Thursday, 29 November 2012

A little more detail (6) & the pain of miscarriage

Grief & Loss: Miscarriage

So where were we... oh yes, life was great; Simon and I had adapted to being a family. And then, as our baby Esme turned one, we discovered that rather unexpectedly, our now settled threesome was to become four. I was pregnant again. 

We got our heads around the news really quickly and were happy at the thought of having babies so close together. It made perfect sense. So just as it all seemed to fit, and just as Simon and I were gearing up to share our jubilation, rather sadly, we discovered that we weren't expecting anymore; that we had lost our baby... 

I was 37 years old and eleven weeks into my second pregnancy when I miscarried. And frankly, if I had known I was bleeding I would never have been leaping around at the park like a lunatic that afternoon, but Esme (fourteen months old then) and I, were having so much fun. There really was so much to be happy about. It was only when I got home a couple of hours later, that I saw the blood in my underwear. I was mortified.

I text Simon to ask if he was on his way home from work and then put Cbeebies on and my feet up. I thought if it was a placental bleed then some rest could make all the difference and it would all go away.

I had a midwife’s appointment the next morning so I wasn’t about to call them in a panic. I was strangely calm. Probably because I already knew that there was nothing I could do and it wasn’t a placental bleed at all. It was a miscarriage and it was underway. How could I know?

My hair was the biggest give away. Most pregnant women find that their hair is beautiful when they are expecting. Not me. My hair goes brittle and dry and quite literally stands up. And as I looked in the mirror that morning, I thought, my hair looks nice today. Sure enough, it was soft and glossy, back to normal. Come to think of it, all my nails had broken a few days before as well.

Throughout the ten weeks I hadn't suffered with any obvious pregnancy symptoms at all. With Esme, nausea had crippled me in the first trimester so I hung on to a comment a friend had made, how in her pregnancy she hadn’t felt anything. After all, every pregnancy was different. But lying on the sofa late that afternoon, I remember thinking my bump ought to be rock hard; not spongy.

The stats show that miscarriage is far more common than we realise. Charlotte Forder, the founder of Babyloss, a charitable organisation offering forums for mums to share and remember, says, ‘It’s shocking but 1 in 4 pregnancies miscarry, although it’s probably 1 in 3 with all the miscarriages that go unreported.’ The facts do not make the realisation any easier.

My midwife had made an appointment for an emergency scan at the hospital and Simon and I waited nervously. Then the sonographer asked me some questions about the bleeding. She was softly spoken and I remember thinking she was the perfect person to do that job.

She couldn’t see anything at all and needed to do an internal scan. I squeezed Simon’s hand as a blob appeared on the screen. “Is that the baby?” I asked. I answered myself, “I know that’s the baby.” The sonographer gently hushed me, telling me that she was going to take some measurements and when she had finished she would explain everything to me. I knew it was hopeless.

The baby was measuring the size of a five or six week pregnancy and they were unable to pick up a heartbeat, this meant they could not tell if it was a viable pregnancy, in case I had got my dates wrong. Legally they could not do anything at this point other than make another appointment for a scan the following week.

There was no way my dates were wrong and I knew the baby had not developed beyond the five or six week mark. My tears began to fall as Simon and I were led in to a quiet side room. I remember looking at the tissues on the coffee table and wondering of the countless others that had gone in to this room before. Another nurse came to talk to us. She explained it was likely that I would miscarry before I came back in a week as I was already bleeding, but that if I didn’t then I would be offered surgery.

We made a few phone calls to the close family we had told and then went home and packed up all my maternity clothes. For some reason it was essential that I do all of the practical things right away. The next thing was to eat. And as I sat down to my sandwich, grief overcame me. I began to sob and shake as the shock sunk in.

We went to pick up Esme from a friend who had been looking after her. I couldn’t get to her little self quick enough. She toddled up saying, “Mummy, Daddy,”’ I held her so tightly. I can’t begin to explain how I suddenly loved her more fiercely than ever.

The three of us went for a long walk in the woods. It was a beautiful Autumnal day. Clear and crisp. I marched on, feeling no pain, just wondering when it would all happen. When I would lose our baby.

That was weird, waiting for it. Esme was a Godsend; she was such a great distraction. We had a good afternoon and then that evening, the pain started. I was on the loo for a couple of hours as the blood trailed out of me. Afterwards, Simon and I sat on the sofa together, numb.

My mum was coming up the following day to have Esme and to give Simon and I some time to reflect. It was all such a shock. In my first pregnancy I had told everyone by six weeks, not bothering to really take care of myself, having a few glasses of wine. This time everything was different, ironically I’d done everything by the book.

Simon and I went out for a few hours. Physically, I had been feeling well, but in the car a sudden backache started up. I assumed it was normal. Simon went to get a haircut and I went in to a gift shop to browse. And this is where I was when without warning, the contractions started. Simon reappeared and led me to the car and home.

Esme was so happy to see us come through the door and cruelly I had to say hi and disappear straight upstairs to the bathroom. There was so much blood. And the contractions were coming non-stop. This was a shocker. I had thought it had all happened the night before and was done with. But in actual fact, the night before had been nothing in comparison to what the next three hours were to bring. The pain was intense. And sadly, it was like giving birth with nothing to hold at the end of it.

The following day Simon was back at work and I, though exhausted was thrown back in to the deep end with a toddler. Then that evening when Esme was in bed, we both sat and cried, grieving for what could and should have been.

Looking back now I actually think Simon and I coped really well at the time. After the miscarriage we assumed something had been wrong with the developing baby, and I was lucky it had happened when it did. It could have been so much worse. And when I think that some women never carry a baby, and some suffer miscarriage after miscarriage, I honestly didn’t think I could feel sorry for myself. After all I already had Esme in my life. I was to cherish her even more.


THE FACTS ABOUT MISCARRIAGE
One in four of all pregnancies miscarry, most commonly between six and eight weeks.
The majority of these result from a genetic abnormality in the baby, but can also result from maternal infection, structural abnormalities of the uterus and a failure of the embryo to implant properly in the lining of the womb.
Miscarriage is more common as a woman gets older because the quality of her eggs deteriorates with age.
Smoking in pregnancy doubles the risk of miscarriage.
Most miscarriages are a single event and the chances of having a second miscarriage are far smaller than a successful pregnancy.

INFORMATION AND SUPPORT
www.babyloss.com
The Miscarriage Association may be contacted on 01924 200799. They will send out an information pack that may help you, free of charge.
Care Confidential at www.careconfidential.com or 0800 028 2228 is a national helpline offering confidential counselling to anyone facing pregnancy or post termination concerns.