This post talks really openly and, at times, graphically about pregnancy loss.
I’ve thought long and hard about sharing this. It isn’t about being eco conscious, starting a biz, or about boobin’ (unless you count the comfort it has brought me)...it’s totally personal and I’ve decided to share for two reasons - one to give a further insight into my lack of consistency on here lately and two, and most importantly, because pregnancy loss still isn’t spoken about enough and from my experience, first hand accounts are far more useful than a list of symptoms on Google. I hope sharing in this way helps someone.
In September I found out I was pregnant. After struggling to conceive my first tiny human and multiple cycles of fertility meds, conceiving on just one medication and in a relatively short length of time seemed miraculous.
I was overjoyed. A May baby. I shared my news with close friends at a time when we all really needed some hope. A week later I had to take that away from them. I’d felt crampy for the entire week I’d known, but the pink spotting filled me with dread. I had a scan and they couldn’t see anything.
The nurse gently explained I’d been ‘chemically pregnant’, but implantation had failed. The next day I started bleeding, physically it felt like a horrendous period, but emotionally I felt totally robbed of the baby I had spent a week imagining.
Two months later one of my best friends passed and two weeks after that, on the day of her funeral, I found out I was pregnant again. It was a bizarre feeling, the pregnancy felt like a lifeline in a sea of grief. Light in the darkness. She had always been so invested in my efforts to conceive, a part of me wanted to believe she somehow had a hand in it - that it was meant to be.
I had back pain, low progesterone and was incredibly anxious - a GP agreed to send me for an early scan. At six weeks there was the unmistakable flicker of a heartbeat. The relief was immense. I shed a tear and breathed a sigh...then I started to share the news with family and a few close friends. I was certain all would be ok, I’d seen a heartbeat, the risk of losing it had fallen and it was MEANT TO BE.
Christmas passed, bittersweet.
Then on the third of January I felt cramps, low down and similar to period cramps. I Googled frantically and found lots of articles stating that ligaments stretch around 8 weeks. I tried to relax, but something inside me knew something was wrong. A week earlier I had suddenly felt cold, freezing, unable to get warm. I’d felt cold the time before, it felt horribly familiar, but I had no other signs anything was wrong...until the cramps began. In all my pregnancies so far I’ve written to my bump and this time was no different. Two days earlier this is what I’d written:
Happy New Year tiny one. I’m still freaking out a bit. Keep thinking something is wrong, but you’ve not given me a reason to doubt you so far! I just want this month to fly so I can see you again and check you’re ok. I’m so tired and cold and my back is hurting which is making me panic, but there are no signs that you aren’t ok, so hopefully I’m just a paranoid whatsit. Love you darling, you are so desperately wanted. I’m loving planning how you’ll fit into our chaotic little world. X
3.30am Saturday I woke and boobed the tiny human. I went to the loo and was relieved when there was nothing there. I went back to bed and he was awake, I started trying to settle him and my lower back really hurt. I have a tilted uterus, so often feel contractions in my back - I’m guessing that’s what it was. I felt that telltale wet feeling you get when your period starts and went back to the loo. Bright red blood. On my knickers and pj bottoms. Autopilot kicked in and I found a cloth pad and clean underwear. The tiny human was still awake so I carried on settling him. At 5.30am I went downstairs and called 111 as I knew I would need to see a GP. When I hung up the phone it hit me and I cried, no, sobbed. A broken hearted cry. I cried for my pregnancies, I cried for my friend, I let myself make noise and eventually I stopped. I so wanted to call my mum. To wake up my husband.
Pragmatism took over. My husband is far better when he’s had sleep and I knew I would need him to be on form as the day went on, so I tried to go back to sleep. I was just drifting off when 111 called back and I repeated everything again. A GP appointment was made. By now it was 7.30am so I woke my husband and informed him I was losing the baby, then waited for the tiny human to wake up.
The GP was kind, but told me I would have to wait until Monday for a scan unless things got worse and I had to go to the Emergency Department. She said there was a chance it was a subchorionic bleed as a small one had shown on my scan.
I get why I had to wait, but it felt so cruel. I just wanted to know for sure. I felt sure, but there’s always that 1% in the back of your mind.
Monday morning came and suddenly the bleeding became incredibly heavy. I was passing clots and every time I stood I would have to rush to the loo as I could feel a gushing sensation. At one point I started feeling really sick and ended up crouched on the floor waiting for it to pass. My husband was planning on heading to work after the scan, but soon realised I couldn’t drive.
I stuffed a nappy insert and a towel down my trousers and waddled to the car. As soon as we got there I went straight to the loo - I must have looked a state hobbling from the car with bulky trousers. While I waited I was sat on a pad. The tiny human watched YouTube. When undressing for the scan I was dripping blood everywhere, I felt so vulnerable. The sonographer was really kind, but I didn’t want kindness, I just wanted to know the facts. I told him I knew there was no heartbeat, I wanted him to stop using his sympathetic voice, I just wanted him to be cold and clinical. He showed me the scan picture and told me there wasn’t a lot of growth since the last scan. No flickering heartbeat this time. It was near my cervix. I got dressed and asked for wipes so I could clean my blood off the floor. They told me not to worry.
The nurse was lovely and I let her be. Tears fell while she handed me a memory bag, leaflets and a pregnancy test to take in three weeks time. She told me it should ‘complete’ in 24-48 hours.
