As a mum blogger, this is a post that I’d hoped I’d never have to write. But to some extent, I feel kind of privileged to be in this position and also have a passion for writing, which means I can help break the taboo on this subject – miscarriage.
As I write, it is my 33rd birthday. The story starts on my 32nd birthday a year ago. On that day, once we’d spent the day with family and the boys were in bed, I had a bit of a meltdown! In floods of tears, I explained to Tom that I really didn’t feel that our family was complete and that I would love to try and see if we could have one more child. Before we got married, we’d talked about having two or three children if we could, and more recently we’d talked vaguely about the possibility of a third, but something about turning 32 made me feel so strongly about it.
As I’d gathered from our previous chats, Tom felt much less strongly about having another child now we’d got two. He could see the great “double act” that the boys are, and was worried that another would upset that dynamic. Plus we’ve just about finished with the nappy washing – did we really want to go down that route again? He’s also the main income earner, so naturally thinks about the family finances more than I do. I saw his points, and we went to bed agreeing that we would talk and pray about it more over the coming weeks.
We did talk when we had chance, but didn’t come to any definite decision. Then came our church’s weekend away in October. A few days before, Andrew got chicken pox, and my parents kindly offered to look after the boys at their house so we could still have a weekend away together and with our church family. It was fantastic, because Tom and I got uninterrupted time to think, talk and pray about our lives together. I came away from it feeling very much that my role in life right now is to be mum, and that included staying at home with young children for a good while longer. Tom’s feelings were slowly turning towards letting go of his worries over having a third child, and just seeing what there was in store for us.
So by the end of the year, we’d reached the decision that we would not actively prevent a pregnancy. The first few months of 2016 were quite tiring for various reasons: my business was really thriving, Andrew had started school, and Tom had got more involved with playing the piano at church (along with the admin that requires). All this meant we weren’t particularly surprised that nothing happened, despite the fact that both boys had been conceived pretty quickly.
Then finally in late May, I got all the usual symptoms of pregnancy. Having suffered quite severe nausea and vomiting when pregnant with the boys, more so with Joel than with Andrew, I was slightly perturbed by the fact that my sickness wasn’t as bad this time – plenty of nausea but less actual vomiting (by less I mean maximum once a day rather than several times a day). But they say all pregnancies are different, and some women get away with no sickness, plus it’s been a while since I was last pregnant, so I got on with life. Running around after 2 active boys and running a business from home means I didn’t have much time to think about it.
At the start of last week – the hottest week of the year, the last week of term – I felt pretty exhausted and knew it would be a hard week to get through when feeling sick and tired. It was indeed hard, and then on the Thursday morning I saw the dreaded thing that no pregnant woman wants to see – a small amount of blood on the used toilet roll. I panicked, having never experienced this in pregnancy before, but a quick read of the NHS website was reassuring – it’s more common than I thought, and there are many explanations for bleeding in early pregnancy, not just miscarriage.
Incidentally, my first midwife appointment (9 weeks) was at home in the afternoon that day, so I knew I could ask her about it then. She didn’t seem concerned, it had been a one off and was only pink, not red. She said if it went on or I got any pain then I should go to the GP. I got a similar bit of spotting the next morning, though no pain, but I thought best to get it checked. So I got a GP appointment and she referred me for a scan at the Early Pregnancy Unit (EPU), particularly as my routine scan was going to be at 14 weeks (because we are going away), and she thought that was too long to wait. The next appointment they could offer was after the weekend, today, my birthday, when I should be 10 weeks pregnant.
My parents looked after the boys on Friday afternoon and Saturday, and by Sunday morning I felt much better, and no more spotting. I rested some more, and then yesterday (Monday) I had a nice morning out with the boys and a chilled afternoon at home. I did have a bit more spotting on the toilet roll, but again, not all day and nothing major.
I woke up today feeling pretty positive, though of course slightly apprehensive about the scan, just as I had been for scans with the boys – there’s always the possibility of it showing something up. Tom had already booked my birthday off work a while ago – he doesn’t always book it off, but thought he would this year. Little did we know at that point. So he dropped me off at the hospital and took the boys to the park.
I sat in the waiting room for quite a while, they were clearly running late, I imagine they must have a fair amount of emergency work to fit in. The EPU at the Birmingham Women’s Hospital must be sponsored by Tommy’s, the charity that funds research into miscarriage, still birth and premature birth – there are Tommy’s logos all over the place and posters about miscarriage support everywhere you turn. As I sat there, I began to feel less positive. In fact, everyone sat there looked pretty worried. Of course, it wouldn’t be a particularly happy place, we are all there because something might be wrong, or it might not be. Still, I hoped I’d be in the half of women who attend EPU with bleeding who go on to have successful pregnancies.
