Well, it’s been a while and for that, I can only apologise. There’s no particular reason for my absence. Just life, I guess. I’ve been thinking about coming back for while. Trying to carve out the time to write. Instagram captions have kept me sated, but sometimes I just want to delve a little deeper. Get a tad more wordy than the character limit will allow. And right now, in Baby Loss Awareness week, it seemed like the right time. My very first blog post, all those years ago, was about my first miscarriage. My entire foray into sharing my life online began when I just needed to know I wasn’t alone in my grief. It’s snowballed since then and life has changed for me in an almost unimaginable way; but I still love to write, I still love to share, I still know that grief and I still want to keep this little door open for others who know it too.
So I guess I’ll start at the beginning. I am 1 in 4.
When I fell pregnant with Daisy at the end of 2011, I didn’t even know for certain that I wanted to keep her. It was an unplanned pregnancy, quite the surprise and certainly not something that I’d factored into my near future. It would be disingenuous of me to say that I never considered terminating. I did, briefly. One day I was certain I would and the next, I’d changed my mind. A week (and some acceptance) later, we were driving home from a memorial I’d arranged to mark 10 years since we’d lost my Mum. We’d been into Boots earlier that day, perusing the baby clothes and feeling those first flickers of excitement about what was to come. In the car, I downloaded some pregnancy apps and reading about those early weeks was the very first time I’d been confronted with this “1 in 4” statistic. Suddenly, I felt terrified. It had never really occurred to me that I might lose it. And yet, 25% do. That is a huge number. That could be me.
It wasn’t. Not that time. After a textbook pregnancy, Daisy arrived in August 2012 and by the following March, I was pregnant with her brother. This time, the fear of miscarriage barely registered. I was young, I was healthy, I was taking my vitamins. It wouldn’t happen to me. And it didn’t. That time. In January 2014, Ralph joined our family and not long after, we decided to try for number three. My “plan” had been to have three in quick succession and perhaps consider a fourth, further down the line. I didn’t even entertain the notion that it may well be taken out of my hands. Back then, it all seemed so easy. I was complacement. We fell pregnant again in the July and in September, we miscarried.
It began as a small bleed. Just one slight smear and nothing more. The first scan was inconclusive, so even when the bleeding started in earnest, I still tried to believe it wasn’t all over. Hunched over in the waiting room a week later, desperately ignoring the cramps, I told myself over and over “it’s ok, it’s ok”. But it wasn’t ok. Our third baby was gone. I told myself it was just one of those things. Statistically, if we wanted four babies, we were bound to experience baby loss at some point. So when I fell pregnant again, I was confident that lightning wouldn’t strike twice. A scan on Christmas Eve 2014, confirmed I was right. A perfect, healthy, 8 week old foetus waved to me from the screen. Our lucky number 4 was just fine.
Five weeks later, when I attended my NHS dating scan, the happy bubble I’d been floating in, burst. “Was there a live embryo at your last scan?” What? “I’m afraid the pregnancy has failed.” No, please. This time, I couldn’t talk myself out of the grief. This time, my heart shattered. I lost that baby at home on the bathroom floor amidst contractions and blood. So much blood. Why had it happened again? What had I done wrong?
I took longer, this time, to determine if we were going to try again. I was adamant that we would. It was “just bad luck”. It wouldn’t happen again. So when, in August 2015, I began to spot, I refused to believe that life could be so cruel. When I had the “products of conception” removed a few days later, I learnt that life, in fact, could be even crueler. Pathology testing discovered that it wasn’t a baby they’d removed, but a tumour. A molar pregnancy. A fertilised egg that grows into a potentially fatal mass, masquerading as a growing embryo. Salt in the wound. This time, whether or not to try again wasn’t our decision. Months of monitoring lay ahead, to ensure the mass didn’t return. And the real kicker, no tests at the Recurrent Miscarriage Clinic (RMC), because despite having the requisite three losses, the molar didn’t count. It wasn’t the right kind. I’d have to lose one more before we could start the search for answers.
