Monday, 15 October 2018

Baby Loss Awareness Week: My Miscarriage Story.

I've spent many months thinking about this blog post. I've thought about what I would say, how I would share my story. What parts of it I would tell and what I would keep private, a secret between me and my second unborn - never born - baby. I've written it and re-written it over and over. The drafts from the first few weeks post-miscarriage break my heart into pieces all over again when I read my thoughts and feelings and remember the raw heartbreak I was experiencing. I wrote briefly about my miscarriages a few months back, and now feel I'm in a better place to think logically and tell more of my story. Although it still hurts, it's far more numb, and I'm able to think cohesively. So, I guess this is my miscarriage story...

*Warning: this post is long and emosh and TMI. But I needed to get it all out, and it's such a huge part of me I feel it's really important for me to have this written down. But I hope someone out there reads this and feels less alone*

I'm still not entirely ready to share my first miscarriage experience. It left me with mental health issues and horrific nightmares for months on end. My boyfriend of three years left me a year later, but things were never really the same from the moment I lost that baby. I was 19 and confused, isolated, and didn't know who or where to turn. My doctors dismissed it and called it 'a small miscarriage'. But at 10 weeks I felt it was very far from small. I've always been a highly sensitive person, and it really knocked me and had a lasting impact on me.

The moment I found out I was pregnant again earlier this year, I was instantly terrified. Not of being pregnant. Not because I wasn't with the father. Not because I was thousands of miles from home living in another country. Not because I wasn't eligible for any maternity benefits in either Australia or the UK due to being an expat. No. All of that I could handle. What I was terrified of, was going through that loss again. The two pink lines instantly appeared on the test at 5am in the morning, strong and very-much there. There was no need to wait the two-minutes suggested on the test packet. I messaged one of my closest friends, and then cried on the floor at the thought of having to go through another miscarriage.

I dried my eyes and pulled myself together. As I sniffed and sniveled I realised I needed to be strong. I had another life to think of now and my goodness was I going to be strong for that tiny ball of cells. I wasn't entirely shocked by the test result. I'd spent the past week unable to keep down food, and unable to stay awake, and my 'break' from the pill was late and had never turned up. It was never late. It always turned up bang on schedule. 

So bad was my exhaustion I'd spent a few days in Dubai and Nigel was horrified when I asked to leave the party beach club because I was too tired to party and drink. Instead we went to a family friendly beach club and I spent most of the time napping. I already knew that exhaustion. I'd experienced it with my first pregnancy. The non-stop napping and being able to fall asleep anywhere and everywhere at any time of day. But in Dubai it's not so easy to buy a pregnancy test, I'd heard horror stories of needing a marriage certificate or the police are called, so I waited until I was back in Sydney just to be on the safe side.

The day I found out I was pregnant I went to work, and I peeled my usual two hard-boiled eggs for breakfast at my desk, promptly ran to the bathroom, and then threw them in the bin and made a mental note that eggs were no longer a good breakfast option. I walked to the local supermarket and picked up the only thing that I didn't feel sick looking at; cherry tomatoes. I ate the entire box that day, it was the only thing I could eat. For the short time I was pregnant I survived on tomatoes, ginger beer, original Ryvitas, and Jatz crisps. Everything else was a no-go.

I'm a planner, so to try and ease my worries about miscarrying again, I planned. I went to the doctor, I made a budget spreadsheet, I planned my move back to the UK. I thought about what my baby would look like, what life we would have. I panicked about stupid things. I worried about how I would protect my baby from cruel people. I vowed to do everything in my power to protect them and make sure they knew how loved they were constantly.  

The father and I spoke almost every single day for 4 years. We'd been friends for 7. Our relationship was long and complicated and confusing and always very on/off. But even when it was 'off', we still spoke daily and remained close friends. So I messaged him telling him I needed a chat over the phone, rather than our usual WhatsApp message chat. Usually phone calls were random and sporadic; if one of us was drunk, needed a sounding board, or if our messages were getting too long for message. Sometimes though, he would call just because. I never did, and so he asked if everything was OK. I said yes but I needed a chat in the next few days over the phone. 

And then the next morning I was woken up in the early hours with cramps. I googled frantically 'cramps in early pregnancy', and so many sites and forums said it was normal. Don't worry they said. 

And then I went to the toilet and saw blood. The tiniest amount, but it was there. I panicked, I cried, and so I had a shower to try and calm myself down. As the hot water gushed over my head a pain seared across my lower abdomen knocking me to the floor. I lay there in a fetal position trying to breathe through the pain. The pain finally disappeared and I got dressed and lay curled on my bed, unsure of what to do. So I got on a bus and went to see my doctor, and she sent me to hospital as she was worried about an ectopic pregnancy.

The hospital did blood tests and an ultrasound. They told me I had a 'threatened miscarriage', which means they thought there was a chance I was miscarrying, but they weren't sure if I was or if baby was OK. I was ordered to have more blood tests done in 48 hours to check my bHCG levels were rising OK, and in the meantime to go home and rest for a few days, take things easy, stay off my feet, and look after myself. If the bleeding and cramps got worse, I was to go back to A&E immediately. So I went home and spent two days watching movies on the sofa with my feet up, Wilbur the dog nestled between my legs with his face on my uterus, switching positions every so often between there and resting his head sideways on my belly.

