I refuse to dismiss miscarriage as something that you just need to get over
I'd like to share my experience of miscarriage as reading about other women's experiences really helped me. I've included an extract of a blog I wrote about it so it's a little story-like in its telling but it's the truth.
Losing a baby at the early stages doesn't mean it didn't matter
I want people to understand that even if you lose a baby at the early stages, it doesn't mean that it didn't matter and that you can pretend it never happened and start trying again straight away (which is how some people have made me feel).
It is still a traumatic, wounding experience. Yes, it's common, but that doesn't mean that it's any less painful: "I flushed my baby down the toilet." I read these words written by another woman who’d lost her child, a mother who’d lost her child, because that’s what you are, regardless of whether the baby had features, limbs, organs. I read those words and knew I wasn’t alone.
Our baby had a heartbeat, we heard it in the ultrasound room when we were still hopeful that the bleeding was normal, nothing to worry about. But then over the next couple of days, the pains became more insistent, more painful.
So I went back, this time with my friend, my best friend, and we waited and I worried that I should have given my husband the choice to be there with me but I was hoping that they’d say it was normal and fine and if that was the case then there was no point dragging him in from work.
The doctor went very quiet
And then we went in, and the doctor went very quiet and she said she was sorry but this time there was no heartbeat. And I fell apart inside. I cried but I wanted to sob, I wanted to be on my own and scream. But I couldn’t so I pulled myself together, got dressed and left with my lovely friend who was crying for me.
I called my husband, there’s no heartbeat, I’m sorry you weren’t there, I’d robbed him of the choice to be there, but maybe that was a good thing. Two days before our baby’s heart had been beating and now it had stopped. Confusion reigned, the doctor had said no heartbeat but the baby had grown in the last two days, what did that mean? Was everything going to be ok?
I knew in my heart it was over. The next five days were a blur of sadness, despair, disappointment, happiness to be together, interspersed with severe pain and hospital visits to manage the pain.
The day the baby left us for good I was on my own. I felt fine in the morning, even did some work, and then the pains began again. Like nothing I’d ever experienced.
Sorry but you don’t qualify for an ambulance
Alone on the bathroom floor, I was terrified. I called 999, the first time I’d ever done that in my 33 years.
I tried to answer the operator’s questions: How old are you - shit how old am I? I couldn’t remember for a second. Are you on your own? Yes. Are you bleeding? Yes. All punctuated by screams of agony. And then: Sorry madam but you don’t qualify for an ambulance. I dropped my phone. But suddenly my sister was on her way and my husband was in a taxi and I dragged myself from the bathroom and into bed.
My sister ran in and she sorted me out, with painkillers and hot water bottles and humour and love. And then my husband was there and everything was ok because he was there and we were in this together.
Later I went to the loo and heard a soft splash as my baby came away. I scooped her out, desperate to see something recognisable, I called my husband, his baby too, he had to see this.
What do you say about a mass of tissue that once had a heartbeat and the potential to be your son or daughter? There’s nothing to say, nothing you can do and after a brief minute, I flushed our baby down the toilet.
Everything you anticipated is suddenly gone
I flushed away our joy and hope, and potential names and what do you think they’ll look like, and this time next year they’ll be here, and by this summer I’ll be showing, and won’t it be lovely to tell everyone our news, and at your mum’s wedding I’ll be quite big and the photos on Facebook will show that we’re expecting and then everyone will know, and isn’t it brilliant that some of our best friends have almost the same due date as us - we can’t wait to tell them, and I can’t wait for the baby to meet his or her cousins, and I hope they’re healthy, and we should really get on with moving to a bigger place, and I hope I’m not drinking too much coffee, and should I have had that smoked salmon sandwich, and I’m scared about labour but I’m so excited about meeting this new person that you and I have somehow created, and I really hope that they take after you because you are kind and caring and clever and funny but I hope they’re also a bit like me too, I hope this child has the best of both of us and none of the worst, and then everything that you had anticipated with happiness and not a little fear and anxiety is suddenly gone.
You flush it all down the toilet like it never happened.
Your family and close friends rally round, they send flowers, offer words of support, they are concerned, they are sad for you. You try to appreciate it, you know that further down the line you will be truly grateful for their support and kindness but right now you wish you were still in physical pain, you wish you could scream in agony again because that felt right and this current state of limbo is strange and you don’t know what to do with yourself.
"It’s ok, you can try again!", "Don’t let this put you off!", "You’re still young(ish)!", "The most important thing is that you can conceive.", "Don’t wait too long to try again.".
People are well-intentioned and kind, they want to say something, anything to make it all better. But sometimes there is nothing that can be said. I try not to snap, but sometimes I can’t help it. Don’t put pressure on me. I don’t feel ready, I don’t feel happy, I feel desolate at times and stupidly happy at others.
I wonder sometimes if something inside me has come unstuck, unbalanced, after all, it happened 14 weeks ago. Surely that’s enough time. But the thing is I don’t think I’ll ever fully get over this. It will get easier I know, but there are a few milestones to overcome, some have already passed, some are yet to come. Time is a healer.
Miscarriage is so common, but nobody talks about it
Things will get better and we’re doing ok. Every day is a little easier. Miscarriage is so common, but nobody talks about it. I wish I’d known more about it, I wish I’d told more people earlier on so that they could understand my behaviour now a little better.
Miscarriage is a minefield
Miscarriage is a minefield. At a wedding just five weeks after losing our baby, chatting to a stranger as you do she dropped in what felt like a very personal question: "Do you think you might like to have a family?".
Before miscarriage I would have just batted it away with a vague "maybe", but this time the question hurt, it really really hurt. I answered as politely as possible and walked away. It’s not her fault, she doesn’t know.
Surrounded by wonderful friends and their children I just wanted to go home, switch off the lights and get into bed. Instead, I played the role of the person I was before we lost our baby at a mere 9 weeks. I cuddled my friends' babies, asked questions, laughed, drank, pretended everything was fine because God forbid anybody knowing that you’re deeply sad, that you’re constantly re-living a hideous moment. I flushed my baby down the toilet. "Yes, please atop-up would be lovely." "Doesn’t the bride look beautiful"(she did), "isn’t your baby gorgeous" (she is), "yes work’s going fine thanks", "oh yes looking forward to a holiday" "how are things with you?" I flushed my baby down the toilet.
Can I go please, can I leave, can I stand here and scream out my grief because that’s all I want to do right now.
I refuse to dismiss miscarriage
In a world that seems to be getting progressively nastier, I know that I am fortunate that this is the worst thing that has ever happened to me. Truly terrible things happen to good people all of the time. I am rational enough to see that I have a wonderful marriage, family and friends that I love very much, I have a lovely home, I am healthy and I have a job that I like.
I have a happy life and nothing to complain about. But I refuse to dismiss miscarriage as something that you just need to get over, I have to give it the credit and attention that it deserves. It’s a horrible, distressing, damaging experience.