Reasons why my miscarriage wasn't as bad as anyone else's, also why it was worse
I have a pair of blue striped wellington boots in the tiny vestibule of our small house. They hang from a peg in a blue drawstring bag. They’re a bit silly. I wear them on a wash-out Friday morning in August to keep the bottom of my jeans dry on our way to the hospital for our second baby’s twelve-week scan.
We have to run for the bus. And then we are far too early. We sit in the waiting room. We comment on the rude receptionist. I flick through a magazine that is too upmarket for me. We are called in by a dour sonographer. She begins the scan. She asks if I am sure of my dates. She tells us our baby only measures 6 weeks and 2 days.
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I take off those silly wellies along with my trousers and my underwear for an internal scan. I endure the discomfort of the probe, the coldness of the sonographer and the endless requests to hold my breath for the longest time only to be told what I know already: our baby is dead and has been for 6 weeks.
We are ushered into a side room. I think of the bad nut shoot in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We are an unwanted aberration. We do not belong. I make my face look impassive as we make our way past the eye line of pregnant women waiting for their scans. I am carrying a tiny, dead baby.
We sit opposite each other in the 'your baby is dead' waiting room. A member of staff from the pregnancy support unit arrives. She is professionally kind. She sees this all the time.
Later I wonder if she thought us cold and unfeeling, sitting, as we were, not a tear in sight, opposite each other. Not embraced in grief. She presents us with a leaflet detailing my options. Our options. My options. It is the worse set of choices I have ever had in my sheltered, privileged life.
The hospital cannot provide intervention until they are sure my baby is dead. I am sure my baby is dead but this does not matter. I must come back in a week to be scanned internally once more to prove it to them.
As I have no idea how to feel, I ask the nurse whether I should go back to work while I wait to miscarry. She tells me most women do. I believe her and feel abnormal. We go home with the leaflet. It says: You can wait for your body to pass your dead baby naturally; You can take pills to make your body pass the baby; You can have an operation to remove your baby.
I cannot manage my thoughts. My brain cannot process the information and come up with the right answer. It says: I have carried a dead embryo for 6 weeks. How much longer will this go on? Pills will make it hurt more. Pills don’t always work and can lead to operations. Operations carry a risk of infection. Operations don’t always work. I don’t believe in unnecessary medical interventions.
My body has failed me. I endlessly re-read the leaflet. That afternoon I have family for company. I act as normally as possible throughout the rest of the day both for my toddler’s sake and because I do not wish to perform my first reaction to this overwhelming loss in front of an audience, however sympathetic. Someone lovely and well-meaning asks if I will have to take a day off work. After they go, I cry.
Having spent Friday in shock, I spend Saturday in denial. Physically I feel normal.
I attend a talk about Scotland’s Tapestry. The phrase '...for our children…' comes up repeatedly. One of my children is dead inside me. 'Our children's children'. One of my children won’t have children.
I go home and spend time working out if my baby might still be alive.
My baby is not alive. I pass a tiny amount of blood and I know it is starting. I am so thankful that my body is taking care of this for me, that I don’t need help from the hospital. That I don’t have to go back and be internally probed at the hands of another cold sonographer.
I am bleeding but this is not 'it'. Not yet. I do not go into work. I call to explain. I take my toddler to the nursery and afterwards go to the supermarket with an empty buggy to transport my shopping home.
In the pasta aisle, a jovial woman glances in the vacant buggy and jokes 'have you lost your baby?'.
Four days after the scan, my body expels my dead baby. I pass large lumps of tissue and a lot of blood for hours. My Mum stays by my side while it happens. She says she will always remember there was a baby. I am both disturbed and relieved that the pain feels like labour.
As I waited out those intervening days I have been terrified of a new sort of pain; the sort that strikes down pregnant soap opera characters in the toilets of their local pub. The sort I had vaguely imagined to be sharp, stabbing, agonising and worthy of being sped to the hospital, sirens blazing.
Instead, it is that familiar contracting and the agony lies more in the cruelness of the familiarity rather than the physical pain. I bled for weeks afterwards, losing the remainder of my baby and its support system bit-by-bit, day by day.
Here are the reasons why my miscarriage was not as bad as anyone else's
- I knew it was going to happen and so was prepared
- It was only a 6 week and 2-day old baby
- I already have a child. I am already a mother.
Here are the reasons why my miscarriage is worse than anyone else’s:
- I had to wait for it to happen, not knowing when that would be
- Because my body failed me and didn’t know my baby had died and I carried it around dead for 6 weeks
- I already have a child. I know exactly what I have lost
- Because it happened to me.
Such a tiny embryo is only a bundle of cells. But what are any of us and what is any thing, if not a bundle of cells?
I go back to work the following week.
Two weeks later I return to the pregnancy support unit to have a scan to make sure my womb is empty.
In the waiting room, they play Cat Stevens:
Now that I've lost everything to you... and it's breaking my heart you're leaving, baby I'm grieving... but then a lot of nice things turn bad out there... Oh baby baby it's a wild world.
In the waiting room, I can hear one of the staff speaking on the phone to the mother of a woman who is having a miscarriage. In the waiting room, I can hear someone sobbing, uncontrollably sobbing. My womb is empty.
4 months later I am pregnant again. I have a scan at 8 weeks. The embryo is dying. This time it doesn’t pass in a few days.
I am advised against an operation because I have had complications with general anaesthetic in the past. I don’t want to take a pill – I don’t know why. So I wait. I cannot be bothered to go through this set of emotions again. I wonder if I can bypass the sadness because I’ve already been through it.
A nurse at the pregnancy support unit gives me strong painkillers for when it happens.
There is a sign in the 'your baby is dead' room that I didn’t notice before. Perhaps there are more than one of those rooms:
And can it be that in a world so full and busy, the loss of one weak creature makes a void in any heart, so wide and deep that nothing but the width and depth of eternity can fill it up!
I am lightheaded and dizzy during my days of waiting. I try to be normal while I carry another dead embryo around. I don’t cry. I want everyone to know but it’s not to be talked about. I tell the checkout assistant at the supermarket who has asked if I’m having a day off. She wishes I hadn’t.
Five weeks after my scan, I miscarry. I am in the queue at the travel agent while it starts to happen. I wonder if I can make it home in time. I go back to work and a colleague embraces me and says I’ve had a terrible time. Someone else, well-meaning, suggests I can’t carry girls.
After some weeks I have a screaming, fist pounding on the floor, meltdown. I suppose that it had to come out, even though couldn’t be bothered with it again.
2½ years later I have a beautiful 1-year-old daughter. My 4-year-old son adores her.
I am very lucky to have been able to carry another child to term. I think about those women who cannot. I think about how they can’t speak about their pain and how talking about miscarriage is somehow a taboo.
I think about how the Miscarriage Association is working to break that taboo and so I finish the piece of writing about my experience which I started to write 3 years ago and which, before, I was too ashamed to finish and share.
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