I spent as much time as possible on the sofa, sitting still. The tiny human didn’t understand - “mummy’s poorly sweetheart, so she needs to rest, daddy will play”. Of course he didn’t understand. I found that incredibly hard. I felt like I was being robbed of time with him too. The nurse had told me to switch my annual leave to sick leave because “you’ll need a holiday”, but I didn’t want to - it would be over by the days I should have been at work. Surely? It wasn’t. It took over three weeks for the bleeding to stop and despite some labour-esque cramps, lots of blood and some large clots, there was nothing that I could confidently say was ‘the products of conception’ as one doctor put it (ouch). There were a few times when I went to the loo and felt something pass, but I was too scared to look in case I saw something I couldn’t forget. That was really tough. I still find it tough, that ambiguity - has everything passed? Is there some remnant left inside me? I wanted to know for sure when it was over and like so much about pregnancy, and in fact loss, definitives are hard to come by. I was desperate for the bleeding to stop so I could draw a line under my loss, but there is no line.
I told my family and friends. Mostly they were amazing, but there were some comments that stung - “at least you’re young.”
“At least you know you can get pregnant.”
“This is why people wait to share the news.”
“It wasn’t meant to be.”
“At least it was early on.”
All meant with the best of intentions, all said with love, but painful. If you ever have to comfort someone losing a pregnancy, the best advice I can give you is: be there. Tell them you love them, tell them to take their time, acknowledge their pain and listen. If the sentence starts with ‘at least’, don’t say it. Let them, if they want to.
Going back to work hurt (and mega shout out to my lovely team who left a card and vegan choc on my desk) as I had been planning on announcing my pregnancy to those who didn’t already know. There are reminders everywhere. Putting away the clothes and seeing the rainbow babygro my mum bought. Planning something for the summer and realising I won’t be heavily pregnant anymore. Responding to an email where I’d asked about provision for newborns. Taking a pregnancy test to make sure it was negative. Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch.
The overriding feeling now is a desperation to get pregnant, which might seem strange, but I so want what I feel robbed of. Of course there is also this creeping fear that it will happen again and they won't look into the causes until I've had three. All I can do, like all any of us can do, is try. Try to get pregnant, try to make some peace with what has happened, try to find my own silver linings when I feel ready to.
One of the ways I cope is to write, so here are some poems I wrote after my losses, as well as something I wrote during the second loss...
I had you for one week
And I realised that an ‘early loss’
Is less about losing cells
And more about losing the baby in your brain
That’s the real pain
The imagined names
The date ingrained
The 11th of May - oh what a day
It’s the dreams of the newborn smell
And imagining a belly starting to swell
Yes, that’s the hell
You already had a bump name
We’d planned my mat leave
And now I get no leave to grieve
Unless I go off sick
Because you didn’t even exist
Except you did
I’m glad you were never physically there
It does make it a bit easier to bear
It was just a week of a dizzy high
You were a dropped stitch as your daddy said,
Which sounds so small
But a dropped stitch can make everything unravel
And that’s what’s happening in my heart
There's an ache...
There’s an ache in my womb where my baby should be
There’s an ache in my womb and I’m starting to bleed
There’s the cramp that meant pregnant and now the cramp that means not
And I wondered when I felt cold
When I should have felt hot
And I wondered when the cramping
Just carried on
And it was only a week
But I’m broken you’re gone
Eight weeks of you
Six where I knew
A flickering heartbeat
A scan picture too
A due date in August
To be born in the sun
After a year full of loss
A new phase had begun
Our Christmas was hopeful
We shared you around
When all hope felt lost
You were the hope that we found
Conceived during grief
A gift from a friend
I simply can’t fathom
Why your life had to end
I felt cold for a week
I tried to stay strong
But a mother’s intuition
Is so rarely wrong
The cramps started slowly
Easing me in
Trying to warn me
Of what would begin
4 in the morning
I knew for sure
Bleeding bright red
You were no more
A weekend of waiting
You hadn’t lived long
A memory bag
Told I’d done nothing wrong
Sat on a pad
You were my Enfys
You shouldn’t have died
During the second loss:
I’m sitting here thinking that this is worse than labour. I don’t say that lightly - mine was long and traumatic. The pain isn’t worse, that’s not it...it’s hard to explain. With labour I was writhing, I peed myself, my body was in agony, but I didn’t care - I went with it and everything around me was geared to the situation. I didn’t have to read stories, or clean up my blood, or get a tiny human to sleep. My whole world paused while my body went through a massive transition.
With this miscarriage everything has carried on, but my body is expelling my baby. Somehow it feels less dignified and whereas in the throws of labour I didn’t care so much about odd sensations, I am now acutely aware of the warmth and wet every time I stand. I’m sat on a towel in my knickers with a maternity pad in. When I stand I feel a clot pass and waddle to the loo holding myself because I feel like my insides are about to fall out. My tiny human comes with me so he can spray the taps and I snap at him. I waddle back to the sofa and think about the baby I was supposed to birth in August, think about how this baby was meant to be sent by my best friend on the day she left this earth and there isn’t room for my grief.
Labour changed my life, miscarriage has changed me, but my life will carry on as if nothing happened. As if that little bundle of cells never had a beating heart. Pregnancy loss is one of the worst parts of having a uterus. I feel safe in saying that.