Eventually the nurse called me in to take some details. Then after another short wait the consultant called me in to the scan room. He set up the machine, put gel on my tummy and started the examination. He told me before he started that it’s normal for him to be silent and not to worry about him not saying anything, he would tell me everything he can see at the end. The next few minutes felt like hours, and as time went on, I knew something was wrong. It hadn’t taken anywhere near this long to find a healthy baby at our scans for the boys.
And then he said it. “I’m sorry.” Yes that’s what I’d dreaded hearing. He must say it quite a bit. Just two simple words that changed my life on the spot. He went on to explain that he had found a baby, but no heartbeat and no movement. It measured about 8 weeks old, but I know my dates are accurate and it should have been 10 weeks. He explained that the midwife sonographer in the room was there as a second opinion and she agreed that what she saw was compatible with his diagnosis. He asked if I wanted to see the picture myself, and I hesitated, but the midwife suggested it might be a good idea. I’m glad I did. There was indeed a little baby lying still at the bottom of my uterus. They also showed me how the sac was too big in comparison with the foetus, and that it was drooping down at one side, other signs of a miscarriage that hasn’t been expelled yet.
I was then shown out of the room, into a small room where the nurse met me to talk through what happens next. After listening to me have good cry, having texted Tom and my mum, either of whom I wished could have been there, she talked through some options, but to be honest I didn’t take them in. I told her I would think about it, so we agreed that I’d ring them early next week, and we would go from there, depending what had happened on its own, if anything, by then. At this point, I’d still had no real signs that my body would do it naturally – no cramps, no pain, and only the small spots of blood on and off.
Tom came to pick me up, and we drove home. Obviously the boys could tell something was wrong, and when we got home and they’d had some lunch, I decided that I wanted to try and explain. It’s part of breaking the taboo – if I didn’t tell them, I’d only be perpetuating the taboo. Andrew will probably tell other people quite freely, but that’s fine, I would rather it was out in the open. I don’t know exactly how much they each understood, probably not a lot in Joel’s case, but Andrew seemed to get what I was saying and why I was so sad. And Joel has surprised us with how much he has understood of his Great Grandad’s death recently, so he may have taken in more than we think.
Once I’d had a bit of a lie down, and some food myself, we decided to try and make the most of the rest of my birthday, by going out to one of the boys’ favourite parks – the Lickey Hills. I think the walk, as well as probably the pressure of the ultrasound probe earlier, helped my body start some of the process by itself – I definitely feel something going on, no real pain, but only time will tell exactly how well it goes and at what speed. This is what’s known as a missed miscarriage – the first scan shows that embryo/foetus isn’t viable, but the body hasn’t expelled it yet. Before ultrasound technology was developed, in a case like this I wouldn’t have known, and would only have known when I had natural signs.
I can’t really think much beyond the next few days, except that I’m trying to look forward to our family holiday starting on 6th August. As always, we’re staying in the UK, in a city with a hospital nearby, so I’m not too concerned about things having settled down physically by then. I imagine it will be a good time to help us recover mentally, and with both sets of the boys’ grandparents with us, I’m sure it will give Tom and me the chance to talk together in depth.
So that’s where I’m at right now: very teary mess at the end of my birthday. But I believe things will get better, and I even still believe that this isn’t the end of the story which started on my birthday last year. I thought when we were involved in a road traffic accident in France on my 12th birthday that that would be my worst birthday ever; right now I think this has overtaken it. However, whilst my birthday isn’t a day I would have chosen for this, in many ways God’s timing has been brilliant – my parents has already offered to have the boys over the weekend, Tom had already booked the day off today (and the plumber he had arranged to come in the morning, which would have meant me getting the bus to the scan and back, cancelled last week), and a friend who shared with me when we were both expecting our second children that her pregnancy had sadly ended in a missed miscarriage got in touch today, before either of us knew, and has offered to talk with me about it. As I’ve said, the timing for what happens next is also better than at other times of year – we can go away and spend time together. Obviously all this timing doesn’t take away the grief, but it has helped and will help manage it in small, practical ways.
Miscarriage is relatively common – according to the nhs.uk website, “among women who know they’re pregnant, it’s estimated one in six of these pregnancies will end in miscarriage. Many more miscarriages occur before a woman is even aware she has become pregnant.” The booklet I was given at the hospital from the Miscarriage Association estimates around one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage. Yet until today, I’ve not taken note of those statistics. I know a few friends who have bravely shared the fact that they have miscarried on social media, but it’s just not something that I’ve felt able to talk to anyone about – I guess until it happened to me, I didn’t know what to say.
Not that I really know what to say now, but what I do know is that keeping it to myself (and the few family members who knew before I published this post), would mean quite a lonely road to recovery, and it’s hard enough as it is, without feeling isolated. My main reason for starting this blog in the first place was to share my experiences of being a mum, particularly with respect to our difficult breastfeeding journey – partly because I personally find it therapeutic to write about these things, and partly because I hope it will help others in some way. This post is a fine example of why I blog, albeit infrequently these days. Thank you for reading.