Miscarriage, let’s talk about it.
Miscarriage is irreversible, uncontrollable and highly emotional, yet it’s probably the most commonly kept secret by women all around the world. In Australia alone, one in four pregnancies will end in miscarriage. But how do you know if you are miscarrying? What do you do if you think you are? And how do you cope during and afterwards?
This is the story of a first-time miscarriage. It is my story. And I am sharing it with you in the hopes that it brings some enlightenment to people who haven’t experienced a miscarriage, and some comfort to those who have.
I found out I was pregnant at five weeks. My cycle was late and I just felt different; I had a gut feeling. I remember the doctor saying, “I have your blood test results back, congratulations, you’re pregnant! It’s early but it’s positive!”.
I had the biggest smile on my face, I knew it! And I knew just by my reaction that I was ready for motherhood. I called my partner James while he was at work and I told him the news straight away, I just couldn’t wait. We both just laughed and could hear each other’s smiles on either end of the phone. When I got home, we decided to go out for tea and celebrate with 0% alcohol drinks. We started discussing if we would keep it a secret from our family, if we would find out the gender, and what baby names we liked. These are the fun conversations you have when you find out you’re pregnant.
A couple of weeks went by and I went to the doctors to start planning the next steps. I made the decision to go to a public hospital that had amazing recommendations from women I knew, and the bonus was I lived less than 5 minutes away. I called and made my first appointments for the Harmony test and the 12-week scan.
Then the nausea kicked in. That was fun… said no one ever! Almost every day I wondered why they call it morning sickness, when I was sick at any hour of any day. An old wives tail says that if you are sick rather than just nauseated then it’s a boy, so I started thinking a baby boy was on his way.
By nine weeks my baby was the size of a green olive. I started feeling more changes happen with my tummy, but I couldn’t always figure out what. It got to the end of the week and I was getting little cramps on my left side that felt like my period. I called my sister, who has children, to ask if this was normal, and I did the very thing that everyone tells you not to do. I googled.
I looked up ‘cramps on left side at 9 weeks pregnant’ (descriptive enough, I thought) and the first thing that popped up was that this is normal. Phew! That at this stage in the pregnancy, my little olive is making its presence known and making room. So, I just carried on.
A week went by and in the middle of the night I went to the bathroom (get used to this if you’re pregnant or planning on it) and I remember looking at the toilet paper and seeing a little bit of dry blood. So, I googled again and there were two common threads. One discussing ‘brown discharge caused by cervical irritation’ – totally normal. And the other explaining the ‘early signs of miscarriage’.
I kept my symptoms to myself for a few days but each night the same thing happened when I went to the bathroom. I started to worry. The word miscarriage was playing on my mind and I started analysing every bit of movement in my belly.
In the end, James and I decided to call the doctor, who told us to go to the Women & Babies Ambulatory Care and get checked. James took the morning off work, drove me to the hospital and we waited three hours to see a midwife. Apparently, that wait can be normal?! We told her what I was experiencing, and she sent me to an ultrasound room to check the baby.
The nurse was quiet for a really long time while she was looking at the screen, but then she looked at me and said, “I don’t hear a heartbeat and the baby’s growth has stopped, I am really sorry, but you lost your baby about a week ago”.
From that second onward, I was numb. I had no words, and I couldn’t look anywhere but the ceiling. I just kept thinking, “What did I do wrong? What is wrong with me? What happened to my baby?”
The next steps
The questions and guilt were very real… the tears streamed down my face and the silence was deafening. I had to sit there and wait to hear what would happen next. I remember walking back into the midwives’ room to be told I had two options:
- A tablet that would complete the miscarriage, allowing the cervix to open so you can pass the pregnancy. It is described as a bad period.
- A surgery, known as a ‘D & C, which basically clears out the contents of the cervix.
I went for the tablets thinking I could be in the comfort of my own home while going through this emotional process, I mean, I can handle having my period so how much worse could it be? Well, let me start by saying everyone’s experience is different, some people can have these tablets and manage the process to pass the pregnancy well. But this wasn’t the case for me.
I had a reaction to the procedure and two hours in I was on my hands and feet in the bathroom sweating profusely, screaming in absolute pain, vomiting and bleeding so excessively I thought I was dying. I was screaming for James to come and save me, telling him how much I loved him and how sorry I was for losing his baby. It was like I was having an emotional breakdown at the same time. I actually did think I was dying.
It is a pinnacle moment when something like this is happening to you, because despite hurting so bad emotionally (both James and I) and physically, I couldn’t have felt more loved by James. For a man who cannot even stand the smell of vomit, a man who also just lost his baby, and a man who acts so bloody strong all the time, he was able to walk through all my mess like it wasn’t there. He picked me up, carried me to the car and raced me to emergency, all while telling me he loved me more than life itself and begged me to never leave him.
Back to Hospital
We pulled up at the doors of emergency and two ambulance officers picked me up from the floor of the car and took me inside. I was dosed up on morphine to numb my physical pain and the surgery took place almost immediately. I am pretty sure my footprints were on the walls of the emergency hospital from kicking them in pain. When I woke up, James was by my side holding my hand and told me everything was going to be ok.
(Wait, I’ve actually had to stop writing for a second because recalling this next moment brought me back to one of the darkest days of my life, and it is truly heartbreaking to relive. This was the moment I no longer felt pregnant.)
This moment is one that if you experience it, you will never forget it. It is a defining moment in your life. From thinking you are about to start your own family and have this little human inside you, to being forced to go back as if it never happened is one of the hardest realities to accept.
It is an adjustment you are not prepared for and it really does test your mental strength. I walked out of the hospital 24 hours later, numb and not speaking a word for about three days. I cried uncontrollably at any given moment, I was up and down emotionally and I just stayed in bed. James never left my side. It’s really hard knowing your partner is going through it emotionally too. They may not have the physical side of things that we have, but they have just as much emotional pain. In our case, though, one thing was for certain for both of us. We would try again.
You reflect a lot in these first few days, especially on yourself. There is no answer on how to cope. On one hand, I wanted to talk to someone and on the other, no one knew I was pregnant.
They say to keep the pregnancy a secret until you make it past the first trimester, but in reality, trimester one is the worst! The nausea, vomiting, potential skin reactions, and worst of all, miscarriage. People find out when you are feeling good again, which isn’t the best depiction of pregnancy. You’d think it was a good idea for people to know so you wouldn’t feel so alone, but then again, how confronting?! It is just a no-win situation, conflicting and very emotional.
One thing I definitely learned from this experience was that I wanted to start a family of my own and that in order for me to cope with what had just happened and risk it happening again was understanding that a miscarriage is not my fault. Sometimes the baby is not well and cannot continue growing. As a new mum and now understanding what unconditional love truly feels like (despite how much I love my parents, obviously) I realise that we only want the absolute best for our children, especially when they are growing in our belly.
I read a quote the other day that said “Miscarriage is more than the loss of a baby. It’s the loss of a dream”. And I couldn’t sum it up any better.
I truly wish all future mummas out there the very best of luck in their pregnancy journey and I hope that you don’t ever have to experience this kind of loss. For those mummas who have experienced it, though, I want you to know that I feel you, I hear you, and I am there for you.
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Photo credit: @_erinmichellexo