I finally spoke to the father when I messaged and told him that actually it was really urgent now that we talk over the phone. He was wonderful. His reaction reminded me why I'd spent all those years going back to him over and over again. 

That night I went to bed and I begged that baby to stay put. To not leave me. I promised it the world. I promised it love, so much love. But it was too late, it was already dying within me, letting go, and there was nothing I could do to protect it. Absolutely nothing. I already felt so much love for it, but it wasn't enough, and I couldn't save it. My body had failed again.

The next morning I woke up with cramps again, but this time they were worse and wrapping around my back. I didn't want to take any painkillers in case it hurt the baby, but then I felt liquid. I went to the bathroom and there was a worryingly large amount of blood. My heart dropped and the taste of vomit appeared in my mouth. The blood didn't stop, it just kept coming, and the pain was getting worse. I finally relented and took codeine, which I usually use for period pains, but it did absolutely nothing for the pain. 

Eventually at 7am I admitted defeat when the bleeding was getting too much and I couldn't control the pain. In Australia I was eligible for Medicare, but not for an ambulance. So I called an Uber and it took forever to arrive, and I was outside my house while the driver went round and round the one-way rounds trying to get there. The pain was so intense I couldn't stand, I was crouched on the floor holding on to a parked car for support, crying for the teeny seed-sized ball of cells I'd already imagined an entire future for. How is it possible to love something so much, when it barely even exists?

Finally the Uber arrived, and within 5-minutes I was standing at the A&E reception again. Just like two days earlier, I told them "I'm pregnant and think I'm having a miscarriage". Only this time I knew it would be the last time I said those words, "I'm pregnant", and I burst into tears again. My hormones and emotions were all over the place. I was terrified and alone and didn't know what to do or who to call. My two close friends in Sydney asked if I wanted them to come to the hospital, but I just wanted to be alone. The only person I wanted there was the father, but he was 10,000 miles away.

The nurses got me a wheelchair and took blood tests again while we were still in reception, and then wheeled me through while I was doubled over from the pain with my head between my knees. I had the loveliest doctor looking after me, he was caring and kind. He was sensitive and empathetic as I lay there on the bed doubled over, rocking backwards and forwards trying to answer questions through the pain while blood soaked through the hospital gown. They gave me Oxycodone for the pain and put two canulas in my arm and hand - one for a saline drip, and one for a blood transfusion.

Another doctor came in and gave me a consent form to sign just in case they needed to do the blood transfusion. They were concerned about how much blood I was losing, but wanted to wait for the blood test results to come back. The blood eased off after I passed the 'products of conception' (it's frankly awful how when you're pregnant all the doctor's refer to it as a 'baby', but as soon as you miscarry, it becomes a 'fetus' or 'products of conception'), and a consultant was called in to confirm the loss with another ultrasound.

I lay there all alone, and sobbed while the consultant moved the wand over my now-empty womb and told me she was happy with the scan; it looked like everything has cleared naturally and there would be no need for surgery or the transfusion. The doctor stayed with me after she had left, and sat next to me on the bed. He told me it was OK to feel sad, it was OK to be upset, and there was every likelihood that I would go on to have a healthy pregnancy in the future. 

I poured my heart out to him and told him how scared I was about the future. What if I have to go through this again? What if I never get a healthy baby? What if there's something wrong with me? He told me if it happened again they could do tests and my GP would help me figure it out. He signed me off work for a few days and told me to take time off to grieve and look after myself. He gave me a prescription for Oxycodone and told me it would help with the pain, and make me a bit out of it and make me all sleepy and woozy.

I'm not sure how but I walked home. I spent the twenty-minutes wandering down the road to my house unsure of what to do. I felt like screaming, but I felt too numb to even open my mouth. The shock of what had happened over the past few days was too much, I was struggling to process it all and so I just walked, tears streaming down my face, while everyone around me went about their normal day. I was so angry. How could they just walk around as if everything was fine, when I'd just lost another baby? 

I stopped off at Micky's diner for my favourite milkshake, and then on to the pharmacy and silently handed over my prescription. The older lady at the counter looked at it, looked at me, and sharply asked 'Why have you been prescribed this? This is a restricted medication." I wasn't expecting the question, and so I burst into tears and said "I'm having a miscarriage". Her face fell and she walked around the counter and gave me a tissue, and told me about her own loss. She told me to go home and scream and cry and do what felt natural, and to take each day as it comes. A lady with twin babies appeared beside us, and the pharmacist held my gaze and whispered "It's ok, don't look. Life isn't fair, but one day it will be your turn, and that will be you". 

