I am 1 in 4. I am one of the 25% of pregnant women who will experience miscarriage or pregnancy loss. That’s a lot of women. I am one in a very large group. But we don’t talk about it. No, the 25% will suffer in silence. That’s what’s expected of us. Ingrained into our society is a long-standing tradition that we all seem to abide by: you don’t announce your pregnancy until you’re beyond that risky first trimester. Why do we do this? Why don’t we shout our joyous news from the rooftops straight away?
In case anything goes wrong. Because if it does, you’re supposed to just pretend it never happened and carry on. No one wants to hear that you lost your baby. That might make others feel uncomfortable and that’s not the British way. We don’t talk about things that make others feel awkward. It’s just not the done thing. Instead, we put on a brave face, keep calm and carry on.
These other women and I, we hide our pain. We share our grief in clandestine online forums, hidden from the eyes and ears of those we may offend, with our talk of heartbreaking scans, of lost babies, of agonising pain, blood, hormones, mourning. Emptiness. We wouldn’t want to depress anyone. To scare anyone. To appear defective. To taint those whose pregnancies are healthy. So we hide away and some of us share our stories amongst ourselves. A sad little group, holding each other up. Giving strength to others whilst barely having any left for ourselves.
Never one to stick to the rules, I have flouted taboo over this past year and a half and spoken openly about my experiences and struggles in our bid to complete our family. This blog post is no exception. And in doing so, I hope that I’m able to shed some light on this dark little corner we miscarriers are hiding in and show you that there’s no shame in suffering (whatever the reason) and there’s no shame in talking about it.
I am 1 in 4. I became that sad statistic almost two years ago, in September 2014. We were pregnant with our third baby and I never for a second imagined that something could go wrong. Of course, I’d heard about miscarriage. I knew the (frankly shocking) figures. But it wouldn’t happen to me. I’d already popped out two healthy children, with ease. There was no reason to suspect that I would fall victim.
We told our close family at my Dad’s 50th, when I was 6 weeks along. I’d signed his card, with love from his three grandchildren. That very same evening, a sharp pain in my stomach and a spot of blood in my knickers, had me worried. I saw the out-of-hours GP the following morning. I felt better by then. The stomach pain had long since passed and I’d lost no more blood overnight. But the Dr callously told me it sounded like a miscarriage and referred me for a scan. It was Sunday. They couldn’t scan me until the following day. That was a very very long 24 hours. The next day didn’t really bring me any answers either. The scan was inconclusive. They could see a sac, but no heartbeat. I’d have to return in a week to find out more. A few days later, the bleeding started in earnest. I knew, long before the next scan, exactly what it would show. Nothing. Our baby was gone.
In the October, I fell pregnant again. This time, I was confident. Complacent. So I was 1 in 4. But I wouldn’t be unlucky enough to suffer it twice. The 6 week point came and went with no pains or bleeding. Yes. This one was going to make it. This one was our rainbow baby. A private scan at 8 weeks (Christmas Eve) showed our beautiful baby. Healthy and perfect. We were told we now had a 98% chance of this pregnancy continuing successfully. I was happy with those odds. Who wouldn’t be? So when I went for my dating scan at 14 weeks and the sonographer asked me “was there a live embryo at the last scan?”, my world, once again, imploded. Our baby’s heart had stopped beating on Boxing Day. Our baby had died inside of me almost six weeks ago and I’d had no idea. My heart was broken once more. I was booked in for a D&C the following day, but I began to bleed once I got home. It was as though my body hadn’t wanted to let go, until it knew for sure. I miscarried naturally at home. Despite being advised to expect a “heavy period” and to take paracetamol, it was one of the most physically demanding things my body has ever been though. The contractions were the same as those I experienced when labouring with my living children. And the blood, when it came, gushed and poured and left me vomiting and fainting on my bathroom floor. My baby was apparently the size of a raspberry. I never saw it. There was too much blood. Too many clots. Too much pain to even fully comprehend what was happening.
All I could focus on was trying again. I’d been assured it was “just bad luck”. There was no reason for it. There would be no tests done.
An abnormal smear test enforced a short hiatus on us and so we didn’t fall pregnant again until July 2015. This time, I had no expectations. I barely had any hope. Of course I was happy and I tried to remain positive, but the anxiety I felt was almost overwhelming. Over-analysing every twinge, every symptom. Checking my pants 20 times a day for any sign of blood. Spending hours, poring over Google, trying to find out if what I was feeling was normal. When I started to bleed at 8 weeks, It came almost as a relief. At least now the worrying was over – the worst had happened. A scan confirmed that I had indeed miscarried for the third time. I wasn’t just 1 in 4 anymore. I was 1 in 100. A recurrent miscarrier. And 6 weeks later, I became 1 in 1000 when I was diagnosed as having had a Complete Molar Pregnancy.
In simple terms – instead of growing a baby, I grew a tumour.
Whilst the consultant bandied around words like “Cancer” and “chemotherapy”, all I could think about was the 6 months (at least) that we’d now have to wait until we could try again.
It turns out that bad luck doesn’t discriminate. Sometimes lightning really does keep on striking. It became a real chore, not to feel sorry for myself. My usual response in times of tribulation is to look on the bright side, but you know what, sometimes it’s ok to say, “Why me?” What the f**k did I do to deserve this?” But there are no answers to these questions. Sometimes life gives you lemons. Sometimes it gives you a whole f**king citrus farm.
Soon after my diagnosis, I was discharged from the Recurrent Miscarriage Clinic. I wasn’t entitled to tests, you see, because a Molar Pregnancy is not classed as a miscarriage. Three losses and still no answers. “Just bad luck”.
Over the next few months, my molar follow up was complication-free. I sent off my urine for testing in a postal pot every two weeks (a novel experience indeed) and my HCG levels dropped very quickly. There were no lurking molar cells left behind. I didn’t develop Cancer and I didn’t need chemotherapy. Another ordeal was over.
I was told “off the record” in December that if I felt ready, we could try again. So we did. The new year brought with it a new pregnancy. Would 2016 finally give us our rainbow?
Well, my 23 week bump kicking away as I type this, tells me it will. All being well.
This pregnancy has been unlike any other I’ve experienced. I was offered no additional care, despite my history, and that was difficult to deal with. I was allowed to have an 8 week scan at the EPU simply to rule out another mole, but nothing more. The rest of the time, I’ve just been left to fret and worry. To feel fear and exhaustion and the constant terror that something will go wrong again.
At my recent 20 week scan, I didn’t rush in there, full of excitement, desperate to find out if I was carrying a boy or a girl. I went alone, and lay hesitantly on the bed, still filled with the anxiety that haunts me after too many scans filled with heartbreak. The only thing I was desperate to find out this time, was if our baby was ok.
This one, this little miracle of ours, is absolutely perfect. Carrying a rainbow baby is something I never imagined I would experience. But in some ways, i’m glad. I’m glad that I can wholly understand and appreciate how truly incredible growing a human is. How many things there are that can go wrong and how painful it can be when they do. How, even after everything, I’m still one of the lucky ones.
I will savour every single moment of this pregnancy (yes, even the reflux and the acne and the pelvic pain) because I know how incredibly fortunate I am to be experiencing it. I realise, with outstanding clarity, what a gift this is.
So hang in there, Mamas of little stars in the sky. Even when you feel like there is no hope left, once the storm has passed, you just might find your rainbow.
In the meantime, don’t hide your pain. Acknowledge what you’ve been through. Acknowledge your baby. We’re all in this together.