It was 1st December when I first discovered some early pregnancy bleeding that indicated I might be miscarrying our second child. I was about 7 weeks pregnant at the time.
I’ve since learned that about 1 in 4 pregnancies don’t carry to full term and end in an early miscarriage. And whilst we were sitting waiting for our baby scan to determine whether we had lost our second baby or not, it occurred to me just how awful this statistic actually is…
I guess on the one hand it’s perfectly understandable that people don’t talk about miscarriage often because it’s a very personal thing, but still, that’s an awful lot of couples who are affected by this experience.
And honestly, I had just never really appreciated how common or how difficult losing a baby really is, until it happened to us…
The thing is I just don’t think it gets talked about enough, and perhaps if it was discussed a bit more often, it might be a bit easier for some women, which is why I am choosing to share our story here…
Unfortunately the results of our first ‘reassurance’ scan that day were entirely inconclusive; it was just too early for medical staff to be sure of whether our baby was developing okay or not.
And so we spent most of the run up to the Christmas holiday season in a fog of worry, just kind of going through the festive motions and feigning half smiles, until I could be checked again two weeks later to determine whether I’d suffered a miscarriage or not.
And the Christmas party season was already in full throes, which meant I also had to attend numerous parties and meals with friends and colleagues, swerving alcohol without everyone noticing or asking difficult questions that I really wasn’t ready to answer.
Those two weeks were probably the longest, slowest two weeks of my life; it felt like a whole lifetime of waiting and hoping and feeling unsure of what was ahead. We were both living on a complete knife edge, with me over-sensitive about every slight twinge of discomfort, and both of us trying to prepare ourselves for being okay with every outcome.
Then finally our second hospital scan appointment arrived. We both attended the hospital feeling a mixture of nerves, but also some relief that the waiting was over and we would finally be able to know one way or another whether the pregnancy was healthy or not.
I think that by this point we had also had enough time to process what was happening better, and as a result we were feeling fairly at peace about whatever the outcome of this appointment would be.
But what happened next was the one possibility we hadn’t really considered or prepared ourselves for at all … and that was facing even more uncertainty. But since there had been some foetal growth since they had seen me last, but there was still no detectable heartbeat, we then faced another anxious two weeks wait on our hands, thanks to the Christmas holidays falling right in the middle and all of the clinics being closed.
I can’t fully describe how it feels to wait for a full month to have a miscarriage confirmed to you; it’s like being in permanent limbo, still having to act like you’re pregnant but feeling more and more certain as the days and the weeks drag by that you’re probably not anymore.
The possibility of losing a baby at any time is painful for parents, but losing a baby over Christmas felt particularly cruel, because when everyone else around is feeling excited, you just can’t quite summon up that sort of joy.
At points I just wanted to curl up and stay in bed. But it was Christmas… and we had parties to attend, presents to wrap, family to go and visit, then more family staying with us too, and a little boy approaching the first Christmas that he was really old enough to understand.
So there was simply no option but to put on a brave face, some good make up, and get on with it. And actually, in the end, it was quite nice to have all the distractions going on whilst we waited…
Finally, 2 January came and a third scan conclusively showed that our pregnancy was unviable, which made for a really sad start to the new year.
But throughout the many weeks of waiting and hoping and wondering, there were really two main things that helped keep us sane; our beautiful 2 year old Ben who is a complete joy to both my husband and I, and also the love and support of others around us which meant we somehow felt anchored even in the midst of all the uncertainty with their kinds words, and thoughts, and prayers.
I think its pretty easy for people who haven’t experienced any sort of baby loss before to think that an early miscarriage isn’t that big a deal; after all it’s really just the body’s natural way of dealing with a pregnancy that isn’t healthy, and you haven’t even been pregnant for very long. And I don’t blame anyone for thinking that way either, that’s exactly how I’d always thought about it too.
But whilst there’s certainly some reassurance in knowing that early miscarriage is often for the best, it is still an emotionally and physically traumatic experience. Often it leaves behind a very real sense of disappointment over the dreams you’ve already mentally made, and sadness over the loss of a life that might have been.
They say that no two miscarriages are the same. And for me, the hardest part was discovering how incredibly long and drawn out the whole ordeal can be. I literally had no idea!
I’d had a few friends who have had miscarriages in the past, but I had never wanted to ask about any of the details because it feels too intrusive and insensitive and awkward to talk about, when your own family planning is all going fine.
And I knew that miscarriage was a risk in any pregnancy, and especially for pregnancies over the age of 35, which I now am, but I always assumed that it happened very suddenly and was over quite quickly, within a few days at the most. I certainly wasn’t prepared for the fact that miscarrying can often be a four week process, and the impact can roll on for months …
I also hadn’t really considered how I might deal with a miscarriage if a pregnancy ever didn’t go to plan, since no newly pregnant mum ever really wants to dwell on this particular scenario.
But the truth is that its painful and you have to walk through a very real sense of disappointment, grief and loss. And even when you’ve processed that initial sense of loss, there are often other reminders that crop up too; birth dates, anniversaries and so on…
For me, hitting what would have been our 12 week scan date felt especially difficult, as my sister-in-law and several other close friends announced their pregnancies around that same time, with due dates that would have coincided pretty neatly with ours too.
But in a way, I am also glad that I have been through this experience because it gives me far deeper empathy for other women experiencing any kind of baby loss, or even just the possibility of a loss.
I think that there is an incredible power in being able to say ‘Yep, me too. I know how that feels.’ Because even if you can’t take that pain away from someone else, it helps to know others who can say ‘I’ve been there too. It’s hard, it’s unfair and life really sucks right now, but it won’t be this way forever.’
This has certainly not been the easiest chapter in our lives, but I also know that it’s not the end of our story yet, we’re still just in the middle part…
And in the meantime, I hope that by sharing some of our story I will be able to create a bit more awareness, and pass on some of the comfort that I have found, to others who walk in these same shoes.
To find out more about this subject or access more support, you can visit: https://babyloss-awareness.org/