I walked through the front door and Wilbur the dog looked at me, whined, and ran upstairs. I put the half-drunk milkshake on the kitchen counter, where it remained until it was melted and warm, and then all the emotions that had been hiding beneath the numbness, came out in a heartbroken howl. When I could cry no more I retreated to the sofa, took an Oxycodone pill, wrapped myself in my blanket, and fell asleep with my wet face pressed against the sofa cushion.

The next few days were spent in and out of sleep, and watching the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. It was the only thing I could watch that didn't make me cry. My wonderful housemate cooked me dinner and tried to get me to eat. My friends came over with chocolate and hugs, and my long-distance friends sent flowers to cheer me up. My parents offered to fly to Sydney from London to look after me. My brilliant and kind male bosses told me to take as long as I needed, and when I did return to work a week later (fully paid, so I didn't have to worry about that) they were there with hugs, and my favourite salad and cocktails. Wilbur eventually came round, and within a couple of days was back to cuddling me and keeping me company. Dogs are funny things. I guess, like me, he'd gotten attached to the little one too. 

The first few days I desperately tried to be strong and tried to disassociate it from being a baby. But the father kept calling it a baby, and it was only when he messaged telling me explicitly 'we've had a baby die', that I broke down and accepted that I was just tricking myself by thinking of it as nothing more than cells. I felt so guilty for trying to run away from it and forget those precious days I was pregnant when I had dreams and hopes for that little life. 

My pregnancy symptoms initially disappeared that first week, but then came back with a vengeance the following week, and it took me two months to physically recover from the miscarriage, despite the pregnancy not even lasting long enough for the heart to start beating. For those two months the pregnancy symptoms were relentless, and the exhaustion, heartburn, dizziness, and nausea continued. I thought I was going crazy. I thought they'd got it wrong and made a mistake. My GP was brilliant. She honestly couldn't have done enough for me, she was sensitive and caring, and reminded me I'd been through trauma. She even sent me to a specialist ob-gyn who did all the tests despite me only having had two miscarriages - the usual 'rule' is three before any tests are done. Everything came back fine and the specialist said there was no reason why I shouldn't go on to have a healthy future pregnancy. 

But it doesn't stop the worrying and the fear. I know that if I'm lucky enough to have another pregnancy, I'll spend most of it gripped in fear of another loss. I know I'll need a supportive partner who is empathetic and caring, and support from my family. I know I'll be an emotional nightmare and it will be the biggest ask for a man to deal with that. The father of my second baby abandoned me barely a month after the loss. We haven't really spoken since, and I haven't spoken to him at all since I moved back to the UK in May. He told me he resented me and he couldn't cope with it all. And so as well as my future baby, I lost someone who had been one of the biggest parts of my life for those four years. Someone who I thought would be in my life forever, in some shape or form.

The due date was a month ago and Baby Loss Awareness Day is today, marking the end of Baby Loss Awareness Week. Today I'm doing OK. I'm feeling positive for the future and the heartache is no longer as raw. I will never forget those tiny lives I protected and held within me for such a short time, but I know that I need to move forwards and move on, whilst also respecting those lives and my experience. Day-to-day I smile and laugh, I feel pure happiness and I belly laugh uncontrollably if something is funny enough. After the losses I didn't think this would ever be possible again. Sometimes I struggle, and I know I need to speak to a professional just to sort out all the thoughts in my head and learn how to process them all. 

I find writing cathartic, it's such a release to get these things out, so I'm hoping I can write more articles every so often if I feel really strongly about certain angles of my experiences. I know not everyone agrees with me writing about miscarriage and being so open about something so private, but it's my story, and mine alone. When I wrote the Grazia article back in May I asked the father for his blessing before filing it. Despite everything that had happened and the extra hurt he had caused me, he once again showed me why I cared so much for him for all those years. He told me it was my story and no one should tell me what I can and can't write. He told me he couldn't read it, but he was proud of me for getting my story out there, and that he doesn't doubt the good it will do for others.

Over the past eight years and especially these past few months, the one thing I've found myself saying more than anything is, "it's not fair". It's not fair that hormones trick women into loving something so tiny. It's not fair that we feel so protective over a life that has barely even begun. It's not fair that we have to go through baby loss. It's not fair that some women are forced to endure it over and over, while others never experience it at all. It's not fair that men can walk away, while we're stuck with the physical and mental recovery.

But despite it all, I feel so grateful to have been given the opportunity to grow another life within me, if only for a little while, and to feel that love and even the pain. And I know that one day I'll get to meet my meant-to-be-baby, and when I do I'll know that I had to lose the others to get that rainbow, and I'll love and appreciate that rainbow far more than if I'd never experienced miscarriage at all. Until that day comes, I'll continue to live my best life and make the most of every second, because if there's one thing that miscarriage has taught me, it's that every single human being is a complete and utter miracle, and life is too precious and short to ever waste it or take it for granted.

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1 comment

  1. To endure any such pain is heartbreaking but to have that terrifying experience alone is terrible. Brave to write it, was it therapeutic in any way? I found it helped me to write. Happy news must come, young and healthy and back home. The anxiety won’t go but with the right people around you will get there ���� Happy to chat anytime xx


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