It’s Tuesday July 10th 2018. It’s the day I should have been twelve weeks pregnant. It’s the day we should have been safe.
Instead, today was the day I went for a scan to confirm that my miscarriage had completed. Today was the day I found out I was ‘99.9% there’.
If you are reading this, it’s because I have finally healed enough, or plucked up enough courage, or feel strong enough to post this. There’s still a chance I won’t reach that point; a chance this will sit in my drafts forever. I am writing it, largely for catharsis, and also because, other than panicked 6 year old threads on Mumsnet, I couldn’t find anything worth reading to help me through the anxiety that lead up to finding out I had had a miscarriage.
It’s one of those things they say, isn’t it? Don’t tell anyone you’re pregnant until you’re past the 12 week point because anything can go wrong before then. If it happens to you, you probably shouldn’t talk about it. Make sure you grieve, but don’t share that grief with anyone outside the four walls of your home. You’re not alone, apart from when you are.
I disagree with all of that – surprise surprise. I shared our news with the people closest to us. I was excited. It’s easy to wonder… ‘if I kept it quiet, would it have turned out differently?’ The answer? A simple no. In fact, I think the reason I have kept so strong through this experience is because I shared it. The excitement people felt when we told them I was having a baby is something I will treasure forever. The kind, heartfelt support we received when we told those same people we had lost the baby, I will treasure even more.
Everyone is different – some people will find the same strength in not sharing as I find in sharing. That’s OK, if you’re that kind of person. Pregnancy is such a wonderful, intimate and personal thing – that’s what makes it so magical. It’s also what makes it so difficult when you don’t have it anymore.
I suffered something I had never heard of before, despite it being surprisingly common. At 10 weeks, on Tuesday 26th June, I went to A&E because I knew that the mild bleeding and cramps I had been having all day were not right. If you go on the internet, or speak to people, they’ll either tell you it’s a normal part of the first trimester, or it’s absolutely not supposed to happen, in equal measure. Ultimately, I knew I didn’t feel right. I was poked with some needles, gave them some blood, and went home, with a scan booked in for Thursday that week. That Thursday, Thursday 28th June was the day I found out for certain that things weren’t right; my baby wasn’t developing right; my baby was measuring too small; my baby didn’t have a heartbeat. Thursday 28th June was the day I found out I had had a silent miscarriage.
A missed, delayed, or silent miscarriage is where your baby stops developing, usually for genetic reasons, but your body doesn’t realise. I’d never heard of it, until I started googling ‘why am I bleeding first trimester is this normal please help me google’ type messages. I got told off for googling. I always google and diagnose myself as ‘close to death’. It’s a bad habit I’m trying to kick. This time, though, the silent miscarriage played on my mind. I think, instinctively, I knew that was what happened.
You see it all the time, on TV, in movies, in books – woman collapses in intense pain – pool of blood surrounds her on the floor, shocked onlookers rush to her aid, she begs the paramedics to ‘save the baby’, they can’t, she has to deal with the aftermath. You think you know what to expect. That that’s how a miscarriage happens.
My reality was very different. I found out that my baby had stopped growing at 7 weeks and 4 days – incidentally, that was the day I returned from my holiday in Menorca. Does it have any bearing on what happened? No. I had spent nearly 3 weeks believing that my baby was growing, warm and healthy inside me.
I knew as soon as the sonographer asked if I would be OK for her to do an internal scan. I knew as soon as I looked on the screen. I knew as soon as I saw the baby. Did it make it any easier? No. I cried, intensely. I cried even more when I reached the car. I cried the hardest when I cuddled my Mum. I cried myself to sleep. I cried myself awake. I dreamed it was a mistake. I dreamed that they’d got it wrong. I dreamed that I was still happy and healthily pregnant. My dreams have been very cruel to me over the last couple of weeks.
The rest of the appointment is a bit of a blur. She gave me leaflets – their printer was new and they’d flipped on the short edge instead of the long edge when printing them out. I laughed at this; a hollow laugh, but a laugh nonetheless. She talked me through my options. She told me it wasn’t my fault. She gave me the statistics. She gave me ‘as much time as I needed’ and showed me where the door was. And I left. Walked out of the hospital the same way I had come in, as if nothing had changed.
The only question I knew the answer to at that very moment was the first one she asked me; ‘do you know anyone else who has been through this? Friends, family, loved ones?’ I replied a resounding ‘No’. I now realise, without meaning to, I told her a barefaced lie. I know lots of people who have had miscarriages. I just didn’t know it. Because it’s not a topic of polite conversation.
It’s like when you get a paper cut. Half the time, you don’t even notice it, it’s not painful, and it’s like it never happened. But once you know it’s there, it hurts, stings something rotten, and you seem to get every acidic item in the world in it to make it worse. My miscarriage actively began on the Saturday after I found out I had lost the baby. I actively miscarried on the Tuesday – at exactly 11 weeks pregnant.
Did I regret telling people? No.
Would I change the way I handled my first trimester? No.
Would I have done anything differently? No.
Could I have changed the outcome? No.
Why have I told you all this? Because it’s easy to bottle it up, never speak about it. Because it’s hard to talk about things that you don’t want to talk about and it’s even harder to talk about things that other people think should stay secret. Because I was a terrified pregnant woman who couldn’t get any answers from anyone, who couldn’t find out what I needed to know, who only heard the outcome, not the feelings behind it, not what happened next, not how to move forward, not stories of hope.
I’m not religious. I wouldn’t even consider myself to be particularly spiritual. I don’t believe there’s nothing; I don’t believe the people we love ever truly leave us. The afternoon that I lost the baby, a white butterfly landed on my arm. I took it to mean that everything was OK; that everything was going to be OK.
So, life will go on. I will go on. I will grieve. I will remember. I will probably cry again. The baby never made it past the size of a jellybean, but in my head, I comforted them when they were sick, I visited schools with them, I explored jungles and oceans and beaches and deserts in the back garden. I listened to their fears. I wiped away their tears. I was their mother. I still am.
Update: 2nd August 2018
First look Hollyoaks. Ellie Nightingale loses her baby. I have never been so grateful or pained by anything before, let alone simultaneously. I want this story to be told, more than anything, but I hate seeing it. I hate hearing it. It hurts. But I am so, so grateful, to Channel 4, Hollyoaks and Sophie Porley for breaking that taboo.
I wrote this in the midst of heartbreak. When my emotions were raw. I am pleased to say it is now October 14th and I am 14 weeks pregnant, with a beautiful wiggly Pixie. I still miss my first baby, my first pregnancy. But time does heal and grief does give way to other feelings. I will never forget the joy I felt when we discovered I was pregnant, nor the sorrow when the unthinkable happened.
But I did heal. I did move forward. And you will too, no matter how it seems right now. Nobody heals at the same rate; nobody has the same experience; for many people, a single baby loss is a drop in the ocean. All I can comment on is my own experience. But know one thing; you are not alone.
Why did I decide to post this today? Today is the end of Baby Loss Awareness Week. I have read so many people being brave and telling their story. And if one person takes something from our story, then that’s a job well done.