No one talks about miscarriage. According to Tommy’s one in four women in the UK have experienced it, yet the topic still seems taboo. It feels like it has a stigma attached to it, like you are tainted goods. I cope with my problems by talking out loud to anyone that will listen so I found this very hard to deal with. I had two miscarriages before Bella. The first was only six weeks along, so we barely knew it was there. The second was nine weeks in, and by then I had practically started a college fund. I am writing about this now because it is baby loss awareness week. And because I believe that talking about miscarriage and sharing your story is a good thing. It definitely helped me.
The second time it happened I started spotting at work, but ignored it as looking at Dr Google this could be “normal” in pregnancy. However it didn’t stop so I went into St George’s hospital for a scan. When the doctor went silent and my deepest fears rushed in to fill the void and were then confirmed it was truly awful. There was no heartbeat. It was over before it had even begun. I felt completely numb and yet completely distraught at the same time. When you become pregnant, from the moment you see that blue line or smiley face, you start to plan your future with your unborn child front and centre. It might be the size of a kidney bean (or other bean of choice) but you cannot stop your imagination going for it, it practically writes the screenplay, even as you urge yourself to calm down. You start to plan names and suddenly everyone you meet is fodder for that ever-growing list. You start to imagine telling your boss and going on maternity leave (a particular favourite after a tasking twelve hour day at the office). You start to think about holding this child who you won’t meet for nine months. And you wonder what the butter bean will look like, this chromosomal cocktail of you and your other half. Then, when you miscarry, not only have you physically lost a would-be child, you have also lost all the dreams that your imagination conjured up. You grieve for all the beautiful moments that you won’t now see.
Physically I did not know what to expect. After the scan they said to leave it a week and see if I passed the material naturally. Already the baby had become material. If not they could book me in to have it removed. I had akin to a heavy period for a few days and thought that would be it. But then I started to bleed like the clappers so I called 111 and they sent an ambulance to pick me up. In another example of being oh-so-British (see birth story) I apologised profusely for bleeding all over the seat, whilst simultaneously trying to mop it up with a hand towel. I stayed in hospital overnight so they could put me on an IV and keep an eye on the blood loss. By the next day I had passed most of it, or so they thought, so they let me go home. That night I went to the toilet and out came the foetal sac. I have never been more shocked, as no one told me this might happen. I was on autopilot so I flushed. I then broke down and cried for an hour because I had just flushed my would-be baby down the loo.
Getting over miscarriage was tough physically as my body still thought it was pregnant for weeks afterwards, so I had all of the hormones rushing through me, a poignant and constant reminder of what I had just lost. Mentally it was even harder. I felt like a complete failure. My uterus, my body, me, had fallen short of my biological imperative. And I thought it MUST be my fault, because I couldn’t accept that genetic roulette was the only cause. It was that double shot flat white, it was that night out where I drank ALL of the Prosecco before I knew I was pregnant, it was that BAD THOUGHT I had about someone on the bus, it was that fight with my partner, it was…it was…it was….And then I went wider than direct cause and effect, I also started thinking that it was cosmic retribution for that time I cheated on my boyfriend in 1996 (sorry Nigel, but let’s face it you were called Nigel), or that white lie I told Phil “oh no it’s not new, I have had this top for ages” as I shoved the carrier bag and receipt into the bin. The only way I started to feel better was by talking about it all, with Phil, with my friends and family. It was cathartic for me, like I was gradually squeezing a gangrenous spot. Although be prepared, people will say things like “at least it means you can get pregnant” and whilst this is true and meant well, it will also make you want to punch them in the crotch.
When I got pregnant with Bella I was overjoyed and at the same time petrified. My entire pregnancy was nerve-shredding and I never let myself enjoy it or let go properly. I was constantly worried that it was going to end. After every scan or appointment I would cry with relief, a proper chin-wobbling, red browed “Clare Danes crying face” (Google it). I even cancelled a holiday we had booked for when I was about 7-8 weeks along, as I was convinced, CONVINCED, with an unshakable certainty that had no evidence in fact, that flying was bad for the baby. I also did nothing to prepare for her arrival, as I believed this would be bad luck. So we had no clothes, no pram and the nursery was still the spare room complete with double bed until about a week before her due date. I didn’t even think about names until 3 days before she was born. My fears slightly relinquished their chokehold when Bella begun to move from 21 weeks, but even then I would wake up at 4am and push my stomach around until she started to kick. Now I am beyond grateful for every single moment with the beautiful creature that is Bella (maybe EVER so slightly less grateful when she shits four days worth of poo on my knee).
I hope that writing about this helps anybody who has experienced miscarriage themselves. It has also helped me to put fingers to keyboard. So if you are still with me thank you for reading. I wanted to end with the best piece of advice I was given, from a doctor. She said take it was important to take time to grieve for what you have lost, but know that you are NORMAL. Ultimately that is what is so frightening and yet so reassuring about miscarriage, it is just so normal. Knowing that it was not my fault and that it could happen to anyone, as scary as that was, also allowed me to finally let go.