasn’t happened, you may want to talk about it. There is no right or wrong. You do what you need to do, but you never forget.
I read a quote by Barbara Kingsolver that resonated with me and it was; ‘A miscarriage is a natural and common event. All told, probably more women have lost a child from this world than haven’t. Most don’t mention it, and they go from day to day as if it hadn’t happened, so people imagine a woman in this situation never really knew or loved what she had. But ask her sometime: how old would your child be now? And she’ll know.’