February 2016, I fell pregnant again. There was no excitement this time, no jubilation. Just some long long months, waiting for the bleeding to start. Only this time, it didn’t. I waited an excruciating six weeks before booking a private scan in desperation. I could barely breathe as we waited to be seen, but there it was, a living, wriggling, 10 week old baby. Three weeks later, that heart was still beating. Seven weeks after that, still beating. 22 weeks after, that beating heart made his entrance onto my living room floor, in the form of Rufus. Our first rainbow.
It had become clear to me that no amount of planning could create the family we’d envisaged so in August 2017, we decided there was no time like the present to complete our unit with our fourth, and final, baby. I was frantic with fear, but, as I kept reminding myself, there was no reason that I would lose another. We’d been unlucky. Surely we wouldn’t be that unlucky.
Two months later, we were. Our 7th pregnancy was over in a sudden rush of blood as I returned home from the school run. This time, it was just acceptance. Of course it’s happening again. Of course it is. Finally, the RMC deemed me worthy. I’d suffered enough. But the basic tests showed that there was no problem. A consultant, however, suspected it could be hormonal. A lack of HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin – the pregnancy hormone), meaning my body wasn’t getting the message to nurture a pregnancy as it should. This made sense to me. The faint lines on my tests. The lack of symptoms every time I’d gone on to lose one. Yes. Finally, an answer. We agreed that if I fell pregnant again, I’d be injected with a synthetic form of HCG, to give my body the encouragement it needed to help keep a baby safe and well. But a few days later, I received a letter in the post. The consultant had decided that due to my molar history, HCG would be unsafe and that instead, I was to try Progesterone. I lost all hope. I’d spent enough time on Google to know that numerous studies had shown Progesterone to be all but ineffective. Nevertheless, when Christmas Day 2017 gifted me a positive pregnancy test, I collected my Progesterone from the pharmacy as soon as it opened on Boxing Day. Our 8th baby was lost in the new year.
I returned to the RMC and this time, I saw a consultant who really seemed to care. She didn’t treat me like another statistic. To her, I was a grieving woman and Mother. She wanted to help me complete my family. She said that HCG injections were no more dangerous for me than for anyone else and she promised me, the moment I got another positive test, I could start them (weekly) straight away. Plus, fortnightly scans from six weeks, to ensure everything was as it should be. March 2018 saw “Little 9’s” journey begin.
The path to the final piece of our puzzle didn’t run smoothly. My cervix was deemed incompetent, I lost all of my hair and not a week went by when I didn’t have to visit the hospital for one reason or another, but finally, on 29th November 2018, my birthday, I received the most perfect gift. Dotty. We were complete.
As twee as it might sound, there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t feel taken aback by how lucky I am to have the children that I do. I went through hell, but I made it out the other side and that is something I will never take for granted.
So there you have it, a summary, if you will, of my obstetric history. It’s easy to condense it into dates and incidents when you’re looking back on it from your happily ever after. To live through it though, was somewhat less concise. There were days when I wasn’t sure I’d be able to continue putting one foot in front of the other. Times when I really wasn’t a good Mum to my living children. Situations when I was certain my marriage had finally broken under the strain. And all the while, I shared my story with strangers online. Time has moved on since that first loss, five years ago. It’s not the taboo it once was, but there’s still a way to go. Not everyone has found themselves amongst a community online, of others who can relate. There are still so many, drowning under the weight of their loneliness. So if you take anything away from this year’s Baby Loss Awareness week, I hope it’s that there is no shame in being 1 in 4. If you want to talk, do. And if you’re fortunate enough to be the one entrusted with someone’s story of loss, listen. Let’s break the silence, together.
If you made it this far, thanks so much for reading. If you scroll the archives, you will find several posts that go into more detail about my losses and if you want to know anything more, or just want to talk, you can contact through here, or on instagram.