There are so many feelings during the first few weeks of pregnancy. Excitement, anxiety, trepidation, fear, happiness. Throw hormones into the mix and most of us are usually a hot mess. I felt all of those and more. It had taken us a little over 2 years to get pregnant the first time around. When everyone around you is getting pregnant and you aren’t, it’s a long, slow, heart-breaking journey, but when the pregnancy test came up with two lines, we were elated. It was all I’d ever wanted and all we’d ever wanted as a couple. The pain inside us from a stressful conception journey drifted away instantly. I spent the first few weeks feeling very sick with constant headaches and I could feel the changes in my body. At around 7 weeks pregnant I felt all of that stop. I just woke up one morning and I knew, but no one would listen.
At our booking in appointment with the midwife at 10 weeks I told her that something was wrong. I had always trusted my instincts in the past and they had served me well, but she totally poo pooed the idea that I’d miscarried. I hadn’t had any bleeding, I hadn’t had any pain, all of my symptoms just stopped and I told her I knew it was gone, but she said “with all due respect, I’m the professional and that happens sometimes”, which I’m sure it does, but I was already an anxious person and this made me even more so.
So we waited another 2 weeks until our first scan. Excitement mixed with nerves as we sat outside the scan room. Bladder full, mind fuller. Watching happy couples come out with their scan pictures.
We were finally invited into the scan room. It started with the usual polite conversation and smiles but it soon went all quiet. The radiographer’s face fell and after another few minutes of concentration she uttered the words no one ever wants to hear, “I’m so sorry to have to tell you that there is no heartbeat”. We were ushered into a side room right opposite the scan room with the door left wide open and advised a nurse would be with us shortly.
45 long and painful minutes sat waiting followed, listening to the elated squeals of joy from all of the other couples coming out of their scans and we were sat in a room RIGHT OPPOSITE! I know hospitals are tight on space, but waiting so close to the scan room was a horrific experience and rubbed salt into an already excruciating open wound. I felt so low and once we were eventually seen and the operation I had to be booked in for was explained, it felt like they were going to be removing my hope. I had to wait just over a week for my ERPC (evacuation of retained products of conception) surgery. I was desperate to get it over and done with. I spent every minute of every day blaming myself for what had happened and going over the first seven weeks of pregnancy with a fine toothed comb in my mind, so at least during the surgery I could be put to sleep and my mind would be at peace for a while. I didn’t smile much in those weeks, I was living under a very dark cloud.
I was the first operation of the day and it was over and done with very quickly. The nurses, doctors and anaesthetist were all amazing and treated me with the utmost respect, but afterwards I was told I wouldn’t be able to leave until I’d been for a wee. I must have drunk about a gallon of water after being told that so I could just use the loo and leave. My husband told me he’d never seen me hop, skip and jump to the toilet quicker than he did that day and I pulled my usual grief curtain down and did my usual ‘I’m FINE, everything’s FINE’ but underneath it all I was breaking, I had been for weeks.
I got home, crawled into bed and cried my heart out. Relieved it was all over and I could move on, but devastated that it was all over and that I could move on.
It took me a long time to smile again but we got there. I had a very understanding and supportive female boss who had been through a similar experience and with my close family and friends behind me, I was able to get back to some semblance of normality reasonably quickly. The experience left a scar though. During my next pregnancy, I was so anxious and refused to buy anything for the baby until after the 20 week scan, even then I still didn’t feel like the pregnancy would go all the way. At that time, social media was in its infancy stages and there wasn’t the online communities and support there is today for all those affected by baby loss. I was one of the lucky ones to have the close support network and my husband was amazing, but I know not everyone gets that. My mental health took a dip, especially during my second pregnancy when I was 2 weeks overdue and knew I had to be induced, but that’s a whole different blog in its own right!
I had the baby, my precious baby girl and my world brightened significantly and some of my wounds healed.
I was inspired to pen my story this week by my amazingly brave friend, who has been raising awareness of stillbirth since the loss of her beautiful first daughter, Florence, who was born sleeping. I am not looking for sympathy, but something she said in her recent interview with channel 5 struck a chord. She said that people didn’t know what to say to her after she gave birth to Florence, and it was similar when I went back to work, because I was so low, everyone would ask me what was wrong. It was different in that no one knew I was even pregnant, but because I had taken two weeks off, everyone automatically asks on your return ‘are you ok? What’s been the matter?’ I didn’t want to lie, so I told them, but as soon as I uttered the word miscarriage, everyone fell silent and looked awkward and shuffled off, but we need to be talking about it.
1 in 4 women will experience a miscarriage in their lifetime and 1 in 100 women in the UK experience recurrent miscarriages (3 or more in a row)*, so you can see it is common. There was no advice, groups or people I was steered towards after my miscarriage, but thankfully now there is more information and support around now for women in all cases of baby loss.
So it’s the end of Maternal Mental Health Matters Week and it’s got us all talking about all aspects of maternal mental health, which is amazing, but I just hope it doesn’t stop after this week. Let’s keep the conversations open. Miscarriage, stillbirth, ptsd, pnd, it all needs to be discussed, and we need to be making sure all those women AND men going through any one of these is fully supported. Ask ‘Are you ok?’, let them talk or not if that’s what they want, but just be there, tell them you are there for them, be supportive and be inclusive and to hospital departments dealing with these issues; please don’t dump couples who have just been given devastating news in a room right next to those having joyous, healthy pregnancies when they have just found out that their world has just fallen apart, it can severely affect their mental health at such an awful time!!
*stats from Tommys.org